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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Exposed Zippers, Shiny Fabric, Sharkbites, and More: What Do You Hate?

hated-workwear-design-detailsWe haven’t talked about your most hated design details for women’s workwear in far too long — so I thought today it might be a fun open thread. I know readers were recently talking about their hatred of exposed zippers (which I agreed with several years ago, but I guess I’ve been worn down by their omnipresence — the exposed zipper is everywhere!), and many of shared their hatred of unlined pants for a while now.

For my $.02:

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City Guides for Business Travel: Weather, Makeup, and More

city guides for business tripsWhen you’re preparing for work travel to a different part of the country, how do you decide just what to pack? Reader B has a question about business trips:

I find myself traveling to various cities for work and when I get there finding that I’ve not packed well for the weather or not brought the right makeup and/or hair products for the weather and/or water. Are you aware of any website or blog that discusses practical issues relating to getting ready for work in different cities? I have found articles about what products are popular in various parts of the country to be helpful but would like something more. Thanks.

Wow, what a great question, and I’m curious to see what readers say. Some thoughts:

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Stylish, Comfortable Shoes That Are Made to Last

Salvatore Ferragamo Carla Pump | CorporetteFor some women it makes more sense to splurge on “investment” shoes for work that (hopefully) you can wear for years, rather than choose cheaper ones that you’ll keep having to replace. Reader M wonders:

I am struggling with my shoe game! I would like to invest in shoes that are stylish, comfortable, and long lasting. I notice that guys purchase one expensive pair of work shoes but they last their entire careers. I work in the finance area in a young company. Have you seen any gems lately you would like to share?

I’m curious to hear what readers think here, because I have mixed opinions about this. First, the “classic” black pump does change — right now toes are pointy; in recent years they were almond-shaped instead. Second, beware of pregnancy, aging, and feet — many women find that their shoe size will change throughout their lives. Personally I gained about a half size with each pregnancy, which — after having to donate the vast majority of my shoe collection — makes me happy I never committed and spent the money on that pair of Manolos or Choos. Even just with aging, your arches may fall and your feet may widen. So: I kind of don’t believe in “lifetime” shoes for women.

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Creating a Capsule Wardrobe for Work

business-capsule-wardrobeThe business capsule wardrobe — a limited number of essential pieces that can be combined to create many outfits — has been growing in popularity, which makes sense when you look at the parallel trends of “slow fashion” and Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. A focus on quality pieces + an emphasis on decluttering/organization = a capsule wardrobe. But how do you create one for the office, and how do you pare down what’s currently in your closet? Reader C wonders…

I am a huge fan of Corporette, and wanted to submit a suggestion for a future post. Since a huge feature of the site is work appropriate clothing, I would be interested in discussing what women professionals’ wardrobes actually contain. After spending several years in New York, I have learned to really cull my wardrobe (which is also better for my budget)! I was inspired by a writer named Jennifer Scott (I have no affiliation with her) who has published a book called Lessons from Madame Chic. In the book, as well as on her blog, she discusses the concept of having a capsule wardrobe of items that are high quality and that you repeat throughout the season. The concept is flexible — for instance, an attorney will have more clothing than she will, as a homemaker — but the idea is to invest in better, fewer clothes that last. I am putting this into action myself, but am curious to see if others do the same, and how (and whether this is of interest to my fellow Corporette readers).

We’ve talked about how to shop your closet, “fashion math,” how often you can repeat your work outfits, and where to start when you need style inspiration, but we haven’t specifically talked about capsule wardrobes.  I’m still learning about them myself, so I’m curious to hear what people think.  I think the idea of a capsule wardrobe has been around for years — certainly for travel.  But Madame Chic (which apparently is the #1 book in fashion and style right now on Amazon!), the trend towards decluttering, Instagram challenges… more and more people are viewing capsule wardrobes as a great way to dress every day.  Buy less stuff, buy good stuff, and wear it all the time.  A number of bloggers post capsule wardrobes (see our “further reading” links below); even the author of Madame Chic has YouTube videos showcasing her own capsule wardrobes.  (Some people take this even further, like Obama, and wear only one outfit, period, to cut down on decision fatigue.)

So how do you do it for work?  Here’s my $.02:

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Where Did You Get That? How to Track Down a Mystery Piece of Clothing Without Asking

hunting-down-clothesHave you ever seen a random stranger wearing something — shoes, a coat, a blouse — that you really, really love but have no idea where to buy? Sure, you could try to ask her where she got it, but what if you don’t want to yell across the subway platform, or you don’t have time — or you just feel sort of awkward about asking? Aside from posting a Missed Connections ad on Craigslist (W4C?), how can you track down clothing or accessories that you happen to see on the street? Reader C wonders…

I was out to brunch a few weeks ago and saw a woman wearing a gorgeous cardigan — white with a pattern of bars in different shades of blue. I’m kicking myself for not going up to her to ask where she got it, and since then I’ve desperately been google image searching to no avail. Any suggestions for how to find this cardigan-that-got-away?

Interesting question, and I’m curious to hear readers’ responses about how to track down mystery pieces of clothing.  (For the record, I am sorry to say I have no idea which cardigan she saw!) Here are a few tips that come to mind:

  • Shopstyle.  Shopstyle.com can be a great way to find what you’re looking for — type in “purple plus-size wrap dresses,” for example, and you’ll see a bunch of options that are on the market right now.  For Reader C’s missed connection with the sweater, I would type in “cardigan” and then narrow by “blue.” If the woman was obviously plus-size or petite, put that in because it narrows the range considerably. If you can narrow the color of blue (ocean, cobalt, Tiffany blue, etc), give it a try. If you can think of a brand that has similar patterns (Missoni on the high end — Nic and Zoe on the more affordable end), that can help. If you can think of how the product might have been described — paintstripe! vertical stripes! brushstrokes! — that can help.   Polyvore is a similar option, as is Pinterest.

finding mystery clothes

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