Wearing a Dress and Blazer — Instead of a Suit

Dresses and blazersIs an outfit composed of a blazer and a dress an acceptable substitute for a suit? Reader B wonders how to mix dresses with blazers for a fairly conservative space (the DA’s office):

I start work at a DA’s Office next month, and I’m trying to round out my work wardrobe. My difficulty is this: I despise pant and skirt suits. (Yes, I recognize they’re a necessary evil and yes, I own several.) I vastly prefer to wear work-appropriate dresses (always with sleeves) with blazers that I can throw on when I need to go to court.

How do I go about matching blazers with dresses? Must they come as a set? Be the same fabric? What about colors and necklines? Basically, I have a closet full of gorgeous work dresses, but I need more blazers if I want them to work at the new job.

Hmmmn. Reader B, you’re definitely going to have to learn the ropes at your office before you buy any more dresses, because in some very conservative offices — with some judges — a dress with a blazer on top is likely not going to cut it in terms of formality. Hopefully this won’t be the case where you are, but I really caution you to play it conservatively for the first month or so and wear the separate pant and skirt suits you own, and the few matching sets (dress + blazer) that you own.

As for how to mix a dress and blazer otherwise for work:

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Clothes to Wear to Work After Abdominal Surgery

maternity clothes for courtReader L is having abdominal surgery and is at a loss for how to dress for court with a sensitive middle… as I see it this issue could be relevant to other readers with sensitive midsections due to surgical procedures, early pregnancy, C-section scars, etc. What are the best conservative clothes that are loose in the middle for situations like court? She writes:

I’m a prosecutor (ie suits or suit like separates daily) and I’m having abdominal surgery this fall. The doctor says 4-6 weeks recovery but that’s just time off work. That’s not to be able to wear things with actual buttons and set waistbands! Any suggestions on how to create a small but doable court appropriate wardrobe for the recovery after I’m back at work?

Maybe I’m oversimplifying things (and assuming regular shift and empire dresses are out for some reason), but I think I have just the answer for you, Reader L: maternity clothes. For those who don’t know: There are two main kinds of maternity bottoms. The first is the “underbelly” waistband — a soft, stretchy, approximately 3-inch waistband designed to go UNDER the belly. It’s mostly intended for use in early pregnancy when there is no real bump, but your middle may be sensitive. The second is the over-the-belly waistband, which I always preferred just for modesty’s sake. It’s a soft, stretchy waistband that is much taller (maybe 12″?) that’s designed to go all the way from just below the bump to the top of your bra in general, completely covering the belly.

Many women wear these pants for several months after the baby’s born, particularly women who’ve had C-sections and might have a sensitive middle, while many women (particularly those who’ve already had one kiddo) may also wear these pants very early in their pregnancies because their middles are sensitive — i.e., before there’s any real baby bump.

In other words: both kinds of pants can be worn even if you don’t have a bump. Depending on your scarring, stitches, bandages, etc., you may find the over-the-bump pants too itchy or fussy, so you may want to focus on the under-the-bump kind of pants.

We’ve rounded up some maternity workwear basics over at CorporetteMoms, but I’ll also note that you can often get great deals on maternity stuff at eBay. You may also want to ask a mom friend to share an “in search of” post on the local moms’ listserv for you. Most maternity skirts are very stretchy — i.e., comfy but not that appropriate for court — but you can find the odd “suiting” material pencil skirt (like this one, on sale at Isabella Oliver; this one from Japanese Weekend isn’t in a suiting material but is a reader favorite at CorporetteMoms). I’d probably want to be in pants and flats if I were recovering from surgery (no fussing with pantyhose, for one), so I’ve mostly rounded up pants for you: [Read more…]

Exposed Zippers, Shiny Fabric, Sharkbites, and More: What Do You Hate?

hated-workwear-design-detailsWe haven’t talked about your most hated design details for women’s workwear in far too long — so I thought today it might be a fun open thread. I know readers were recently talking about their hatred of exposed zippers (which I agreed with several years ago, but I guess I’ve been worn down by their omnipresence — the exposed zipper is everywhere!), and many of shared their hatred of unlined pants for a while now.

For my $.02:

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City Guides for Business Travel: Weather, Makeup, and More

city guides for business tripsWhen you’re preparing for work travel to a different part of the country, how do you decide just what to pack? Reader B has a question about business trips:

I find myself traveling to various cities for work and when I get there finding that I’ve not packed well for the weather or not brought the right makeup and/or hair products for the weather and/or water. Are you aware of any website or blog that discusses practical issues relating to getting ready for work in different cities? I have found articles about what products are popular in various parts of the country to be helpful but would like something more. Thanks.

Wow, what a great question, and I’m curious to see what readers say. Some thoughts:

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Slim But Too Tall for Petites: When Are Alterations Worth It?

When Are Alterations Worth It? | CorporetteIf you’re slim with a small frame, but too tall for petite sizes, where do you shop? If your clothes don’t fit you well, when is it worth it to pay for them to be tailored — and when is it time to look for better-fitting replacements instead? Reader K wonders…

I’m interested in learning more about when alterations are worth it. I’m very thin and having a harder and harder time finding clothes off the rack that fit me — even a 00 from J. Crew is frequently too big, I can’t shop in the petite section because I’m too tall. I also have a hard time with dresses and some structured pieces because even though most of my measurements are a 00 or smaller, my natural waist is often closer to a 2. I have a bunch of work pieces that I really like — or would really like if I was not swimming in them and constantly ending up with my skirt on backwards after my walk from the subway. Am I better off getting my existing wardrobe altered or trying to sell my better stuff on consignment to fund replacement pieces? I can’t afford a full wardrobe from Theory or another designer that actually makes small clothes for women who are not 5’4″ or shorter.

Great question! We’ve talked about the most common alterationshow to tailor a suit, and the perfect pants fit, but we haven’t discussed tailoring in a while. A few things come to mind:

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Black Suits and Summer Job Interviews

interview suit - hot weatherCan you still interview in a black suit in the summertime? When you have to attend a job interview in hot weather, is there a better, lighter alternative to the standard black or blue suit? Reader D wonders…

I had a sudden job interview this week and had to wear a suit. Although they had air conditioning, it was very hot. My suit was black and it seemed too heavy. Aren’t there better alternatives to the black/blue suit when it’s over 80 degrees? Thanks!

Interesting question. We’ve talked about whether seasonless suiting is truly seasonless, as well as discussed lightweight blazers, dressing professionally for summer, and maintaining a professional look when it’s blisteringly hot — but we haven’t talked about this exact question.

I’m curious to hear what the readers say — my gut reaction here, possibly tempered by spending pretty much every summer since reaching adulthood in New York City is this: Not wear black? What’re you talkin’ about? So: with everything else, know your region (much like with colorful suits). Still, some notes:

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