Some have raised doubts about our TPS reports that feature a silk dress. We think the concerns come from the fact that some cheaper silks can be almost sheer — they can show VPLs; they show sweat like nobody’s business; they wrinkle easily; there are static electricity problems if you’re wearing hose. (To which we say: avoid the cheapest silk — avoid buying clothes at stores that target teenagers and others who like disposable fashion (H&M, Forever 21, etc, etc).) Even then, a lot of these problems can be solved with a slip and properly-fitting undergarments. Picture at left: silks, originally uploaded to Flickr by larry&flo.
We’ve been seeing lots of reports of trends and — as is far too common! — we’ve been rolling our eyes at the prospect of wearing any of them to work. We thought we’d take a poll…
First up: a brief overview of some of the trends we’ve seen reported in multiple places.
This has come up a few times with regard to the TPS reports, and one of our readers suggested we take a poll on it — which we enthusiastically agree with. Are all sheer fabrics bad for the office, such as chiffon, slightly sheer silk and jersey, and so forth?
For our $.02: A black sheer fabric is always going to be veering into boudoir territory. (We will admit, though, that we have a sheer black blouse that we wear underneath sweaters and sweater-vests.) However, women’s blouses have traditionally been in fabrics like silk, crepe, and even chiffon, all of which tend to be slightly sheer — it’s one of the reasons women in the older days had to wear slips and camisoles as a matter of course. (And: We have just spent far too long searching Google Images for one of the many examples we know we’ve seen of anyone from The Thin Man through Tootsie through Working Girl wearing sheer blouses, all to no avail. Grrrrr.) Our point, though: as long as your undergarments are covered tastefully by a camisole, a slightly sheer blouse or sweater peeking out beneath a jacket is not unprofessional. (Although we would say that full-on sheer, like Salma Hayek’s wearing, is unprofessional. We don’t even think a more demure camisole would have saved that one.)
About a week and a half ago, we asked a pivotal question: at what point does a high heel become TOO high for work? As always, the poll is still open, but the initial results are in:
- 44% of readers said a medium heel height was most appropriate for work — 3.5″ being the absolute highest.
- 33% said 3.5″ or higher was acceptable, so long as the shoe itself was appropriate for work — nothing a teenager would wear.
- 12% said any heel height was fine, so long as you could walk in it
- 9% said low heels were the only ones appropriate for the office: 2.5″ or under.
Pictured above: Christian Louboutin’s Marie Antoinette shoe, available only in Paris boutiques. Commenters repeatedly stressed that the heel had to be in proportion to the outfit: the higher the heel, the lower the hemline of the skirt – if not wearing pants with your towering heels. Some noted that they only wore 4″ heels with pants. Proper hemming is very important here: your pants should almost entirely cover the heel. (We would argue that readers should trek to and from work in the same height of heel that they wear at the office, but for those who don’t agree with us there are gadgets to help you hem your pants temporarily, such as Zakkerz, pictured below.)
There was general agreement that platforms are not acceptable office shoes; wedges were also not popular with readers. (We would disagree with that and say it depends on the kind of wedge — the chunkier the wedge, the more inappropriate it is — but a triangular-shaped wedge that blends with the shoe would be all right with us. For example, something like the Nine West – Tuffy (Brown) – Footwear, pictured at right (available at Zappos.com for $78.95.)
Above all, though, readers noted that the shoe itself should be tasteful. As one commented, “never, ever wear clear heels to work. Never.” Another suggested readers not purchase their heels at the Hustler store. (Or perhaps, just save those Hustler shoes for the, uh, weekend.)
(Check out our guide to comfortable heels if you’re looking for more tips!)
I recently bought some shoes, including these (pictured) (3″ black patent with tweed edging–for $30, I figured why not). When I tried them on, my husband remarked that they were “awfully tall,” and after initially thinking they would be a nice edition to my shoe collection, I began to wonder if they were not appropriate. So I guess my question is: is there a heel height cutoff, past which one should not go? I’m of average height (5’6″), and dress pretty conservatively at work (suits, pearls, the whole thing). I was planning on wearing these heels with pantsuits primarily to minimize the shiny tall heels aspect, but my husband’s comment has me wondering if they are too much for even the plainest black suit. Is there consensus on this? Does it matter on other factors (such as how tall you are to begin with)?
Above: Naturalizer Marleigh Shoe, now on sale for $30 at Naturalizer.com.
On this question, we really have no idea, so we thought we’d do a poll. For our $.02: anything over 3″ or 3.5″ seems a bit gauche to us — a bit along the lines of “are you practicing law or dancing on a table?” The big platforms that are frequently used to balance a 5″ or 6″ heel just seem unprofessional and almost teenagelike. We might make an exception if you’re either very short (under 5’2″ or so) and need higher heels to seem like you’re “sitting at the big kids table,” or if you’re very tall and want to totally own your height — that’s a power move, one meant to intimate the men and women around you (in a great passive aggressive way — we might save that kind of move for when you’re actually making a power play, though: supervising a new group of people, for example).
We have two big caveats for heels of ANY height, though:
- you MUST be able to walk in them. If you can’t stride gracefully, it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing 1″ or 5″, people are going to judge you poorly.
- if you’re wearing them with pants you must wear your hem at an appropriate length — in most cases it should brush the top part of your foot and almost entirely cover your shoe’s heel, with only about an inch or so of space between the bottom of your pants and the top of the floor.
But enough of our $.02 — what do readers think? Please weigh in with more thoughts in comments. Does it matter if you wear high heels with pants or a skirt? Where does a 5’6″ woman stand on the high heel continuum (if anyone beyond us acknowledges that)…
Further reading: How to Walk in High Heels [SheFinds]
Obviously, miniskirts are not office-wear. However, about a week ago, we asked when — and if — miniskirts become inappropriate even on the weekends if you’re a serious, professional woman. As always, the poll is still open, but the initial results are in:
- 40% said the miniskirt question came down to a woman’s legs: if she has the gams, go for the miniskirt; if not, avoid
- 28% said that anyone in their mid-30s or beyond should only consider wearing a miniskirt with dark tights, leggings, or pants
- 18% said anyone in their 30s or older was pushing it
- 7% said it was inappropriate as soon as college was done
- only 4% said that a woman could wear whatever she wanted on the weekends, regardless of age
In comments, readers weighed in on the issue. CityGirl suggested — and others agreed — that one should remember that you may run into a professional colleague over the weekend and, while not wearing business casual 24/7, you should dress appropriately. MJ noted that miniskirts look less trashy with flats or wedges, and that as long as one knows how to “keep everything ‘important’ covered,” there was no reason why a woman couldn’t wear them out and about. K thought that it was asking for people to judge you poorly if you wore a miniskirt while lugging kids around.
Readers were undecided as to what constituted a “mini” skirt, but most agreed it’s a skirt that hits mid-thigh. Some said it was anything shorter than one credit-card above the knee; others said it was anything they had to be careful in, explaining: “if you have to make sure to smooth the skirt behind you when you sit down or otherwise actively monitor what’s going on, it’s short.” Interestingly, people agreed that there are skirts that are too short for the office, yet are not miniskirts. (Let’s brainstorm a name for these too-short-yet-not-minis skirts in comments! It seems weird to us that we have distinct names for pants that hit at a different points on a woman’s leg — floodies, capris, bermudas, et cetera — but just the word “skirt” with adjectives. Maybe something like brunchers (a skirt one wears to brunch) or … uh, we’ll keep thinking.)