The Corporette Guide to Suits

suits-for-womenWhich are the best brands for basic, classic-cut suits for women — worthy of use as interview suits and other outfits for important, career-advancing events? We haven’t talked about simple women’s suits in ages, so I thought we’d discuss. (Update: check out Part 2 of this post, featuring plus size suits, petite suits, tall suits, maternity suits, and independent suiting companies!) First, some general notes on buying a suit:

  • When constrained by budget: go for a black skirt suit rather than a pants suit, because pants fit is by far the hardest thing to get right. In my experience a $60 skirt suit looks OK but a $60 pants suit makes you look like you come from Planet Frump. Furthermore, the skirt suit will go farther — you can wear the pencil skirt as a basic bottom in your wardrobe (but always dryclean all pieces of a suit together!), plus if you have a “dressed up” occasion, a skirt suit is always going to be the more formal option. Another pro for a simple pencil skirt: you completely bystep the trends that pants have been subject to the past few years — to shop online you’d think that cropped pants suits are de rigueur now, but they are still a fringe/trend item in a lot of workplaces. Other trends I’ve seen with suits: jumpsuits! culottes! short suits! You want 1) a pencil skirt + hip length jacket or 2) a fitted sheath dress + hip length jacket — these combos have been in for years and probably will be for years to come.
  • If you’re shopping online, look for words such as: seasonless wool, stretch wool, tropical wool, gabardine, triacetate. Avoid words like sateen, shimmer, linen. Crepe can be really tricky — sometimes it means a polyester drapey blend for suiting and sometimes it means a bridesmaid’s dress/MOB type thing.
  • If you’re busty: traditional wisdom here is that you want more buttons on your blazer, not fewer. I’m plenty busty and have had some favorite one-button jackets over the years, though, so your mileage may vary here. Depending on trends you can sometimes find suits with as many as four or five buttons. But avoid zippers instead of buttons on jackets — they look wrong more than they look right.
  • Please do not wear sandals with a pants suit. It just looks really weird to me, but perhaps I’m alone there. I would argue that if you’re at a dressy enough occasion to require a suit, sandals will always be inappropriate.
  • Treasure hunting for a suit (where you MAY or may not find something good): T.J. Maxx, Yoox, ASOS, Off Fifth, and Nordstrom Rack
  • Consider taking your suit to the tailor.  Common suiting alterations include shortening sleeves, adjusting the waist. Note that the blazer (specifically the shoulder/arms) are the hardest part to tailor, so focus on that fit when you’re shopping.
  • Please don’t forget to cut your Xs, always dryclean suiting pieces together, and — if you’re wearing the suit somewhere Very Important like an interview, make sure you use the mirror trick.
  • For other tips on buying a basic interview suit (including considerations on colors, care, accessories, layering, and more), please check out The Corporette Guide to Interview Suits.

(Pictured at top: The Limited, Ann Taylor, Boss.)

Budget Suits For Women (under $250 for both pieces)

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Work Jewelry: How Much Should You Wear?

work-jewelry-how-much-is-too-muchLadies, how much work jewelry do you wear? Do you tend to lean towards “too much” or “not enough”? Where do you think the line is? How do you avoid getting into a rut with your jewelry? As I draft this post I realize this is something I’ve struggled with, so I’m curious to hear what readers say. (Pictured: I pity the fool who thinks this isn’t enough jewelry for work! Sorry, had to…)

(Psst: in the past we’ve written before about my jewelry collection for workhow to wear jewelry for work if your style isn’t particularly feminine, and how to mix metals with your work jewelry.)

For my $.02, I’ve always been a bit of a jewelry minimalist — three pieces of jewelry struck me as the right amount for daytime, for whatever reason. This changed a bit when I got engaged and started wearing my diamond ring on the regular. It meant I stopped wearing other rings, and it meant I tended to lean more toward my silver/white gold jewelry (my rings are platinum) versus my yellow gold jewelry or rose gold jewelry. Add a good watch in the mix, and you’re left with a problem — your work jewelry choices are either very boring (because only one piece changes), or you’re suddenly wearing a ton more jewelry.

Here are my general thoughts on work jewelry, just to throw some spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks:

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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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Yea or Nay: Light Blue Suits for Workwear

For busy working women, the suit is often the easiest outfit to throw on in the morning. In general, this feature is not about interview suits for women, which should be as classic and basic as you get — instead, this feature is about the slightly different suit that is fashionable, yet professional.

blue suits for women for summer

Pictured: Elie Tahari / Express / Theory / ASOS / Limited Collection / Antonio Melani / Nanette Lepore 

It’s that time of year, ladies: blue suit time! I’m seeing a million suits out, so instead of featuring one in particular for our Suit of the Week, I thought we’d have a conversation about them in general: do you wear a blue suit during the spring and summer? Which shade of blue have you found to be the most versatile? What colors do you like to the wear the suit with, and do you wear the suiting pieces together or mostly as separates?

For my $.02, I was shocked when I first realized how versatile my light blue blazer was (it was a lighter gray/blue, almost the shade of the Theory or ASOS one above). I wore it a ton, mostly with black (pants, sheath dresses) and white tops and blouses, with the occasional pop of color like a red pendant necklace or purple heel thrown in. That said, while I’ve found the light blue blazer to be amazingly versatile, I think light blue pants or a light blue skirt can be a lot less versatile (although I suppose blue pants could take the place of my beloved staple, light gray pants). How about you?

If you’re looking for blue suits in other sizes, here are some plus-size options (Talbots, Tahari, Lane Bryant), as well as petite options (Talbots, Brooks Brothers, Pendleton).


Beauty Wednesday: Serums, Sunscreen, and Retinoids

aging skincare tips serums sunscreens retinoidsLadies, what is your skin routine? At what age did you get serious about skincare? What are your favorite products, both over-the-counter and prescription, whether for anti-aging, anti-wrinkles, exfoliating, or something else? I’ve seen a lot of readers talking recently about serums, sunscreens, retinoids and more, so let’s discuss. I’m curious to hear what everyone else is doing, what products you like, and if you have any tips/tricks for applying — but here’s my own story:

After years of using only organic options while pregnant/nursing (based on something my first OB/GYN said to me), I was eager to get “the good stuff” when I finally had my body back to myself. As I often do, I turned to the commenting threads for advice and found an older thread where a reader had said that for a woman in her 30s, the main things you need are Vitamin C, sunscreen, and a retinoid. I liked the simplicity of this statement, as well as the chorus of agreement from other readers. I already had an organic, nursing-approved Vitamin C serum and have been using sunscreen daily since my teenage lifeguard years, so I thought, OK, to the dermatologist I go for a retinoid. (Just a quick science/vocab lesson, at least as I understand things: Retinol and retinoids are both Vitamin A. Retinols are available in over the counter (OTC) products; retinoids are available in prescriptions only. Retin-A is the brand name for one of the retinoids you can get.)

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Holiday Weekend Sales (Happy Easter!)

easter salesHappy weekend, peeps! There are some crazy sales going on, so if you’re on the hunt, these are our favorites. We’ll keep this list updated as we can throughout the weekend. Have you found any great sales — any we’re missing? Updates as of Sunday, 3/27, in green. 

  • – Up to 60% off nudes, neutrals, and blushes: Cole Haan, Calvin Klein, Sam Edelman, and more. Up to 60% off Coach bags, accessories, and shoes; spring comfort shoes up to 65% off; watches, sunglasses, and more up to 70% off; select styles in dresses $49.99 or less; fashion wedges up to 60% off.
  • Amazon – Up to 50% off spring dresses, suits, and more; up to 70% off jewelry; up to 60% off handbags, luggage, and more. I’m a bit obsessed with this men’s watch (was $325, now $50) if you like a big watch.
  • Ann Taylor – 40% off almost everything with code MARCH40.
  • All Saints – 30% off select styles with code SPRING.
  • ASOS – $30 off $150 with code MARCH30, $50 off $200 with code MARCH50, $70 off $250 with code MARCH70.
  • Banana Republic – 40% off your purchase with code BRSPRING.
  • Barneys Warehouse – Spend up to $400 and take an extra 40% off. Spend $500 or more and take an extra 50% off.
  • Bergdorf Goodman – New arrivals up to 40% off.
  • Bloomingdale’s – Save 40-60% off on select items. Take 20% off $250+, take 25% off $500+, take 30% off $1000+ (on almost all regular-price, sale-price, and clearance items).
  • Boden – Mid-season sale: Up to 40% off. Take 10% off full-price styles with code 9U5U.
  • Brooks Brothers – 15% off; 25% off for cardholders.
  • Club Monaco – Extra 30% off sale and clearance with code MARCH30.
  • CUSP – Up to 65% off regular prices.
  • Dorothy Perkins – 25% off your order.
  • DvF – Additional 25% off with code FRIENDS25.
  • Eddie Bauer – Everything up to 50% off.
  • Express – 40% off everything.
  • Forever 21 – 40% off 4 sale items with code EXTRA40, 30% off 3 sale items with code EXTRA30, 20% off 2 sale items with code EXTRA20.
  • French Connection – 30% off full-price items and free shipping with code FC30ES.
  • J.Crew – 25% off your purchase with code SHOPMORE.
  • J.Crew Factory – 50% off. Extra 40% off clearance with code EGGSCELLENT.
  • Lands’ End – 40% off spring essentials with code FIT40 and PIN 4024. Up to 60% off sale and clearance. Get a $30 gift card when you spend $100+ with code YES100 and PIN 1228.
  • Last Call – Extra 35% off everything. (Pretty good cashmere selection if you want to peruse it for next year.)
  • The Limited – 50% off almost everything.
  • L.K. Bennett – 20% off with code FRIENDS16.
  • Loft 30% off almost everything, 40% off select spring styles. Online only, their biggest sale of the year: Cyber Spring! 40% off everything plus free shipping with code SHIP40. 
  • Lord & Taylor – 20% off regular-priced and sale items with code BIG. 25% off select dresses, up to 40% off select shoes.
  • Macy’s – Extra 20% (15% off home and select departments) plus free returns with code EASTER.
  • Neiman Marcus – Clearance, save on wear-now styles. Up to 70% off when you take an extra 20% off already-reduced prices. 
  • New York & Company – 50% off everything.
  • Nordstrom – Cardholders earn triple points through 3/26. 4581 items in sale!
  • Nordstrom Rack – Clear the Rack: Save up to 75% (with extra 25% off clearance). Nordstrom cardholders earn triple points through 3/26.
  • The Outnet – Up to 70% off Etro and Sandro; up to 60% off Elizabeth and James; up to 65% off Oscar de la Renta, Marni, and Moschino; extra 30% off denim, accessories, and more.
  • Rebecca Taylor – Take $70 off $350+, take $100 off $500+, take $200 off $1000+ with code SPRING16.
  • Saks Off Fifth – Friends & Family: Up to 70% off. Take extra 15% off for total savings up to 80% off with code FRIENDS. Up to 70% off new contemporary arrivals. Up to 60% off seasonal shoes and handbags.
  • Stuart Weitzman – 50% off select styles and colors. Buy 2 pairs full-price shoes and get a free suede care kit with code SPRINGSTYLE.
  • Talbots – 30% off all dresses, skirts, shoes, and accessories; includes new arrivals. Online today only: 30% off all regular price items. 
  • UKIES – 40% off 1 pair of shoes with code HAPPYFEET and 55% off 2 or more pairs with code HAPPYLIFE.
  • White House | Black Market – The Dress Event: 30% off all full-price styles.