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Adventures in Business Casual: What to Wear to Work in Silicon Valley

What to Wear to Work in Silicon Valley (or other offices where colleagues dress both business casual and business formal)What should you wear to work when you work with some colleagues who dress very casually and very formally — is there some way to build a work wardrobe that straddles the business casual to business formal line? Is there a way to do business casual without being overdressed?  Reader A, a young woman who works in Silicon Valley, wonders especially what women should wear to work in Silicon Valley:

I recently started a job at a tech behemoth in Silicon Valley. My work requires me to interface both with Engineers (think shorts, hoodies, flip-flops) and business/sales leaders who dress business casual to formal. As much as I feel comfortable in jeans and t-shirts, I am trying not to stand out from either crowd. Any suggestions on what would be appropriate mid-way options?

Great question, A! We’ve talked before about business casual for women (we’re actually at work on a monster guide to business casual!), offered ideas on how to dress in a male-dominated business casual office, how to be professional in a laid-back office, and how to transition your wardrobe from business formal to business casual —  but not in a while, so let’s discuss.  Some immediate thoughts on what to wear to work in Silicon Valley:

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Are Skirts and Dresses Unprofessional?

Are Skirts and Dresses Unprofessional? | CorporetteAre skirts and dresses unprofessional? What if you have a boss who has a firm opinion, one way or the other? What if you have a boss who forbids YOU from wearing dresses and skirts, when other women in the office can and do? Reader A wonders…

I recently started a new job in a creative industry, and our offices are officially business casual but usually just regular casual. My boss hates that I wear dresses and skirts. She told me that looking feminine in the workplace is bad for careers and she only wants me to wear jeans or khakis if she’s in the office and I can only wear skirts when she travels. I’ve abided by it for a couple months since she was really persistent about it, even though other women in the office wear skirts. I’m confident that my skirts are not inappropriate length wise, they’re standard work skirts from Macy’s and Lane Bryant. Nothing ruffly or lacy either.

Anyway, my manager is leaving the company, but now I feel insecure about my clothing. Is it a bad move to wear skirts and dresses several times per week?

Wow. Honestly, your former manager sounds super annoying — particularly given that other women in the office wear skirts! I can only assume it’s a personal problem with you (something about your style irks her) or she is being sizeist, whether consciously or unconsciously. (The other possibility I thought of after Googling Reader A’s email address: The manager felt threatened professionally by Reader A, who already has an established, successful career — and wanted Reader A to look less managerial.) [Read more…]

The Corporette Guide to Stylish Cardigans for the Office

stylish-cardigans-workWe shared our first Corporette Guide to Cardigans way back in 2010, so we figured it was time for an update — and the timing is just right for those of you who freeze in your air-conditioned offices during the summer, or are shopping for easy layering pieces for the fall.  We’ve talked about how how to button cardigans for work in the past, as well as how to buy seasonless cardigans.

Ladies — which is your favorite KIND of cardigan to wear to the office? Do you have a favorite brand or style that you keep buying, or have stocked up on recently?  What are your biggest struggles with finding stylish cardigans for work, or styling them to look appropriate for work? 

 

stylish cardigans for office1. Banded. These cardigans have some banding at the bottom and (usually) on the sleeves, which makes their shape a bit blousy or boxy. They can come with a matching shell for a twinset look, or be worn by themselves with, for example, a button-front shirt or blouse, or a nice tank or tee (such as the cardi pictured, Saxxon Wool Cardigan, available at Brooks Brothers in nine colors for $148). Because these kinds of cardis have their own shape, they’re less than ideal for wearing with dresses, and, for our $.02, best with pants. Ideally you want full-length sleeves so that you can easily wrap it around your neck if you need to — that said, three-quarter length sleeves are very popular, such as this Halogen cardigan (20+ colors, regular, petites, and plus sizes, for $27-$56). If the twinset is very boxy (think a more Jackie O cut), then they can be worn over your shoulders, almost like a cape. Other examples: reader favorite Supima Cardigan at Lands’ End ($19-$89, a zillion colors and prints, regular, petite, and plus sizes), reader favorite Charming Cardigan at Talbots, $19-$99, this merino cardigan in 12 colors for $39 at Uniqlo, or this J.Crew cashmere cardigan (16 colors!, sizes XXS-XXL; pictured at very top). One of my budget favorites has always been August Silk — look for them at spots like TJ Maxx, but Amazon also carries them, as does Macy’s.

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Lightweight Pants for Work

lightweight pants for officeWhich are the best lightweight pants for a business casual office? For some of us, the warmer months mean biking, hiking, kickball, competing in triathlons, and many more activities that are likely to leave us with a few scratches, bumps, and bruises. If you aren’t crazy about putting those bruises on display at work, and prefer to wear pants to cover your legs, which are the best for business casual summer workwear? Reader M wonders…

With all the sports and activities I do, I need to reconfigure my work wardrobe to be trousers-only. I bruise way too easily to wear skirts often, especially in the warmer months. I need to start almost from scratch with a business casual summer wardrobe, any suggestions? Thanks!

I bruise easily, as well, M, so I’m sorry to hear that. I think you’re right to want to cover your bruises for work — they can be a distraction for your colleagues as they start wondering how you got them. (This mountain-biker was even cornered by her boss who worried she was being abused.) If you work in such a small office that everyone you come into contact with knows that you’re bruised from sports, that’s one thing — but that doesn’t sound like the case for M.

So, some thoughts on summer pants for a business casual environment:

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Guest Post: Figure-Flattering Business Casual

Figure-Flattering Business Casual | CorporetteI’ll be honest: a lot of my hesitancy with newer, trendier looks for the office is that they never seem to be that figure flattering.  So I’m thrilled to bring you today’s guest poster: Angie Cox of YouLookFab, offering her expert style advice on how to elongate outfits and achieve figure-flattering business casual style. Angie was awesome enough to guest post for me back in my first maternity leave, as well, on stylish eyewear.  Welcome back, Angie! – Kat.

Today’s fashions put much less emphasis on conventional figure flattery. Silhouettes frequently surrender the waistline and make lengthening the leg line a lower priority than it used to be. This is generally a very positive thing. It is liberating, and often leads to outfits that are a lot more comfortable and forgiving around the midsection.

But that doesn’t mean letting go of the conventional approaches completely. As I help my business casual clients refresh their wardrobes with newer fluid and oversized fits, and trendier items like cropped pants, boxy jackets, high vamped footwear, flat shoes, and high-low hemlines, I’ve found that we are striving for an attractive and current look that is “just flattering enough.”

With that in mind, here are ten ways to elongate an outfit that might come in handy as you experiment with conventionally unflattering proportions. You can use more than one of these strategies in the same outfit:

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Professionalism in a Laid Back Office

Office footwear, originally uploaded to Flickr by emmavn.Reader M wonders about professionalism in a laid back office:

I was wondering if you could do a piece regarding how to stay professionally dressed in an office that is very laid-back. I just graduated from college and have found my dream job doing public relations and social media for a small but fast growing company. The owner/president wears PFG shirts and shorts to work everyday. The sales and customer service girls I work with wear Lilly shorts or jeans with cute tops and sandals or sometimes wedges. My previous internships were much more corporate so I have a collection of black dress pants, button down tops and blazers. I’m not sure how to transition to a less corporate environment without falling into a jeans and t-shirt habit! Help?!

I think it’s important to note that professionalism is not just about how you look, but how you act. I’ve known some incredibly professionally-dressed people who were complete disasters to work with, and I’ve known some non-professionally dressed people who were first-rate at what they did. That said, it’s an interesting question, and I’m curious to hear what the readers say.  (Pictured above: Office footwear, originally uploaded to Flickr by emmavn.) [Read more…]