Fun But Professional Patterns and Colors

Fun but Professional Patterns and Colors | CorporetteCan fun colors and patterns ever be professional? Reader S wonders:

The only black piece of clothing I have is one blazer and I don’t have a single white thing. You could find me in a floral skirts with striped tops, long bright dresses, and when I occasionally wear jeans, I always pair them with shirts and blazers. My favorite patterns are stripes and florals, favorite colors are purple, red, orange. Can this ever be professional? I feel very uncomfortable in black and would hate to give up my favorite pieces. The field where I hope to find a job is business causal.

Great question, S! We’ve talked about how to start wearing prints, as well as how to mix prints — but not in a long while (other than this brief mention in our post on how to shop your closet and Play Clothes). So let’s talk about it. First: I don’t think there is anything inherently unprofessional about prints, colors, and patterns — indeed, some of the most adventurous dressers, who mixed prints and patterns in the boldest ways, are some of the male partners I knew at my old law firm.  The easy advice here is that it’s very, very easy to throw on a solid cardigan or blazer that picks up one of the colors in your print, throw it on with a neutral trouser or skirt, and go to work.  But let’s have a bit more fun with it…

Fun but Professional Patterns and Colors | Corporette

Layer multiple patterns and anchor them with a solid piece, either in a neutral (black or white) or a color from one of the prints. (Check out our new Professional Prints board on Pinterest to see the pictures bigger, and click through for the sources.)

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Foot Tattoos and Interviews

How to Cover Your Tattoos for Interviews | CorporetteShould You Cover Your Tattoos for Interviews? | CorporetteShould you cover a tattoo for an interview?  What if it’s in a place that’s hard to cover — should you go the extra mile just for the interview?  Reader A wonders about her foot tattoo:

I am a 2L at a Midwestern law school and going through the interview process for next summer. I would like to build my professional wardrobe, but shoes always stump me. I have a tattoo across the top of my foot; a quote in black ink. I would like to cover it up for interviews and other conservative, professional events, but still look feminine, professional, and seasonal.

The compromise I have come up with is either wearing a pant suit with black leather booties or a skirt suit with black pantyhose and pumps. Either option is too hot for the summer and prevents me from wearing other colors.

Any advice for cute, professional shoes that would cover my ink and allow me to lighten up my wardrobe?

Great question, reader A!  I was just talking with a reporter about looking professional with tattoos, and I’m surprised we haven’t covered them since our interviewing with tattoo sleeves post a few years ago.  In general, I agree with my old advice, which is that you should a) avoid getting visible tattoos in the first place, and b) keep your tattoos covered for interviews, big/first meetings, court appearances, and more.

Here’s the thing, though: a foot tattoo is kind of hard to cover up easily.  Something to keep in mind when interviewing is that a very conservative job may require you to keep a tattoo covered almost all the time — so consider beginning as you mean to go on.  By this I mean: If you’re ok with taking the steps below on all but casual days (after you’ve gotten to know your office, of course), then great.  But if this all sounds like a lot of work and you plan to wear regular pumps or ballet flats 90% of the time, you may want to consider just leaving the tattoo exposed during part of the interview process (such as the second round of interviews), since this will weed out a lot of fit problems with your future office early on.

That said — here are some solutions for covering tattoos that may work for you if you want to wear the most conservative, safest outfit choice for an interview — a skirt suit, nude-for-you pantyhose, and comfortable pumps or flats:

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Gray Hair: An Open Thread

Gray Hair Care: An Open Thread | CorporetteWe’ve talked about gray hair before (as well as aging gracefully in general), but not in a long while, so I thought we’d revisit — ladies, do you dye your hair?  (One friend told me she went blonder to help hide the grays!)  Do you rock the gray — and if so, do you care for it with special products?  I’ve noticed Amazon has a ton of products to brighten gray hair and keep the yellow out, which I’ve been told is important.

For my $.02, I haven’t ever dyed my hair (not counting some experiments as a teenager with “wash out red dye” (it was a thing) and, briefly in college, experimenting with blue hair dye), but I’m starting to wonder whether I should!  I first started seeing gray hair at age 26 (thank you, bar exam!) and it’s definitely growing.  If I had darker hair I would LOVE to rock the salt and pepper look — one of my old editors had hair like that, and I always thought it was so chic and cool.  If I were to go all gray I would equally love to rock the silver hair look — one of the partners I used to work for had a super stylish silver bob.  (I even like the silver streak look, like Stacy London!) But now, where it’s brown hair mixed with about 1-2% gray hairs throughout… I’m less of a fan, and have been trying to make an effort to tweeze about 5 silver strands each night.  (Which apparently is the worst thing to do, whoops!) I suspect I’ll hold off dyeing it until the percentage of gray grows to 5-10%, but that’s me.

(And just in case this is in question: I don’t think there’s anything professional or unprofessional about gray hair — I think it’s totally a matter of personal choice.  In my situation I have noticed that my gray hair tends to be a different consistency than the rest of my hair, which sometimes requires extra attention to smoothing so I don’t get a frizzy, frazzled look — the halo of gray! — but maybe that’s me.)

So let’s hear it ladies — do you have gray hair(s)? How do you feel about them? How do you care (or cover) them? 

Further reading:

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Are Heels a Must for Interviews?

Can You Interview in Flats? | CorporetteWhen, if ever, must you wear heels?  Must you wear heels for interviews — or can you interview in flats? Must you wear heels for law firm jobs? Reader L wonders:

I’m starting law school in August, and I’ve heard that heels (3-4″) are a MUST for interviewing and working at a law firm. However, I am a 6′ tall female. I never wear heels, since when I do, I tend to tower over everyone. Would it be appropriate to wear a nice pair of flats in my case?

Great question! We’ve talked about how to build a stylish, professional wardrobe with flats, how to wear heels (if you’re used to flats), and whether flats are professional enough for court.  As far as shoe questions go, this is important, so even though we’ve talked about it a lot, I want to stress it again: you don’t need to wear heels to look professional.  There are a number of reasons why you wouldn’t want to wear heels — from feeling too tall (although hey, I say rock it out if you have the height!), to having foot injuries or issues, to just I-don’t-wanna-itis. A few things that I would note about wearing flats for big events like interviews:

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Your Personal Style: What Just Isn’t “You”?

Your personal style is made up of many preferences and habits — your work style vs. your off-the-clock style, how conservative or edgy your wardrobe is, the accessories you choose to complement your look, your opinions on what’s office-friendly and what isn’t, and the styles/colors/trends that you’ve decided you just don’t wear, ever.

Many moons ago, I had a purple t-shirt with a teensy flower stuck on it, right at the base of the jewel neck. I was in college — and wearing primarily black — and one of my new best friends (ah, freshman year) took one look at me in the shirt and said, “WHAT ARE YOU WEARING? YOU DON’T WEAR FLOWERS!” At the time, the comment really irked me — I hated that it was such a blanket statement, and I hated feeling pigeon-holed. Like I was giving up my right to wear flowers simply because I primarily wore something else all the time.

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Professional Image, Outfit “Compliments,” and Confidence at Any Size

Self-Confidence | CorporetteWhen you get an unexpected comment on an outfit, does it make you question bigger things, like your judgment? Do plus-sized women need to be particularly wary of such office outfit comments? We’ve talked about when you can tell interns their outfits are inappropriate, and how to react when your male boss tells you you “dress too well,” but we haven’t really talked about a casual comment from a friendly coworker. A big welcome back to today’s guest poster, my old friend Kathryn Rubino, who’s written previously about the perfect plus-sized blazer and DIY options for gaping blouses. – Kat. (And I’m sure she looked FABULOUS in the blouse she’s talking about.)

“What a great top — I mean, I could never wear it, but it looks great on you!”

I heard those words and my blood ran cold, and I stuck a smile on my face and mumbled my thanks. Was this a genuine compliment or was I the victim of workplace shade?  Disturbing though it may be, most professional women have dealt with this sort of thing (Kat has even written about the back-handed compliment phenomenon before). But it is such a ubiquitous problem that for my guest post I wanted to discuss that moment that has you questioning every fashion decision you’ve ever made.

First, a little background  this is a workplace where jeans are appropriate on more than just Fridays. The general guidance is that you shouldn’t look “sloppy” but there is quite a range that is considered perfectly acceptable office wear.

Second, I felt great in the outfit. You know how some looks just put a little bounce in your step? That was this outfit. Yes, the shirt was a bold pattern (shades of taupe mixed with a bright yellow and pink), but I had it paired with a dark rinse jean, a reliable black stretch blazer, and nude wedges. So there wasn’t a lot of the pattern showing, just enough to make me feel like spring had really sprung after this interminable winter.

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