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Tops to Wear with Jeans to the Office

which tops to wear with jeans to the officeHere’s a question we haven’t discussed in a while: how to wear jeans to the office. Reader E writes in wondering specifically which tops to wear with jeans to the office, particularly because her Midwestern BigLaw office has “jean Fridays” in the summer. Sigh. (FYI, we rounded up all our best tips for summer associates here!) Here’s her question:

Longtime reader here. I have a suggestion for a post – can you do a post on tops to wear with jeans to the office? My (midwest big law) office has “jean Fridays” in the summer, as well as various “jeans days” in connection with fundraisers, etc. throughout the year. I’m always puzzled with what to wear with jeans for the office. Thanks!

We last talked about how to wear talked about how to wear jeans to work in 2015, as well as a post on how to wear jeans to the office in the long-ago days of 2009 (aww, back when bootcut jeans were the fading default and skinny jeans were still relatively new on the scene). I’ve talked in the past about how, if you’re upgrading your weekend clothes, keeping your denim choices fresh is a good way to stay in touch with the styles of “today,” and we recently rounded up the most-loved denim at Nordstrom (the denim brands and styles in the post are sold at lots of places, but Nordstrom has all those lovely customer reviews to help you see the pros and cons of each garment).

(The jeans pictured at top: one / two / three.)

I think a few rules still apply for wearing denim to work:

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Adventures in Business Casual: What to Wear to Work in Silicon Valley

What to Wear to Work in Silicon Valley (or other offices where colleagues dress both business casual and business formal)What should you wear to work when you work with some colleagues who dress very casually and very formally — is there some way to build a work wardrobe that straddles the business casual to business formal line? Is there a way to do business casual without being overdressed?  Reader A, a young woman who works in Silicon Valley, wonders especially what women should wear to work in Silicon Valley:

I recently started a job at a tech behemoth in Silicon Valley. My work requires me to interface both with Engineers (think shorts, hoodies, flip-flops) and business/sales leaders who dress business casual to formal. As much as I feel comfortable in jeans and t-shirts, I am trying not to stand out from either crowd. Any suggestions on what would be appropriate mid-way options?

Great question, A! We’ve talked before about business casual for women (we’re actually at work on a monster guide to business casual!), offered ideas on how to dress in a male-dominated business casual office, how to be professional in a laid-back office, and how to transition your wardrobe from business formal to business casual —  but not in a while, so let’s discuss.  Some immediate thoughts on what to wear to work in Silicon Valley:

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The Best Tees For Layering Under Blazers, Cardigans, and More

Sure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

Which are the best tees for layering under blazers, cardigans, and more? What qualities do you look for in a work-appropriate t-shirt, how many do you own, and how long do you expect your tees to stay looking new?  We haven’t had a discussion on the best tees for layering for work in a while, so let’s revisit some of the basics, at least for my $.02. First, t-shirts make a great layering piece because they’re washable and generally no-fuss (such as tops requiring ironing).  Furthermore, a work t-shirt should be something designed to be seen — you should be able to take your blazer off during the day without worrying that it’s see-through, clinging to your bra, too low cut, tattered or torn, or otherwise too casual.  Personally I think any pockets will usually make a tee too casual for a conservative office, as does a wider rib trim at the neckline — I love my relaxed slub t-shirts for the weekend, but I think a slub knit or linen blend would make it too casual for work, as would a pattern like a space-dye. Finally, while a tank top can be great for certain situations, it isn’t always the best for layering for two reasons — first, it won’t necessarily be appropriate to wear by itself at your office (see our last discussion on whether going sleeveless is professional – know your office!), and second, it may necessitate more laundering and drycleaning than a t-shirt would because a t-shirt would cover your armpits and protect the top layer from sweat. (But: if you want a seamless look and just want to add opacity/raise a neckline, a camisole for work, demi-camisole, or tank top is definitely the look for you.)

How about you, readers — which t-shirts do you think are the best tees for layering? Do you prefer to layer tees, tanks, camisoles, or something else beneath suits and blazers? What do you look for in a work-appropriate t-shirt? 

Pictured at top, a few of our Hall of Famers: black / red / blue.

Some of our Hall of Famers, the best-selling, classic styles that have been around for years, include:

Above: black / pink / blue / red.

Today’s featured tees for layering include:

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Work Outfits with Black Heels

classic work outfit ideas with black pumpsWe just rounded up a ton of great black heels for interviews and beyond — and they’re such a basic, versatile piece in your work wardrobe you hopefully don’t need TOO many ideas for how to wear them to work.  Still, I thought it would be fun to come up with a few work outfit ideas, including a very conservative/classic interview outfit.

The Very Conservative Interview Outfit

The ultimate goal of any interview outfit is to not have your clothes distract from your resume, your accomplishments, and your words.  Note that your heels should be walkable — enough so that you can trek to a restaurant two blocks away (and back) in comfort. If you’re buying your first suit, do check out our recent roundup of suits for every budget, as well as The Corporette Guide to Interview Suits!

A note on pants suits vs. skirt suits:  Skirt suits used to be considered the most formal option, but pants suits are accepted almost everywhere these days.  (Stay tuned — we’ll do a poll very soon to get a broader voice on the topic.) Still, there are benefits to the skirt suit that make it worth discussing. First, if you’re buying a budget suit, it’s FAR easier to find a skirt that looks good by itself than suiting pants that look good by themselves.  Second, if you’re buying suiting separates, I always think you should seriously consider buying all of the pieces that are offered — and hey, you’ve got to wear the skirt suit sometime, right? (Pro tip: don’t forget to dryclean your suiting separates together, too, so the wear is consistent.) Finally: if it’s raining, snowing, or other nasty weather, I’ve always preferred a skirt or dress — nothing’s worse than wet pant hems! (Proper rainboots are great for your regular commute, but if you’re going to have limited options for changing shoes once you arrive, you may want to read our old advice on how to interview in a snowstorm.)

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Professional Hairstyles: Do Ponytails Count?

Professional Hairstyles - Ponytails at Work | CorporetteDo ponytails count as professional hairstyles? Which are the best ponytails for the office?  Do you think 50s/cheerleader ponytails are no-gos for the office, or is any neat, easy hairstyle inherently professional? 

Have you guys been watching AMC’s Better Call Saul? It’s the prequel story to Breaking Bad, chronicling the path that small-time con-man/lawyer Jimmy McGill took to become everyone’s favorite drug lawyer (later known as Saul Goodman). One of the story lines involves Jimmy working at his brother’s BigLaw-esque law firm, and one of his main friends is Kim Wexler, played by Rhea Seehorn. Kim’s story is similar to Jimmy’s — she started in the mailroom, went through law school later in life, and is now working as an associate — but unlike Jimmy she’s squeaky clean. Without giving away too many spoilers, it’s so inspiring to see her efforts to make partner, including a long montage where she calls every single person she knows to try to bring on her own client. In another scene, she does so well on her first court appearance that the opposing counsel tries to hire her. In general, she’s a rockstar lawyer. She dresses professionally, too — but something I’ve been pondering is her hair: her most frequent look is a ponytail. Not just the low, harried ponytail many of us throw our hair into when we’re working in our office and want to keep our hair out of our faces — hers is curled, and part of her all-day look.  And while it isn’t super-high, it isn’t super-low, either. (In general, I think a lower ponytail is vastly better for being taken seriously.) Part of her character is that she’s earnest and kind of new to this world of BigLaw — so is her hair supposed to convey that as well? (Ah, here’s a picture of her ponytail from the back, below. And apparently the same actress wore the same hairstyle on another show where she also played a lawyer, but I’m not familiar with that show.) Maybe I’m biased against ponytails that feel too pageant/cheerleader as professional hairstyles? 

professional hairstyles ponytails

In the past, we’ve collected easy office updos (which included some ponytail looks), as well as discussed how to style long hair for interviews, but let’s discuss ponytails, ladies — what makes them appropriate (or inappropriate?) for the office or other big meetings? Are there different rules for women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s? 

Some thoughts from poking around the Internet: The Muse gives ponytails an enthusiastic thumbs up for professional hairstyles, and Buzzfeed has this niceish twisted ponytail for work, which I like so much I’m adding it to our Work-Appropriate Hair board on Pinterest. [Read more…]

What Not to Wear to Work

what not to wear to workHere’s a fun question as we slide into summer with lots of summer interns and summer associates: what NOT to wear to work?  Obviously: every office is different, so know your office.  My usual guidelines for readers are these:

  1. If it’s on this list (below) of questionable items, do NOT wear it until you’ve seen your boss several midlevels wear it. Note that these people do not count as “your boss:” another summer intern, a staffer/subordinate, or someone else very junior at the company (e.g., a first-year associate). (See the interesting discussion in the comments — a lot of bosses have earned their right / have enough credibility to get away with dressing however the heck they want — just because they feel ok about wearing something doesn’t mean they’d want to see a summer intern or first-year wear it.)
  2. When in doubt, stick with classics. If it wasn’t commonly worn as workwear five years ago, question whether it’s appropriate at your conservative office — classic styles and prints tend to go over best. Track pants, culottes, ballerina-style lace up shoes… these are in a different ballpark than pencil skirts, button-front blouses, sheath dresses, and blazers.
  3. If it makes noise at all, it isn’t appropriate for the office. Cheap fabric — arm parties — loud necklaces — any sort of a shoe that makes a loud sound: be wary.

(Pictured at top, in case you like them for the weekend or evenings, clockwise: romper / eyelet cami / maxi skirt with slit / pencil skirt with slit.)

My list of “please do not wear this to your conservative office” would include:

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