Expanding a Suiting Collection

How to Expand a Suiting Collection | CorporetteHow to Expand a Suiting Collection | CorporetteHow can you expand a suit collection beyond the most basic colors? What is the best non-basic suiting color? Reader J wonders:

For my new job, I need to wear a suit every day, so I’m ready to expand my very basic (black, navy, grey) collection. I am thinking about a camel or khaki color, but I’m not sure if that is too summery/appropriate for fall. Would brown be a better choice to fit more seasons?

Great question, J! I went back through a bunch of Suit of the Week picks and have a few thoughts:

  • Buy suiting separates.  First, if you haven’t already been buying suiting separates, please do start doing so.  You’re going to have SO many more outfits to put together for a suit if you have the pants, the blazer (or two), a sheath dress, and a skirt.  On the more affordable end look to places like Talbots, J.Crew, Boden, and even some Macy’s EDV lines (such as AK Anne Klein, Calvin Klein, etc) for these kinds of suiting separates.
  • Go for a more traditional non-traditional color such as light beige or light gray.  Most people would not consider a camel/khaki or even a light gray suit to be an interview suit, but these are all traditional colors for suits.  I’d also consider a light reddish brown suit (clay? putty? darker than a khaki, lighter than a coffee?) or a light blue suit (also this or this) to be in the range of “normal” suit colors, and I think you’ll find that they’re surprisingly versatile.  I’d also put white suits in this category. Personally I never wore my dark brown suits much, but my “base” for almost everything is black leather (versus brown leather), and I’m a silver instead of a gold — if either of those were different then I might have gotten more wear out of them.
  • Have fun with texture.  Seasonless wool suits are great for versatility, and they’re the classic suit fabric for a conservative office… but you can have a lot of fun with textured suiting too.  Tweed suits (also here), twill suits, crepe suits, ponte knit suits, cotton pique suits (also here), linen suits, and more, all bring in different textures, even if they’re in conservative colors.  Look for conservative suits that have details such as leather suit details, ruffled suit details (also here), or even animal print accents… none of these things are typical on interview suits, but they’re a great way to broaden your wardrobe while staying in conservative colors.
  • Printed suiting separates can also add a lot of versatility but still read as conservative.  Consider a pinstriped suit (also here), a polka-dotted suit (also here), a checked suit, a plaid suit, houndstooth suits, or even a suit with stripes (also here). I’d also put colorblocked suits (also here) in this category.
  • Go for a colorful suit.  Colors are in right now, so if you’re looking for a trendy piece, consider a suit with a fun color.  Purple suits may be a good place to start if you’re comfortable in navy, but dark green suits or dark red suits are also more popular than they have been in previous years. (Cobalt blue suits were everywhere not too long ago, as well!)  You could always go for a fuchsia suit, of course, and really make a statement.  Colorful suits can sometimes age you, so I’d look for inspiration from high-end lines (Hugo Boss, Theory) or, honestly, more youthful stores like Limited, Dorothy Perkins, Boden, and H&M.

Readers, which were the first suits you bought beyond black, navy, and grey basics?  What colors (or patterns) have been the most versatile, and been worth the purchase price? 

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Busty Blazers

Which are the best blazers if you’re small and busty?  busty blazersReader K wonders:

One of my biggest obstacles when it comes to finding business appropriate clothes are my breasts. I feel like it’s impossible to find a jacket or blouse that won’t either pull or else drown me. Either my jacket is so big that I can’t find my arms (and definitely not my waist) or I can’t close it over the girls. I’m a 32G (by nature, not by choice) and a size two everywhere except my chest. I would like to look both professional and not like a child wearing her mom’s jacket. I work in banking, so jackets are a must. (And yet, I’m young enough that I don’t have the kind of funds to have tailor made clothes.) Am I all alone in the world? Is there anyone out there who makes professional clothes for small women with large breasts?

Interesting.  We’ve talked about whether jackets must button to “fit”, how to dress professionally with curves, where to get blouses for the busty, and even how to find such clothes on a budget — but not how to find blazers that fit an hourglass frame. In our last thread on the best suits for small women, Theory seemed to be the winner, which you may want to try — but I’ve never found the brand to be particularly curve-friendly. (If you’re petite as well as small-statured, here was our more recent thread on the best workwear for petites.) I’m curious to hear what the readers say, but here are some thoughts:

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Professional Frump: What To Avoid

How to Avoid Professional Frump | CorporetteHere’s a fun topic that we haven’t discussed in years — what makes something frumpy? How can professional women avoid frump?

I agree with a lot of what I said four years ago — primarily:

Must a Blazer BUTTON to Fit?

Must a Blazer Close to "Fit"? (And other fun questions of plus-size fashions)... | Corporette Hot on the heels of yesterday’s reader question about feeling frumpy in a suit, I was thinking about Drop Dead Diva. I stopped watching the show a while ago (her guardian angel was still the guy from Mad Men back when I watched), but I’d always wanted to do a 360 review on the lead character, lawyer Jane Bingum, and her fashions, if only because she’s one of the most stylish and plus-sized TV characters I can think of. I have some problems with her fashions, though — the ridiculously high heels, the overdone makeup, etc, etc. My BIGGEST problem, though, has always been that the vast majority of her blazers couldn’t be buttoned (not even kinda-sorta) — the picture at left demonstrates the problem.

But then, as I was falling asleep last night, I started wondering: maybe I’m the one who’s been wrong to think that a blazer must button all these years.  Maybe the trick for a busty girl (or an overweight girl) — short of massive and expensive tailoring — is to buy jackets that fit in your arms and back only, but not worry about it fitting across the bust.  This flies in the face of everything I know about suits — but when I think about it, Jane definitely does not look frumpy. I might say this is one of those times that your fashion sense speaks to your judgement — were this a 360 review, I might say as either an underling or a boss I would wonder why she didn’t buy suits that fit — but again, I’m rethinking this now. [Read more...]

The Perfect Pants Fit

How To Get the Perfect Pants Fit | CorporetteHow should pants fit? When are they too baggy; when are they too tight? Reader K wonders…

Can you discuss proper fit of suit pants/slacks for the workplace (including trouser jeans for casual Fridays)? I can’t find anything related in the archives- I was hoping for something like the guide to hem length. How do you find the right balance between too baggy and too fitted, especially in the thighs and butt? If they have a crease on the front, should the pants be loose enough that the crease stays creased all the way up?

I’m curious what readers say here — for my $.02, I think this is easier to say what NOT to do than what TO do. In my mind, you want to avoid: [Read more...]

The Best Workwear for Petites

The Best Workwear For Petites | CorporetteWe have a super old post about the best suits for petite women, but we haven’t talked about this in ages, so let’s discuss: which are your favorite stores and brands for workwear for petites?  Are there any indie brands or Etsy shops that you love?

For my $.02, it seems like the list of stores that offer petite sizes is growing, which is a great sign; I feel like bespoke dressmakers and suiting alterations are both more common than before as well. Here’s the list of stores that I know of that offer petite clothing:

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