The Next Step: Upgrading Weekend Clothes

How to Upgrade Your Weekend Clothes | CorporetteWelcome to what is probably our final “next step” feature, where we explore how to take the next step up in work clothesoffice heels, stylish work bags, and professional jewelry; we also explored the middle upgrades for services (e.g., you can cook for yourself or get a professional chef — but what’s in between?). Today: how to step up your weekend clothes game. (Pictured: Vince Gathered Shirtdress, on sale from $385 to $230 at Nordstrom.)

Here is my theory on weekend clothes: there are very few classics. At the rate that fashion moves these days, the quickest way to look and feel frumpy is to have an outdated off-duty style. I speak from experience here: I refused to buy in to the skinny jean trend for <cough> way too long, arguing that bootcuts were classics and fit right in to the style for weekend me. So what if I’m still in bootcuts when everyone else in skinny jeans, you may say — it’s just denim, and I’m in suits or sheath dresses five days a week. But I’ve noticed that a lot of elements of your workwear wardrobe can flow from weekend choices.

For example: a fitted t-shirt looks great with bootcuts, but you need a drapey, tunic-y, asymmetrical top for skinny jeans. The slouchy, more boxy tees and sweaters (or, gah, the crop tops) look better with boyfriend jeans. Once you get used to doing the half-tuck with your jeans on the weekend, your office style changes as well — to more drapey blouses with slimmer-cut pants. Similarly, once you get used to rolling your jeans to wear with your booties, wearing knee-high boots with skinny jeans feels almost antiquated — which means you buy fewer knee-high boots or don’t replace the ones you have, and then it’s less of an issue whether it’s appropriate to wear knee-high boots to work with dresses, and instead we start talking about whether booties with skirts are work-appropriate. It’s very interesting to me how all of the pieces interact.

This is all just a theory, and I’m curious to hear what you guys think about it. I’m still perfecting my own weekend game, but I think this is where the capsule collection really comes in — you buy a few of-the-moment pieces that all work together in terms of color, silhouette, and vibe, and try to keep your new purchases to a minimum. I also think that if dresses work for you in your off-duty life, they’re one of the best ways to stay as close to “classic” as you can get.

Anyway, here are my tiers for weekend wear — readers, where do you shop for weekend clothes? Do you also feel like casual fashion is moving far more quickly than it has in the past — and how do you address it? Or, is all of this less of an issue because you’re either in a suit, workout clothes/sweatpants, or a date night slinky dress, with very little in between time?  

Tier 1 — These stores are easily accessible, and you probably shopped at them in your teens. The pros: they’re affordable and always on trend. The cons: a lot of their cuts and trends may skew a bit younger than you prefer; the clothes are not made to last (generally speaking); and you may want to consider the ethics of buying a ton of “disposable” clothes.

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Creating a Capsule Wardrobe for Work

business-capsule-wardrobeThe business capsule wardrobe — a limited number of essential pieces that can be combined to create many outfits — has been growing in popularity, which makes sense when you look at the parallel trends of “slow fashion” and Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. A focus on quality pieces + an emphasis on decluttering/organization = a capsule wardrobe. But how do you create one for the office, and how do you pare down what’s currently in your closet? Reader C wonders…

I am a huge fan of Corporette, and wanted to submit a suggestion for a future post. Since a huge feature of the site is work appropriate clothing, I would be interested in discussing what women professionals’ wardrobes actually contain. After spending several years in New York, I have learned to really cull my wardrobe (which is also better for my budget)! I was inspired by a writer named Jennifer Scott (I have no affiliation with her) who has published a book called Lessons from Madame Chic. In the book, as well as on her blog, she discusses the concept of having a capsule wardrobe of items that are high quality and that you repeat throughout the season. The concept is flexible — for instance, an attorney will have more clothing than she will, as a homemaker — but the idea is to invest in better, fewer clothes that last. I am putting this into action myself, but am curious to see if others do the same, and how (and whether this is of interest to my fellow Corporette readers).

We’ve talked about how to shop your closet, “fashion math,” how often you can repeat your work outfits, and where to start when you need style inspiration, but we haven’t specifically talked about capsule wardrobes.  I’m still learning about them myself, so I’m curious to hear what people think.  I think the idea of a capsule wardrobe has been around for years — certainly for travel.  But Madame Chic (which apparently is the #1 book in fashion and style right now on Amazon!), the trend towards decluttering, Instagram challenges… more and more people are viewing capsule wardrobes as a great way to dress every day.  Buy less stuff, buy good stuff, and wear it all the time.  A number of bloggers post capsule wardrobes (see our “further reading” links below); even the author of Madame Chic has YouTube videos showcasing her own capsule wardrobes.  (Some people take this even further, like Obama, and wear only one outfit, period, to cut down on decision fatigue.)

So how do you do it for work?  Here’s my $.02:

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Where Did You Get That? How to Track Down a Mystery Piece of Clothing Without Asking

hunting-down-clothesHave you ever seen a random stranger wearing something — shoes, a coat, a blouse — that you really, really love but have no idea where to buy? Sure, you could try to ask her where she got it, but what if you don’t want to yell across the subway platform, or you don’t have time — or you just feel sort of awkward about asking? Aside from posting a Missed Connections ad on Craigslist (W4C?), how can you track down clothing or accessories that you happen to see on the street? Reader C wonders…

I was out to brunch a few weeks ago and saw a woman wearing a gorgeous cardigan — white with a pattern of bars in different shades of blue. I’m kicking myself for not going up to her to ask where she got it, and since then I’ve desperately been google image searching to no avail. Any suggestions for how to find this cardigan-that-got-away?

Interesting question, and I’m curious to hear readers’ responses about how to track down mystery pieces of clothing.  (For the record, I am sorry to say I have no idea which cardigan she saw!) Here are a few tips that come to mind:

  • Shopstyle.  Shopstyle.com can be a great way to find what you’re looking for — type in “purple plus-size wrap dresses,” for example, and you’ll see a bunch of options that are on the market right now.  For Reader C’s missed connection with the sweater, I would type in “cardigan” and then narrow by “blue.” If the woman was obviously plus-size or petite, put that in because it narrows the range considerably. If you can narrow the color of blue (ocean, cobalt, Tiffany blue, etc), give it a try. If you can think of a brand that has similar patterns (Missoni on the high end — Nic and Zoe on the more affordable end), that can help. If you can think of how the product might have been described — paintstripe! vertical stripes! brushstrokes! — that can help.   Polyvore is a similar option, as is Pinterest.

finding mystery clothes

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Summer Tweed, Winter Tweed — What’s the Difference?

summer-winter-tweedWhat are some guidelines for wearing tweed in the spring and summer?  We talk a lot about “lightweight tweed” — but what the heck is it? (For example: our most recent Suit of the Week.)  Reader C wonders…

I was wondering if you could do a post on tweed — maybe a “Guide to Tweed” or similar. I frequently see you mention “lightweight tweed” for summer, but I’m not sure I actually know what that means. Can light/bright colours bring an otherwise heavier weighted tweed into the summer months? On a more specific note, I recently bought a cropped black and white tweed jacket from BR a little while ago, and I’m wondering if I can wear this well into the summer, or if it is more of a late winter/spring piece. (I couldn’t find a picture of the exact one, but it’s similar to the jacket at this link, just cropped.) Thanks!

Interrrrrresting question, C.  We’ve talked a lot about dressing professionally for summer, including how to avoid looking like a doctor in a white blazerwearing pantyhose in the summer, and fabrics that are good for hot weather … but we’ve never really talked about what makes a summer tweed a “summer tweed.”  (On the flip side, we’ve talked about the propriety of bare legs in winter, and I agree with what I said there re: wearing winter tweed in the summer — it can be seen as a judgment call by your coworkers.)  Now is a great time to talk about it because as spring starts to turn to summer, which tweeds you wear start to matter more and more.

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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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