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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How to Cool Down in a Hot Office

Staying cool in a hot office -- seersucker dressSo you’ve switched from a freezing office to an office that’s too hot — and going sleeveless at work may not be an option. How can you stay cool and comfortable at work? Reader C wonders…

I’ve read a lot of your posts, and in my old office lived by your advice regarding staying warm in a freezing-cold office. However, my new building has the opposite problem. Much of the time, especially now as we approach summer, my area of the building is very warm. As in, I-wish-our-dress-code-permitted-swimsuits warm (we are unfortunately business casual with an emphasis on the casual, but sleeveless isn’t allowed). Some women, including higher-ups, wear sleeveless anyways. I’ve done this a few times, but feel awkward when I have to talking to our VPs (I do this fairly regularly) although nobody has ever said anything about my clothes. Any advice?

We feel for you, Reader C! It’s been about a year since we talked about how to look professional when it’s hot or professional clothes for summer; we’ve also answered readers’ questions about “comfortable casual” workwear in a heat wave and staying cool when the heat is blasting in the winter. More recently, we’ve talked about summer makeup and summer hairlightweight pants and lightweight blazers, and pantyhose in the summer.

To help Reader C, we’ve collected some helpful tips from Corporette readers on hot weather/hot offices — and added some of our own. We hope they’ll help you stay cool (well, cool-er, at least), even if you don’t go sleeveless.

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Lightweight Pants for Work

lightweight pants for officeWhich are the best lightweight pants for a business casual office? For some of us, the warmer months mean biking, hiking, kickball, competing in triathlons, and many more activities that are likely to leave us with a few scratches, bumps, and bruises. If you aren’t crazy about putting those bruises on display at work, and prefer to wear pants to cover your legs, which are the best for business casual summer workwear? Reader M wonders…

With all the sports and activities I do, I need to reconfigure my work wardrobe to be trousers-only. I bruise way too easily to wear skirts often, especially in the warmer months. I need to start almost from scratch with a business casual summer wardrobe, any suggestions? Thanks!

I bruise easily, as well, M, so I’m sorry to hear that. I think you’re right to want to cover your bruises for work — they can be a distraction for your colleagues as they start wondering how you got them. (This mountain-biker was even cornered by her boss who worried she was being abused.) If you work in such a small office that everyone you come into contact with knows that you’re bruised from sports, that’s one thing — but that doesn’t sound like the case for M.

So, some thoughts on summer pants for a business casual environment:

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Seasonless Sweaters for the Office

Summer Sweaters for the Office | CorporetteIs there a magical sweater you can buy that is seasonless — great for summer, great for winter, looks luxe, and retains its shape? In general, what do you look for in summer sweaters? Reader N asks:

It seems that many dresses are sleeveless or cap sleeved, and I am always searching for the right coverup for work. To that end, can you recommend a simple, well made light black cardigan? It seems that every single one I’ve purchased the last few years looks cheap and out of shape after more than a few wears.

We’ve haven’t done a hunt for black cardigans for a while — maybe soon! (Note that both the J.Crew one and DvF one, below, come in black, as does August Silk.) When it comes to shapeless sweaters, I haaaate cotton sweaters for that reason. If it’s a lightweight cotton sweater, it looks shapeless after just a few wears in the summer, and when I wash them I can never get them to look quite as nice as they first did on the rack. If it’s a chunkier cotton sweater in the winter, it’s the same thing — a misshapen mess. Wool is too heavy to be seasonless (although merino wool sweaters are often great purchases), and cashmere can be too expensive or delicate to throw into your bag and survive. So what’s a girl to do?

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