Professional Image, Outfit “Compliments,” and Confidence at Any Size

Self-Confidence | CorporetteWhen you get an unexpected comment on an outfit, does it make you question bigger things, like your judgment? Do plus-sized women need to be particularly wary of such office outfit comments? We’ve talked about when you can tell interns their outfits are inappropriate, and how to react when your male boss tells you you “dress too well,” but we haven’t really talked about a casual comment from a friendly coworker. A big welcome back to today’s guest poster, my old friend Kathryn Rubino, who’s written previously about the perfect plus-sized blazer and DIY options for gaping blouses. – Kat. (And I’m sure she looked FABULOUS in the blouse she’s talking about.)

“What a great top — I mean, I could never wear it, but it looks great on you!”

I heard those words and my blood ran cold, and I stuck a smile on my face and mumbled my thanks. Was this a genuine compliment or was I the victim of workplace shade?  Disturbing though it may be, most professional women have dealt with this sort of thing (Kat has even written about the back-handed compliment phenomenon before). But it is such a ubiquitous problem that for my guest post I wanted to discuss that moment that has you questioning every fashion decision you’ve ever made.

First, a little background  this is a workplace where jeans are appropriate on more than just Fridays. The general guidance is that you shouldn’t look “sloppy” but there is quite a range that is considered perfectly acceptable office wear.

Second, I felt great in the outfit. You know how some looks just put a little bounce in your step? That was this outfit. Yes, the shirt was a bold pattern (shades of taupe mixed with a bright yellow and pink), but I had it paired with a dark rinse jean, a reliable black stretch blazer, and nude wedges. So there wasn’t a lot of the pattern showing, just enough to make me feel like spring had really sprung after this interminable winter.

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Sponsored: Get Work-Appropriate, Custom-Fit Dresses from NUMARI

NUMARI bespoke dressesDisclosure: This post is sponsored by NUMARI, but written by your usual friendly blogger Kat Griffin.

Everyone wants a dress that fits you like a glove — but it can be a struggle to put in the time needed at the tailor (to say nothing of the money or the guesswork involved with the initial purchase), and getting a bespoke dress seems intimidating and expensive.  Enter NUMARI, an up-and-coming fashion brand with a triple threat: cute work-appropriate looks, an easy custom fit, and affordable price points ($160-$235 with free shipping and free returns).  I also like that the two founders both actually have worked in conservative spaces — one worked in banking, consulting, and consumer products, while the second was a management consultant in the tech world.  They sent me a few samples to look over, and I must say, I’m impressed with the quality and look. [Read more...]

Guest Post: Figure-Flattering Business Casual

Figure-Flattering Business Casual | CorporetteI’ll be honest: a lot of my hesitancy with newer, trendier looks for the office is that they never seem to be that figure flattering.  So I’m thrilled to bring you today’s guest poster: Angie Cox of YouLookFab, offering her expert style advice on how to elongate outfits and achieve figure-flattering business casual style. Angie was awesome enough to guest post for me back in my first maternity leave, as well, on stylish eyewear.  Welcome back, Angie! – Kat.

Today’s fashions put much less emphasis on conventional figure flattery. Silhouettes frequently surrender the waistline and make lengthening the leg line a lower priority than it used to be. This is generally a very positive thing. It is liberating, and often leads to outfits that are a lot more comfortable and forgiving around the midsection.

But that doesn’t mean letting go of the conventional approaches completely. As I help my business casual clients refresh their wardrobes with newer fluid and oversized fits, and trendier items like cropped pants, boxy jackets, high vamped footwear, flat shoes, and high-low hemlines, I’ve found that we are striving for an attractive and current look that is “just flattering enough.”

With that in mind, here are ten ways to elongate an outfit that might come in handy as you experiment with conventionally unflattering proportions. You can use more than one of these strategies in the same outfit:

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Professional Frump: What To Avoid

How to Avoid Professional Frump | CorporetteHere’s a fun topic that we haven’t discussed in years — what makes something frumpy? How can professional women avoid frump?

I agree with a lot of what I said four years ago — primarily:

The Best Clothes If Your Weight Fluctuates

What to Wear if Your Weight Fluctuates | CorporetteWhat wardrobe items should you invest in if you’re losing (or gaining) weight?  What clothes will fit even if you regularly fluctuate by 10-20 lbs?  Reader K wonders what the best clothes are for someone dealing with weight fluctuation:

I have a story idea; the work wardrobe for the weight fluctuator. Me and many of my friends bounce around by 10-20 lbs. It is expensive to buy everything in two sizes. I thought it would be helpful to do a post on the type and style of clothing to invest in if you want to have an office wardrobe that works when you’re up or down.

For instance; I have a lot of wrap dresses as they are forgiving and flatter across a 15 lbs spectrum. Sheer blouses can be belted in at any weight. I own a lot of dresses as they can be belted in if I’m training for a half marathon or without a belt they’re more forgiving after Christmas party season. I steer clear of non-stretch, and very fitted fabrics as they tend to look bad when too tight or too loose. I make sure to buy work pants with belt loops so that they’re not falling down after an ugly breakup has left me without an appetite. A longer camisole with a blazer over it can hide if I can’t do up the top button on my pants. Fitted work shirts can be paired with a camisole if the buttons won’t close over an increased chest.

This is a fantastic question, and I’m so curious to see what readers will say — we’ve talked about when to give in and buy a larger size, as well as how to keep a working wardrobe while losing weight — but we haven’t talked about this.  When I was younger I regularly fluctuated 10-20 lbs, generally in the same clothes — but when I was at my thinnest, I found that even a few pounds made my pants fit differently, so I knew pretty quickly when I was gaining.  Now that I’m heavier, of course I’ve said that I don’t want to invest the money in a good wardrobe because I’ll inevitably lose the weight (right? right!?) — but I’ve found that there are a few items that I can buy now that, for whatever reason, I can imagine being great even if I lose 10-20 pounds. So here’s my list:

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Must a Blazer BUTTON to Fit?

Must a Blazer Close to "Fit"? (And other fun questions of plus-size fashions)... | Corporette Hot on the heels of yesterday’s reader question about feeling frumpy in a suit, I was thinking about Drop Dead Diva. I stopped watching the show a while ago (her guardian angel was still the guy from Mad Men back when I watched), but I’d always wanted to do a 360 review on the lead character, lawyer Jane Bingum, and her fashions, if only because she’s one of the most stylish and plus-sized TV characters I can think of. I have some problems with her fashions, though — the ridiculously high heels, the overdone makeup, etc, etc. My BIGGEST problem, though, has always been that the vast majority of her blazers couldn’t be buttoned (not even kinda-sorta) — the picture at left demonstrates the problem.

But then, as I was falling asleep last night, I started wondering: maybe I’m the one who’s been wrong to think that a blazer must button all these years.  Maybe the trick for a busty girl (or an overweight girl) — short of massive and expensive tailoring — is to buy jackets that fit in your arms and back only, but not worry about it fitting across the bust.  This flies in the face of everything I know about suits — but when I think about it, Jane definitely does not look frumpy. I might say this is one of those times that your fashion sense speaks to your judgement — were this a 360 review, I might say as either an underling or a boss I would wonder why she didn’t buy suits that fit — but again, I’m rethinking this now. [Read more...]