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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Foot Tattoos and Interviews

How to Cover Your Tattoos for Interviews | CorporetteShould You Cover Your Tattoos for Interviews? | CorporetteShould you cover a tattoo for an interview?  What if it’s in a place that’s hard to cover — should you go the extra mile just for the interview?  Reader A wonders about her foot tattoo:

I am a 2L at a Midwestern law school and going through the interview process for next summer. I would like to build my professional wardrobe, but shoes always stump me. I have a tattoo across the top of my foot; a quote in black ink. I would like to cover it up for interviews and other conservative, professional events, but still look feminine, professional, and seasonal.

The compromise I have come up with is either wearing a pant suit with black leather booties or a skirt suit with black pantyhose and pumps. Either option is too hot for the summer and prevents me from wearing other colors.

Any advice for cute, professional shoes that would cover my ink and allow me to lighten up my wardrobe?

Great question, reader A!  I was just talking with a reporter about looking professional with tattoos, and I’m surprised we haven’t covered them since our interviewing with tattoo sleeves post a few years ago.  In general, I agree with my old advice, which is that you should a) avoid getting visible tattoos in the first place, and b) keep your tattoos covered for interviews, big/first meetings, court appearances, and more.

Here’s the thing, though: a foot tattoo is kind of hard to cover up easily.  Something to keep in mind when interviewing is that a very conservative job may require you to keep a tattoo covered almost all the time — so consider beginning as you mean to go on.  By this I mean: If you’re ok with taking the steps below on all but casual days (after you’ve gotten to know your office, of course), then great.  But if this all sounds like a lot of work and you plan to wear regular pumps or ballet flats 90% of the time, you may want to consider just leaving the tattoo exposed during part of the interview process (such as the second round of interviews), since this will weed out a lot of fit problems with your future office early on.

That said — here are some solutions for covering tattoos that may work for you if you want to wear the most conservative, safest outfit choice for an interview — a skirt suit, nude-for-you pantyhose, and comfortable pumps or flats:

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Sponsored: Ann Taylor’s Fall Collection

Ann Taylor's Fall 2014 CampaignDisclosure: This post is sponsored by Ann Taylor, but written by your usual friendly blogger, Kat Griffin.

Ann Taylor has always been one of my favorite workwear brands, and their fall collection is absolutely gorgeous. (And ladies, do note: they’re currently offering 40% off sale styles, with no code needed — huzzah!) I thought I’d take a look at some of the hot new pieces just hitting stores now — readers, do you have any favorites from Ann Taylor’s fall collection?

 

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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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Guest Post: How to Wear Color to Work

Dressing with Color at the Office | CorporetteColor at the office:  We’ve talked about it in specific contexts — pants, suitsnails, tightsshoes, and even how to start buying colorful prints — and in today’s guest post, my old friend Theresa Lesh gives you some helpful guidelines on how to wear color to work. Theresa is one of the best dressed ladies I’ve known since high school — she actually has a background in fashion design and currently works at a creative products company in product development. A huge thanks for the tips, Theresa! – Kat.

I love color and am very picky about it — always have been. I LOVED my mega box of crayons and the range of hues it offered up: red-violet, magenta, violet-red, violet… and I used each one differently. I scoffed at red, blue, and green as basics and instead used brick red, midnight blue, and forest (or pine) green for cars, sky, or trees. Today I am still quite particular about specific tones or hues I prefer; however, I am much more open-minded, and even look at “odd” colors as challenges. With what other color could I pair that bizarre chartreuse to make it sing? What would be a great pop against a (drab) grey?

I admit going through a period of time where I wore all black — didn’t we all? But when I did, I always liked to choose one thing to accent/pop or stand out in a small way. Favorites were items such as a black Nicole Miller scarf peppered with all sorts of Barbie icons (shoes, lipstick, her iconic signature) which I still have (and wear) today, or floral patterned tights (typically worn under a long black skirt). I saw these things as private jokes with myself, as you could only see the Barbie icons when you were close to me, or the flowers on my tights when I sat down and crossed my legs. (Pictured: Nicole Miller scarf, available on eBay for $149.)

Over the years, I grew away from the all-black ensembles — I do still wear black, and sometimes head to toe, but not all day, every day — and I started to play with color in a bigger and bolder way. After college, I fell in love with lime green, which I think became my gateway to COLOR, as it opened my eyes to all sorts of fun, vibrant shades, and each year I get more and more adventurous and more and more colorful in my wardrobe. During the gray winters of Ohio, I feel as if bright color can be a fantastic pick-me-up, both for me wearing it and those that may pass me in the hall.

Granted, I work for a creative company, where one may see a mix of suits and ties to jeans and Chuck Taylors in a single meeting (though not TERRIBLY often), so while I am not IN the creative division, per se, there is probably more flexibility in my office than a “big law” firm. How far is too far with color? That is up to you, but it’s not to say you cannot make forays into color in a more conservative working environment.

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Are Heels a Must for Interviews?

Can You Interview in Flats? | CorporetteWhen, if ever, must you wear heels?  Must you wear heels for interviews — or can you interview in flats? Must you wear heels for law firm jobs? Reader L wonders:

I’m starting law school in August, and I’ve heard that heels (3-4″) are a MUST for interviewing and working at a law firm. However, I am a 6′ tall female. I never wear heels, since when I do, I tend to tower over everyone. Would it be appropriate to wear a nice pair of flats in my case?

Great question! We’ve talked about how to build a stylish, professional wardrobe with flats, how to wear heels (if you’re used to flats), and whether flats are professional enough for court.  As far as shoe questions go, this is important, so even though we’ve talked about it a lot, I want to stress it again: you don’t need to wear heels to look professional.  There are a number of reasons why you wouldn’t want to wear heels — from feeling too tall (although hey, I say rock it out if you have the height!), to having foot injuries or issues, to just I-don’t-wanna-itis. A few things that I would note about wearing flats for big events like interviews:

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