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Adventures in Business Casual: What to Wear to Work in Silicon Valley

What to Wear to Work in Silicon Valley (or other offices where colleagues dress both business casual and business formal)What should you wear to work when you work with some colleagues who dress very casually and very formally — is there some way to build a work wardrobe that straddles the business casual to business formal line? Is there a way to do business casual without being overdressed?  Reader A, a young woman who works in Silicon Valley, wonders especially what women should wear to work in Silicon Valley:

I recently started a job at a tech behemoth in Silicon Valley. My work requires me to interface both with Engineers (think shorts, hoodies, flip-flops) and business/sales leaders who dress business casual to formal. As much as I feel comfortable in jeans and t-shirts, I am trying not to stand out from either crowd. Any suggestions on what would be appropriate mid-way options?

Great question, A! We’ve talked before about business casual for women (we’re actually at work on a monster guide to business casual!), offered ideas on how to dress in a male-dominated business casual office, how to be professional in a laid-back office, and how to transition your wardrobe from business formal to business casual —  but not in a while, so let’s discuss.  Some immediate thoughts on what to wear to work in Silicon Valley:

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The Most-Loved Denim at Nordstrom

The Most-Loved Denim at Nordstrom (and the best jeans for women in general!)We haven’t done a Weekend Wednesday in too long! Today: what are your favorite brands and styles for jeans? I was curious what the most-loved denim at Nordstrom was, so while I was doing my own research I thought I’d round them up into a Hunt-like post for you guys.  But I’m curious: Which are your favorite jeans in 2017, ladies? (And, for those of you in business casual offices, do you differentiate between weekend denim and jeans for the office? How do you wear jeans to work?) 

We’ll do the most-loved denim at Nordstrom in regular sizes first:

(Oh, and PSA: I think Nordstrom has already started marking down stuff in general for their usual big President’s Day sale — I’m getting shopping alerts left and right. I’ll try to do a bigger roundup later today or tomorrow.)

Update: The jeans pictured at top are now marked down 20%!

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Is There a “Best” Shade of Blonde for Being Taken Seriously at Work?

the best shade of blonde hair for being taken seriously at workDoes the shade of your hair color really matter at work — is there a certain best shade of blonde for being taken seriously at work? We’ve talked about rocking long platinum blonde hair at work before, but not in a while — and  reader A, a law student, has a question about whether golden shades of blonde, bright blonde hair, or dirty blonde hair is best for being taken seriously at work. Here’s the question:

I have naturally dirty blonde hair, but highlight it a light golden shade. I’m a young 1L with a young face and frequently get mistaken for an undergrad and occasionally a high school student. Last time I went to get my roots touched up, my stylist turned my hair ashy blonde w/ dark lowlights at the ends. My friend said I should keep it because it was more “professional.” But golden blonde feels more “me.” Am I hurting my reputation and job prospects by keeping my hair bright blonde?

Well. We haven’t done a hair-for-work question like this in a while, and I’m curious to hear what readers say.  For my $.02, I think any shade of blonde hair is professional so long as you, yourself, are a professional and act like one. (I’m reminding myself of that “how to get a bikini body” joke that was circulating a year or two ago.)  In general, I think that acting older is better than looking older — and as long as you aren’t twirling your hair, playing with it, and keep it well-maintained (roots and ends) there’s no problem. Of course, there’s a heavy component here to knowing your office once you start work, particularly the personalities in your office — if you suspect a senior colleague wouldn’t give you work or take you to client meetings or the like because he or she objects to your appearance, then you may want to consider changing your hair to fit in better at work.  This may be perfecting an updo for work or, yes, dying your hair a different shade. I will also note that once you start work you may find that you need to factor in the time needed to maintain your hair — spending hours at the salon on a monthly basis may be prohibitive for your work/life balance.

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The Best Tees For Layering Under Blazers, Cardigans, and More

Sure, 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.

Which are the best tees for layering under blazers, cardigans, and more? What qualities do you look for in a work-appropriate t-shirt, how many do you own, and how long do you expect your tees to stay looking new?  We haven’t had a discussion on the best tees for layering for work in a while, so let’s revisit some of the basics, at least for my $.02. First, t-shirts make a great layering piece because they’re washable and generally no-fuss (such as tops requiring ironing).  Furthermore, a work t-shirt should be something designed to be seen — you should be able to take your blazer off during the day without worrying that it’s see-through, clinging to your bra, too low cut, tattered or torn, or otherwise too casual.  Personally I think any pockets will usually make a tee too casual for a conservative office, as does a wider rib trim at the neckline — I love my relaxed slub t-shirts for the weekend, but I think a slub knit or linen blend would make it too casual for work, as would a pattern like a space-dye. Finally, while a tank top can be great for certain situations, it isn’t always the best for layering for two reasons — first, it won’t necessarily be appropriate to wear by itself at your office (see our last discussion on whether going sleeveless is professional – know your office!), and second, it may necessitate more laundering and drycleaning than a t-shirt would because a t-shirt would cover your armpits and protect the top layer from sweat. (But: if you want a seamless look and just want to add opacity/raise a neckline, a camisole for work, demi-camisole, or tank top is definitely the look for you.)

How about you, readers — which t-shirts do you think are the best tees for layering? Do you prefer to layer tees, tanks, camisoles, or something else beneath suits and blazers? What do you look for in a work-appropriate t-shirt? 

Pictured at top, a few of our Hall of Famers: black / red / blue.

Some of our Hall of Famers, the best-selling, classic styles that have been around for years, include:

Above: black / pink / blue / red.

Today’s featured tees for layering include:

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The Best Workwear For Size 16 (and 18, and 16P, and 16WP, and 14W…)

The Best Workwear For Size 16 | CorporetteWe haven’t talked explicitly about the best workwear for cusp sizes in far too long, ladies — if you’re a size 16 or 18, what are your favorite stores and brands? Given the fact that the average American woman is now a size 16 and 5’4″, this is particularly a difficult question because with those stats you may fit in regular sizes (e.g., 12, 14, 16, 18), plus sizes (e.g., 10W, 12W, 14W, or 16W), petite regular sizes (such as 14P, 16P, 18P) or that rare bird, petite plus sizes (12WP, 14WP, or 16WP) — this is why women in this size range are called “inbetweeners!” But a lot of “regular” stores only carry sizes up to size 12 — and a lot of “plus” stores only start at 18W. Add to that the fact that most stores carry very few of those sizes on the shelves, and you may be stuck in a never-ending cycle of online shopping and returning stuff, as several readers noted in our post on how to return items bought online. SO. Let’s discuss, ladies: What’s the best workwear if you’re a size 16? If you’re an “average” size and right on the cusp of plus sizes, which brands or stores have you found to be the best for you? What styles of clothes work best for your body type? What brands run small; which run big?  

Psst: If you are interested in plus size workwear, please sign up for CorporettePlus, our newsletter! Signing up helps us gauge interest in the project, and we promise not to blast your email more than once a week at most. (Right now it’s more like once a month.)

Some of the brands I know of include:

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The Office Pashmina: 9 Ways to Use a Wrap at the Office

Ways to Use a Wrap at the Office | CorporetteBesides keeping a blazer at work, it’s also a great to have a wrap handy in your office. Sure, they’re great to grab as a top layer when you’re freezing, but that’s just one of the many ways to use a wrap. Here are nine other reasons to keep a wrap at the office:

  1. Use it as a lap blanket when you’re wearing a skirt or dress and your legs get chilly.
  2. Need a quick power nap at work? Fold your wrap and use it as a pillow.
  3. Could your dreary office really use some color? Drape a folded wrap on the back of your chair or on another chair in your office.
  4. Sit down at work and realize your new skirt is shorter than you thought? Add a little coverage with a wrap. This also works if you like to get comfy at your desk by putting your feet up, etc.
  5. In the same vein: If your new top didn’t seem revealing in the dressing room but you end up inadvertently flashing someone at the office, layer a wrap over it. 
  6. Hold a wrap over your head (or wrap it around yourself) in the rain when you’re caught without an umbrella.
  7. Spill something on yourself? Cover it up with a wrap until you can change your outfit. 
  8. On a work trip and the plane is freezing? Use it as a nicer and softer blanket/pillow than the ones from the airline.
  9. Cover your neck in the wintertime if you’re wearing a neck-baring winter coat and don’t have a scarf with you.

Now that you’ve realized all the great ways to use a wrap, check out a few of Kat’s favorites, most of which are currently on sale:

Pictured above: one / two / three / four

You may have noticed that one of those is called a ruana and the rest are labeled wraps. What’s the difference, anyway? The terms are often used loosely, but here’s a guide to the technical definitions:

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