Here’s a fun topic we haven’t gotten into in a while: What are some of the biggest designer mistakes for workwear that you’ve seen? Things that make the garment unwearable, things that aren’t as appropriate for work as the fashion community seems to think, or things that just annoy you to death?
In the past we’ve talked about designer no-nos like double-breasted blazers (now, super in!) and hated workwear trends like sharkbite hems and exposed zippers, and more — but what are the biggest design mistakes for workwear that you’re seeing in 2019?
Some of my top designer mistakes for workwear would be:
1. Full-length bell sleeves, particularly in a dry-clean-only fabric. If you’re eating, writing with ink, or washing dishes, full-length bell sleeves are a pain in the butt. Plus, I have a feeling you’re going to instantly date any item you own with that feature.
2. Step-hems for workwear. Nooooooooooooo. So…. ugly. For denim, I might be able to think of it as fresh and trendy, but for workwear it just looks like a mullet or something.
3. Loose wrap shirts that look like faux wraps but are just entirely open. I just ordered (and sent back) a top that had looked great online but turned out to be totally open in the front. Even when I was a nursing mother I wanted a bit more coverage.
4. Party fabrics for day. We talked about this a bit in our post on wedding wear vs. office attire, but a lot of stores and brands seem to think “workwear” includes fabrics like tulle, satin, sequins, and more. No thank you. I think the only exception here is with a very traditional tweed blazer — sometimes a shimmery thread running through it is okay and gives dimension, but that shimmery thread should feel like less than 10% of the garment — probably a lot less than that.
How about you guys: What workwear trends make you cringe right now? What design elements and trends do you wish that you could persuade fashion brands and designers away from?
I’m 100% here for festive fabrics. This winter I’ve been living in velvet – slacks, a blouse, a blazer (although not all at once, obviously) – and my favorite pair of work flats are sliver (the easiest neutral!). That said, I can’t imagine wearing tulle to the office.
What industry and geographic region are you?
I can’t imagine wearing velvet to my NY law firm office. But metallic flats could be fine.
I think limited velvet, particularly in the form of a velvet blazer in a dark wintery color (wine red, black, dark green, dark blue, gray) is gorgeous and totally office appropriate. I encourage you to branch out. If worn with a neutral color dress or slacks it is actually very conservative (and warm!)
Same! I have a dark green velvet blazer from J.Crew and I find it completely work appropriate. I’m an attorney for a bank but we admittedly are business casual.
I’m at a law firm, but 1) I’m a shareholder (so more flexibility on dress); 2) it’s mid-size, not big law; and 3) it’s in the West.
I think of velvet kind of like lace. It trends in and out of workwear. Whether it’s work appropriate depends on your office, how ubiquitous it is at the moment, and how much of it is in your outfit. Like, a full outfit of velvet/lace is party attire. An individual skirt, top, or blazer (in velvet anyway, never seen a lace blazer)? Probably fine in most workplaces.
Never too many shoes...
I am presently wearing a dark wine tulle skirt with a black cashmere bateau neck sweater, black tights and black suede boots. I am in the office, no client meetings or appearances. I also have no issues with lace, velvet, ruffles, leather or metallics for work. And for the record, I am a mid-size firm litigator in Toronto.
You sound extremely chic. That outfit description sounds beautiful.
Never too many shoes...
Thanks (although I am not sure that is exactly accurate). I have reached the point where I wear what I like to the office and do not worry about how others perceive me. For any appearances, it is suits and heels all the way, but I do still like some fun details.
Ooooh, now I can imagine it. That sounds like a great outfit!
Festive fabrics for life! I work at a private foundation in the PNW and – while we dress up for external meetings – my office has a broad and casual dress code so I have a lot of leeway in what I wear. Dog fur concerns keep me from wearing much velvet, but tulle, beaded skirts, metallics, and even some sequin trim are regular features in my wardrobe.
I hate the bell sleeves so much. I won’t even wear bracelets because they annoy me when I’m typing — but at least I can take those off!
Sheer anything. It is not a professional look, even with a top underneath. I realize this may be dependent on the environment, but in mine, you would get some “what are you thinking?” looks, if not outright told to cover up.
I haven’t seen any step hems in person yet, but it doesn’t seem terrible?
I don’t love the look of the step hem skirt, but I imagine it’s nice to not have the back of your thighs potentially exposed when sitting, and a little extra length for modesty when riding up escalator is helpful, too. Can you tell I’m on the subway every day? :)
I am plus-size and don’t wear bell sleeves because my wrists are, like, the one area of my body that is skinny!! According to stylists, I am supposed to show off my wrists (and neckline?), not add volume there!
You long and lithe people do you, but please keep those bell sleeves off of my business casual tunics, cardigans and blazers!
I never hated exposed zippers and thought the uproar about that around here was a bit over the top.
I despise hi/lo hemlines though, whether it’s the rounded type from a few years ago or the step version here.
I’m finally getting comfortable with the fact that workwear is more causal, but I still don’t like to see leggings at work worn as pants. I’m ok with them worn as thick tights of course.
Anon is the New Anon
Do realize that your post reads you feel it is ridiculous to dislike something you like, but no one should wear what you don’t like?
Easy, killer. I think her comment expressed her opinion on things in a non-judgy way.
Bell sleeves are OK in the office, depending how belled… they’re worse at home when washing dishes, etc.
I enjoy snacking way too much to wear bell sleeves.
1. People that wear summer dresses and sandals in the winter. We have fairly well developed underground network around our financial district, so in theory possible to live on the fringes and get to work all underground. But summer looking outfits with sandals just looks totally out of place when everyone is wearing parkas and boots. Or weather appropriate outfits but with sockless/stockingless footwear like mules or things like that.
2. things that are too body conscious. You may have the body for it. But its just not appropriate for the office. Long sleeves don’t make a second skin appropriate for the office.
3. sloppy looking ‘fashion forward’ looks. The dress pants with the high ribbon tie waists look especially sloppy. even when the shirt is tucked in. like you are going to your dojo afterwards. pair them in a skinny cut with some barefoot mules and you really should be eating bon bons on your couch at home and not in an office when its snowing outside
First post here, hopefully this is an appropriate use of threadjacking. The past year has been extremely stressful for my family as my husband’s ex-wife relocated to another state with my pre-teen step-son. Long story short, we relocated to new East Coast area for a job (in consultation with ex-wife), and ex-wife agreed (verbally) that she and her new husband would also move to this area. Then she informed us several months ago that she would in fact be moving to Mid-West. We brought his ex-wife to court to try to prevent her from doing so, proposing that instead step-son should live with us (we had several compelling reasons in our favor). Without getting into all the details, we lost, and we believe we unfairly lost (a bias against fathers? I normally don’t put much stock in that, but faced with my own story, now I don’t know). Yesterday we were able to finalize the custody/financial agreement, which is a relief to have some closure, but we are obviously not happy with the arrangement and we are now responsible for SIGNIFICANT travel costs to see my step-son. The past year has been filled with such a range of emotions, and for the first time in my life (in part a testament to my privilege in life so far, this being my first interaction with the court system) I feel SO MUCH RAGE. I suppose the most obvious first step is I probably need to find a therapist. But this whole process has been so unfair, so degrading, so demoralizing. How do I find some peace in moving forward, knowing my family has been wronged and that there isn’t anything I can do about it? We are trying to rise above and just focus on relationship with step-son, but I could really use some pointers from other readers who have dealt with similar betrayals or family issues like this.
I can’t get past the fact that you moved first and are enraged at the ex wife because she did not also move to where you moved. Are you sure you’re looking at this in an unbiased way? Maybe counseling either way, because it is decided and you can either keep dragging the other party back to court or you can accept it and move on.
It’s an unfortunate situation, but moving is also not always easy. You need to line up a job, housing, etc so maybe they had the intent to look into moving but it just didn’t work out for them? Plus it seem difficult when the idea to move isn’t yours, but the idea of the ex. I think the fact that you moved first wasn’t in your favor, I’m sorry. Taking her to court to stop her from moving after you moved first doesn’t seem so reasonable unless your move was less than an hour’s drive away.
Thank you for the comment, I do see your perspective that I may not be unbiased, and I do consciously try to check that tendency. I will say that prior to this past year we had a very friendly, amicable relationship with ex-wife and her new husband. They were also planning to switch jobs and relocate in the same time frame and geographic area (not due to any pressure from us, it was what they were independently planning to do too), and in extensive consultation with them, we made to move to new East Coast location so we could all be together and it was expected they would hold up their end of the agreement, as this would be the best for step-son. So maybe this is just an unfortunate sh*t happens situation that I need to get over, as you suggest. But it still feels like a betrayal.
I say this as a child of divorced/remarried parents. You have to find a way to deal with this because kiddo will notice/absorb/be affected by your anger, despite your best efforts. You need to find a way to get over this and have a workable relationship with kiddo’s mom.
Thanks for the perspective, we are working on it!
I’m sorry that you’re dealing with this – these things are really rough. I think that the thing to keep in mind is that there really never are winners in these sorts of things – virtually any time courts are required to make family decisions, everyone involved winds up with a lot less then they want. It may be hard to see it, but the ex is almost certainly having to give up a lot, too, as is the kid. And there’s almost never a way for the court to make a decision that won’t look like it disfavors someone in an unfair way.
I know that it’s hard, but your job here is to help and support your husband in making peace with it, and being the best dad he can be, even if he has to do it remotely. And you’ve got to make peace yourself to do that.
(BTW, for threadjacking, it’s allowed at these mid-day, more substantive posts, but it’s usually more welcome in the last post of the day, the coffee break one, or the morning one.)
Another anonymous judge
This is really wonderful advice. The fact of the matter is that this is a done deal and your job as grownups, and people who love this child, is to MAKE IT WORK. His childhood will be gone before you know it and you won’t get a second chance to do it right. Of course you would rather things had turned out differently, but they didn’t. You do whatever it is you need to make sure you have the support yourself (therapy? girlfriends?) so that you can support your husband and step son. It sounds sappy but I really believe if you try to bring this perspective to the situation you will find it easier to live with ultimately. Good luck to you and your family.
I’ve been in this situation before. I moved for school and my then-husband and his ex were supposed to move close to me (she had family near my school and no family where she was, so she was already considering a move there, which is why I applied for school there). She decided not to at the last minute, which obviously caused a lot of issues for us and my educational path.
The thing to keep in mind is to not take this so personally. Characterizing this as a “betrayal” and that you were “wronged” and “degrad[ed]” isn’t helpful. This is not personal. She is making the decision that she thinks is right for her family – just as you and DH were. She didn’t owe you/DH anything. It’s not her job to make your lives easier. She also never signed anything – and in this situation, nothing is formal unless it is in writing. I’m sorry that this happened, it’s unfair, but I do think it would help you to separate the disappointment (totally reasonable) from taking this like it’s a personal attack against you and your family.
This is a tough situeation for all parties, and hugs to the OP for haveing to spend so much energy and $ on travel for her step son; but you did marry your husband knowing he came with a son, so you are kind of stuck. Dad says my eggs are likely stale already and that if I want to marry a guy, I will likely have to find a guy with baggage at my age, so me reading this helps me to understand the kinds of family issues we only studied in law school. We are now the real case studies for the next generation — how advancing our careers have hurt our marital lives, and our ability to have kid’s at an age we should have rather then worked our tuchuses off just to find the good guys have already married (and divorced) others, leaving us to deal with family situations that are complicated. FOOEY! If only I had just accepted the fact that I should have married when I was younger and prettier then I am now. DOUBEL FOOEY!
I’m really sorry, this seems terrible all the way around. Is there a possibility for you and husband to move to the same area of the Midwest?
This does suck for you.
One thing I am dealing with now, with rage at a family member who has wronged me seemingly publicly, is that there might not be an end date to my feelings and there doesn’t have to be, but there has to be a functional way to deal with the reality of, say, my husband and kids having a relationship with this family member.
Your feelings are completely legit and you might want to quietly disclose to your most supportive and like-minded friends that understand you or are always in your corner, no matter what. You will find that people have been through similar events that they just don’t talk about.
Then, what? Plan for the first next thing – spring break? Summer break? Then what…? High school graduation? Prom? College trips? Have some plans to get through what is foreseeable. Have some allies. Have some friends.
You’re probably also feeling slightly unmoored because of YOUR move – is your support network near you, do you feel supported, has the move been hard on you and your relationship with your spouse? I imagine so. This is all a LOT to work through and deal with! You are having a completely sane reaction to an insane/crazy-making situation. You’re ok.
What is next- immediately, and long-term, for YOU, as an individual? Good luck!
All I can focus on is what this comment isn’t saying – how hard of a year it must have been for your pre-teen stepson, to first have his father move states but with the expectation that mother would too so that kid could have both of his parents living in the same state – then to have mother relocate to the Midwest instead, somewhat suddenly, for Reasons (no matter whether they’re good or not, your pre-teen kid doesn’t know any better) – then what sounds like a bitterly fought custody battle – and now the ultimate outcome: kid’s parents are in two different states, two different geographic regions, hugely angry at each other, for reasons he probably only barely understands and is likely internalizing. Honestly, where is your concern for your kid in all this anger and rage about the ex-wife and the significant travel costs? I think you need to focus on what’s important here, your kid’s well-being, and be really careful not to let your resentment of his mother creep into your family, because that will curdle relationships for years to come.
I guess I should have waited a few days and wrote a calmer, clearer post than what I did. We absolutely are focusing on step-son, and is the reason why I’m trying to explore my feelings and asked if anyone had advice for moving through such a tough situation so I can be a better parent to him. Almost all of my anger is on his behalf – that we had the potential to all live in the same place (see comment above – all 4 adults talked, made plan, and agreed upon before any moves made), and our agreement wasn’t honored. I am putting on a brave face for right now but recognize I need to find some genuine peace if I am going to successfully co-parent this kid who is in such a tough spot. Thanks to those that offered help and encouragement!
I don’t have anything substantive to add, but just want to say that I do think based on your thoughtful responses you are a good parent with your heart in the right place. Parenting is never easy, and you seem like you are doing a good job in a difficult situation and willing to put in the work to make it better.
Ruffles (didn’t we get enough of those 10 years ago?), dropped-shoulders (which make the garment too casual and also unflattering on me), and anything that requires a special bra (cutouts noooooo) or camisole (I don’t like the extra layer for multiple reasons — bulk, tending to run hot, having to buy another garment to make one wearable, and more laundry, yippee).
I’m also disliking dropped shoulders a lot lately!! Shoulders are also one of those things that I don’t know the fashion terms for, though, so it’s hard to search for in a garment…
Counterpoint: Raglan sleeves are the friends of those of us who are short of torso but large of bust; a slightly dropped shoulder solves a bunch of other fit problems for me and still can work in professional clothing if the garment is made in a structured fabric (twill, worsted, poplin, polished cotton) and otherwise is tailored.
Raglan sleeves are totally fine! (Although can skew “sweatshirt” in the wrong material.) As are seams that are at “cap sleeve” height placement. I’m referring to tops that have a “shoulder” seam that runs horizontally around the middle of the upper arm, more at “tshirt” height placement.
I understand what you’re getting at, but Raglan Sleeves are not the same thing as a dropped shoulder… Raglan sleeves have more of a triangular shaped seam– two seams go from the base of the armpit around the arm and up toward the neckline of the garment. A dropped sleeve has a circular seam (as does a set-in shoulder seam)– it’s just in the “wrong” spot, down a little bit on the arm.
That said, I appreciate both types of seams on my narrow shoulders, since properly set sleeves often don’t fit me correctly. However, both raglan and dropped are less formal than set-in sleeves
I despiiiiiiise hi-lo hems. Always have. And the balloon sleeves that are really trendy right now bug me to no end.
SAME. Hi-lo I’d never wear for work, but it ruins so many cute weekend/summer dresses I’d otherwise buy. Balloon sleeves are absurd. Who wears them? How do they wear coats over them? Do they seriously think it’s flattering??
I just bought another silver top for work so if metallics for the office are wrong, I don’t want to be right!
I have a silver and gold metallic tops that brighten up black and chocolate brown suits, respectively. And metallic gold leopard print AGLs that I wear to the office regularly.
I call for an end to those blouses with ties at the end of the sleeve instead of proper cuffs.
The follow up: prior business wear trends that I want back: godet skirts, sewn down pleats, earth tones (brown and olive), slightly cropped swing jackets, and suit coats with actual buttons (not open front, not frogs, not snaps or zippers or clips). BUTTONS.
And BUTTONS that MATCH the fabric, not the cheapo brown ones regardless of the color. Sigh, cannot find good suits anymore for my tall top-end of the normal sizing range body.
The extra seam down the front middle of the leg that’s coming back in dress pants. It’s one more ironing obstacle, one more weak point in the construction, one more place for unraveling/threads snagging and pulling out. It always looks puckered and frumpy, and destroys the possibility of a nice clean silhouette. I’m sure companies love it, though; they can make expensive suits from ever-smaller scraps and still charge out the nose.
Front slits in pencil skirts. When you sit down in a meeting, it shows a really uncomfortable amount of inner thigh for the workplace.
Also suits with miniskirts, which are apparently coming back (again).
I wonder who here is old enough to remember Ally McBeal and the tiny, tiny skirt suits she wore to court. I hope we are not headed back there. Certainly at my age I won’t. I remember some dangerous moments when attorneys in such skirts reached and stretched to hand something to the judge.
Front slits are impossible. I haven’t seen the high-low hems in business clothes yet, but am not sure I hate them.
I really, really can’t stand the cold-shoulder trend. It never looks appropriate at the office, to me.
Our local TV news personalities wear cold-shoulder style dresses and it makes me nuts. It looks like they’re headed to the club as soon as they get off the air and I think it looks totally unprofessional. It’s one thing to wear it if you have the body for it. It’s a whole other thing to wear it at work. Just. Don’t.
Mrs. Type A
Yes agreed. I said the same thing below. Don’t want to see that much skin of my coworkers
I now work primarily from my home office, no longer a big law office, but still dress professionally for board and other D.C. meetings. I’m amazed at these discussions of wearing glittery fabrics or fluttery hems, etc., in any office setting. Maybe that’s considered okay in small firms in the suburbs or smaller cities, but I find it to be almost an insult to clients in large professional corporations. I never see that kind of dress in banks, law firms, or other professional offices I frequent. I wonder if everyone commenting accordingly works in smaller, more informal offices or are not dealing with big city clients..
I am SO tired of ankle length pants. They are not practical in the least for the cold months and I cannot figure out how people wear them without freezing to death. I just want a nice, non balloon width full length pant that I can wear with socks and closed toe shoes k thanks bye.
Mrs. Type A
Open shoulder tops are a no-no for me for work. I don’t want to see that much skin on anyone in the office!
Excited to share the latest addition to my #etsy shop: Mni classic skirt with pockets / Dark blue / Business Casual / Office Dress https://etsy.me/2TL7YNU