The Hunt: Stylish Pencil Skirts

stylish pencil skirts for workSure, 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.

Ladies, here’s something we haven’t talked about in far too long: which are the most stylish pencil skirts for work? I’ve heard the J.Crew No. 2 pencil skirt is on the upswing (reviewers note it’s more similar to older versions of the skirt), and the old reader favorite, Halogen’s pencil skirt, is still getting positive reviews even after the design change — but otherwise it seems very much to be an open field right now.  Do you prefer pencil skirts in solid neutrals or suiting fabrics — or do you find colorful pencil skirts to be an easy way to inject fun to your working wardrobe?  Do you prefer midi skirts or A-line skirts these days? Which are your favorites?

We’ve rounded up some of our favorites on the market right now — and ooh boy are there some good sales. First, some specialty groups:

Curious for our last discussion on the best pencil skirts? Check it out here.

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Tales from the Wallet: Leave Room in Your Budget to Take Advantage of Sale Prices

leave room in your budget for salesI just saw a great study on this, so I thought we’d discuss — do you leave room in your budget to take advantage of sale prices?  Do you do it in a disciplined way (“I have $300 to spend for fun purchases, no more!”) or is it just part of your budgetary cushion? Which sales do you splurge on? 

This seems like a great follow up on our recent post about how to make a budget: Of course it’s great to be aggressive with your savings, student loan payments, and investments — but be wary of trying to live on too tight of a budget if you don’t have to. Probably the biggest long-lasting effect the recession had on my money habits is that I leave enough room in my budget for unexpected sales on household items. When I’m in the grocery store or the pharmacy, I look for items with good sale prices and then purchase them even if we don’t need the item immediately (provided we have the storage space). The headline of the HuffPo article I saw about a relevant study says it all: “Poor People Have To Spend More On Toilet Paper Than The Rich: Study.” The study found that low-income households don’t have the cash to buy in bulk, so they end up paying higher per-item prices; the article also mentions that poorer people often end up paying more for “discount” toilet paper than richer people do on “premium” toilet paper. (A lot of readers agreed with me when we talked about everyday splurges: sale prices or no, life is too short for cheap toilet paper!)

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The Hunt: Comfortable Ballet Flats

comfortable ballet flats for work roundupSure, 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’ve talked a lot about flats over the years, but I don’t think we’ve ever done a major roundup of the most comfortable ballet flats for work.  So ladies, let’s hear it — which are your favorites? What are your favorite ways to break in a new pair of flats, or make them more comfortable for your feet? (As someone with narrow heels I’m always adding these heel pads.) Although rounded toes have come really far for work, I still think the best flat for work is one that has a bit of a point to it, in a durable leather, preferably with a rubber sole or rubber heel for comfort and grip. I know some people hate the look of patent leather flats, but I don’t mind them, particularly in a tumbled patent leather (like the Calvin Klein flat pictured below) or a color other than black, like a nice gray. We’ve rounded up some of the best-selling, highest rated styles below — which brands and styles are your favorite?

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Weekend Wednesday: Stylish Travel Dresses

This is the first in a new occasional Wednesday feature where we explore weekend-wear more in depth.

travel dresses for summerI wouldn’t wear any of these to work, but if you’re on the hunt for a packing-friendly, easycare dress for any upcoming summer travel (or, hey, just brunch or other weekend activities), I thought we’d round up a few. I like that all of these are able to be dressed up and down — wear them with flip flops and a beach tote one day, with a nice necklace, clutch, wrap and fancier heels the next. The plus-size option from Travel Smith is even four dresses in one — two necklines and a reversible fabric! Ladies, do you have any favorite travel dresses, or favorite adventure clothing companies? What is your must-pack item for every vacation you go on? 

Pictured: Woolrich / Eddie Bauer / Lily Pulitzer.

(The full roundup is after the jump!)

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Tales from the Wallet: How to Make a Budget

how to make a budgetFor today’s money feature, let’s discuss living within your means — how to make a budget and stick to a budget. What does “budget” mean to you? What tips and tricks have you used to set a budget, pay down debt, save money and protect against lifestyle inflation — and what alarm bells have you used to tell you that it’s time to reassess? 

The No-Budget Budget

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think every person needs to make a budget — there were years in BigLaw where I would automatically move my second paycheck to savings/investments, living entirely off my first paycheck (and auto-contributing to my 401k). That was enough of a “budget” to me, with no further thought. I knew then and know now I was lucky in those years, and I’m still so grateful for them — that simple decision has laid a great groundwork for me and for my family.

Pictured: MICHAEL Michael Kors ‘Jet Set’ Travel Wallet, on sale for 40% off in purple; at full price in several other colors.

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The Hunt: Stylish Work Dresses

stylish work dressesSure, 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.

The sheath dress: it’s one of the most stylish work dresses a woman can have, and if you buy the right dress, it can be a workhorse for your wardrobe, whether your office is formal or business casual. Get one that matches your blazer and wear it as a suit! Top it with a fun blazer (like this morning’s) for a more casual but still formal look, or with a cardigan or denim jacket for a more casual look.  Layer it in colder weather with a light jersey turtleneck, a crisp collared blouse, or even a long-sleeved jersey tee that best matches the neckline (or, ahem, raises it where it needs to).  It’s hard to go wrong with the sheath dress, but watch out for these pitfalls when buying it: is the cleavage too low? is the hem-length appropriate? does it have any trendy detail that will make it more memorable and thus less wearable in regular rotation (exposed zipper, embellishment at neck, etc)? is the slit too high? does it look “tailored” (good) or “body conscious” (less good) to you? is the back inappropriate for work? (In general, look for a high neckline in the back, not a scoopneck in the back or other “tank dress” type of vibe. Definitely nothing cut like a halter, at least for a traditional sheath dress in a conservative office.) Once you’ve purchased it: make sure you cut your vents. Hang it up immediately after each wearing and let it air out a bit.  If it’s part of a suiting set, be sure to dryclean all your pieces together so they show the same wear and tear. (While today’s feature is focused on sheath dresses, fit and flare dresses can also be workhorses; our last roundup is here.)

First, we’ll link to a few stylish work dresses in specialty categories before getting to our featured pieces for today:

favorite work dresses

Hall of Famers, pictured above: Limited / Theory / Calvin Klein / Lands’ End / Ellen Tracy

Curious for past roundups of sheath dresses? Here they are from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011. For other sizing issues you may want to check out our last discussion on bespoke dresses, which you can order fit exactly to your measurements.

Pictured at top: Vince, Reiss, Halogen.

Note that even if a color is shown below, all of the featured dresses also come in black. 

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