Where to Find Suits With Dresses (Instead of Skirts or Pants)

suits with dressesReader M had an interesting question about where the heck to find suits with dresses (instead of skirts or pants) these days:

I’d love an article on buying suits that are dress + jacket combinations (as opposed to skirt/pants + jacket combinations). They look a more polished, they eliminate the step of finding a shirt to go underneath the jacket, and they’re one less thing to pack on trips. AT’s selection is limited – I own both and love them; Talbots’ is matronly. Need ’em conservative enough for court appearances, but not “mother of the bride.” (I’m 35.) Slightly fashionable would be a bonus!

Great question — and you’re right, they are disappearing; it was a bit of a hunt to find some to feature here. Readers, do you prefer to wear suits made up of a dress and blazer — or do you prefer other suit separates like pants and a skirt? Where are your favorite dress and jacket skirts from? (We discussed non-suit dress+jacket combinations in this post…)

Some options I found for you on the market right now, below (the individual pieces range from $159-$435):

suits with dresses instead of skirts
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Above: black blazer and dress / Beige blazer and dress (also in plus sizes) / black blazer and dress / navy blazer and dress

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The Hunt for Budget-Friendly Interview Suits

budget friendly interview suits for womenSure, we all know what work wardrobe essentials professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have. Today: we’re hunting for budget-friendly interview suits for women!

Obviously, we cover a Suit of the Week every week, and we have our regularly updated Guide to Interview Suits as well as our recent overview of brands of suits for women for every budget— but we haven’t specifically looked for budget-friendly interview suits in a few years, so let’s round them up! (Here’s our last discussion on cheap interview suits, as well as our discussion of whether you can mix black separates to make a suit (noooooooo!).  In general, if you’re hunting for an interview suit, keep an eye out for options with a) suiting separates b) available in a solid, dark, neutral color, c) that fit your budget. By buying suiting separates you can get a better fit off the rack (such as by buying a size 10 pant and a size 12 blazer, and maybe even a petite skirt even if everything else is a regular size) — and you can make several outfits, particularly if there are two blazers, such as one that’s collarless and one that’s the traditional lapel+button. (If you have problems finding suits in your size range, check our Guide to Plus Size Suits, Tall Suits, Petite Suits, and Maternity Suits!) Readers, which are your favorite budget-friendly interview suits? 

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Can You Wear Interesting Suits to Court?

Can Lawyers Wear Interesting Suits to Court?Can you wear “interesting” suits to court — colorful, patterned, fanciful, haute? (You know, kind of like in our weekly Suit of the Week feature?) Reader E asks — specifically wondering about this teal LK Bennett suit that Kate Middleton is wearing here and here — and I think it’s a great question for all the women lawyers:

This is a lawyer-specific question – can you wear interesting suits to court if it’s still a suit? I agree with previous suggestions here that a dress/blazer combo, unless its meant to be a suit, is not formal enough for court. But, my question is, what about things that are true suit sets but are more interesting – like an AT tweed suit, or the LK Bennett dark teal dress and jacket suit set that Kate Mid. has? Or do you think court suits have to be black/grey/navy and totally plain? Thx!

I can’t wait to hear what the readers say here.  For my $.02, I always think of my reaction to an article years ago about a young public defender who wore Balmain (at the time, their blazers had super pointy shoulders) and other couture suits to court.  The impression it left on me was a bad one — it seemed like she was not showing any respect for her clients or the fact that she was there to represent THEM, in life-altering matters, before stodgy judges and juries who may or may not have approved of her fashion choices (or her designer budget). Plus, as readers have pointed out in the past, wearing ostensibly designer, moneyed things in front of juries can be a bad move, particularly if you’re a public defender.

NOW: A crazy/trendy Balmain suit is one thing — a dark teal LK Bennett dress and jacket is another.  But where is the line? And are there different rules for “first appearance before the court” and “day 30 of a 6-month trial”? For my $.02:

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How to Buy Suit Separates

How to Buy Suit SeparatesI’ve always said that suiting separates are far, far more flattering and versatile than discount bin suits (you know the ones, sold on the same hanger with a single size, some for very inexpensive prices) and we’ve seen an explosion in recent years with a TON of options for suiting separates.  Jacket, skirt, and pants, sure — but there may also be multiple jackets with cuts, buttons, and collars, ankle pants as well as trousers, a matching sheath dress or vest — I’ve even seen short shorts. So let’s discuss, ladies: how do YOU buy suit separates? Which pieces are your favorites to buy first (pencil skirt and collared jacket? ankle pants or trouser pants)?  Do you buy as many pieces as you can afford and dry clean all your suit pieces together so they wear the same, or are you open to “sale stalking” pieces from a matched suiting set, ready to swoop in if they go on sale? If you fluctuate between sizes, do you often buy two different sizes to keep in your closet and pull out the day of?

UPDATE: Ah, I’m seeing from the comments I’ve been unclear, so let’s set up a hypothetical. You need a new suit and go to a store like Talbots and find a beautiful suit on the mannequin — you love the color, the fabric, and hey, you need a new suit. You ask the clerk and she tells you there’s a pair of trousers, a pair of ankle pants, a sheath dress, a pencil skirt, a flared skirt, a collared jacket, a collarless jacket, a duster vest, a fitted vest, a pair of Bermuda shorts — all in that beautiful fabric and, wow, they all fit you perfectly. (Hey, it’s a hypothetical.) Do you buy ALL of those pieces at once? If you decide to only buy three pieces (say, pencil skirt, trousers, collared blazer), do you stalk the others to wait until they go on sale? (If you later saw one of the pieces on deep, deep discount — like the Bermuda shorts — would you buy them if only because you already had other matching pieces? Or at a certain point do you say NAH, I’m good, I have enough matching pieces for that suit.) If you buy three or four pieces and it becomes your favorite suit, would you ever go back to buy other matching pieces?

(Pictured: just a few of the suiting options that Theory has offered over the years — I’ll try to update the post later when I’m not having tech troubles to show some of the other great examples for suits with a thousand matching pieces.)

 

Suiting Brands for Women: Plus Size Suits, Petite Suits, Tall Suits and More

plus size suitsIn case you missed it, we did a major round up of the best suiting brands for women a few weeks ago, from the budget brands to the boss brands. As promised, we’re back with a focus on specialty suiting brands for women — if you’re looking for plus size suits, petite suits, tall suits, or even suits from independent/specialty boutiques, this round-up is for you.

Ladies, if you’re on the hunt for one of these types of suits, which are your favorite brands and styles? Where do you shop the most, and what kind of sales have you found? 

The Best Plus Size Suits For Women

plus size suits

Awesome Options for Tall Suits for Women

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The Corporette Guide to Suits

suits for women2017 Update: Links have been updated below!

Which are the best brands for basic, classic-cut suits for women — worthy of use as interview suits and other outfits for important, career-advancing events? We haven’t talked about simple women’s suits in ages, so I thought we’d discuss. (Update: check out Part 2 of this post, featuring plus size suits, petite suits, tall suits, maternity suits, and independent suiting companies!) First, some general notes on buying a suit:

  • Suits for Women: A Guide to the Best Suiting Brands for Women | CorporetteWhen constrained by budget: go for a black skirt suit rather than a pants suit, because pants fit is by far the hardest thing to get right. In my experience a $60 skirt suit looks OK but a $60 pants suit makes you look like you come from Planet Frump. Furthermore, the skirt suit will go farther — you can wear the pencil skirt as a basic bottom in your wardrobe (but always dryclean all pieces of a suit together!), plus if you have a “dressed up” occasion, a skirt suit is always going to be the more formal option. Another pro for a simple pencil skirt: you completely bystep the trends that pants have been subject to the past few years — to shop online you’d think that cropped pants suits are de rigueur now, but they are still a fringe/trend item in a lot of workplaces. Other trends I’ve seen with suits: jumpsuits! culottes! short suits! You want 1) a pencil skirt + hip length jacket or 2) a fitted sheath dress + hip length jacket — these combos have been in for years and probably will be for years to come.
  • If you’re shopping online, look for words such as: seasonless wool, stretch wool, tropical wool, gabardine, triacetate. Avoid words like sateen, shimmer, linen. Crepe can be really tricky — sometimes it means a polyester drapey blend for suiting and sometimes it means a bridesmaid’s dress/MOB type thing.
  • If you’re busty: traditional wisdom here is that you want more buttons on your blazer, not fewer. I’m plenty busty and have had some favorite one-button jackets over the years, though, so your mileage may vary here. Depending on trends you can sometimes find suits with as many as four or five buttons. But avoid zippers instead of buttons on jackets — they look wrong more than they look right.
  • Please do not wear sandals with a pants suit. It just looks really weird to me, but perhaps I’m alone there. I would argue that if you’re at a dressy enough occasion to require a suit, sandals will always be inappropriate.
  • Treasure hunting for a suit (where you MAY or may not find something good): T.J. Maxx, Yoox, ASOS, Off Fifth, and Nordstrom Rack
  • Consider taking your suit to the tailor.  Common suiting alterations include shortening sleeves, adjusting the waist. Note that the blazer (specifically the shoulder/arms) are the hardest part to tailor, so focus on that fit when you’re shopping.
  • Please don’t forget to cut your Xs, always dryclean suiting pieces together, and — if you’re wearing the suit somewhere Very Important like an interview, make sure you use the mirror trick.
  • For other tips on buying a basic interview suit (including considerations on colors, care, accessories, layering, and more), please check out The Corporette Guide to Interview Suits.

(Pictured at top: The Limited (now closed), Ann Taylor, Boss.)

Budget Suits For Women (under $250 for both pieces)

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