How High to Button Your Shirt for Interviews

blouse-buttons-suitsWhen interviewing, must you button your shirt all the way to the top? How many buttons are acceptable to leave unbuttoned? Reader S wonders…

I am going for an interview at quite a conservative organisation. I have a navy skirt suit and was going to wear a white button up shirt. Do I need to button up all the buttons up to the top?

I have an immediate, initial gut reaction here — but I’m curious if the readers agree. Before we start, note that the WSJ just discussed this very topic for men’s attire; in the past we’ve talked about whether shirt collars should be tucked into a blazer or splayed on top, as well as where to get the best button-front blouses. Here’s my gut reaction $.02:

NO! Don’t button it all the way to the top! That would look weird, and fussy, and… and… I’m thinking of a hitman in a movie but can’t quite put my finger on which movie. (Also: Rainman.) I dug up a few pictures for inspiration, though, and my opinions shifted as I studied it. So I’m really curious to hear what readers say.  Here are some notes:

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Are Crossbody Bags Professional?

Are Crossbody Bags Professional? Are crossbody bags professional?  Could you wear one to a business lunch, or a networking event?  Reader C wonders…

Is a crossbody bag considered professional? I’m tired of carrying a ton of bags to work (briefcase, pump, lunch bag, and purse) and am trying to downsize my handbag. I’m considering purchasing the Lo & Sons Pearl bag. But would it be odd wearing a crossbody to a business lunch or networking event? Thanks!

The crossbody bag is SO HUGE right now. I think they’re cute, even if I wouldn’t wear one myself (busty girls, are you with me?). I would say this is a case of “you do you” and go ahead and wear it if you want to. I particularly think the crossbody is the new wristlet — perfect for grabbing something quickly to run to pick up lunch. (Pictured: another popular option, the Marc Jacobs Natasha, available at Nordstrom for $108-$398.  The pictured leather bag is $365.)

BUT — there’s always a but, isn’t there? — I might caution you in two possible regards that might invoke negative judgement about your professionalism.

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What to Wear to an Alumni Lunch Event

Should You Wear a Suit to an Alumni Lunch? | CorporetteIf you’re planning to attend an alumni lunch for your law school — and you’ll be taking the opportunity to network there — how should you dress? Is wearing a suit a must in this situation? (Pictured, Boss Juicy 6 Jacket, $575 at Nordstrom — check out our full guide to women’s suits for more ideas.) Reader K wonders…

I am starting to network to look for a new job and have decided to attend my law school’s annual alumni lunch (I am a lawyer). It’s on a Friday in a hotel ballroom. Should I wear a suit or is a professional business dress (with sleeves) sufficient?

Interesting question, Reader K!  For my $.02, I would say SURE, wear a suit.  Why not? You have one, and you want to look professional.  If anyone at work asks why you’re in a suit, there’s nothing suspect about attending an alumni event — and at the event if anyone asks why you’re in a suit, you can just say you have another big meeting.  (I doubt they will — my guess is that 95% of people there will be in suits.  But I’m sure this depends on your geographic location, as well as your law school.) Particularly given the fact that this is a lunch — and the law school alumni lunch at that — I would say that a suit is the easiest, no-brainer answer here — throw it on and be done with it.  (Read some of our best business lunch tips here, as well as some of our thoughts on alumni networking here.)

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Can You Wear A Tropical-Wool Suit in the Winter?

Can You Wear a Tropical Wool Suit in Winter? | CorporetteAre suits made from tropical wool acceptable to wear during the winter, or are they only designed for cooling you down in hot summer weather? And how does the suit color factor in? Reader P wonders…

I bought a dark navy colored suit last year from J. Crew in tropical wool, and I am wondering if it is okay to wear during colder months (I live in New York City). My gut is that since it is very dark with brown buttons, that it can look wintry and also be worn in summer, as it is light weight and breathable. However, it is my first suit in this kind of fabric and I don’t to seem gauche if there is a rule about seasons in which this fabric is appropriate, and when it is not. Any suggestions?

Interesting question, reader P — and I’m curious to hear what the readers say.  My initial reaction here was, OF COURSE you can wear tropical wool suits in the winter! They’re seasonless!  But then I second guessed myself and did some Google research.
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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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What to Wear Underneath Unlined Pants

unlined-pantsWhat do you wear under pants and suits that are unlined? Are you for or against the current trend of unlined clothing? Reader K wonders:

I have a question I was hoping you could address. As a slim, athletic woman I love Theory suits because they fit me like a glove. However, I’m peeved that the skirts and pants are unlined — which has already been noted on your site. I’ve found a number of slips that I can wear under the skirts, but I’m having trouble finding something to wear under the pants. All I’ve found is super-tight shapewear that feels uncomfortably tight at the waist, especially when sitting. Do you have any suggestions?

Great question, and I’m curious to hear what readers say. (We’ve already talked about how to reduce static cling in general.) For my $.02, I’m actually in favor of the move toward unlined pants, for a bunch of reasons. First, I often would find that the lining of my suiting clothes would be the first part to break down, sometimes even shredding — it really decreased that confident feeling of “I look put together today.” (Maybe I’m alone here, but if my underpinnings are in poor shape, no matter what else I’m wearing, everything else feels raggedy too!) Plus, the lining was often a cheap polyester — so while the pants or dress were washable, the lining wasn’t. (OR, the lining would need to be laundered way before the rest of the pants needed a wash.) Also, as someone who often needs to get pants hemmed (yay for being between regular and petite sizes), the lining in pants was just another layer to hem.

A few options for you to wear underneath unlined pants:

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