Deal Alert: The Nordstrom Secret Sale is Pretty Great

nordstrom-secret-saleNordstrom usually trumpets their sales, so it’s a bit surprising that they don’t have any messaging on their homepage or anywhere about this — but there are a ton of great workwear pieces on deep discount. Below, see some of my top picks — most are either 50% off or have 5-star ratings.


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Where to Find Fair Trade and Ethically-Sourced Clothing

Ethical Shopping | CorporetteIn our first post in our ethical shopping series, we rounded up several clothing brands made in the United States, mostly startups and small and/or independent labels. In part two, we shared a list of mainstream, more widely available workwear brands that sell clothing made in North America or Europe. Today we’re looking at clothing that’s fair trade certified, as well as clothing not officially considered fair trade but produced more responsibly or ethically than the average brand.

Of course, when a brand makes admirable claims like those, we as shoppers must simply take their word for it — but I would rather give my business to a company that explicitly details their (supposed) commitment to ethical labor practices and fair trade than to one who doesn’t say a word about its products’ origins or production. (Pictured: Brooks Brothers Wool Stretch Small Windowpane Circle Skirt, $168.)

Fair trade certification is more complicated than you might think; there’s more than one certifying organization, and each has a slightly different definition of the term “fair trade.” It’s also possible that we may not be doing as much good as we think by buying these products. Ndongo Sylla, a former Fairtrade International employee (who has a PhD in developmental economics), wrote a book last year called The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich (excerpt here in The Guardian). In The Economist’s book review, the reviewer called it “an arduous read” but wrote, “It is hard to dispute [Sylla’s] conclusion that, so far, the fair-trade labelling movement has been more about easing consciences in rich countries than making serious inroads into poverty in the developing world.” (Sigh.)

That said, here are several brands that engage in fair trade:

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Open Thread: Best Work Pants

best work pantsOk, ladies, let’s hear it: which are the best work pants? I’ve seen many readers bemoaning the decline in old favorites like the Banana Republic Sloan and the Gap Perfect Trouser — and other popular pants, like the J.Crew Minnie ankle pant, just aren’t formal enough for more conservative offices. So let’s discuss. First, here’s Reader A’s question:

I have loved the Gap Perfect Trouser pants for work — they are far and away the best fit for my body type (the thighs were roomy enough, I liked the leg opening width, and the short inseam option). However, the quality of these pants has deteriorated in the last couple of years. When I looked online recently, the reviews have dropped a ton as well, with a lot of comments that the fit has changed.
Do you have any suggestions for similar fit of pants? On top of this, I recently had my first baby, so in addition to some body changes, I don’t have as much time to shop for pants now, and online shopping seems like taking a shot in the dark.
Any tips would be appreciated.

Oi. We’ve rounded up washable pants for work recently-ish (March); as I noted in our lightweight pants for summer roundup a few months ago, full-length trousers have been getting harder and harder to find. (The bootcut and flared look is back for denim, though, so hopefully work pants will follow suit shortly!) Some affordable possibilities for you:

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Workwear Made in the USA

Made in USA Workwear | Corporette

Big thanks to Kate for our next post on ethical shopping: workwear brands made in the United States, Canada, and Europe! Readers, how important is ethical shopping to you? Do you have any favorite workwear brands that are made in North America or Europe? – Kat

We introduced our ongoing series of posts on ethical shopping with a roundup of several brands that are made in the United States, mostly small and/or independent labels, and startups — like Dobbin, Bailey44, and Zady. Today we’re sharing a list of bigger, mainstream brands for workwear — names you’re more likely to recognize — whose clothing is entirely, mostly, or partially made in North America or Europe. (As several readers correctly pointed out, the U.S. doesn’t have a monopoly on ethically-produced clothing.)

Looking at a company’s website, it can often be difficult or impossible to find out where the clothing is made, so we hope this list will be helpful and save you some time as you shop for workwear that’s ethically produced and easily accessible to the average shopper. (Pictured: Karen Kane A-Line Jersey Dress, available at Nordstrom for $89.)

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Are Skirts and Dresses Unprofessional?

Are Skirts and Dresses Unprofessional? | CorporetteAre skirts and dresses unprofessional? What if you have a boss who has a firm opinion, one way or the other? What if you have a boss who forbids YOU from wearing dresses and skirts, when other women in the office can and do? Reader A wonders…

I recently started a new job in a creative industry, and our offices are officially business casual but usually just regular casual. My boss hates that I wear dresses and skirts. She told me that looking feminine in the workplace is bad for careers and she only wants me to wear jeans or khakis if she’s in the office and I can only wear skirts when she travels. I’ve abided by it for a couple months since she was really persistent about it, even though other women in the office wear skirts. I’m confident that my skirts are not inappropriate length wise, they’re standard work skirts from Macy’s and Lane Bryant. Nothing ruffly or lacy either.

Anyway, my manager is leaving the company, but now I feel insecure about my clothing. Is it a bad move to wear skirts and dresses several times per week?

Wow. Honestly, your former manager sounds super annoying — particularly given that other women in the office wear skirts! I can only assume it’s a personal problem with you (something about your style irks her) or she is being sizeist, whether consciously or unconsciously. (The other possibility I thought of after Googling Reader A’s email address: The manager felt threatened professionally by Reader A, who already has an established, successful career — and wanted Reader A to look less managerial.)

Whatever the issue: I’m sorry you had to deal with it, and I’m glad the manager is on her way out. We’ve talked before about when feminine clothes are unprofessional, as well as how to look professional in a business casual environment where the guys are in jeans and hoodies, but not all at once. So let’s discuss.

  • Know your office. You say other women in the office wear skirts — how are yours different, if at all? Are you wearing them with much higher heels that you wear with pants? Are the women who wear them in different roles than you are (for example, much more senior or much more junior/administrative)? Reading office culture — and fitting in — is an important part of your job. You don’t have to give up your entire personal style, but you do have to learn when to play it safe — years ago we had a successful goth lawyer guest post on this very topic; we also recently discussed how clothes are only “empowering” if they actually help you get power. Without seeing your office it’s hard for me to make suggestions, but when I hear “creative business casual” I think of a shirtdress with flat boots, for example, or a sheath dress with a jean jacket and a scarf instead of a cardigan. We’ve talked about how to transition a conservative wardrobe to a casual office before.
  • A feminine style is one thing; being in costume is another. This doesn’t sound like it’s an issue with Reader A, but I’ll mention it briefly. If you tend toward a more girly style — A-line skirts, high heels, full makeup — you may be crossing the line from “dressed up” to “in costume.”  Particularly be wary of more vintage styles for the office.
  • Start slowly. Since you’ve been abiding by your manager’s weird “rules,” the office may perceive this as a style change — so start slowly. Wear one dress a week, not all dresses. See how people react, what comments you get. On the days that you aren’t wearing skirts or dresses, dress up your pants outfits as well — wear a blazer with jeans, or a feminine cardigan with khakis. (Some of our advice on dressing for a promotion may help bridge the gap between your jeans wardrobe and your dress/skirt wardrobe.) If you have a favorite pair of shoes you wear with your skirts or dresses, wear them with your pants and see how it goes.
  • Get an honest second opinion. If after a few times of wearing a dress you still feel uncomfortable, talk to your HR department or a more senior colleague you trust to give you an honest opinion. They know your former manager, your office, and you, so they may be able to give you better insight here.

What are your thoughts, readers? How would you handle this (now, as well as with that manager) if you were in Reader A’s shoes? Do you think dresses and skirts can be unprofessional?  

(Pictured: Hollywood 819, originally uploaded to Flickr by Jessica Hartman Jaeger.)


N.B. These substantive posts are intended to be a source of community comment on a particular topic, which readers can browse through without having to sift out a lot of unrelated comments. And so, although of course we highly value all comments by our readers, we’re going to ask you to please keep your comments on topic; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. Thank you for your understanding!

The Corporette Guide to Stylish Cardigans for the Office

stylish-cardigans-workWe shared our first Corporette Guide to Cardigans way back in 2010, so we figured it was time for an update — and the timing is just right for those of you who freeze in your air-conditioned offices during the summer, or are shopping for easy layering pieces for the fall.  We’ve talked about how how to button cardigans for work in the past, as well as how to buy seasonless cardigans.

Ladies — which is your favorite KIND of cardigan to wear to the office? Do you have a favorite brand or style that you keep buying, or have stocked up on recently?  What are your biggest struggles with finding stylish cardigans for work, or styling them to look appropriate for work? 


stylish cardigans for office1. Banded. These cardigans have some banding at the bottom and (usually) on the sleeves, which makes their shape a bit blousy or boxy. They can come with a matching shell for a twinset look, or be worn by themselves with, for example, a button-front shirt or blouse, or a nice tank or tee (such as the cardi pictured, Saxxon Wool Cardigan, available at Brooks Brothers in nine colors for $148). Because these kinds of cardis have their own shape, they’re less than ideal for wearing with dresses, and, for our $.02, best with pants. Ideally you want full-length sleeves so that you can easily wrap it around your neck if you need to — that said, three-quarter length sleeves are very popular, such as this Halogen cardigan (20+ colors, regular, petites, and plus sizes, for $27-$56). If the twinset is very boxy (think a more Jackie O cut), then they can be worn over your shoulders, almost like a cape. Other examples: reader favorite Supima Cardigan at Lands’ End ($19-$89, a zillion colors and prints, regular, petite, and plus sizes), reader favorite Charming Cardigan at Talbots, $19-$99, this merino cardigan in 12 colors for $39 at Uniqlo, or this J.Crew cashmere cardigan (16 colors!, sizes XXS-XXL; pictured at very top). One of my budget favorites has always been August Silk — look for them at spots like TJ Maxx, but Amazon also carries them, as does Macy’s.

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