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Putting Together Work Outfits Using Suit Separates

Work Outfits Using Suit SeparatesHow can you make professional, stylish work outfits using suit separates? What are the do’s and don’ts of combining parts of the suits in your closet? Reader A asks…

I’m a 2nd year law student in New York and will be starting work at a firm this this summer — I used your tips and articles throughout the interview process. I would love to hear your thoughts on this: Can I wear suit pieces as separates? For example, can I wear my gray suit pants with a white shirt and then a black blazer?

Great question, and one we haven’t talked about in a while. (For other work outfit ideas, check out this post on building a capsule wardrobe for work, or this old post on building your professional wardrobe.) You absolutely can wear your suit pieces as business casual separates — that’s part of why a suit with separates is such a great investment to make. Here are some suggestions for creating your work outfits:

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The Next Step: Upgrading Weekend Clothes

How to Upgrade Your Weekend Clothes | CorporetteWelcome to what is probably our final “next step” feature, where we explore how to take the next step up in work clothesoffice heels, stylish work bags, and professional jewelry; we also explored the middle upgrades for services (e.g., you can cook for yourself or get a professional chef — but what’s in between?). Today: how to step up your weekend clothes game. (Pictured: Vince Gathered Shirtdress, on sale from $385 to $230 at Nordstrom.)

Here is my theory on weekend clothes: there are very few classics. At the rate that fashion moves these days, the quickest way to look and feel frumpy is to have an outdated off-duty style. I speak from experience here: I refused to buy in to the skinny jean trend for <cough> way too long, arguing that bootcuts were classics and fit right in to the style for weekend me. So what if I’m still in bootcuts when everyone else in skinny jeans, you may say — it’s just denim, and I’m in suits or sheath dresses five days a week. But I’ve noticed that a lot of elements of your workwear wardrobe can flow from weekend choices.

For example: a fitted t-shirt looks great with bootcuts, but you need a drapey, tunic-y, asymmetrical top for skinny jeans. The slouchy, more boxy tees and sweaters (or, gah, the crop tops) look better with boyfriend jeans. Once you get used to doing the half-tuck with your jeans on the weekend, your office style changes as well — to more drapey blouses with slimmer-cut pants. Similarly, once you get used to rolling your jeans to wear with your booties, wearing knee-high boots with skinny jeans feels almost antiquated — which means you buy fewer knee-high boots or don’t replace the ones you have, and then it’s less of an issue whether it’s appropriate to wear knee-high boots to work with dresses, and instead we start talking about whether booties with skirts are work-appropriate. It’s very interesting to me how all of the pieces interact.

This is all just a theory, and I’m curious to hear what you guys think about it. I’m still perfecting my own weekend game, but I think this is where the capsule collection really comes in — you buy a few of-the-moment pieces that all work together in terms of color, silhouette, and vibe, and try to keep your new purchases to a minimum. I also think that if dresses work for you in your off-duty life, they’re one of the best ways to stay as close to “classic” as you can get.

Anyway, here are my tiers for weekend wear — readers, where do you shop for weekend clothes? Do you also feel like casual fashion is moving far more quickly than it has in the past — and how do you address it? Or, is all of this less of an issue because you’re either in a suit, workout clothes/sweatpants, or a date night slinky dress, with very little in between time?  

Tier 1 — These stores are easily accessible, and you probably shopped at them in your teens. The pros: they’re affordable and always on trend. The cons: a lot of their cuts and trends may skew a bit younger than you prefer; the clothes are not made to last (generally speaking); and you may want to consider the ethics of buying a ton of “disposable” clothes.

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The Next Step: Jewelry

Jewelry for Work | CorporetteIn our ongoing discussion on The Next Step — i.e., how to upgrade various areas of your life — a reader suggested we discuss how to upgrade your jewelry collection, and how to buy jewelry for work in general. Excellent idea, and I’m curious to hear what people say. (I swear, I intended this to primarily be an open thread — but it turns out I have a lot of favorite designers I just HAD to look up and link to.) Note that I’ve talked about my own jewelry for work, and we’ve had excellent guest posts on how to buy jewelry for other women, as well as a 411 on different jewelry terminology (different metals, pearls). In other posts in this series we’ve talked about upgrading your bag collection, upgrading your shoe collection, how to upgrade your work wardrobe, better personal services for busy women, and how to buy grown up furniture.

For my own $.02, here is how my own jewelry buying has looked through the years:

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The Pros and Cons of Thrifting for Workwear

thrifting-for-workwearWhat are best practices for getting workwear at the thrift store?  What are the pros and cons?  Reader JP wonders:

I’d love to see some people’s thoughts on THRIFTING. Macklemore seems to have popularized it. I’ve become an avid thrifter in the past year. This week I bought a Tory Burch shirt for $2. Curious to see the opinion of others.

Great question, JP! We’ve talked about workwear on eBay before, but not this (and now may be a great time to revisit that discussion — please tell us your favorite eBay finds in the comments!).   I know there’s been a fair amount of discussion of thrifting in the comments, and I believe one reader even set up her own blog to catalog her thrift store finds.  Personally I’ve never gotten into thrifting as much as I perhaps should have — in New York I’ve always felt that a) bedbugs are a concern in anything cloth and b) the hardcore fashion people are getting the good stuff anyway, so why even bother?  (I’ve read far too many profiles of random stylists and PR women to hear about how their ritual is waking up at 6 AM to go thrifting, or how the women at the consignment store just know them, etc., etc.).  My reluctance aside, though, thrifting is great for the environment as well as the wallet (and other reasons), so it’s a great hobby to get into.  I’ve always heard that the best way to go thrifting is to:

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Tales from the Wallet: What’s Worth the Splurge (And What Isn’t)

When to Splurge, When to Save | CorporetteSomething that I’ve wanted to do for a while is talk about what’s worth the “splurge” (on a big or small level) versus what’s NOT worth the splurge. For example: I always joke that life is too short for cheap liquor and cheap toilet paper. On the flip side, I rarely notice the difference with a “fine” wine (ahem), and “good” coffee is wasted on me also — Folgers is just fine for my one cup a day. At the grocery store, I often buy store brands (or whatever’s cheapest).

On a day to day level, my cleaning lady (who now comes once a fortnight) is non-negotiable and an absolute essential (we love you Olga!), and I will give up other splurges (such as frequent dinners out) to keep room for her in the budget. (Pictured:  Fossil ‘Key-Per’ Wristlet, was $40, now $29.98.)

On a grander level, I think education is worth the splurge if other factors align; in other words, the more expensive program may be worth it if it offers enhanced networking capabilities / alumni base / career services / etc. In terms of housing, I’ve always prioritized living space over location or amenities (e.g., I’ve never lived in a glitzy apartment building in a super chic area but rather the largest apartment I could get in the safest area near where I wanted to live).

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Deal Alert: Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

NAS Workwear

2016 Update: Check out our latest picks from the 2016 Nordstrom Anniversary Sale!

As mentioned earlier: hooray, the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is now open to the general public!  I did a round-up a week or so ago when it opened for Rewards card members, but thought I’d revisit.  (A lot of my original picks in terms of specific items are still available — at the very bottom of this post you can see which ones are no longer available.  Some, like that gorgeous orange peplum blazer, are only available in limited colors.)  For today I also thought I’d revisit my original roundup of brands — some I’m taking off the list because they’ve sold out, or what’s left in the sale isn’t great for work. (That said, for some of the brands, I swear there’s MORE inventory than there was last week — so they may be adding pieces.)

Bags: I’m seeing good representation from Brahmin, Kate Spade, Longchamp (including numerous colors for the expandable Pliage tote), Marc by Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors (including the reader favorite, the Jet Set line of totes), Rebecca Minkoff (including a ton of basic black bags and reader favorite M.A.B. tote), Tory Burch and Vince Camuto

Shoes: There’s a ton of great choices from Stuart Weitzman (but not as many as last week!).  There is also a good selection from a number of brands in our Guide to Comfortable Heels, including Attilio Giusti Leombruni, Børn, Cole Haan, Enzo Angiolini, and Ivanka Trump (but not as many as last week). and Tory Burch.

General Clothes Notes: Lots of choices from Burberry, Classiques Entier, Diane von Furstenberg, Eliza J, Halogen (including reader favorite, The Skirt), Joie, Karen Kane, and St John, Tahari, Theory, Vince, and Vince Camuto.

Lingerie: There’s a good selection from Chantelle, Commando, Hanky Panky, Natori, reader favorite Shimera camisoles, Spanx, Wacoal, and Yummie by Heather Thomson. There are also some online-only deals like a 6-pack of Cosabella thongs for $80 (normally $120).

Denim: There’s a good selection from 7 for All Mankind, Hudson Jeans, J Brand, Jag Jeans (including reader comfy favorite, the pull-on jeans), KUT from the Kloth, NYDJ, and Paige Denim.

Anyway — here are a few new workwear picks from the NAS. If you hover over the picture you’ll get details like brand, price, etc. They’re in order of least expensive to most expensive in each category. (Can you guess which is the most expensive and the least expensive just by looking at the pictures?). [Read more…]

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