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The Best Work Clothes for Different Body Types

best work clothes for different body typesPear… apple… hourglass… triangle… ruler… what’s your body type? More importantly, which are the best work clothes for different body types? Whatever your size or shape, what is your power outfit — the general style/shapes of clothes that make you feel great? Kate and I have studied the comments on our last post on dressing for your body type, and Kate’s rounded up some helpful resources on the topic below, but let’s open it up to you ladies! For the sake of discussion, please note:

  1. your general shape and size
  2. which workwear brands you’ve had luck with and are the first you shop
  3. which workwear brands tend to be misses for you
  4. what your power outfit is for your workweek, OR what the building blocks of your wardrobe are (pants or dress? blazer or cardigan? what shape of dress? what length and type of pant?)

When we last talked about the best brands for your body type, commenters had a lot of notes. (This was from Feb. 2015, so pretty recently, but before the new pants regime at Banana Republic, and also before the lead designer change at Ann Taylor/LOFT.) I’ve tried to be helpful by grouping things below by the classic “body shape” classifications, but looking through comments it seems like people in different groups mentioned the same brands because the waist-to-hip ratios worked for them (so hourglasses and pears mentioned a lot of the same brands, while rulers and apples mentioned a lot of the same brands), as well as for bust-to-waist ratios (so hourglasses and triangles mentioned a lot of the same brands). Obviously bodies come in all shapes and sizes, so the classic “body shape” ideas are a bit of garbage; don’t worry too much if none of the categories (or several) seem to fit.

I found the lists interesting for two reasons. First, a few brands appear on almost every list, namely Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Classiques Entier, and J.Crew — some of that may be because they’re so common that everyone’s found SOMETHING. Also, both AT and BR are known for offering different pants fits, also, which may also explain a lot. The second interesting takeaway: some workwear brands appear on almost no lists. Ladies who love DvF, Rebecca Taylor, and Uniqlo, let’s hear from you!

The brands mentioned by commenters are below — note that brands mentioned most are listed at the top of the list.

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Slim But Too Tall for Petites: When Are Alterations Worth It?

When Are Alterations Worth It? | CorporetteIf you’re slim with a small frame, but too tall for petite sizes, where do you shop? If your clothes don’t fit you well, when is it worth it to pay for them to be tailored — and when is it time to look for better-fitting replacements instead? Reader K wonders…

I’m interested in learning more about when alterations are worth it. I’m very thin and having a harder and harder time finding clothes off the rack that fit me — even a 00 from J. Crew is frequently too big, I can’t shop in the petite section because I’m too tall. I also have a hard time with dresses and some structured pieces because even though most of my measurements are a 00 or smaller, my natural waist is often closer to a 2. I have a bunch of work pieces that I really like — or would really like if I was not swimming in them and constantly ending up with my skirt on backwards after my walk from the subway. Am I better off getting my existing wardrobe altered or trying to sell my better stuff on consignment to fund replacement pieces? I can’t afford a full wardrobe from Theory or another designer that actually makes small clothes for women who are not 5’4″ or shorter.

Great question! We’ve talked about the most common alterationshow to tailor a suit, and the perfect pants fit, but we haven’t discussed tailoring in a while. A few things come to mind:

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The Hunt: Washable Pants

machine-washable-pants-for-work-2Sure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

We haven’t talked about washable pants in far too long, so I thought I’d do a round-up today. (If having machine-washable garments is important to you, check out our Washable Wednesday feature over on CorporetteMoms.) As we’ve discussed before, these are my best tips for how to wash your washable pants:

  • Look for stretch if you’re shopping online. If you want to narrow your search to pants that are machine washable, look for ones with stretch in them — they almost always are washable. (But most online descriptions will tell you what the recommended care is.)
  • Get them tailored only after you’ve washed them first. After the first wash there may be a little bit of shrinkage — wait to get them hemmed until then. (But, note that there are a ton of brands that offer shorter inseams for “regular” pants, so you may not need them hemmed.)
  • Wash them in cold water at home — and don’t put them in the dryer. At least, not for very long. I usually like to put my pants in the dryer for about 15 minutes — it gets the wrinkles out, and just a bit of time with the dryer sheet makes them softer. I always wash my pants on cold, and I usually do use Woolite and the delicate cycle for my pants.
  • Hang them upside down to dry. The weight of the waistband will pull the pants taut, effectively smoothing them out. (I almost never iron ‘em!) When you put them on the hanger, do your best to keep the crease the pants came with — if there was no crease, just put the inseams together neatly.
  • “Dry clean” on the label usually means you can wash them (but proceed at your own risk).  The big thing to know here is that “dry clean only” means, well, DRY CLEAN ONLY. If it just says “dry clean,” though, you usually can either dry clean them or wash them. Your mileage may vary here, but: unless I really loved the pair of pants, I would give “dry clean” pants a whirl in the washer, as well — particularly if the pants are made up entirely of natural fibers (one of the benefits to unlined pants).  You may want to do a spot test first.

And, just for kicks, I thought I’d round up some special sizes, as well as a few of the brands and styles that have been around forever — readers, which are your favorites for washable pants?  What are your best tips for caring for them? 

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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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The Best Workwear Brands for Hips (Or Other Body Shapes)

brands-for-hips

2016 Update: See our latest discussion on the best work clothes for different body types!

Which are the best workwear brands for you if you’ve got hips — and you’re tall?  Which brands are best if you’re curvy and short? Which brands should the apple check out first? How about suiting brands?  Ladies, I got a question from a friend that I am Very Embarrassed to say that I can’t answer:  she’s looking for an interview suit and wanted suggestions for a brand that is “forgiving in the hips and good for tall people.”

Hmmn…  I mean, we’ve talked about which stores do bespoke dresses, shirts and blazers . . . we’ve talked about how work pants should fit — and a LONG time ago we had a conversation about which stores and brands are best for different body types — but it’s been far too long.  (We’ve also done guides to the best brands in general for petite workwear, plus-sized workwear, and tall workwear.) So let’s discuss.  In the comments today, please tell us:

  • Your body type or body issues (if any): e.g., for me I’d say I need something that accommodates a big bust for sure, and where the cut is ok for a short curvy girl. (I’m 5’4.”)
  • Recent brands OF SUITS you’ve tried, and what issues (if any) you noticed:
  • Which brands you think of as YOUR brands in general (for anything other than suits):
  • Which STYLES within brands you like:  If there are repeated styles within the brands (e.g., Theory usually offers the Max pant as well as the Emery pant in suiting fabrics, while Loft has the Julie & Marissa cuts), which specific styles work best for you.

Here’s an easy paragraph to cut and paste to kick off the discussion:

  • My body type or body issues (if any):
  • Recent brands OF SUITS I’ve tried, and notes on fit:
  • Which brands I think of as MY brands in general (for anything other than suits):
  • Which STYLES within brands I like:

Our last real discussion was in 2011 — I found these more recent articles on the web, but I still think the community here will be our own best source. I’ll sort through the answers and try to do a nice roundup (hmmn, maybe a graphic) or something.

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