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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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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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