Expanding a Suiting Collection

How to Expand a Suiting Collection | CorporetteHow to Expand a Suiting Collection | CorporetteHow can you expand a suit collection beyond the most basic colors? What is the best non-basic suiting color? Reader J wonders:

For my new job, I need to wear a suit every day, so I’m ready to expand my very basic (black, navy, grey) collection. I am thinking about a camel or khaki color, but I’m not sure if that is too summery/appropriate for fall. Would brown be a better choice to fit more seasons?

Great question, J! I went back through a bunch of Suit of the Week picks and have a few thoughts:

  • Buy suiting separates.  First, if you haven’t already been buying suiting separates, please do start doing so.  You’re going to have SO many more outfits to put together for a suit if you have the pants, the blazer (or two), a sheath dress, and a skirt.  On the more affordable end look to places like Talbots, J.Crew, Boden, and even some Macy’s EDV lines (such as AK Anne Klein, Calvin Klein, etc) for these kinds of suiting separates.
  • Go for a more traditional non-traditional color such as light beige or light gray.  Most people would not consider a camel/khaki or even a light gray suit to be an interview suit, but these are all traditional colors for suits.  I’d also consider a light reddish brown suit (clay? putty? darker than a khaki, lighter than a coffee?) or a light blue suit (also this or this) to be in the range of “normal” suit colors, and I think you’ll find that they’re surprisingly versatile.  I’d also put white suits in this category. Personally I never wore my dark brown suits much, but my “base” for almost everything is black leather (versus brown leather), and I’m a silver instead of a gold — if either of those were different then I might have gotten more wear out of them.
  • Have fun with texture.  Seasonless wool suits are great for versatility, and they’re the classic suit fabric for a conservative office… but you can have a lot of fun with textured suiting too.  Tweed suits (also here), twill suits, crepe suits, ponte knit suits, cotton pique suits (also here), linen suits, and more, all bring in different textures, even if they’re in conservative colors.  Look for conservative suits that have details such as leather suit details, ruffled suit details (also here), or even animal print accents… none of these things are typical on interview suits, but they’re a great way to broaden your wardrobe while staying in conservative colors.
  • Printed suiting separates can also add a lot of versatility but still read as conservative.  Consider a pinstriped suit (also here), a polka-dotted suit (also here), a checked suit, a plaid suit, houndstooth suits, or even a suit with stripes (also here). I’d also put colorblocked suits (also here) in this category.
  • Go for a colorful suit.  Colors are in right now, so if you’re looking for a trendy piece, consider a suit with a fun color.  Purple suits may be a good place to start if you’re comfortable in navy, but dark green suits or dark red suits are also more popular than they have been in previous years. (Cobalt blue suits were everywhere not too long ago, as well!)  You could always go for a fuchsia suit, of course, and really make a statement.  Colorful suits can sometimes age you, so I’d look for inspiration from high-end lines (Hugo Boss, Theory) or, honestly, more youthful stores like Limited, Dorothy Perkins, Boden, and H&M.

Readers, which were the first suits you bought beyond black, navy, and grey basics?  What colors (or patterns) have been the most versatile, and been worth the purchase price? 


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Expanding a Suiting Collection


  1. Wildkitten :

    Camel and khaki are too summery for fall.

    • Lady Tetra :

      Really? Camel always seems very fall to me, especially with a jewel-tone top. I agree with you on khaki though.

      • Late to this party, but I agree. I think camel can look really nice in the fall, assuming it’s an appropriate fabric.

  2. I always have trouble finding variety in petitie suits. It seems like Ann Taylor has a very limited color scheme, as do other brands.

  3. S in Chicago :

    I would get far more use out of a plum suit than khaki. And I’m actually thinking khaki is a bit frump these days. (Maybe that’s just after seeing Obama get so much flack.)

  4. SA-litagor :

    My recommendation? Buy a great black sheath dress and colored blazers (try Talbots). Voila – lots of outfits. If your firm interprets the dress code to include dress + jacket, this is a fantastic option. I would check out what senior women do and follow suit. Pun intended.

  5. newly in house :

    This was admittedly 15+ years ago, but when I was first building a “i’m a grown up lawyer” suit wardrobe, the first ones I started adding after the 3 basic (black, grey, navy) combos were patterns. Harold’s is no longer around, but I still remember getting 3 suits from there as graduation presents – jacket, skirt, and pants for each – that were patterns that built off the colors that I already had in the solid suiting. I know one was a light grey background and pale pink and black small windowpane design, one was a light grey with a light blue and navy almost plaid design, and the third was a black and white tweed print. I wore those 6 suits to death over the next few years.

  6. Khaki and tan are summer suits for me and I never wear my brown suit. It’s too hard to match tights to brown IMO and I hate nylons. I probably have about 20 suits now and when I started branching out past the basics, I bought more unique suits on clearance at the end of the season, e.g. tweeds, checks, seersucker. These days I usually wear separates to court when I’m not in trial so have built up a collection of jackets.

  7. Wannabe Runner :

    I bought basics at BR when I first started out. Now I check their sales, and Nordstrom’s Halogen and Classique Entier suits every season, and Talbot’s. I have like three or four navy suits in different textures, and tons of gray suits in different grades/strengths of gray. Navy and gray are handy because I use black shoes accessories with both.

    I prefer brown to black (I think black tends to look more severe, and I don’t live in New York City), so I have one or two brown suits too. (Pants only, I understand the problem with tights the other poster describes.)

    Churning up your tops can really help too – find more tops with more colors, and more jewelry you can wear.

    I also think dresses made of suiting material are great. BR usually has them to match each season’s new suit they put out.

  8. AquaLover :

    This is probably a very silly question, but during what seasons is wool flannel appropriate in the South?

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