Emergency reader e-mail: Black tie SOS

Black Tie: What To Do When You Get a Last Minute Invite | CorporetteToday’s reader e-mail comes with smoke signals…

I was just invited to a black-tie dinner at the Waldorf for a benefit my firm supports. Although I have lots of dresses, I’m not sure what is appropriate for a black tie business function. Is a knee length dress ever appropriate at a black tie function?

This is one of those reasons why we always snap up black cocktail dresses, both long and short, when we see them on sale. Our advice actually involves a bit of legwork on your part.

  1. Call the Waldorf. Ask what they recommend ladies wear to the event. (You can do this anonymously.)
  2. E-mail a female coworker who’s attending the event (or two) and ask them what they’re wearing. If you like what the Waldorf’s advice was, include this in your e-mail. (If not, keep it to yourself.)

If the Waldorf’s answer is “long” and your colleagues’ answers are “long,” guess what — you should really wear a long dress. If the answers are somewhat different, then you might want to choose a dress closer to what your colleagues are wearing.  For example: Let’s say the Waldorf answers, “Cocktail attire is fine.” But your colleagues answer, “Long dresses!” You might want to choose a very very simple black dress that’s long. (For what it’s worth, this author has been to galas at the Waldorf on at least one occasion — most of the women at the table were wearing short cocktail dresses, including me. To be honest, we saw women in sparkly evening suits and business suits. But that may have just been that particular event.)

As for where to get the dress… ask your friends if you can borrow anything if you don’t already have one.  Otherwise, you might want to hit a Filene’s or TJ Maxx to see what they have.  If you have time for Internet shopping, we recommend the Calvin Klein dress above, available at Zappos (free overnight shipping!) for a reasonable $134.

You might also want to check out our post (and the comments) on the DC gala scene, and Tim Gunn’s recent suggestions in Marie ClaireReaders, what are your thoughts? What are galas like in your region, and what are your rules of thumb?

Shop more evening dresses, below:

Tuesday’s TPS Report: Trina Turk’s Statuesque Ponte Knit Dress

Our daily TPS reports suggest one piece of work-appropriate attire in a range of prices.
We’re loving this ponte knit dress from Trina Turk. The empire waist, the detailing (velvet, silk and bead) on the shoulder, the flattering V-neck, and the ladylike length all strike us as perfect for the office.  We like it in both the merlot and the more sedate charcoal.  It’s $268 at Nordstrom’s in sizes 0-12.  Trina Turk ‘Statuesque’ Ponte Knit Dress

If you’ve recently seen a great work piece you’d like to recommend to the readers, please e-mail [email protected] with “TPS” in the subject line. Unless you ask otherwise, we’ll refer to you by your first initial.

How to Get Great Deals on Workwear: 10 Online Shopping Tips

how to get great deals on workwear

2017 Update: We still stand by the advice below on how to get great deals on workwear; you may also want to check out our latest discussion of our favorite online shopping apps!

Here’s my confession/boast: almost everything I own was bought on sale. My favorite Iisli sweater jacket? Tried it on at Bergdorf’s when it cost $430, snapped it up at a winter sale a few months later for $150; then loved it so much I bought another one on HauteLook for $125. I’ve gotten pants from Banana Republic for $6.99 and worn them a lot. I once snagged an entire ball gown at an outlet store for $20 and wore it to my firm’s black-tie gala. Alas, most of these amazing takes came from the days when I shopped the stores really regularly — since then, I’ve had to adjust our shopping habits for a life where a) I’m usually, you know, working when the stores are open and b) it’s harder to set aside time on the weekend to shop.  So how CAN you get great deals on workwear and other clothes if you can’t peruse the discount racks? I’ve got some great ideas… (Pictured:  “Closing Down” Sale 2, originally uploaded to Flickr by johnthurm.)

(A caveat before I start the tips — in my mind there is a difference from buying good clothing at reduced prices, and buying cheap clothing.   Personally, I have serious ethical issues with shopping at stores that specialize in knock-offs.  (Hat tip to Counterfeit Chic, who covers the issue regularly.)) If you really care about these issues,  you may want to check out The Corporette Guide to Slow Fashion for Workwear.

1.  The next time you’re actually out and about shopping, do a little legwork — learn your size in the brands you ogle online.  Are you a 7 or 7.5 in Cole Haan pumps?  Are you a size 8 or 10 in Tory Burch?  If you figure this out it’ll be much easier to snap up sales when you see them, whether they’re at online discounters like RueLaLa or department stores.

2.  Use online shopping apps to help keep you aware of discounts.  We try to point you to a big sale if we see one, but a lot of the best deals (60% off) fall in the “lucky sizes” realm, when very limited sizes are left.  Particularly if you fall on either end of the “regular” clothing spectrum — an XS, a size 14 — then you should set up sale alerts because there are tons of great tools.  We love ShopItToMeShopStyle can also be handy if you’re watching a particular brand of bags or shoes. (2017 Update: Check out our latest favorite online shopping apps!)

how to get great deals on workwear

3.  Don’t pay for shipping more than you have to.  When I shop online, I haaate paying for shipping — it’s my number one pet peeve.  If there’s a minimum for free shipping ($75 or $200 are frequent numbers) then I we will almost always try to fill my cart with at least that amount.  Bloomingdales had great sales recently and, the bag I wanted — a Treesje bag marked from $600ish to $180ish — would not have gotten me free shipping.  So I also bought a pair of Ralph Lauren shorts marked to $8 (I never wear shorts, but always pack them on vacations, so the price worked well) and a Kooba bag (also marked to the $190 realm) that I was curious about.  I wound up returning the Kooba bag, but the Treesje bag and shorts were great deals, and I still got the free shipping.

4. Look for coupons before you checkout.  I almost always check RetailMeNot before purchasing anything online; I also get a lot of e-mails directly from stores, which frequently come with coupon codes.

5. Shop off season. That Treesje bag I mentioned?  White patent leather — it arrived the weekend after Labor Day, meaning I won’t get to wear it for nearly a year.  That’s ok, though — when Memorial Day rolls around I’ll be salivating for it.

6.  Know the returns policy. Particularly if you’re filling your shopping cart in order to get free shipping, you need to  be sure you know how long you have to return items.  Some stores are very friendly — for example, I bought a ton of white dresses from Nordstrom’s, on sale, when I got engaged — different sizes, different brands, etc. — probably spending about $400 on four or five dresses.  Nine months later, when it was time to get dressed for the rehearsal dinner, I tried on the dresses and wore the one that fit the best; I returned the rest without hassle. (Just to clarify — I don’t recommend you stretch it out to 9 months on a regular basis. Rather, just know the returns policy so you aren’t surprised if it’s a 30-day policy and you thought you had 60 days.)

7.  Be flexible on the sizes. While in #1 we advise you to know your size, we also advise you to be a bit flexible on size when you’re ordering online.  A lot of great sales happen on clothes that have the wrong tag.  So if you see a size 8 and you’re a size 6, if the deal is right (and returns won’t be a hassle), give it a try.  (We would not necessarily advise this for shoes, though.)

8. Know what you wear regularly. My weekend uniform tends to be black t-shirts and jeans, so I frequently check around for black t-shirts on any site I’m shopping.

9. Consider buying multiples. If you see a deal on something that you already know and love, consider buying multiples, either in the same color or a different one.  I already mentioned my Iisli sweater, but I’ve done this a number of times — jeans, shoes, t-shirts, even bags.

10.  Understand that some things just don’t go on sale, while others might be able to be negotiated if you’re buying in person.  For example, I’ve never seen a classic Louis Vuitton bag on sale, and proudly bought mine at the store for full price.  On the other hand, they say that jewelry can be negotiated — for example, if you’re buying a good watch (Cartier, Rolex, etc.) from a reputable store it’s not uncommon for the sales person to give you a 15% discount. (You can also sometimes get a great deal on a handbag if you open a new credit card at the store.)

Readers, what are your best tips for getting steals online?  Any victory stories you’d like to share? What are your best tips for getting great deals on workwear? 

how to get great deals on workwear

how to get great deals on workwear

Splurge Monday’s TPS Report: Bailey 44’s “Partners in Crime” Boyfriend Jacket

Our daily TPS reports suggest one piece of work-appropriate attire in a range of prices.
Wow.  We adore this blazer from Bailey 44.  The stark white trim around the collar and pockets — the clean lines — the notched collar — great.  We’d wear it with cigarette pants or skinny trousers, and maybe add a bright color (red, yellow) in an accessory. It’s available at Nordstrom’s for $350 in sizes XS-L.   Bailey 44 ‘Partners in Crime’ Boyfriend Jacket

If you’ve recently seen a great work piece you’d like to recommend to the readers, please e-mail [email protected] with “TPS” in the subject line. Unless you ask otherwise, we’ll refer to you by your first initial.

Weekend Open Thread

Something on your mind?  Chat about it here.

Pictured:  Monique Lhuillier for Royal Doulton “Étoile Platinum” Tan Espresso Cup and Saucer Set, available at Macy’s for $90.

Deal of the weekend: Sale at Saks! — use code Friends3 at checkout for 25% off at saks.com.

Weekly Roundup

Liking these posts? Follow Corporette on Twitter — this is the edited version of what we’re reading! (We also Tweet if we hear about a good sale.)

– You’re welcome, hubs:  Jezebel notes that the husbands of educated women live longer.  (Pictured:  Graduation Cap Cupcake, originally uploaded to Flickr by clevercupcakes.)

The NYT talks about the recession and the gender gap.

Above the Law gives us an update on that female lawyer’s photo that we posted about last week. (Hint: it’s even worse than you thought!)

Lifehacker advises how to find the best credit card based on your lifestyle, and rounds up the best online free weight management tools.

– Jauntsetter offers some great advice on booking a trip (part 1 and part 2); meanwhile the WSJ has some tips on getting a free upgrade on your next flight.  (Update: Sorry about the incorrect link; it’s been fixed!)

work fashion blog press mentions