The Hunt: Lightweight Blazers

Nina Ricci Printed Stretch-Linen BlazerSure, 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.

Linen! Seersucker! Cotton pique! Eyelet! There are a million varieties on the lightweight summer blazers — we thought we’d round up some of the best. (Here’s our 2014 roundup of linen blazers, our 2013 roundup of white blazers, and our 2012 roundup of summer blazers.) Ladies, what do you look for when buying a blazer for a hot summer? (For my $.02, these kinds of blazers are perfect for casual days at the office, as well as summer associate outdoor events where you know not to wear a suit but aren’t too sure what else to wear — use a lightweight blazer to top a basic sheath dress and look professional at an outdoor cocktail party; bring it along to an event where you’re only 90% sure jeans and a t-shirt are ok.)

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The Hunt: Basic Sheath Dresses

sheath-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.

We haven’t done a roundup of sheath dresses in almost a year (2014, 2013), so I thought we’d do one today. For my money, the best sheath dress for work has:

  • a work-appropriate hem length (with no slits to compromise that — test with the mirror trick!)
  • a high enough neckline and shoulder situation that you don’t need to give any extra thought to which bra to wear
  • a dark, neutral color like black, navy, or dark charcoal

And — for me at least — I think a sleeveless sheath dress is best because it looks best beneath blazers and cardigans.

I’ll round up some other dimensions though, as well:

Ladies, what do YOU look for in a great sheath dress? Have you bought any great ones recently, or worn any classics into the ground? 
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The Hunt: Stylish, Professional Satchels

stylish satchelsSure, 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.

Satchel or shoulder bag, ladies?  Every year we do a hunt for a basic black professional purse that is not a tote, which gets a special roundup of its own. (Here’s our roundup for purses from 2014, 2013 and 2012).  I’ve always had a preference for shoulder bags myself — I like to keep my hands free, and I don’t like a strap crossing my bust — so I was really shocked to see how few shoulder bags are out there right now, particularly in the non-designer realms.  Satchels, crossbodies, and bucket bags really dominate the market right now.  We talked about the crossbody bag a few weeks ago — I’m curious about your thoughts on bucket bags for work, as they seem a bit boho-casual to me. (But: I do love this bag for the weekend.)  Anyway, lots of beautiful satchel bags that look ladylike and professional… ladies, what is your favorite kind of purse for work? Have you found any great stylish, professional satchels recently?   (Angie at YouLookFab had a fun debate on bag shapes this a while ago — to pick up where she left off, are YOU Team Satchel, Team Shoulder Bag…. or are you Team Tote for work?)

Here are a few subcategories of professional purses that seemed deserving of their own mini-roundup…

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The Hunt: Washable Pants

machine-washable-pants-for-work-2Sure, 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 haven’t talked about washable pants in far too long, so I thought I’d do a round-up today. (If having machine-washable garments is important to you, check out our Washable Wednesday feature over on CorporetteMoms.) As we’ve discussed before, these are my best tips for how to wash your washable pants:

  • Look for stretch if you’re shopping online. If you want to narrow your search to pants that are machine washable, look for ones with stretch in them — they almost always are washable. (But most online descriptions will tell you what the recommended care is.)
  • Get them tailored only after you’ve washed them first. After the first wash there may be a little bit of shrinkage — wait to get them hemmed until then. (But, note that there are a ton of brands that offer shorter inseams for “regular” pants, so you may not need them hemmed.)
  • Wash them in cold water at home — and don’t put them in the dryer. At least, not for very long. I usually like to put my pants in the dryer for about 15 minutes — it gets the wrinkles out, and just a bit of time with the dryer sheet makes them softer. I always wash my pants on cold, and I usually do use Woolite and the delicate cycle for my pants.
  • Hang them upside down to dry. The weight of the waistband will pull the pants taut, effectively smoothing them out. (I almost never iron ‘em!) When you put them on the hanger, do your best to keep the crease the pants came with — if there was no crease, just put the inseams together neatly.
  • “Dry clean” on the label usually means you can wash them (but proceed at your own risk).  The big thing to know here is that “dry clean only” means, well, DRY CLEAN ONLY. If it just says “dry clean,” though, you usually can either dry clean them or wash them. Your mileage may vary here, but: unless I really loved the pair of pants, I would give “dry clean” pants a whirl in the washer, as well — particularly if the pants are made up entirely of natural fibers (one of the benefits to unlined pants).  You may want to do a spot test first.

And, just for kicks, I thought I’d round up some special sizes, as well as a few of the brands and styles that have been around forever — readers, which are your favorites for washable pants?  What are your best tips for caring for them? 

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The Hunt: Beige Pumps

beige pumpsSure, 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.

One of my must-have pieces to keep at the office is always a good beige pump.  It’s an easy neutral for all skin tones, as noted by commenters in our roundup last year, and most people find it to be a real workhorse. We’ve been doing the beige pump roundup for so long that the Hall of Fame listing (the shoes that have been around for forever) is impressively long — we’ve also rounded up a few shoes we like in wide, narrow, and other categories.  Pictured below: some of the more noteworthy beige pumps we found this year.  Ladies, have you recently bought any beige pumps that you love?   

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The Hunt: Layered-Look Sweaters

Club MOnaco Mackenzie SweaterSure, 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.

I usually like to use The Hunt for a basic, timeless piece that everyone needs — cashmere sweaters, strappy pumps, etc — but when I got a request from a reader looking for layered sweaters, I thought, ooh, that would make a fun Hunt — they have been EVERYWHERE recently, and the sweater-and-collar look can be tricky to get on your own.  Some people have DIY solutions for the bulkiness that ensues, while for others static cling  is more of an issue — even rolling the sleeves can take some skill.  Still, I think it’s a classic look that range from “very preppy” to “casual” (such as the option from Loft, below) to some of the newer looks that are almost cropped sweaters with tunic blouses (such as here or here).  Ladies, what are your tricks for getting the layered look — short of buying a 2-in-1 sweater or wearing a collared dickey?  What rules do you think apply to the office? 

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