A Feminine Approach to Business Casual

Dressing Femininely at Work | CorporetteBusiness casual can be tricky — particularly when you’re transitioning from a conservative office.  But what if the culture at your company isn’t just business casual, but ultra-feminine business casual — and you’re still most comfortable in a gray suit?  When you’re in a new job and feeling pressure to dress a certain way to fit in — even getting critical comments from coworkers — what should you do? Reader E wonders…

I recently relocated and am in the middle of a career change, and I’m really stumped about how to dress for work. I work in a business casual environment in a small, Southern city. Women tend to dress hyper femininely here: today my boss is wearing a pink ruffled tunic over flowy trousers with embellished flats. The job is entry level, but it’s an important step career-wise. I’m all for dressing to fit with office culture. But, really, yikes.

Right now my pencil skirts, sheath dresses, flats, and cardigans are getting a lot of “why are you so dressed up?” and (from the office mean girl) “do you always wear such depressing colors?” I guess these are my questions: how far do I really need to go to fit in with office wardrobe culture? and how can I femme-up my wardrobe without looking like 5’10” wedding cake?

Hmmn.  Well.  It seems like a few things are going on here, some of which we’ve talked about before, such as transitioning a corporate wardrobe to a casual office, looking stylish and professional in a business casual office, as well as surrendering a bit to office culture (but as the song goes, don’t give yourself away). I may also detect a smidgen of . . .  judgment? superiority? in your email, which we’ve also talked about before when you take a job that’s beneath you.  I know all about finding your groove with one set of work clothes, having a rough time transitioning to a new office with a very different culture, and then feeling a bit like you’ve lost yourself in the process.  So I definitely have some thoughts, but I can’t wait to hear what the readers say.

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What to Wear to a Networking Dinner As a Student

What to Wear to a Networking Dinner | CorporetteNetworking dinner attire can be tricky.  But if you’re a business student on a budget — and soon to be job hunting — the question is that much harder.  Reader K wonders…

I’m a student in my last semester of business school and I have some networking dinners to attend in November. Could you recommend something to wear- preferably on the cheaper side (i.e., under 100)?

It is always so frustrating trying to figure out what to wear to these things! I’m curious to hear what readers say. We’ve talked about the tricky subject of wearing business casual for networking events, as well as what to wear to an interview dinner, but not in a while. So let’s discuss.

Some thoughts on what to wear:

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What to Do When Your Office Temperature is Never Right

Office temperature controlIs there a single solution to making an office’s temperature more comfortable if big windows make it too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer? Reader A wonders…

I just started as an associate attorney and it’s my first time with my very own office! It’s so great to have my own four walls. My issue is that one of those walls is actually windows leading to outside, which is great except it makes temperature control a nightmare. Right now, it lets in tons of sun, which makes my office far too hot. I’ve been told by the person who previously occupied my office that in the winter, she froze because of the massive windows. I’m considering looking into an air conditioner for now, but when winter hits, I’ll need a heater. Any idea of a combo unit that I can just switch over when the weather changes? I’d really like to just have one unit, preferably not one that’s massive or noisy.

First, congrats on your own office, Reader A! I’m curious to hear what the readers say. We’ve talked about cold offices and hot offices and how to dress professionally in hot weather and cold weather, but not for dealing with wide temperature discrepancies within a private office like this. Here are my thoughts:

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Do Multiple Devices Boost Your Productivity — or Your Overwhelm?

multiple-devices-boost-productivityHow many devices do you have? Does having multiple devices boost your productivity — or just add to the feeling of being overwhelmed? Reader A has an interesting question:

So I was wondering, how many pieces of technology do you and your readers have? I am increasingly getting overwhelmed by it all. I have a desktop both at home and at work of course, then an iPad, then a MacBook Air, then my personal iPhone, and my work iPhone!! Too much I am thinking. So, if you had to ditch one (or more than one), what would it be? I would think the home desktop; yet, it is a pain to connect remotely to my desktop at work from my laptop or others. What then?

Interrrrrresting question — I’ve talked about my being overwhelmed by information, but not about device overwhelm. I’m curious to hear what readers say here, but I may have some solutions for you to help prevent device overwhelm… (That said, if possible I would ditch one of your two iPhones if at all possible — but if you’ve maintained two for so long I’m guessing it’s because there is a valid reason for it, and of course work/life separation is important.)

There’s a lot of interesting reading about how having different devices can actually boost your productivity; as this Wired article describes, it helps you focus by associating certain tasks with certain screens. (Question for the hive: does anyone have a multiple-monitor setup? How do you like it?) Here’s how I use this method:

  • I use my desktop almost exclusively for daily blog stuff.
  • I use my laptop (which doesn’t do well without a power cord) as a standing workstation (I just set it on top of our credenza), usually when I’m opening a zillion bookmarks and shopping for TPS reports or the like.
  • I use my iPad for work email as well as for focused writing with my Bluetooth keyboard. (OK, I also use my iPad for fun web surfing while watching television.)
  • I still use my netbook for work whenever I travel. (It’s very clunky but gives me a PC experience.)
  • I’m pondering getting a Kindle because I’ve learned that I simply do not read books and other long-form things on my iPad but would like something to bring to my bedside table. (Although really, if I could find the cord for the Orbo my son hates I could use that as a Kindle!)

That said, I do depend on a few different services to keep everything aligned among my devices, and I highly recommend them if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

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How to Wear Flats in the Winter

How to Wear Flats in Winter | CorporetteIn cold weather, what are the best ways to wear flats to work? With socks? Tights? Reader E wonders…

Could you recommend some ways to style flats for the winter? In years past I have worn skirts and opaque tights with pumps or booties in cold weather (I don’t live in a particularly cold climate), but earlier this year I decided to give up on heels altogether because of some foot problems I’ve been having. I’m happy with my flats for summer looks, but ballet flats just look so odd with tights to me. I’m hoping for some better style ideas! What flat shoes work best for winter looks? Thanks!

Great question, Reader E — and even though it still feels kind of warm outside, the cold will be upon us in no time. (Winter is coming!) We’ve talked about wearing flats all the time, as well as interviewing in flats, but not in a while. Obviously you can just wear flats where you would have worn pumps, but if you can’t walk in flats with tights (I can’t!), or if you feel like something is off with the silhouette, then we need to dive a bit deeper.  I’m curious to hear what readers think, but here are some of my thoughts:

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Shopping Category Killers

shopping-category-killersHave you ever bought an item so perfect that you just don’t need to shop for anything similar any more?  As in, the whole shopping category is just no longer one of your concerns? Did you KNOW it would be a shopping category killer when you bought it (i.e., the clouds parted, trumpets rang out, etc.) — or was it just something you fell in love with more and more as you had it?

In my own wardrobe, for example, I’ve seen it happen mainly with accessories:

  •  My dangly diamond earrings and right-hand diamond ring:  every time I see something similar I think, nah, if I’m looking for something sparkly and fun, why would I wear anything but my dangly diamond earrings and right-hand diamond ring? (I discussed both in my post on the best splurges I’ve made on products.)
  • A heavy black wool wrap from Henri Bendel:  this one I didn’t even like that much when I bought it, because super lightweight pashminas were very in at the time.  I needed it for something specific, though, and it was on sale for around $150, so I bought it.  I’ve proceeded to bring it to pretty much every wedding, every fall/spring evening out, and on every vacation I’ve taken since. I’ve bought other scarves and wraps in other colors, but my Bendel’s one has stood the test of time.
  • My Cartier watch — I’ll admit, I have bought other watches since the Cartier, but they never get worn.

I suppose there are other items here also where I’ve been so happy with the purchase that, when the item inevitably wears out, I just buy a new version instead of researching the area again.  Spanx Higher Power tights… Fantasie bras (4510 for the win!), Weitzman Poco heels…

Readers, what purchases have been YOUR category killers?  Do you have any regrets on the initial purchase?  Were you surprised it became a category killer for you, or did you buy it hoping it would be the last X you’d ever buy?  (For example — I love my dangly diamond earrings and right-hand diamond ring, but they were both a whim purchase, spurred in part by a sale — if memory serves the earrings were around $1000.  I’ve worn them so much and will continue to do so that I kind of wish I’d splurged a bit more! But the need for “more” isn’t so great that I need to buy new earrings (if that makes sense). On the flip side — were you disappointed in any purchase that you had hoped would be a category killer? 

Psst: in the past we’ve talked about shopping habits like spreadsheets and “crop rotations,” as well as the best places to shop online.

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