Style vs. Trend vs. Frump (Or, How to Cultivate Style)

style-vs-trendThere were a few intriguing comments in Friday’s open thread about brooches and whether they were in style, with some readers even suggesting it might be a matter of age. To me, though, this kind of comes down to style versus trend — and I thought it might make an interesting discussion here. After all, don’t stylish women wear what they fancy — trends be damned? On the flip side, if something was once very trendy and is not any longer, at what point does it cross the line into frump and being “out of style”? How do you cultivate a style instead of merely following trends? (Pictured: The Glamourai.)

For brooches, for example, I 100% agree that they are not trendy right now. They did go through a brief moment of trendiness in the early aughts — for some reason 2003 sticks in my head, along with an episode of What Not to Wear where Stacy London was suggesting women add two or three brooches at a time to sweaters, coats, and more. Somehow, though, I had found my way to brooches before that — buying a ton of them at the Eastern Market flea market while I was in law school — and I still wear them now. (Here’s my advice on how to wear brooches.) As some readers pointed out, the excellent blogger Adina at Blue Collar Red Lipstick also wears them — and I also think often of a great post on The Glamourai (pictured) about how to wear particularly heavy ones without ruining your clothes.

Now — this brings us to another dynamic: frump. If something was trendy many years ago and you continue to wear it after the trend has passed, are you going down the slippery slope toward frump? I tend to think of frump as being more about ill-fitting, unflattering clothes and, perhaps, a general harried demeanor (wild hair, stains/wrinkles, unintentional half-tucks), but it’s an interesting question to ponder. For example, years after skinny jeans came in style, I insisted that my style was bootcut jeans, refusing to buy any skinny jeans until years into the trend. Now that bootcuts and flares are becoming trendy again, though, I see readers noting that their style is skinny jeans (or, specifically, skinny jeans with tall boots) — but that look is starting to look more and more dated to me as well. (It’s interesting, as I type this and reach for a word other than frump, to realize that the phrase “out of style” is what I hear most often, but obviously it’s maddening to talk about being stylish and not being “out of style” without feeling like it’s devolving into an “orange orange orange orange orange” kind of situation.)

What’s even more interesting is how quickly fashion trends move. When some retailers put out new clothes every few weeks, and others copy runway styles much, much faster than ever before, it feels even more like you should find your own style, rather than be a slave to trends and replace your entire wardrobe every season. So how do you cultivate style that transcends trends, without risking being thought of as “out of style”? I’m genuinely curious to hear what you guys think about it!

Here are a few specific fashion/makeup things for you to ponder — are they stylish enough to transcend trend? Does your thinking change if we contrast a “hallmark look” (think Iris Apfel and her eyeglasses, Anna Wintour’s bob, Carolina Herrera and her crisp blouses) with “I thought it would be fun with this outfit”? And — when does it cross the line into an affected look, where you think, “ah, she thinks she is Miss Fashion,” perhaps like with the bustiers/ties mentioned below)?

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2016 Trends: What WON’T You Wear to Work?

2016 trends to avoid wearing to workI’ve noticed a few trends that seem to be EVERYWHERE of late, and I thought we’d discuss, if only because so many of them seem inappropriate for officewear — I’d love to hear your thoughts.  What trends WON’T you wear to work? Every office is different, of course — know yours! — but it’s always fascinating to hear the reasoning behind them.  I was intrigued to see readers noting that any lace-up shoes (including flats) were inappropriate for their offices, if only because that feels like a trend that’s been around for several years, and while I can see the sex appeal of lace-up high heels, the flats struck me as almost ho-hum.  On the flip side, jumpsuits for work seem to be something that’s gaining ground, with tons of readers noting that they’ve worn jumpsuits to the office regularly.  As we’ve noted before regarding trends and a conservative office, we’re against any trend that’s body baring, illogical, or too “new.”

Pictured, clockwise: Huge exposed zipper / cape blazer / high slit / culottes / off the shoulder top

We haven’t talked about trends in a while, so let’s discuss… Some trends I’m seeing more and more of:

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Work Outfits with Black Heels

classic work outfit ideas with black pumpsWe just rounded up a ton of great black heels for interviews and beyond — and they’re such a basic, versatile piece in your work wardrobe you hopefully don’t need TOO many ideas for how to wear them to work.  Still, I thought it would be fun to come up with a few work outfit ideas, including a very conservative/classic interview outfit.

The Very Conservative Interview Outfit

The ultimate goal of any interview outfit is to not have your clothes distract from your resume, your accomplishments, and your words.  Note that your heels should be walkable — enough so that you can trek to a restaurant two blocks away (and back) in comfort. If you’re buying your first suit, do check out our recent roundup of suits for every budget, as well as The Corporette Guide to Interview Suits!

A note on pants suits vs. skirt suits:  Skirt suits used to be considered the most formal option, but pants suits are accepted almost everywhere these days.  (Stay tuned — we’ll do a poll very soon to get a broader voice on the topic.) Still, there are benefits to the skirt suit that make it worth discussing. First, if you’re buying a budget suit, it’s FAR easier to find a skirt that looks good by itself than suiting pants that look good by themselves.  Second, if you’re buying suiting separates, I always think you should seriously consider buying all of the pieces that are offered — and hey, you’ve got to wear the skirt suit sometime, right? (Pro tip: don’t forget to dryclean your suiting separates together, too, so the wear is consistent.) Finally: if it’s raining, snowing, or other nasty weather, I’ve always preferred a skirt or dress — nothing’s worse than wet pant hems! (Proper rainboots are great for your regular commute, but if you’re going to have limited options for changing shoes once you arrive, you may want to read our old advice on how to interview in a snowstorm.)

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10 Workwear Style Tips for Busty Women

busty women style tips for work2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on workwear style tips for busty women, but you may also want to check out our most recent discussion on how to buy a bra!  

One of our top posts of all time is one a friend suggested I write, back in the early days of the blog: how to dress professionally if you’re busty. We haven’t offered busty women style tips in a while, so I thought we’d discuss. But let me be clear at the outset: there’s nothing inherently unprofessional about being busty — women come in all shapes and sizes.  I’m not about to suggest you go buy a minimizer and try to pretend that you’re a 34B.  But: dressing well while busty can be a challenge because so many clothes are made with other body shapes in mind — and for work it can be particularly trying since so many conservative styles are rooted in menswear. Furthermore, if you wear something that obviously does not fit or has fit issues (gaping, pulling) it reflects a judgement call. So — here are some new tips and guidelines on how to dress for work if you’re busty, from someone who’s been everything from a 30F to a 38G over the years…

(Pictured: If you’re petite and busty this is yet another reason to watch Crazy Ex Girlfriend — her work outfits are mostly hits for me. The video this screenshot is from is hilarious (“Heavy Boobs”), but it is probably NSFW.)

Finding the Right Bra is Half the Battle

  1. Invest in a great bra that fits you. The right bra will lift you up and support you. It will not give you quadboob. It may have an odd size that you’ve never even heard of before (28FF, for example).  The right bra will not make you worry about falling out of it when you bend over. It will not cut into your shoulders (that’s a sign your band size is too big) or fall off your shoulders. (Note that your straps can be shortened at the tailor — and that you can check out lingerie brands just for petites, like The Little Bra Company, Lula Lu, or even the Bare Necessities special section for petites). A good bra will take work to find and may cost you some money, but it will be worth it in spades. I highly recommend going to a bra shop and getting fitted — think Nordstrom, not Victoria’s Secret (link goes to to one woman’s fitting experience at VS with lots of pictures; probably NSFW). In NYC I’ve used Bratenders over the years and La Petite Coquette — I’ve also heard great things about Linda’s Bra Shop — and in London I’ve been fitted at Rigby & Peller. Ladies who have a favorite shop in your city, please shout it out in the comments. Once you know your size you can watch for sales; I tend to get new bras at Nordstrom’s sales, Bare Necessities sales, or even sometimes Amazon.

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Going Out Clothes After 25

going-out-clothes-after-25Today was supposed to be part two of our suits roundup but, well, it’s taking too long and I don’t want to slap something up half-finished. So here’s an interesting question that came up yesterday in the comments — can you wear denim for going out clothes after 25? Is there an age limit, or is it just not cool to do anymore? What are your favorite things to wear for going out? (Update: here’s our latest discussion on going out bags, too. Also note: we’ve talked about what to wear when you’re going out with colleagues.)

Pictured: jumpsuit / leather pants / dress 

For my $.02, I still occasionally wear denim for going out, but our date nights are usually pretty casual, as are girls’ night outs as most of my good friends have small kids at this point and we’re either too tired to paint the town red, or because someone needs to stay at home for lack of a babysitter so we go over there instead.When I was dating I never liked to wear dresses on early dates — guys reacted weirdly as if I had “dressed up” for them, and when things started to get physical, I found dresses too binary, if that makes sense — they’re either on or they’re off. (Interesting to ponder: in Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn explained “the Cool Girl,” which to my mind always meant jeans + cool top — dresses or a jumpsuit would seem too fussy to me.) Of course all of this is just more information — what ultimately matters is what you want to wear when you go out, not what your partner wants you/expects you to wear, or what other friends or some mythical Cool Girl are wearing.

So let’s hear it, ladies — what do you like to wear to go out? Do you dress differently than you did in your early 20s for going out?  What are you looking forward to wearing for summer evening outings?

Pictured: maybe I do need a place to wear this jumpsuit, these leather pants (40% off!), or this off-the-shoulder sheath dress to… 

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Work Jewelry: How Much Jewelry Should You Wear to Work?

work-jewelry-how-much-is-too-much

2018 Update: We still stand by this post on how much work jewelry to wear and links have been updated below; in a semi-related discussion you may want to check out our discussion on when to upgrade you engagement ring.

Ladies, how much work jewelry do you wear? Do you tend to lean towards “too much” or “not enough”? Where do you think the line is? How do you avoid getting into a rut with your jewelry? As I draft this post I realize this is something I’ve struggled with, so I’m curious to hear what readers say. (Pictured: I pity the fool who thinks this isn’t enough jewelry for work! Sorry, had to…)

(Psst: in the past we’ve written before about my jewelry collection for workhow to wear jewelry for work if your style isn’t particularly feminine, and how to mix metals with your work jewelry.)

For my $.02, I’ve always been a bit of a jewelry minimalist — three pieces of jewelry struck me as the right amount for daytime, for whatever reason. This changed a bit when I got engaged and started wearing my diamond ring on the regular. It meant I stopped wearing other rings, and it meant I tended to lean more toward my silver/white gold jewelry (my rings are platinum) versus my yellow gold jewelry or rose gold jewelry. Add a good watch in the mix, and you’re left with a problem — your work jewelry choices are either very boring (because only one piece changes), or you’re suddenly wearing a ton more jewelry.

Here are my general thoughts on work jewelry, just to throw some spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks:

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