How to Wear a Vest at the Office

suiting-vests-for-womenIf you’re thinking of adding women’s vests to your workwear wardrobe, what’s the best way to wear them at the office? And where can you buy vests for women in the first place? Reader K wonders…

I work at a relatively conservative-dressing law firm, and I’ve seen a few women, at my institution and elsewhere, wearing suiting vests — as in, the middle part of a man’s 3 piece suit — usually over a white button up. I think they look great. What do you think of suiting vests? Do you know where can I find them?

Interesting question — we have occasionally featured suits with matching vests in our Suit of the Week feature, but not often — I’ll admit it’s a hard look to pull off. Personally, I prefer the most classic vested look — a close-fitting, almost shrunken look. In product catalogs a vest is often featured as a shell, with nothing beneath, but I wouldn’t advise that for the office. Instead, layer it on top of a button-front blouse or even a simple t-shirt (I’d suggest going for a scoopneck, jewelneck, or U-neck, not a crew or V) for a sophisticated, almost monochromatic look. Wear the blazer + vest combo with jeans for a dressed-up but casual look, or go for a vest-like look with a suit by layering a sweater the same color as your suit (either a shell, a proper sweater vest, or a regular, sleeved sweater) on top of a blouse.

These things are practically impossible to find right now in stores, but here are a few versions, at top and below: Smythe / Limited / Bop Basics / Rag & Bone

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How to Wear Jeans to Work

jeans-shoes-business-casualHow can you wear jeans to work — and particularly, what shoes should you wear? Which business casual outfits look the most professional? Reader B wonders…

I work in public accounting and we have “Jean Fridays,” but HR says no sneakers, tennis shoes, etc., so I can’t wear my suede Pumas or Onitsuka Tigers with my jeans. Please suggest alternate shoes a girl can wear with jeans to the office. I am a size 8 1/2 and feel like distressed oxfords or driving shoes give me clown feet. And black booties are not the look I’m going for (too motorcycle or bar night or something…). Thanks for any advice if you decide to pick this one up!

Great question, Reader B! We’ve talked about business casual for women, as well as how to wear jeans to work (but back in 2009!).  A lot of this depends on how your jeans are hemmed, but here are a few pointers:

  • A more traditional, structured shoe like a pointed toe pump will almost always elevate a denim look.
  • The wider your pants’ ankles are (bootcut, baby bootcut, etc) the more pointed your shoe needs to be — but shoes with rounder toes can even look better with skinny jeans and the like.
  • You don’t need heels — if you’re more of a flats person, look for either a teeny tiny kitten heel (found with shoes like the Stuart Weitzman Poco) or a pointed-toe flat, like the trendy Nicholas Kirkwood loafers.
  • When in doubt, go for a dark rinse denim with little to no distressing — rips are not appropriate for most offices.

I’ve rounded up a few images from Pinterest to aid you visually, below, and maybe even give you a few business casual outfit ideas…

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Sponsored: MM.LaFleur Delivers Polished, Professional Looks to Your Door

MMLafleur ReviewThis is a sponsored post, but I really am delighted to tell you about my experience with MM.LaFleur. I’m impressed with their well-made, beautiful clothes, and I thought the Bento Box experience — where a stylist chooses and sends you a box of clothes to try on at home, for free — was smooth as well as fun.

But first, let’s back up: here’s what I knew about MM.LaFleur coming into this. There is some serious fashion and workwear cred behind the brand, which was founded by two ex-management consultants, Sarah LaFleur and Narie Foster, along with their head designer, Miyako Nakamura, formerly of Zac Posen and Jason Wu. Their mission: to take the work out of dressing for work.  They make luxurious clothes with fabrics imported from Italy and Japan, ethically made (mostly) in NYC. Plus, a lot of it is machine-washable and wrinkle-resistant, and that’s made clear right on the shopping pages (not just the product pages!), which I really like.

washable-workwear

mmfleur-bentoThe Bento Box: While you can shop their online store yourself, they’ve recently started offering a “bento box” — you fill out a quick style survey, and then (based on your preferences and needs), you’re sent a box of hand-picked, office-ready looks. You keep what you love and send back the rest.

My Experience: I filled out a quick survey online, and got a box of hand-picked items the next day in the mail. It was reminiscent of a bento box, with fun compartments (including one with a lovely red notebook — mine to keep — emblazoned with “Luck Favors the Brave”). My box contained several dresses (most below: Etsuko, Felisa, Toi, and Lydia), the Tribeca Skirt, the Angelique sweater, a silk scarf, and a luxe-feeling belt (Greenwich Avenue). I loved almost everything — the only miss for me was the skirt, which fit too long for my taste. I was really impressed with everything they sent — the fabrics felt lovely and had the right amount of stretch, the fit was great, and the construction was solid. There were no obvious workwear gaffes like a super deep V, high slits, or things like that, and instead there were intelligent details like pockets and washable fabrics.

A closer look at some of my favorites: [Read more…]

How to Wear Black and Navy Together

wear-black-navyCan you wear black and navy together?  What about a dark blue pinstriped blazer — how can you mix that with black suiting pieces?  Reader D wonders:

I scored a dark blue (navy ish) pinstripe pant suit, but then realised that pant suits don’t really suit me. Which shades of blue go well with a solid black skirt? I’m afraid it might be difficult to mix and match because this is both blue AND pinstriped. Can I also wear it with a solid black dress? I’ve just tried that combo on in the mirror and am afraid that it might look funny. I’m hoping to use it for interviews and eventually work, in the finance industry.

Great question, reader D! We’ve talked about how to wear black and navy together before, but not in a long while. (We’ve also talked about what color tights to wear with a navy skirt, and rounded up some great navy suits for interviewing.)  I’m curious to hear what the readers think, but this has always been my rules of thumb:

All shades of blue go well with black — so long as you don’t look like you got dressed in the dark.  This is really the trick — the closer the blue is to black, the more you have to wear it with intention. So how do you wear a dark blue and black — with intention? [Read more…]

Fashion Resolutions

fashion resolutionsHere’s a fun topic for today’s open thread: what are your FASHION resolutions (if any) for 2015? Some different forms this may take:

For my $.02, I’d love to start wearing heels again.  Between the babies and the babywearing and the work-at-homing I’ve gotten out of the habit — I put on a pair of 3″ boots last week and nearly fell over.  Part of the problem was that all of my old shoes haven’t fit for a while <sob> because I seemed to pick up an additional half shoe size with each pregnancy.  After Jack was born I knew I wanted to get pregnant soonish so I didn’t want to bother with buying a ton of shoes in my new size, so I tried to squish myself into my old shoes — and it went about as well as it sounds. (Not good…. ow.)   I’ve heard your feet can still change size (up or down) in the postpartum months, so I’ve been waiting a bit after Harry’s birth as well.  Obviously I don’t need to wear heels — no one does! — but I really miss them! (Pictured above: I may just have to pull the trigger on these best-selling Cole Haan booties at Zappos.  Hmmn…)

Ladies, what are your fashion resolutions?  (Any other general resolutions you’d care to share?)
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How to Blend Conservative Style with Business Casual

business-casualHow should you follow a business casual dress code (and avoid looking overdressed) when your personal style tends toward classic, understated, and conservative — without buying an entirely new wardrobe? Oh, and also: you’re in a technical field, you’re the youngest employee in your office, and the only woman there besides the secretary. Reader K wonders:

I have recently started at my dream job which is a technical one and I work with men only (besides the receptionist). I am on a very tight budget but have invested in basic pieces such as good quality black suits, classic dresses, blouses, black pencil skirt. The dress code is business casual. Yet the other day I wore a classic grey dress, black blazer, heels, and pearls and the CEO made a comment before a meeting insinuating I was overdressed. He wears cords and a polo everyday. What can I wear to work? I prefer to wear more conservative clothes and feel more professional in blacks, and greys and dark color palettes with a small pop of color (like a maroon or emerald blouse). I am in my early 20s and look especially young and am the youngest in my office and prefer the clean cut conservative professional look so am at a loss of what to wear. Any help would be much appreciated.

We’ve talked about how best to dress in business casual in a male-dominated, technical workplace as a younger woman, dealing with other women’s backhanded compliments about dressing well, and being told by a male boss that you dress too well and need to dress “frumpier,” but not exactly this.  Personal style is often important, but sometimes showing that you can “read” company culture requires dressing in a different way than you might otherwise.  Furthermore, when you look young, it can come off even worse — like you’re playing dress up.  So here are a few ideas…

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