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Wearing a Dress and Blazer — Instead of a Suit

Dresses and blazersIs an outfit composed of a blazer and a dress an acceptable substitute for a suit? Reader B wonders how to mix dresses with blazers for a fairly conservative space (the DA’s office):

I start work at a DA’s Office next month, and I’m trying to round out my work wardrobe. My difficulty is this: I despise pant and skirt suits. (Yes, I recognize they’re a necessary evil and yes, I own several.) I vastly prefer to wear work-appropriate dresses (always with sleeves) with blazers that I can throw on when I need to go to court.

How do I go about matching blazers with dresses? Must they come as a set? Be the same fabric? What about colors and necklines? Basically, I have a closet full of gorgeous work dresses, but I need more blazers if I want them to work at the new job.

Hmmmn. Reader B, you’re definitely going to have to learn the ropes at your office before you buy any more dresses, because in some very conservative offices — with some judges — a dress with a blazer on top is likely not going to cut it in terms of formality. Hopefully this won’t be the case where you are, but I really caution you to play it conservatively for the first month or so and wear the separate pant and skirt suits you own, and the few matching sets (dress + blazer) that you own.

As for how to mix a dress and blazer otherwise for work:

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Black Suits and Summer Job Interviews

interview suit - hot weatherCan you still interview in a black suit in the summertime? When you have to attend a job interview in hot weather, is there a better, lighter alternative to the standard black or blue suit? Reader D wonders…

I had a sudden job interview this week and had to wear a suit. Although they had air conditioning, it was very hot. My suit was black and it seemed too heavy. Aren’t there better alternatives to the black/blue suit when it’s over 80 degrees? Thanks!

Interesting question. We’ve talked about whether seasonless suiting is truly seasonless, as well as discussed lightweight blazers, dressing professionally for summer, and maintaining a professional look when it’s blisteringly hot — but we haven’t talked about this exact question.

I’m curious to hear what the readers say — my gut reaction here, possibly tempered by spending pretty much every summer since reaching adulthood in New York City is this: Not wear black? What’re you talkin’ about? So: with everything else, know your region (much like with colorful suits). Still, some notes:

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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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