Reader mail: On holiday parties

Reader L writes in today with a question on holiday parties…

We’ve been invited to a Holiday Party, being hosted by the VP at my husband’s company. This is the first time that I’ll be meeting anyone that he works with (he just started at this location in July), and I’m very anxious to make a good impression (the VP is the highest-ranked person in the building). The party is at their home, and I have no idea what to wear – the invitation didn’t say! Do you have any advice for an outfit that would be appropriate for this occasion?

First:  Happy Holidays! Second, we really feel for you, because this situation could be extremely awkward.  The dress code could be anywhere from “festive sweater with jeans” to “festive jacket with work attire” to “LBD” to (if the company is very large, the VP is very swanky, and only executives are invited) something even more than LBD.  First, if your husband has any female friends in his company (either colleagues, or the significant other of a colleague), bug him until he asks one of them (unless you are also friends with them, in which case, ask yourself).  Another option might be to call the VP’s secretary directly (do not call the VP).  Express your excitement for the invitation, and ask about the dress code for women.  If you really feel awkward about asking the secretary, ask a question about directions or something innocuous like that and then slide the question in near the end.  A “safe” bet might be to wear a black shift dress, black hose and pumps, and a festive red or orange jacket or structured sweater — think velvet, silk shantung, etc. (We would suggest avoiding embroidered sequins — you can always tuck a sparkly brooch or necklace in your pocket, and “trade up” or down as necessary once you’ve arrived and assessed the situation.)  (Update: see our more recent roundup of festive blazers here.)  [Read more...]

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What to Wear To… A Professional Conference

One of the most difficult things to figure out is what to wear to a professional conference. In theory, you’re there to network, meet your colleagues and the “superstars” of your field — and, of course, to learn a bit in the process. The whole process becomes a bit more confusing when you add the “vacation” vibe that many conferences strive for, by holding themselves in sunny places like Hawaii. It seems to us that you need to take a number of different considerations into account. (A lot of these problems are alleviated if you only attend conferences in Second Life.) For example:

1) Are your work colleagues going? If your work colleagues are going then, by default, you shouldn’t wear anything you wouldn’t wear to the office on a weekday.

2) Are you at all involved in running the event? Is one of your colleagues speaking? Is your company or firm sponsoring the event? If so, wear a suit. Depending on the kind of conference and the location, we might suggest a pantsuit rather than a skirt suit — you’re not interviewing, and, after all, you’re quite possibly doing glamorous things like manual labor.

3) What is your purpose in going? Even if it’s just to get a ton of professional credits while surreptitiously playing Brickbreaker all day, let’s pretend you’re there to network and meet people who can help advance/guide your career. Either way, we advise against pulling out the sweats you wore to your grad school classes. [Read more...]

Poll of the Week: Should Anyone Wear an Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini To An Office Function?

This came up a while back and we wanted to postpone until it was actually warm enough to go swimming, but here is a question for the ages: if your conservative office has a pool party, boating trip, or something else where swimsuits would otherwise be appropriate, what do you wear? Particularly in light of the British scandal over some Speedo photos, we wondered what the masses thought.

For our $.02… it’s hard to answer this from a meta level, actually, because every part of our brain screams FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT WEAR A SWIM SUIT AMONG COLLEAGUES.  While on vacation amongst people you don’t know, it’s almost like being alone — no one can really judge, and so many people wear a swimsuit inappropriately (too small, too loose, too burnt to a crisp, etc) that it’s hard to single any one person out as The Worst Offender Of All Time at a public beach. However, change the group to fifty people who you vaguely know by name or reputation alone, and that “no judgments” rule changes big time. So, for our two cents, we’d wear a sundress or the most sun-dressy cover-up we could find, and leave the water to private vacations.

As we’ve demonstrated, this question is inevitably tied to personal body issues — but the more interesting question may not be what you would do, but what you think others should do.  So please answer as if you’re advising a little sister who has no body issues.


Reader Mail: What to Wear to a Sailing Event in Mid-May?

what to wear sailingToday’s reader mail has us totally stumped… readers, please weigh in:

I now have my own professional wardrobe crisis – what does one wear to a corporate sailing event? It is in New England, in mid May so will still be chilly. And they have specifically mentioned we must have boat shoes – sneakers or sandals are forbidden. I’m a manager in my early 40′s, what do I wear to look stylish and professional but appropriately sporty? Can I go with some nice golfwear? Help!

Why must companies choose these inevitably awkward events?  This is the kind of event that seems destined to make the one person there who knows about sailing look like a genius, and everyone else either clumsy and uncoordinated (if you try to help and have no idea how) or lazy and entitled (if you try to just enjoy the sail).  Le sigh.  Thoreau once said to beware of all enterprises that required new clothes; we might amend that for companies that they should beware of all enterprises that require new shoes.  The best advice we can offer you is to call the marina or port and find out what you should wear, exactly. (Pictured: Sailing just off Manatee Public Beach, originally uploaded to Flickr by larry_ami.) [Read more...]

Reader Mail: What to Wear to the Wedding of a Colleague

What to Wear to a Colleague's Wedding | CorporetteWe are seriously behind in answering this poor reader’s e-mail — our sincere apologies!  Here’s the question:

I am a mid-level law associate and my husband is a teaching physician at a local hospital. His boss is getting married in DC in April. It is the bride’s first marriage and it will be a huge event. The wedding is at 5 and then dinner and dancing at 6 at a country club.  I have NO idea what to wear. Can I wear a black cocktail dress? I am so bad at these things and I want to make a good impression for my husband and look professional for my own benefit!  This may seem like an elementary question, but did I mention I am fashionably challenged?  (One more thing:  I am barely thirty, but my husband is a good ten years older. I don’t want to look like a airhead, but I don’t want to look old for my age either!)

Weddings, in general, are fraught with chances for fashion errors.  What is appropriate — or inappropriate — tends to be very region-specific, as well as wedding-specific.  Take your cues from the invitation — the wording of the invitation (are middle names used?  does she call her groom a “Mr.”? is “honor” spelled with a u?) and the style of the invitation (is it entirely in script?  was there an inner/outer envelope?  are there any quirky touches to it?) will give you an idea of what the bride is aiming at for the wedding.  In general, avoid wearing black or white to a wedding — we know a lot of places where black is still seen as a color of mourning.  D.C. walks a fine line between being a cosmopolitan city on the East Coast, and a Southern city — we’d avoid black if at all possible.  (If all you’ve got is a black cocktail dress, be sure to wear a very colorful, happy wrap, as well as bag and shoes.) [Read more...]