Stylish Work Sneakers For Women and Other Casual Professional Shoes

work sneakers and other casual shoes for womenWe recently got this question from a reader who’s running for judge (woot, you go!), and it raises an interesting issue of what is casual but professional footwear for women — for weekends and other outings outside the office. Can you be professional in sneakers? What are some other options besides work sneakers? We tried to talk about the casual-but-professional-uniform a few years ago, but I still feel like it’s an issue. Reader K asks:

Kat, I am a 42-year-old lawyer, mother of two, and am running for judge [locale redacted, but suffice it to say somewhere hot]. I made it through the primary and am in a runoff on May 24. There are occasions (like when I’m working the polls) that I wear my campaign t-shirt and a pair of jeans. I have worn boots with my jeans (in February), but now that it’s getting warmer, I think I need a pair of sneakers. The problem is I have running shoes, boots, flip flops, or dress shoes. Do you have any suggestions for stylish, comfy sneakers?

Congratulations, and good luck!  As to the question: very interesting.  Comfortable, stylish, but vaguely professional sneakers: I’m curious to see what readers say here. I’m a diehard Chucks girl myself — they’re classics! But aside from off-white Converse, I would worry that they show a bit too much personality — I associate black ones as being an outsider/artist/comedian kind of shoe, for some reason, and colorful ones being too young/wacky. (I currently wear gray ones on weekends, which perhaps is my way of saying “I used to feel like an outsider but now I’m a mom and have no feelings of my own.”) Instead, I might steer you toward a few other options for work sneakers and other casual-but-stylish shoes:

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How to Do Business Casual in Cold Weather

How to Do Business Casual in Cold Weather | CorporetteWhat are the best strategies for staying warm during a wintry commute while still looking professional when you get to work? How can you look stylish and professional in the winter? Reader M has a question about business casual in cold weather:

I’m graduating this year and moving somewhere cold, and I have no clue how to dress business/business casual in the winter. (I have tons of dresses and cardigans and skirt suits from my summers, but rarely any winter clothes.) Specially, I’m wondering — what kind of coat should I buy? What kind of shoes/boots should I wear under work pants? What do I wear to walk to work in the snow/rain? I know this is pretty basic question, but I’d love a post on this topic!

Great questions, M. Some thoughts for you:

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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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Dressing Professionally But Comfortably: What to Wear for a Long Flight

Vince Camuto Ponte Knit Ankle PantsWhat should you wear on a long flight with colleagues if you want to be comfortable but still look professional? Reader N wonders…

Could you do a post on comfortable, but professional attire for international or long flights? I have an upcoming business trip where my boss and two colleagues will be on a long flight with me. I want to look presentable but still be comfortable for the long flight. Thanks!

I’m curious to hear what people say here; this reminds me a bit about our discussion about what to wear when you’re out of town and working late all the time. (Here’s a fun question, readers — do the answers change if you’re sitting with your boss/colleagues on the long flight? Every time I’ve traveled with colleagues we were sitting apart, and I was so thankful to freely relax/sleep/read brain candy on the flight.) Some thoughts, in no particular order:

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A Feminine Approach to Business Casual

Dressing Femininely at Work | CorporetteBusiness casual can be tricky — particularly when you’re transitioning from a conservative office.  But what if the culture at your company isn’t just business casual, but ultra-feminine business casual — and you’re still most comfortable in a gray suit?  When you’re in a new job and feeling pressure to dress a certain way to fit in — even getting critical comments from coworkers — what should you do? Reader E wonders…

I recently relocated and am in the middle of a career change, and I’m really stumped about how to dress for work. I work in a business casual environment in a small, Southern city. Women tend to dress hyper femininely here: today my boss is wearing a pink ruffled tunic over flowy trousers with embellished flats. The job is entry level, but it’s an important step career-wise. I’m all for dressing to fit with office culture. But, really, yikes.

Right now my pencil skirts, sheath dresses, flats, and cardigans are getting a lot of “why are you so dressed up?” and (from the office mean girl) “do you always wear such depressing colors?” I guess these are my questions: how far do I really need to go to fit in with office wardrobe culture? and how can I femme-up my wardrobe without looking like 5’10” wedding cake?

Hmmn.  Well.  It seems like a few things are going on here, some of which we’ve talked about before, such as transitioning a corporate wardrobe to a casual office, looking stylish and professional in a business casual office, as well as surrendering a bit to office culture (but as the song goes, don’t give yourself away). I may also detect a smidgen of . . .  judgment? superiority? in your email, which we’ve also talked about before when you take a job that’s beneath you.  I know all about finding your groove with one set of work clothes, having a rough time transitioning to a new office with a very different culture, and then feeling a bit like you’ve lost yourself in the process.  So I definitely have some thoughts, but I can’t wait to hear what the readers say.

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Are Skirts and Dresses Unprofessional?

Are Skirts and Dresses Unprofessional? | CorporetteAre skirts and dresses unprofessional? What if you have a boss who has a firm opinion, one way or the other? What if you have a boss who forbids YOU from wearing dresses and skirts, when other women in the office can and do? Reader A wonders…

I recently started a new job in a creative industry, and our offices are officially business casual but usually just regular casual. My boss hates that I wear dresses and skirts. She told me that looking feminine in the workplace is bad for careers and she only wants me to wear jeans or khakis if she’s in the office and I can only wear skirts when she travels. I’ve abided by it for a couple months since she was really persistent about it, even though other women in the office wear skirts. I’m confident that my skirts are not inappropriate length wise, they’re standard work skirts from Macy’s and Lane Bryant. Nothing ruffly or lacy either.

Anyway, my manager is leaving the company, but now I feel insecure about my clothing. Is it a bad move to wear skirts and dresses several times per week?

Wow. Honestly, your former manager sounds super annoying — particularly given that other women in the office wear skirts! I can only assume it’s a personal problem with you (something about your style irks her) or she is being sizeist, whether consciously or unconsciously. (The other possibility I thought of after Googling Reader A’s email address: The manager felt threatened professionally by Reader A, who already has an established, successful career — and wanted Reader A to look less managerial.) [Read more…]