How to Start a Tasteful and Professional Jewelry Collection

When you first start working, how do you build an appropriate jewelry collection — one that’s interesting, tasteful, and professional? Reader A wonders…

I come from a decidedly non-professional background, and most jewelry I’ve bought has either gone out of style in a month or been so cheap I feel it doesn’t fit with my upgraded wardrobe. I don’t want to look like I’m loaded down with bling, but I also don’t want to look like my grandmother. Do you have suggestions for classic pieces that I can wear to school and then to summer internships? My particular school is extremely competitive (aren’t they all?) and many women dress in business casual every day.

How to start building a jewelry and accessories wardrobe is a great question, and something I struggled with when I started in BigLaw.  My previous jewelry collection was a mix of thrifted/self-made/funky — and at first, I didn’t see any real problem mixing it with business suits.  Then one day I got called into a Big Meeting.  Great, I thought, I’m wearing a basic black suit and a simple blouse.  My confidence disappeared sitting in the VIP’s office, as I became acutely aware of the statement ring I’d chosen to wear that day: a large green agate ring (we’re talking 2″ long) on a chipped, undetermined piece of metal.  I’d paid $20 for it at a DC flea market.  What must he think?  I wondered.  I wound up turning it to face my palm as I took notes and asked questions about the assignment.

I’m curious to hear what readers say here, but I’ll offer a few suggestions: [Read more...]

Professional Watches for Women

Which are the best watches for professional women? Is it still worth investing in a quality watch, even though everyone uses their cell phone or computer to check time? Reader L wrote in to ask about watches:

I searched your site and found the post on digital watches, but I would love your (and your readers’) opinions on non-digital wrist watches. It would be useful to hear suggestions at various price points.

This is a great question. I’ve written before about how I think watches are still status symbols. Not only do men’s magazines all still advise men to go out and spend money on a watch, but I’ve often been at a lunch with high-achieving women, looked around, and noticed that 8 of the 10 women there were wearing Cartier watches.  In New York — at least among the legal and banking set — Cartier is kind of the first and last word, at least in my experience. My 30th birthday gift to myself was a Cartier Tank Francaise watch, though, so perhaps my perception is a bit biased! (It was a huuuuge splurge for this Midwestern girl.) [Read more...]

How to Edge Up a Conservative Look

how to be edgy.indexedHow can you “edge up” a conservative look (and still look professional)? Reader T wonders…

I’m in a creative field (aspiring commercial director) and recently came out of a personal branding seminar where I was given the suggestion to “edge up” my look, which I think is actually a good idea. I dress pretty polished (J. Crew, Theory) – any suggestions? I do tend towards bold shoes and bright handbags, but I think that’s not enough and need something visible from the waist up (i.e. during an interview or over coffee). I’m leaning towards always making sure I have one statement piece of jewelry – chunky ring or bib necklace – but would love to hear other suggestions, from the temporary (giving my hair a gray streak, painting one nail a different color) to the more permanent (a small tattoo on the wrist). Any suggestions for how to do this without spilling over into kooky art-teacher land?

My gut reaction here: gaaah, don’t get a tattoo! I actually think the statement piece of jewelry idea is a good one — this is one of the only times I would encourage someone to think “volume” in terms of accessories, but layered bracelets, rings, or necklaces can all have a big impact. There are lots of other ways to edge up your look in ways that are not permanent. Here are some ideas on ways to push your naturally-conservative style towards an edgier vibe: [Read more...]

Looking Professional, In the Factory

Reader D has a unique question: what to wear in the field?  More specifically, to visit a factory (and ride in her client’s plane!)

I am going on a site visit to a factory near Seattle.  The visit includes riding in a small plane and then visiting a large factory so I will need to be casual, wear flat comfortable shoes, yet still look professional.  Any advice?  Although I am a senior associate I will be the sole representative for my client and want to make sure I come off as professional as possible.

Congratulations on the opportunity — it sounds fun (riding in a private plane is on my Bucket List) and like a good career opportunity. As far as fashion goes, I think my answer depends on one question: can you wear denim around your client? If so, I think a pair of dark (preferably black) jeggings skinny jeans, tucked into flat boots, topped with a button-front and blazer, and accessorized with your normal work jewelry, would probably be my best guess for an outfit. (Update:  There’s a lot of disagreement with me in the comments, which is fine, but just to be clear: when I say “jeggings” — I mean skinny  jeans that have a bit of extra Spandex in them to make them more comfortable, but are still primarily denim.  E.g., these, these, or these. Not these.)  Here’s my thinking:

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A Discriminating Woman’s Guide To Buying Jewelry, Part One

How do you know when to splurge on a piece of jewelry?  A big step in the right direction involves understanding the jewelry terminology (it’s also helpful if you suspect you’re allergic to some jewelry!) Today’s guest post explores just that.  Author “Kanye East” is an attorney at law, New York City ex-pat, sarcastic Corporette commenter, and amateur metalsmith. On the rare occasions she leaves the office, Ms. East slays dragons and makes jewelry with their treasures.  (Pictured:  Mallarino Alejandra 24-karat gold-vermeil cuff, available at Net-a-Porter for $1,600.)

I’ll be honest: the first time I saw the phrase “gold vermeil,” I thought something like Oooh, that sounds French. It must be fancy! And only $80? For a fancy gold necklace? Steal! I’d better buy two! My friends, I am ashamed. It turns out “vermeil” is fancy—a fancy way of saying “plated.”

Jewelry is my weakness. For lawyers, jewelry is the one part of a professional wardrobe that’s allowed to be expressive or artistic. (My fellow liberal arts undergrads who reluctantly went to law school for the promise of health insurance and a steady paycheck will understand how important this can be to one’s psyche.) Jewelry can elevate an otherwise ordinary outfit to a commanding ensemble. And my own field research confirms that if you wear the same black dress to a law firm job two days in a row but swap one eye-catching statement necklace for another, nobody will notice the fact that you wore the same clothes two days in a row. [Read more...]

Transitioning from a Conservative Office to a More Casual One

New Office-2, originally uploaded to Flickr by akeg.Since she’s started at a more casual office, Reader L wonders how she should transition her wardrobe of blazers and pencil skirts to an office filled with jeans and sneakers.

I’m 24 and recently left a paralegal job at a small litigation firm for a research and editing job at a large publishing company. The new job is great and a much better fit for me but I’m still struggling with the transition to the more casual attire I’m seeing in my young, tech-centered office. I see jeans and gross sneakers every day of the week, which clashes with my wardrobe of pencil skirts and blazers. Even when I try to tone it down, the basics in my closet just aren’t in the same spectrum. I’ve tried to pay attention to what the seniormost woman in my office wears, but there are a LOT of pay grades between a manager and someone in my entry-level position.

I really want to stand out, make an impression and start advancing. At the same time, I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard or oblivious to office culture. My question is: is it more important to dress in a way that feels professional and appropriate (and, to be selfish, much more comfortable for me) or to mimic the people around me? If it’s the latter, any tips on looking sharp and competent when dressed down?

Great, great question, because it can be really tricky to transition your wardrobe. Here are some of my tips, but readers, I hope you’ll weigh in!  (Pictured: New Office-2, originally uploaded to Flickr by akeg.)

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