Lightweight Pants for Work

lightweight pants for officeWhich are the best lightweight pants for a business casual office? For some of us, the warmer months mean biking, hiking, kickball, competing in triathlons, and many more activities that are likely to leave us with a few scratches, bumps, and bruises. If you aren’t crazy about putting those bruises on display at work, and prefer to wear pants to cover your legs, which are the best for business casual summer workwear? Reader M wonders…

With all the sports and activities I do, I need to reconfigure my work wardrobe to be trousers-only. I bruise way too easily to wear skirts often, especially in the warmer months. I need to start almost from scratch with a business casual summer wardrobe, any suggestions? Thanks!

I bruise easily, as well, M, so I’m sorry to hear that. I think you’re right to want to cover your bruises for work — they can be a distraction for your colleagues as they start wondering how you got them. (This mountain-biker was even cornered by her boss who worried she was being abused.) If you work in such a small office that everyone you come into contact with knows that you’re bruised from sports, that’s one thing — but that doesn’t sound like the case for M.

So, some thoughts on summer pants for a business casual environment:

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The Hunt: Lightweight Blazers

Nina Ricci Printed Stretch-Linen BlazerSure, 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.

Linen! Seersucker! Cotton pique! Eyelet! There are a million varieties on the lightweight summer blazers — we thought we’d round up some of the best. (Here’s our 2014 roundup of linen blazers, our 2013 roundup of white blazers, and our 2012 roundup of summer blazers.) Ladies, what do you look for when buying a blazer for a hot summer? (For my $.02, these kinds of blazers are perfect for casual days at the office, as well as summer associate outdoor events where you know not to wear a suit but aren’t too sure what else to wear — use a lightweight blazer to top a basic sheath dress and look professional at an outdoor cocktail party; bring it along to an event where you’re only 90% sure jeans and a t-shirt are ok.)

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The Guide to Pantyhose for Work

Guide to Wearing Pantyhose For Work | CorporetteIf you were to write someone a guide to pantyhose for work, what would you say? Reader H wonders, and since this is one of the biggest topics we’ve talked about through the years, I thought I’d give it a go.  Here’s H’s question:

Hi! I know you write a lot about pantyhose/tights/stockings–sorry to bring it up again–but I am so confused about them. I grew up in Southern California where no one wears pantyhose, ever, and tights only as a fashion statement or on very rare cold days. I know you’re supposed to wear nude pantyhose to an interview and in very formal situations like court, but on a regular day in the office, is it okay to wear sheer or opaque black tights in the office? How about with a suit in the office? Or with a pencil skirt? Are there color rules e.g. no black tights with a black suit? I suppose what I really need is a Dummy’s Guide to Wearing Stockings. Thanks so much for any sort of information that could help sort me out

We have talked about this a lot, but I still see a lot of confusion about it.  So let’s get into it — I’m curious to hear what readers say. (Pictured: readers have always sung the praises of Donna Karan’s The Nudes pantyhose in the past; they’re $20-$25 at Nordstrom.) 

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The Sleeveless Professional: Body Types, Bare Arms, and Expectations

sleeveless-professional-2Is it professional to go sleeveless at the office — even if you don’t have perfect arms? When you want to bare your arms at your sleeveless-is-acceptable office, is it worth considering other people’s potential reactions if you don’t exactly have Michelle Obama arms to show off? Do people adjust their expectations of what’s “appropriate” when considering coworkers of different body types? Reader C wonders…

Some of the women in my department (including those who outrank me) wear sleeveless dresses and tops in the summer months, and I’d like to as well. However, from what I’ve seen, my arms are a lot flabbier and dimplier than those of the women who usually go sleeveless. I don’t want people to be grossed out (though I don’t think they should be and I am NOT ashamed of my body) but I was wondering if you think there are different attire expectations for different body types.

Hmmn.  We haven’t talked about going sleeveless at work in a while — in general we’ve noted that you should know your office when it comes to bare arms, and when we talked generally about what not to wear to work, many of you mentioned in the comments that sleeveless tops and dresses are acceptable at your office. I’m really, really curious to hear what readers say here.  (Pictured: Classiques Entier Colette Sleeveless Dress, available in green and black, marked down to $142 (from $235).  Here’s an awesome plus-size sleeveless sheath dress available in three colors, also on sale.)

For my $.02: I think that if sleeveless dresses are appropriate for some in the office, they are appropriate for everyone in the office — so listen to your own comfort level, and go ahead and wear them if you want to!  Note that in general, sleeveless tops and dresses are more professional when they have a thicker strap, a very high armhole (so there is no underarm… spillage, shall we say), and (obviously) no peekaboo issues with the bra.  The more formal the item of clothing (blouse vs. t-shirt, sheath dress vs. maxi), the more likely it is to be appropriate.  

As someone who has always had flabbier arms as well, though, I will note that sometimes a fake tan helps a bit, as does having a lightweight (cotton, linen) sweater or blazer to wear when you’re arriving places.  Even if you end up removing the sweater or blazer to be more comfortable, the initial impression is more formal.

Ladies, what are your thoughts on going sleeveless at the office?  If you have flabby arms, do you go sleeveless?  


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How to Look Stylish and Professional at a Business Casual Office

business casualWhen you’re used to dressing conservatively for work and your new office is much less formal, how do you put outfits together to look casual but still professional and stylish? Some women would react to a dress-code switch like this with a “Score! Jeans and comfy shoes EVERY day,” but others are bigger fans of dressing conservatively in a casual office, like Reader J, who wonders…

I just started a job as an in-house attorney at a tech company. Before this, I worked at a big law firm with a conservative dress code. Now I’m in the dilemma of having a closet full of clothes that are too dressy for my job. I enjoy dressing up, but I don’t want to look too stuffy in this new environment. My boss wears hoodies everyday, and I was told that I’d be teased if I dress up too much. Any suggestions for where to shop for casual outfits that are still cute and classy?

In the past we’ve talked about wearing jeans to work and what to wear for a big meeting at a casual office, as well as the stories linked above.  Now let’s revisit some of that advice and take a look at several examples:

(Pictured: Nordstrom’s very popular open front cardigan by MOD.lusive by Bobeau, $25-$42 in lots of colors and regular and petite sizes.)

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What to Wear to a Big Meeting at a Casual Office

big-meeting-attire-casual-officeWhen you work at a company with a casual dress code, how should you step it up for a board meeting — or for other important meetings — when you want to look professional but don’t know what others will be wearing? Reader A wonders…

I have a fashion question: How does one dress for the board meeting of a “casual dress” company? We are a start-up — this is our first board meeting — so I really don’t have a precedent to call on. During a normal work day, my boss (the CEO, age 45+) and I typically wear jeans and a sweater or T-shirt, as we only have phone/email contact with clients. However, it seems like the board meeting calls for a more professional look. I asked my boss about it, he said “What you’re wearing is fine.” (Faded jeans, a long-sleeved Tshirt and a scarf.) He is not the type of guy I would normally take fashion advice from, and I’m not sure he fully understands the nuance of female dress! Most of the other officers and board members are lawyers, lobbyists, or CPAs. I don’t want to show up in jeans, but I don’t want to be the only one in a suit either. Is there something inbetween? Dress slacks and a cardi? I am age 35+, and a size 14 (XL), so I don’t want anything too clingy or “young”. Suggestions?

We’ve talked about how to do business casual without looking overdressed, a casual-but-professional uniform for womenwhat to wear to a casual office on your first day, shoes to wear with jeans at work, and more — but not this.

Interesting question, A, and I’m curious to hear what readers say. For my $.02, I would avoid the “dress slacks and a cardi” look when everyone else is in jeans because you inevitably end up looking like the mom of the group. So I’m going to offer you two suggestions and suggest you go with the one that feels right — but again, I’m curious to hear what the readers say.

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