How to Start a Tasteful and Professional Jewelry Collection

When you first start working, how do you build an appropriate jewelry collection — one that’s interesting, tasteful, and professional? Reader A wonders…

I come from a decidedly non-professional background, and most jewelry I’ve bought has either gone out of style in a month or been so cheap I feel it doesn’t fit with my upgraded wardrobe. I don’t want to look like I’m loaded down with bling, but I also don’t want to look like my grandmother. Do you have suggestions for classic pieces that I can wear to school and then to summer internships? My particular school is extremely competitive (aren’t they all?) and many women dress in business casual every day.

How to start building a jewelry and accessories wardrobe is a great question, and something I struggled with when I started in BigLaw.  My previous jewelry collection was a mix of thrifted/self-made/funky — and at first, I didn’t see any real problem mixing it with business suits.  Then one day I got called into a Big Meeting.  Great, I thought, I’m wearing a basic black suit and a simple blouse.  My confidence disappeared sitting in the VIP’s office, as I became acutely aware of the statement ring I’d chosen to wear that day: a large green agate ring (we’re talking 2″ long) on a chipped, undetermined piece of metal.  I’d paid $20 for it at a DC flea market.  What must he think?  I wondered.  I wound up turning it to face my palm as I took notes and asked questions about the assignment.

I’m curious to hear what readers say here, but I’ll offer a few suggestions:

– Noise is never good.  Clinking bracelets, tinkling earrings… if anything you’re wearing makes noise when you type or when you’re walking down the hallway, then think twice before buying it for or wearing it at the office.  I always think of that scene in Working Girl when Melanie Griffith’s character is wearing way too many clanky bracelets.

– Less is more when you’re just starting out, at least in terms of quantity.  Get 1-3 pairs of earrings in good metals (for your own comfort and health) and build from there.  Think diamond or pearl posts, or very small hoops that “hug” your ears — I often find the huggie earring to be the most comfortable for taking phone calls.  I often think about that quote about how you should take one accessory off, every morning, before leaving the house — I tend to wear no more than 3 at a time for work, maybe 4.  (Watch, earrings, necklace.  Ok, fine, 4: my wedding rings.)

– Avoid bling.  A few weeks ago I sloppily wrote about not liking diamonds for the office.  Clarity was not my friend that day, what can I say.  To be clear now: I have no problem with diamond studs, diamond huggies, diamond rings (engagement rings or tasteful right-hand rings).  But I think dangly diamond earrings are inappropriate for the office, diamond-bedazzled watches, or other cocktail-type diamonds.  (To be honest, we’re probably not talking actual diamonds here but faux look-alikes on cheap jewelry).

– Wear a watch, at least when you’re just starting out.  It doesn’t have to be an expensive watch, but I think it does subtly communicate to people that you’re responsible, aware of time, and other good traits.

– Have a nice-looking set of pearls (whether faux or real) for those days where you don’t know what to wear but want to wear something.  They look nice on interviews, and I always seem to notice other women wearing them at major networking events like conferences and gala dinners.  You will get use out of them.  If you’re uncomfortable with pearls, there are many solid-looking but basic gold or silver necklaces out there.

– Don’t be afraid to show personality, but don’t let it distract from the professional traits you want to show at the office.  For example, some of my jewelry is fun, some of it is edgy, some of it is a little wacky — I tend to try to have more fun by mixing colors (e.g., a purple dress and a green necklace) than I do in wearing aggressive pieces that don’t go that well with a working wardrobe anyway.  I took pictures below of stuff I’ve worn to the office, but maybe I should take pictures of what I own that I wouldn’t wear to the office — think my giant pink neon bib necklace from Kate Spade, my 4″ long Jill Platner infinity pendant, my large spiky glass red/orange ring, some of the pieces of vintage jewelry that are meaningful to me (the blue glass triangle pendant, a weird olive mermaid pendant), any of my cocktail rings that are more than 1″ long. Do feel free to experiment with color and style.  Some thoughts on different things you can try that are outside the fairly conservative advice above:

  • statement rings — avoid bling and go for quality, but I still think there’s a wide variety of rings that might make a colleague say, “wow, cool ring.”
  • stackable rings — you find these with different color gemstones, different initials — make a stack of rings that are meaningful to you.
  • signet rings — I think I remember Nina Garcia saying in some magazine that she likes to wear a gold signet ring with her family’s crest, on her pinky finger. As someone who doesn’t have a family crest (at least as far as I know), I always liked the idea of putting a small bird on a signet ring, since my maiden name means “little bird” in German.
  • short colorful necklaces — you can find these at mall stores, on Etsy, at museum stores, at mall stores…
  • a simple pendant necklace — if you can go for a good gemstone, or at least something meaningful to you.  I bought a lot of my pendant necklaces on great sales at Macy’s.
  • layered pendant necklaces — this takes a bit of thought but can be a very delicate but interesting look when done right.
  • opera-length necklaces — these aren’t very “in” right now, but I would argue that they’re a classic look.  Especially if you can find them made from simple beads, these opera-length necklaces aren’t too expensive but they can be worn in a lot of different ways — worn 3x around the neck for a shorter look, doubled around the neck (worn as a choker and a longer necklace), doubled around the neck (for a mid-length necklace), or worn long and tied in a knot at the bottom. I generally think of them as being longer than 36″.
  • brooches — these tend to be very trendy some years and not in other years, but I think they’re a classic look as well.  To be honest most of my favorites are vintage ones that I picked up through the years at flea markets.

– Don’t fall into a rut.  I’ve noted it in my 360 Review of Linda from Better off Ted, and guest poster Emily Ward-Dickerman noted it in her recent 360 review of Mack from The Newsroom — especially with necklaces it’s really easy to fall into a rut.  I’ve found that I tend to grab what’s out — so if you make a point of putting your jewelry away every night, you can keep it fresh.

When I was working my go-to basics were my diamond huggie earrings (which I honestly don’t think were that expensive) or tiny sterling silver huggie earrings, my stainless steel watch, and my pearls.  I would intersperse those with a few other earrings, a variety of pendant necklaces, and a variety of statement necklaces.  I’ve taken a few pictures below of my favorite pieces for work — I’m not saying this is an amazing collection of jewelry, but I think it can be helpful to see concrete examples of what’s worked for one woman.  It’s funny, looking at them the same colors repeat:  white, blue, red, which is a bit of a surprise — I hadn’t intended that!  But I know that blue and red both flatter my coloring, and they’re easily mixed and matched with other pieces of my wardrobe.

My favorite earrings for work:

Other earrings I’ve worn for work in the past, and would again — even if some of them are bigger, none move. I always like white earrings because they show up well against my dark hair; I think the two below are both resin earrings from Dinosaur Designs. The weird blue/purple one is actually crushed flowers from my wedding bouquet.

These are a bunch of rings I’ve worn for work through the years:

These are some of my colorful necklaces, most of them statement pieces.  I mostly built this collection after leaving BigLaw, so these might be better for a less conservative office:

And these are some of my pendants (some subdued, some not subdued).  I wore most of these to my BigLaw job (all but the big red scribble one):

These are some of my favorite brooches, most of them thrifted:

Readers, how have you built your jewelry collection?  What pieces do you get a lot of use out of, and where do you fall into ruts?


  1. lawsuited :

    Argh! I can’t imagine how much worse law school would have been if I couldn’t wear tunic sweaters, leggings and boots every day!

    • 2/3 attorney :

      I agree, this is insane. You have to dress up for the rest of your (50 year?) professional career… why start in law school? I don’t think I would fall in with the pack on this one. Just wait til finals and watch as your fancy classmates devolve into hot messes in sweatpants.

  2. Anonforthis :

    Posted at the tail of the last post so here it is again:

    Anyone see this article in Slate (link to follow)? Thoughts? I currently am the only breadwinner in our house and have been for two years. My husband is starting a company and doesn’t yet pull a paycheck (this is for the last eight months — before that he was doing other, non-income generating work). I also do some work for his company so I work more than full time. I still wind up with all the cleaning, about 90% of the cooking (anything not cooked on the grill), and more than half of the general household running (e.g., grocery shopping, gift buying, communicating with family, locking the doors at night, turning down the thermostat for the day). I never thought I’d be in this position because I always thought that I’d just talk this out with my spouse and we’d neatly divide the work down the middle. But I think because he doesn’t earn a paycheck, my husband has dug his heels in even more on not feeling like “a 50′s housewife” (his term), which means he is completely unwilling to push a vacuum, for example, and also is completely unwilling to let me mow the lawn or do “guy” work around the house. (The solution of “don’t do it and he’ll do it eventually” is a non-starter. As a bachelor he literally never cleaned his apartment. Never. Yes, it was as gross as it sounds.) I have yet to find a way to broach this subject (the uneven housework) with him that doesn’t erupt into a gigantic fight. Mostly I’m just holding on until he starts making money and we can hire a housekeeper. Just wondering if others are dealing with similar issues. (Never felt like I was being hunted for my earning potential though. Wonder if that is less common in some areas?)

    • Anonforthis :

    • I fortunately have not had to deal with this, but I think there are certain things that you can try in order to shift some responsibilities back to him. For instance: 1) communicating with his family? That’s now his responsibility. He needs to respond to his mom. 2) Gift buying? If it’s not for your friend or your family, it’s his responsibility. If it means his brother doesn’t get a birthday gift, that’s on your husband. I wouldn’t just stop responding to his mom’s emails, but for those that involve social events/planning, forward them to your DH and ask him to check the calendar and respond to his mother. When his brother’s birthday is coming up, send him an email that says, “you need to get your brother a birthday gift.” And, the key is for you to learn to be ok with letting things like that fall through the cracks.

      For other things, are there ways to make your life easier (i.e., buying one of those things you can plug into a thermostat and have it automatically lower the temperature, using online grocery shopping and scheduling pickups – and asking your husband to pick them up)? It doesn’t address the issue of your husband’s laziness / his issue with gender roles, but these are things that may remove yet another thing to be annoyed about.

      • I totally agree on the family stuff – as far as I’m concerned, we are each responsible for our own families, and if it doesn’t get done, it’s his problem. (Other than just helping out – I mean, if I see something that would be a good gift, I suggest it ,and I would certainly pick something up at his direction if I’m out or similar, but it’s not my “job” and I wouldn’t do it.)

        • I agree, but I think it’s so much easier said than done. Both of us are from families where it’s assumed that the woman takes care of all family-related matters. Sometimes I turn this over to my DH, but I always feel like his mom and aunts are surprised when he answers an email directed to me/us. And don’t EVEN get me started on how annoying it is that I somehow end up in charge of bringing our contribution to his family’s holiday and potluck meals.

          • Let your husband’s family be surprised. It’s not up to you to make sure that their expectations are always met.

          • In the beginning of our marriage, I did all the birthday/Christmas gifts and cards for his family. I really felt it was my job (not sure why).

            Sometime in the past 20 years it has transitioned over to him and I’ve found it works best.

          • I definitely agree it’s easier said than done, but I guess I don’t really care about other people’s expectations for my role in family-related matters. My DH and I have a couple friend where my husband and the other guy are college buddies, and for some reason his wife contacts me to make plans rather than the guys just emailing. Roughly 50% of the time, my husband emails the wife back with our availability. Just because I have female parts doesn’t mean I control all details related to my household!

            My DH and I were also very clear with each other from Day 1 that our families were our own responsibility. I think the difficulty begins when the woman takes over the social planning and communication, and then wants to walk that back and have her husband take over. This is what is happening with my BIL and SIL right now, and it’s causing a lot of hurt feelings with MIL because SIL doesn’t respond to her emails anymore and BIL won’t do his “job”.

          • Let them be surprised, and then, possibly pleasantly surprised as your DH does more with them. Who knows, once he gets into the groove, he may enjoy doing these things for his family members. :-)

    • I don’t have any specific advice for you, but I thought that the article was very interesting. I actually sent them an email on it (per the invitation to do so at the top of the article) over lunch today. Funny thing is, I earn about double what my husband earns, and, although I’m aware that it’s an interesting sociological issue, I really don’t think that it means anything at all to us. We live in a really conservative part of the country, really red state, both come from families where mom stayed home, but no one’s ever given us trouble about it at all. My husband is incredibly supportive of my career.

      As for housework, I think that it’s probably better to make it more about hours worked than money earned, which is pretty much what we do. I’ve never kept track, but I would say that I do about 65-75% of the inside work, mostly on days that he’s working and I’m off (he works an odd schedule), but he does 100% of the man chores (yard work, spider killing, lifting heavy objects, grunting). But it’s hard to say – we both consider cooking a hobby (though he will only rarely do it without me, while I prepare something nice while he’s working regularly), and I genuinely like grocery shopping, and he says he doesn’t mind mowing. But neither of us have high standards, so I think that makes it easier.

      • Anonforthis :

        Ugh, I wound up getting so into venting that I forgot to write what I really wanted to say — why is it that women pick up more of the work? I don’t buy the “women are superwomen and men are lazy” argument. What’s going on? I think it’s part of the bigger question (and I think there was a piece in the NYT magazine about this a little while back) of why it’s WAY more okay for females to cross over into “male” territory than vice versa. E.g., a little girl wears pants and plays with trucks and no one bats an eyelash; a little boy wears a skirt and plays with dolls and it’s all about whether he’s gay or gender dysmorphic. Why is it social much more okay for me to pick up a hammer and fix something than it is for my husband to wash the floors? Anyway, as for my personal situation, I think part of it is that I come from a hugely progressive/gender norms challenging background (boys wore skirts to my school sometimes and it wasn’t a big deal — we were encouraged to do things like that) while my husband comes from a hugely traditional household where his mom actively prevented her sons and husband from helping in the kitchen (that was *her* territory) and still encourages them to bring her their laundry (she has no daughters so don’t know if she’d have treated them differently).

        • I think that there are a few reasons why women pick up more of certain kinds of work. First, I think that women often simply have higher standards – you say that he would never clean the apt before you two got married. While I agree that that can be gross, at the same time, heck, he was apparently happy like that, so I can see why he would care whether it gets done now (I will admit to being more “male” on that myself – we almost never clean, say, the toilets, unless there’s company coming. If they get gross, oh well, they’re toilets.) Second is probably habit and what he was taught – if he never had to do it growing up, why would he think about it now? Third, I think, is that women do often neglect to consider the “man’s work” part, though this is something that applies far more if you have a house and garage than an apt (and I have no idea about your specific circumstance). But many men do spend quite a bit of time doing things like yard work, fixing cars, etc. And the fourth might be that women at least feel like they are the ones who will get blamed if someone notices the home being dirty and/or women are more likely to care if someone blames someone for the home being dirty. In other words, women are, in my experience, far more sensitive to the idea that someone might judge them than men (I’ve noticed that a lot here on this site, the judging thing, not about cleaning of course). Across the board broad generalizations all, of course. I’ve never personally known men who were emasculated by the idea of cleaning floors; my breadwinner, manly-man, Republican-voting dad did it routinely. But I guess some do.

          • Anonforthis :

            I think you’re right on the judgment part. I get upset if I find out my MIL was at our house without my knowledge because I think of all the mess/dirtiness she saw and that I would have cleaned up if I’d known she was coming. Not because she’s judgmental — not in the least! — it’s just how I feel. My husband, however, can’t see how anyone would care what the house looked like when company (especially family) came over.

        • I completely agree with you. As the mom to 3 boys I want them to know that men cook (which they are learning because dh does most of the cooking now as he’s home first in the evenings) and clean and can play with dolls & wear sequins if they want. When my middle son was about 3 we went to a community ‘stay & play’ program in a very small (less than 1,000 people) community that was very religious and was very traditional – most moms were SAH or worked part time, etc. The program had all kinds of dress up clothes. Dsloved putting on the pink & red sequined/satin/velvet dresses & playing with the feather boas and sparkly wands – way more than wearing the boring ‘boy’ dress up clothes that were basically printed t-shirts & hard hats. One of the other moms (of 2 boys whose son was about the same age as mine) asked me if I was worried that he liked to wear the girl clothes. I was floored. He was 3!! Who cares?

          When my oldest was about 3 he loved to help with the housework, so I thought it would be fun to get him a child size broom & dustpan. Went to Walmart. What color were they? PINK! Wanted to get him a play kitchen. What color was it? Pink & purple! We bought the kitchen anyway, but I was disgusted with the pink broom and left it in the store. Not that boys can’t like pink, but I was upset by what that pink represented.

          I know I’m lucky in that even though I have the primary career in our relationship right now, dh is more than willing to pick up the slack at home & be the primary caregiver to our boys. But that’s the way we were even before kids – whomever was home first made dinner. If the laundry needs to be done, or floor swept, or whatever, it’s done by whomever notices first or has the time first. I thank my mil who taught her boys how to cook, clean, do laundry, etc.

          OP – I hope you work things out with your dh!

        • Why is it “worse” for men to take on female traits then women to take on male traits? This is what sexism is. Women are less valued. For a man to give up his “rightful” privilege and take on a disvalued role is horrifying. For a woman to give us a devalued role and attempt to take on a privileged one is reasonable. (Though it’s not always that way. When the devalued African American tries to take on a white privilege it’s not treated as “cute” or “ok”, it’s taken as an affront.)

          It’s not just that things we (as a society of gender normative and enforcing people) dislike are feminine. It’s that specific things become devalued BECAUSE they are feminine. Teaching was a good professional job. Too many women started doing it. Men fled, and it became “day care” and “nurturing” and pink collar.

          • Hear, hear!!

          • Completely agree. This is why OP’s DH used the term “50’s housewife” in a derogatory way. Housewife = lowly and humiliating role (when in fact, if no one is keeping the house, no one can function).

          • Agree. And I’ve noticed that when the house isn’t clean and anyone is over, they make some comment to the effect that *I* must be busy with work these days, I must not be home much, etc. Despite the fact that my husband is far, far more organized and tidy than I am (and he works from home while I do not), I get the full blame for the condition of our house.

            The compromise we finally reached was for each of us to just maintain the things that are important to us (him: the house, me: the lawn) and not tell others about it. It’s none of their business, really.

    • Since you’ve tried discussing it but it always ends in a big fight, I’d suggest going to see a counselor ASAP together to talk it through to reach a compromise you can both live with. As you’ve noted, though on the surface the issue is just housework, it’s really about power. Every relationship has a power balance — if that fact is unacknowledged and unaddressed, the power in the relationship will belong mostly to the person willing to fight the hardest. You’re experiencing the difficulties of this already; if you ever have children together, it will become a nightmare. (Forgive the intense tone of this post — this power thing was a primary reason behind the breakup of my first marriage. If you want a related perspective, John Gottman has done some interesting research on the success rate of marriages in which the husband is unwilling to be influenced by his wife’s input/requests. Second time around, I found a man more interested in partnership than asserting power and control. I can’t tell you how much better it feels to be with someone who “has my back” and views all of our life together as a shared experience/responsibility.)

      • I would totally second that. Frankly, it seems to me you’re getting setup for being abandoned after his company starts doing well, with your bills and your housework. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it because of my personal experience, but you really need to address this power imbalance before you end up wrung out from dealing with everything. If nothing else, doing all the housework/menial things like family relationships just sets you up for being perceived as a drudge/a nag. For even yourself seeing yourself that way. Is this what you want out of your relationship, your life??

        If I were you, I’d start by demanding that the first revenue of the company (not salary, REVENUE) go to a housekeeper to do at least half of the cleaning chores. Because only men start companies and think that it exempts them from maintaining a decent environment to live in.

        • Is there any way for you to either ensure that you’re on the books for a portion of ownership in the company or otherwise involved in its success – since you’re also riding out the start-up? If a woman were doing the start-up, we’d be asking why she thought she could “have it all” and commiserating with her husband’s comments about the frequency of intimacy and home-cooked dinners.

    • Sorry about your situation. I can relate to this somewhat because I do the majority of the work around the house too. Luckily, my husband does help out in some areas of cleaning like vacuuming and cleaning bathrooms. And he takes care of all the yard work. I could ask him to do more, but I don’t b/c there are times where he gets irritated and grouchy while doing chores. I would rather just do it myself rather than deal with his bad mood.

      I agree with Lizbet about seeing a counselor, b/c I feel there are underlying issues that need to be addressed.

      Just curious, did his mom always clean up after him when he was growing up?

      • Anonforthis :

        On your last question, yes. And while I love my MIL, I really wish she’d taken a different tack on this one (on the whole she doesn’t stand up to/require as much from her sons as it seems she should).

    • LadyEnginerd :

      Can you keep a detailed record of all the “us” house-running tasks that you do over the course of the week and then re-start the discussion about which specific tasks you’d like for him to take over responsibility? Perhaps you can pair it with wanting to do something that is just “you” time (like joining an organization, taking a class, seeing friends after work) that takes up too much time for you to keep that responsibility on your plate? If he still digs in his heels when he sees the concrete reality of how many things are on your plate, and doesn’t work with you to get things off your list, I’d say you might need a neutral third party to step in and help you have this talk.

      Or you can go on strike and refuse to do ALL of those tasks. If he didn’t get his family presents before you were together, it can’t be the end of the world if it doesn’t happen now. Maybe PB & J’s for a month will make him want to volunteer to do the grocery shopping? Somehow, I do suspect that fantasizing about going on strike is more appealing than the reality…

      • Actually, the reality can be fine, especially if you’re in charge of the finances. If you go out for dinner while he has PB&J at home for lack of grocery shopping, a strike takes on much more meaning :-).
        I think it’s better to think of all this in terms of making sure the consequences of things being undone falling squarely on him. Your brother gets a birthday present, his does not. You do your laundry, or better yet take it out, he wears dirty shirts. You vacuum when your own family is coming over. Get my drift?
        Yes, this is really teenager education. But if it didn’t get done, you’re stuck with it. It has to happen at some point, because long-term life with him is not going to otherwise.

    • My SO works from home a great deal and gets really annoyed with me when I suggest working from home should allow him to do some of the chores. In my mind, there’s no reason you couldn’t throw a load of laundry in, but I digress. The thing that helped us get over it was recognizing between the hours of X-Y he is at work. Same as the office. Respecting that helped him feel better and maybe this would help your hubby since he is starting his own company.

      Second, old school chore chart. We had talked every which way until we both were blue in the face and I was going to kill him, charge him for cleaning and hire a housekeeper. We divided them up so one set wasn’t stuck with all the “hard” tasks and by room – have an A set or a B set. Pick piece of paper out of a hat so you get your set and then you have 2 days to accomplish everything on the list and then have to maintain it for a month. Then we swap.

      Not sure if that helps, but maybe then he won’t feel like he’s doing “girly” (UGH) stuff, but rather contributing 50% to the household same as you. If he won’t do any chores, then honestly that’s a bit disrespectful and perhaps you should go to a couples therapist.

      • When I worked from hom and hubs worked in the office, he felt I should be able to handle the majority of minor household tasks and kick off dinner nightly. But I noticed when he worked from home, he was very outspoken about my doing at LEAST half of the meals, and a healthy portion of the household tasks.

        Granted, he comes from a family that’s big on gender roles, and I rather expected the tug-of-war that opened our marriage back then, but don’t be afraid to challenge the entitlement and blindness that a lot of men carry in this area. Be fair about it – keep it on-topic and come prepared with logic and specific references … and be prepared to have the same fight over and over again. But if you maintain the “5 positive interactions for each negative interaction” ratio in your relationship and don’t back down or let him guilt you into giving in (he’ll go into the wounded little boy routine eventually and you have to be ready for that – mine even started comparing me to his friends’ stay-at-home wives, and the went into the “don’t you love me” and the “then why are we even married?” threats – stick it out), you CAN come out of it with a fairer labor division and a better marriage.

    • Agree- if you have trouble broaching the subject without a big argument, then maybe it’s time to pull in a neutral 3rd party, like a counselor.

      My fiance never cleaned a room in his life until this year (insert chronicle of gross stories here). I couldn’t just let everything go until he took care of it, because he’d really just let things get dirty. He’s in biglaw, and I’m not, so admittedly I do have more time at home, but not enough to do everything and keep up personal projects.

      Here’s how I tackled the issue: I told him repeatedly that I don’t have enough time to handle all the housework, so I need help. Don’t want to hire a housekeeper? I need you to do X,Y, and Z.
      Like a boss, I’d give him a timeline: “I need you to do X by Y date.” If I saw him playing computer games, I would say “Why don’t you do X now- it’ll take 15 mins.”

      We set 1 day aside where I said we were cleaning the whole apt. Again, like a boss, I divided up the tasks and gave him specific instructions on what he needed to do as he started each one. I was careful that he saw me working consistently. In the end, we finished in under half the time it normally takes me for the same stuff, and I handled a little more than half the work.

      • I found that putting the gross stuff in the garbage if he didn’t fix it after I’d asked 3 times worked miracles. I don’t go shopping for the replacements either.

    • Anne Shirley :

      He’s quit contributing to your home. How about you quit contributing to his business? Might help get it through his head that you aren’t innately gifted with a cleanliness gene, just an actual grownup who takes responsibility for her environment.

      • Anonforthis :

        The business is really our business, so that would just hurt me, too. Anyway, he does contribute. He mows, fixes stuff, lifts heavy things, kills gross bugs, does his own laundry, grills stuff, takes the cars to be fixed, handles the insurance (car, house, life), and does at least half of the dog care. It’s mostly kitchen stuff that bothers me, including planning meals. Left on his own, he just eats take out, which he admits isn’t good for our wallet or waistlines.

        • Cook for yourself and give him a reasonable food budget. If he wants to blow through that on take out, he can knock himself out and can cook for himself.

        • Anne Shirley :

          That sounds so different than your original scenario . . .

          If the main issue is cooking, could you try planning meals in advance? If he agrees in theory that it’s better for the wallet and waistline to eat out Saturday, and do take out Tuesday and Thursday, could you plan in advance to cook Sunday for Monday, agree together and shop for something easy for him to do Wednesday, and cook together Friday night? Or some variation that works for you. If he isn’t used to routine cooking, I think it’s pretty intimidating to step into.

          • Anonforthis :

            He still doesn’t do any of the housework (and there’s more of that than what he does) but I’ve kind of accepted that he doesn’t believe that houses need to be cleaned (see, e.g., bachelor apartment) and so if it’s going to get done, it’s going to be me. Luckily he’s 100% on board with hiring help once he’s bringing in money.

          • On the cooking front, can you have him do all the prep work, and then you do the actual cooking when you get home? He can do the prep on the weekends, the night before, that day, whatever. I would think that would be less intimidating to ease into, and I would find it so helpful to have veggies washed and chopped, pots out and ready to go, etc.

        • My husband and I have a big thing about “taking turns” for who has to pick dinner that night. I’ll admit that we often get off track and neither of us wants to pick, though we usually have leftovers handy (we practically never get take out) or a few easy dishes on the back burner. Learn how to make pasta carbonara – it takes 15 minutes and only requires things that you can always have on hand (pasta, eggs, bacon, parmasan cheese- look up Rachel Ray’s recipe). Or, just make sure that you keep things on hand that you like that are easy and healthy. (If my husband’s dragging his feet on picking, I might say something like “well, I was just going to poach and put it on a salad, but we can have something else if you want.) And make sure that you plan for left overs, so you don’t have to cook/plan every night. It definitely doesn’t have to be a big problem.

        • What you list takes about as long as cooking 3 days a month.
          Maybe you need to keep a journal, so even you can see how grossly unequal this situation is? And dog care is not housework, not if you have a dog because you like it.

    • I just want to nth the suggestion of a counselor. My partner and I have a similar situation – I have always been the primary breadwinner and possibly always will be. He was working a contact job until mid-August, and when it ended a lot of unresolved arguments about chores resurfaced. Obviously I recognize looking for a job is a lot of work, but usually by the time I got home he was watching TV and felt like he was done for the day, even if I spent some of my evening hours doing chores.

      We’ve been seeing a counselor for about 6 weeks, and it has been amazing. He’s never done individual therapy, but the relationship counselor has allowed him to explore some of his individual issues in a way that has been really helpful, too.

  3. I’d never heard of making jewelry out with crushed flowers from a special event! I love it. If anyone can recommend a particular vendor (I’m seeing several online) please do.

    • *out OF crushed flowers. Fooey.

    • I was about to post the same thing – I’ve never heard of it, but what a wonderful idea! Makes me want to go back in time and save part of my bridal bouquet for this.

      Hey, maybe when the baby comes, I could do that out of some flowers that I’m given (I assume that people will give me flowers for baby having. That’s a thing, right?)

      • Motoko Kusanagi :

        My mom has a pressed flower in my baby book (and my siblings’ baby books) from the bouquet my dad brought her in the hospital after each of our respective births. So yes, baby-having = flowers :)

      • Oh man. I knew there was a reason I obsessively save dried flowers. I love this idea!

        • This was the lady who did my earrings — we also had her dry our flowers and frame them for us. Apparently nuns have been making rosaries out of crushed flowers for years.

          • Thanks, Kat! I was about to post this same question. I still have my wedding flowers, but I just let them dry out, nothing fancy (they’re a little over a year old)…I wonder if they can still make something.

          • Thanks!

  4. I like that you posted pictures, Kat. I wear much bigger jewelry than that to my biglaw job, although my rings every day are the same and conservative (wedding/engagement ring and school ring). But I always wear earrings, necklaces (one tiny cross and one bigger necklace, usually a statement necklace but sometimes just pearls), a watch, and a bracelet. I love jewelry, and I really think it makes your outfit look much more intentional and put together.

    • For example, I wear this necklace to work:

      It’s big and bold, but I love it. It looks great over a white button up.

  5. 2/3 attorney :

    Reposting from end of today’s TPS:

    Have you guys seen this new The Skirt in Ponte? Have we seen this before? I am loving the “gold shine” (mustard) and houndstooth. Anyone tried it/have it?

    PS – still don’t understand what ponte means, pretty sure I never will.

    • I can’t tell you what ponte means, but I know the fabric has a distinct feeling/texture/look to it. I own a pair of Rock & Republic “ponte” pants… theyre glorified jeggings but the texture is different

    • Ponte is a knit fabric – usually heavier than jersey (and can be quite a bit heavier) and has less stretch than jersey as well. often called double knit, which I believe means there are two threads knit together instead of just one, which is why it is less stretchy than a regular t-shirt.

      • Actually it’s a different weave, there is a smooth jersey side on both sides of the fabric, which gives it less stretch and less drape, often a very good thing in pants for instance :-).

  6. I typically wear the following to my conservative consulting job: watch, engagement/wedding ring (Art Deco diamonds), a small aqua marine ring on my right hand that was a gift from my grandmother, small diamond studs or pearl posts, small diamond pendant or small single pearl and diamond pendant. If they go with my outfit, I also have a Navajo turquoise pendant (but not a squash blossom or anything huge, it’s got clean square lines) and a similar but not matching bracelet.

    I believe in small, nice quality jewelry, although I have a few costume items as well. Items I’d like to acquire to complete my collection are a string of good quality pearls (because they should last a lifetime) and slightly bigger diamond post earrings, because the ones I got many moons ago when I was 16 are very small and I feel that I can now pull off something slightly larger. But I think that’s about all you need for professional jewelry

  7. I have found that Nordstrom makes the most real-looking diamond pendants. They’re pricier than I would normally pay for costume jewelry, but they last forever and I actually get compliments on simple “diamond” studs and solitaire pendants from them.

  8. Brenda Hamilton :

    I am going to disagree with the “wear a watch” part. Few women I know wear a watch and few men as well. As cell phones have the time, so do computers, etc. the need for a watch has decreased.

    • Honestly, almost every serious person in my workplace wears one. Not trying to be snarky and not saying that anyone will judge you for not wearing one (I wouldn’t) but I disagree that the need for a watch has decreased. Checking the time on your phone/computer is not always appropriate or possible in a meeting, and it is nice to have a discreet way to do so. Plus a watch is just a nice piece of jewelry – I always feel much more put together when I wear one.

      • +1

      • Exactly. I feel that it’s extremely unprofessional to check the time on your phone during a meeting, and equally unprofessional to run late to your next meeting because the first meeting ran overtime.

      • Agreed.

      • Well said AIMS. I got a nice watch from my parents as a law school graduation gift, and I wear it every single day for precisely those reasons.

      • I agree that it’s not always appropriate to check the time on your phone, and I basically feel naked without my watch.

      • Totally. Plus, a watch is a piece of jewelry, and one that men understand well. My Danish design watch says a lot about what qualities I like to show in my work, imho.

    • Yeah, few women (serious or not) at my workplace wear one either, and the ones who do often wear a pretty beat-up, old one that doesn’t really attract positive attention. Personally, I’d love to wear a watch but even ones that claim to be nickel-free generally have some nickel in the dial you use to set the time, so I’ve given up trying to find one that’s appropriately hypoallergenic.

    • I disagree with you (and agree with Kat). Even though I see people looking at a phone and know I should be thinking that they are just checking the time, I can’t help but feel like it sends the message that they are expecting a call/ email that is more important than me. A quick watch glance is (1) more discrete and (2) doesn’t send that sort of message.

      • This. I wouldn’t feel comfortable checking my phone in a meeting, but a quick glance at my watch is much more discreet.

    • And I’m going to agree with Brenda. I think it depends on the environment. I work in tech. And the only people I see wearing watches as part of the uniform tend to be older. I do wear one occasionally, but usually only if I know I’m going to be in a conference room without a clock for a large part of my day.

      I also just realised that if I’m wearing a watch, it’s hardly ever for time keeping purposes. I usually wear a watch as jewelry. (I have worn a stopped watch to dinner with my husband before)

      • Honey Pillows :

        Tech has it’s own rules, of which most of us government/law/copor3tte ladies are envious. :-)

    • Cornellian :

      I really think a watch is more appropriate. It can come off as very rude and distracted to pull out a phone and glance at it, but it’s easy to sneak a peek at your wrist. It definitely comes across that way to me in interviews. I think any clean, non-beat up watch will do, I’m certainly not an expert on jewelry brands.

      Not wearing a watch sometimes come across as juvenille or a bit “lady of leisure” to me, to be honest. Wearing a watch makes me assume you care about punctuality and my time.

    • I interviewed for a clerkship at a state appellate court, and one of the questions one of the Judges asked me was, “Are you wearing a watch?” When i said no, she said “Is that because you rely on your cell phone to tell you the time?” As it happened, my watch was broken and that’s why I wasn’t wearing it.

      I also find a watch really valuable for keeping track of billable time. Personally most of my clothes don’t have pockets for my cell phone, and if I am walking in the hallway and someone grabs me to talk about a certain case (I honestly feel that impromptu meetings are far too common at my office but that’s a different issue), it’s helpful to know what time it is so i can keep track of my billables.

      • Cornellian :

        Exactly. Being grabbed on the way out of the bathroom, I’m not going to run back and check my computer. And I think wearing a watch can only help you in the way you appear to others, whereas not wearing one obviously has negative connotations for many of us.

      • PS: I told the Judge that, actually, my watch was broken, but normally I would be wearing one, and then babbled some inarticulate version of the billable time thing above, and she looked unpersuaded (as they say) and I think that part of the interview might be partly why I didn’t get the clerkship. :(

        At least I am prepared for that question/issue if it should ever come up again!

        • DC Lawyer :

          Many courthouses don’t allow cell phones beyond security. It’s a Homeland Security issue in some cities.

          • :-). Reminds of the meeting at the local consulate, where 3 of us, amputated from our cells at the door, freaked out at scheduling anything :-).

      • Migraine Sufferer :

        I, seriously, can’t wear a watch because something about me messes with watch batteries and inevitably they quit working. I’m also not good about winding a manual. S0- no watch for me, though I adore many of them.

    • Blonde Lawyer :

      I had to get a watch for court. My local courtrooms do not have clocks for some reason and I would never pull out my cell phone in front of the judge. I was originally a paralegal so I wasn’t allowed to bring a cell phone into the federal courthouse. The only way for me to tell time was the watch on my wrist. First time I had to wrangle witnesses I didn’t have one and had to borrow one of the attorneys. The two attorneys then shared a watch that they left on counsel table. I was mortified. My watch is currently away for repairs and I miss it SOOOO MUCH! I’m now fully on team watch.

    • MissJackson :

      I actually strongly disagree with your disagreement. I know that many people use their cell phone to tell the time, but — have you ever been in a serious meeting where someone keeps checking the time on their cell phone? It’s distracting, and often looks like the person is disengaged from the meeting (hard to tell the difference between checking the time and checking to see if you have emails). Checking your watch (so long as it is not over exaggerated and accompanied by sighing and foot tapping) is usually very discrete.

      • MissJackson :

        Ha — I got interrupted while posting this and in the meantime everyone else said exactly the same thing.

    • Former mental health worker :

      Watches are not big at my office. I cannot wear metal, so I stopped wearing watches way before people used their phones to tell time. I have met several others with metal sensitivity who have the same issue.

    • This watch thing is total news to me. I haven’t worn one in 15+ years and have never felt like I needed one. =/

      • long-time lurker :

        Ditto! and I work in law and am pretty senior.

        • Anonymous :

          Not senior, but def never heard or thought of it to be an issue. As usual, I believe a lot of commenters with strong opinions on the subject are projecting.

    • eastbaybanker :

      I think wearing a nice watch is part of hanging with the boys in offices with a more masculine culture, seeing as they can be such a guy status symbol. I also agree that they convey that you are serious in a certain way, even in jobs without billable hours. That said, lately I’ve been favoring more fashion type watches lately over my “nice” watch.

  9. Woods-comma-Elle :

    Likewise – when I started working in an office I wore a watch for a while but then I was always taking it off because it got in the way of typing and never looked at it so I just stopped wearing one.

    • I often take my watch off when I’m at my desk for this same reason – but I still wear it. In fact, yesterday I forgot to put on both my watch and a ring that I wear every day and I felt totally “off” all day.

    • This is why I am eagerly awaiting the day that big cluunky oversized watches go out of style.

    • Cornellian :

      Maybe a soft band would help? I have a similar feeling about bracelets, and cannot wear bracelets or rings, but somehow my watch is fine…

    • If your watch interferes with typing, it may be that you’re doing it while resting your wrists? Serious path to carpal tunnel problems! Please, please, check out some ergonomics info and take care of your body. Even if you type slower for a couple days, you won’t have to stop working because of disability.

  10. Ah I’m so glad you posted this. I’m 23, working in consulting and up until now I didn’t have enough money to even think of accessories, so now I’m buying lots of necklaces/bracelets, some that I want to wear to work, some I don’t.

  11. EastCoastAtty :

    Looking for wedding gift ideas. Couple is a late 20s professional couple. Groom is my high school friend/old boyfriend. They’ve been living together forever and have only registered for a couple high end household items (definitely to appease the relatives), and a few charities. They are very well off–it would feel very strange to give them cash as a gift–and, I know they don’t want it.

    DH and I are planning to make a donation in their name, but I’d like to actually get them something as well…so, a few questions:
    1) how much is appropriate to donate in their name? (NYC wedding, black tie, very professional circle) I try to stay away from cash gifts, so this would be the first cash-ish gift I’ve given to a non-relative for a wedding.

    2) Do I include any sort of info on the donation with their wedding card? Or just put their names down on the “in honor of” line in the online form? On their wedding website where the charities are listed, they specifically say “be sure to let us know if you donate so we can thank you” or something like that.

    3) If the charity is a 401c(3), can i deduct my donation? Or does the couple get to do it? (if i can, I’ll had 30% to the donation!!)

    4) any ideas on nice, small (<$50?) gifts to accompany the donation and card?

    • 1. I do $250. Same city, same circle, also a couple. This is often in addition to a shower and/or engagement party gift from the registry.
      2. I would say that you made a donation in honor of their wedding in the card. I would not include the amount – they can find out from the charity.
      3. The deduction is yours. I personally would be stingy and not gross up, but your call.
      4. Picture frame.

      • I can’t answer a specific for #1 b/c I’m in a different region, but for #2 I would yes, mention that you made a gift to X charity in their name. Any charity worth its salt (I can say this because I’m a nonprofit fundraiser by trade) will send the couple a nice note saying that Jane X and John Y made a gift in their honor, but will not divulge the amount. You can also put a note to the charity reiterating that you want them to alert the honorees.

        The deduction is yours. I’ve never heard of the honoree taking it instead, but others may know more than I do about this.

        I like Paloma’s Nest (Google her) for unique gifts in the price range you specified that won’t break the bank.

        • Hmm, interesting re: not divulging. We had a death in the family recently and the relative making the arrangements noted two (legit) charities where people could make donations in lieu of flowers. The family received donor lists with amounts from both.

        • I really like Paloma’s Nest – I got a Christmas ornament from them and also a personalized ring bowl with our wedding date. That would be something sweet and sentimental.

      • EastCoastAtty :

        Bah, no picture frames. Was hoping for something a little more creative, but I’m not creative :)

        • Laduree macarons have become my go to local gift for people who don’t want “stuff,” though I haven’t done this for a wedding… definitely wouldn’t hand this to them day of.

    • (Posting issues – sorry in advance if this pops up twice.)

      I can’t answer a specific for #1 b/c I’m in a different region, but for #2 I would yes, mention that you made a gift to X charity in their name. Any charity worth its salt (I can say this because I’m a nonprofit fundraiser by trade) will send the couple a nice note saying that Jane X and John Y made a gift in their honor, but will not divulge the amount. You can also put a note to the charity reiterating that you want them to alert the honorees.

      The deduction is yours. I’ve never heard of the honoree taking it instead, but others may know more than I do about this.

      I like Paloma’s Nest (Google her) for unique gifts in the price range you specified that won’t break the bank.

    • Anne Shirley :

      I’d do $200 donation (my personal rule of thumb is $100, unless I found your wedding inconvenient, in which case $75). I wouldn’t get them a gift as well, since it seems pretty clear they don’t want stuff, but would put a bit more effort into finding a really lovely card, and mentioning the donation in it.

    • I think those Nambe heart shaped bowls are pretty and appropriate for a wedding, and the small one is under $50.

      • I personally wouldn’t do this for an ex. And even if it’s so long in the past that that’s not an issue, I really get the sense that the couple doesn’t need more knick-knacks (particularly of the $30 variety..). OP said she hasn’t given cash outside the family in the past – rest assured that this is EXTREMELY common and a standalone cash/cash-like gift is totally appropriate. If you can’t think of something small and tasteful to add on, it’s really not necessary.

  12. Ugh, I wrote a whole long thing and my browser crashed. Oh well. I think when building a collection, you should think quality over quantity, and keep in mind that quality can be fake, too — not all “fashion” jewelry is created equal.

    I like Lord & Taylor for “real” jewelry (but note not all L&T stores have a real jewelry dept., I like the one on 5th and 38 in NYC) – you can get great classic jewelry, esp. if you wait for a Friends & Family sale, when you get an extra 25% off of sale prices). I also get a lot of stuff from the Metropolitan Museum of Art gift shop – some real, some not, but all interesting and different without being “too much” for work. I like etsy and, if you can find them, fair trade gift shops – you can find some great stuff there. I’ve also stumbled onto great treasures at the Jcrew outlet and BR, so it never hurts to look there either. I also like Nordstrom Rack and NM Last Call – Last Call often has “designer” jewelry from David Yurman or Stephen Dweck on serious discount, esp. after the holidays.

  13. I also grew up in a non-professional background and had never worn jewelry or known anyone who had. Here are my tips for building a jewelry collection that is appropriate for professional occasions but also neutral enough to wear everyday, at a minimal cost.

    1. Pick a metal (gold or silver) that looks best on you. Buy all your pieces in that metal so they all go together and you don’t have to spend money on multiples of the same type of jewelry. Don’t buy jewelry in fake metals; it may dye your neck green and it will look tarnished and cheap in a matter of months.

    2. Buy a watch. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Either pick a metal one that matches your preferred jewelry metal, or wear a leather one in a neutral color. Do not buy a plastic or digital one.

    3. Buy 1 or 2 sets of stud earrings you can wear with literally everything (e.g. pearls or diamond/cubic zirconia). Make sure the backs of the earrings are in your preferred metal color.

    4. Buy necklace chains in your preferred metal color in two different lengths to wear with different types of shirts. Pick out a few pendants that can be worn on the chains to switch up your look. Alternately or additionally, buy a string or two of pearls.

    5. I don’t think bracelets are necessary, but if you like bracelets, buy one that is not jingly (i.e. not a charm bracelet) in your preferred metal color. A pearl or diamond tennis bracelet is always nice too. If you’re wearing a watch on the same wrist, make sure the bracelet will look okay with your watch.

    6. Rings aren’t necessary unless it’s your wedding/engagement ring. I also would say that wedding rings can be the exception to matching metals – if you husband got you a gold engagement ring but you really look better in silver, don’t feel like you have to match all your jewelry to the gold ring.

    Ta-da, you have a collection of jewelry to wear to the office. Once you have these basics, as you can afford it you can branch out into more fun stuff.

    • this is good advice, and actually still describes my jewelry wardrobe 4 years in – I’ve “upgraded” a few of the pieces (larger pearl studs, solitaire diamond pendant necklace to replace one with a silver charm) over time and am very happy with the curated, classic collection that’s developing.

      • Yeah, it describes most of my jewelry now too. I wish someone had given me this advice when I was just starting out. I spent my first couple years as a lawyer wearing cheap stuff from H&M and F21 or quirky stuff I’d picked up while traveling, and I cringe when I see pictures of myself – I look like a kid playing dress-up with her grandma’s costume jewelry and her mom’s ill-fitting suit. Live and learn, I guess.

        • emcsquared :

          This is making me feel bad – I have been practicing law for several years and wear jewelry from Target literally every day (like, all of my watches, most of my necklaces). The little pendants and studs remind me of being a little girl on Easter and my mom picking out the tiniest jewelry from her collection for me. That look makes me feel junior and insecure and lacking personality…

          So here’s my question – as long as I’m not trying to wear cheap fake jewels or cheap fake precious metals, is there anything wrong with wearing cheap but interesting necklaces and watches?

          I tend to wear my jewelry more in an effort to add color/interest to otherwise boring outfits (since I’m not really an innovative dresser) – a necklace of turquoise faux-glass beads and carved wood, or a multi-strand necklace of small green seed beads and mirrors for instance. They usually don’t have metal in them (other than a clasp sometimes) so there isn’t anything to look “fake.” They are just color and texture against a white blouse, solid color turtleneck or black sheath dress.

          I wear real pearls and an expensive (but hated) watch to client meetings, interviews, court, etc, so this is more of a day-to-day question.

          • eastbaybanker :

            Well, to make you feel better–remember those resin chain necklaces that were big last spring? The Tory Burch version was $200; I bought the $10 version at Target and will probably still wear it through the fall on more casual work days. I also have a statement necklace of copper seed beads from Forever 21 that is in rotation.

            That said, you might want to take a break from Target and check out Etsy. You can get similar styles of simple beaded necklaces, but in semi-precious stone instead of glass. The weight and color of a more substantial material will look a lot nicer without breaking the bank. You don’t have to ditch all your accesories, but next time you’re thinking of buying something, just do a little research. You’d be surprised at what $30 can buy you, instead of the Target $10.

          • I do this t0o. I have allergic reactions to most metals, so I tend to go with inexpensive beaded items because that’s what I can wear without getting a rash. However I work in government and it’s not really an environment where it’s really appropriate to go around wearing pearls or anything that seems expensive. The environment is also not conservative in terms of dress. Women are much more likely to go around wearing a brightly colored beaded necklace from H&M than a strand of pearls.

          • Sorry – did not mean to make anyone feel bad! I think if you’re not new to jewelry and trying to build up a basic collection and learn how to wear it, it’s fine to have stuff from Target and other cheaper places and to wear funky jewelry. I just think that jewelry beginners should start with the basic stuff. Obviously all of the jewelry Kat pictured is on the non-basic side, and I think it all looks great.

          • I also wear cheaper, bolder jewelry. I feel like if I’m wearing a boring suit, and boring shirt, and I put on my boring pearl necklace, I look boring. If I put on my multi-strand, multi-tone, multi-size beaded Kohl’s necklace suddenly it’s a professional but not stuffy outfit. If I put on the 1960s orange bakelite bead necklace it’s great.

            I try to avoid anything that is “trying” to look traditional. My pearls are real. I wouldn’t wear plastic that is painted to look like metal. I also try to wear things that don’t look “teenagery.” Finally, I try for it to be a little “unique” when I can. If someone asks about that necklace and you can say, oh it’s a fossilized tribolite from Texas or whatever, it doesn’t matter that it was 4.99 and there are billions of them.

    • With respect to “preferred metal,” mine is definitely silver and about 2/3 of my jewelry is silver. That said, I look fine in gold too and sometimes gold goes better with my outfit so I really like that I have some gold pieces as well. I agree with starting with one to keep things simple while initially establishing nicer wear-to-work jewelry, but if you like both, I wouldn’t hold fast to this rule longer term.

  14. Honestly, I don’t worry about ruts when it comes to jewelry. I would rather have few classic investment pieces that I can rely on and that never risk looking cheap. Boring, maybe, but I’d rather counter the boring with a more modern cut or color in my clothes, which are less expensive.

  15. Brooklyn, Esq. :

    How do you all budget/plan for furniture/household purchases?

    Husband and I just turned 30. We have a nice-sized apartment now (upgraded from the tiny law school hovel), but our furniture is a mix of Ikea and Target’s best, with a 2 or 3 nicer pieces from his parents. I bought a C&B couch with my first big paycheck last year and we recently invested in a new mattress, but I crave a nicer/more space efficient dining table and chairs, bookcases, new towels, rugs, bedding, etc. I want to slowly build a nicer collection of furniture so I don’t need to get everything at once, but I’m sort of not able to conceptualize (a) how much to plan to spend on furniture, (b) how much to save to get to those goals, (c) how to convince the husband that it’s worth replacing the Craigslisted tables and lamps left over from my childhood. I love reading Apartment Therapy and all the other house blogs, but in a way I think that makes me crave more than is reasonable. How do you all figure this out?

    PS: Have any of you ever had a handyman install shelving for you? I want to run a couple long shelves down a long hallway (but up near the very high ceiling), and I want it to look better than I could do myself (built in & painted, preferably). If you’ve done anything like this, any idea what it might cost?

    • First, figure out what rooms really need the furniture and figure out what your style is. Then keep a running list of what you want for each room and the sizes you need and do lots of window shopping to figure out what a good price is. Example, we knew that we wanted a Parsons chair style for our dining room and ended up finding some really nice faux leather ones at a department store of all places a couple of years later. Our bedroom set for the first several years of our marriage was a yard sale dresser and a nice mattress on a frame until we decided that we wanted to do a proper bedroom set. You can do it piece by piece, room by room. Also, fun accessories and bedding can be found pretty cheaply and can make a big difference to that end table you have had since college.

    • Me too! I have trouble throwing/giving away something “still good.” Growing up we only replaced things that were done. But, now, I’m working one or two things at a time. Towels last month.

      I love: They do one project at a time and have good value sources. Craigslist, Target, Joss & Main, etc can still give you a deal on an item here and there.

    • If it’s feasible, don’t write off Craigslist. My partner and I had an idea of what brands we wanted, live in a reasonably sized city, and had access to a car. That combination of factors allowed us to get some really good deals off Craigslist, including a Room & Board recliner for $200 (originally probably close to $1500) and some great ladder bookshelves for 1/2 of their retail price. Rich, middle-aged people in the suburbs of our city get rid of perfectly good furniture all the time.

      Don’t replace something just because of where it came from – replace it because you don’t need it and it doesn’t work in your live anymore, or because you found something better you do like. I still have my dresser from high school, and even though it’s not great quality I haven’t found anything I like better to replace it with yet.

      As far as cost, I’m not sure how much this varies by city, but we live in the Twin Cities and spent about $7500. That purchased a new bed, new mattress, new bedding, closet system to replace my partner’s dresser, two bookshelves, coffee table, sofa, recliner, rug, small dining room table, 8 chairs, some end tables, a filing cabinet, and miscellaneous decorative items. We only paid full price for a few items. Everything else came from the Room & Board outlet, clearance at CB2, or Craigslist.

  16. Curious if anyone else has the same hang up I do. I don’t think I should buy jewelry for myself. Whenever I start looking, it just feels wrong. I have some pearls and nice opals that my dad gave me years ago, but now that I’ve been a single mom for nearly 10 yrs, it doesn’t look like anyone’s showing up to buy me baubles any time soon. Can you relate?

    • Honey Pillows :

      I understand the feeling, but even better is looking at jewelry like the status symbol it can be. Not only do you have the means to wear shiny pretties, but you have the means to buy it for yourself!

      My mother has some very nice jewelry that men have given her, but she has more jewelry that she bought for herself, that’s more expensive, classier, and more to her tastes. Her motto was that she didn’t need a man to support her, and she sure as h3ll didn’t need a man to buy her jewelry, but she’d take it if they were offering.

    • No one was ever buying me jewelry as well and I splurged on a beautiful pair of diamond earrings several years ago. I don’t regret it at all and I am glad I did it. Plus it always makes me extra proud that I was able to do that for myself.

    • When I realized that I didn’t have any decent jewelry and wanted some to spruce up my look, I decided that twice a year when my ESPP vested I would take a couple hundred dollars and spend it on jewelry. It gives me something to look forward to, a known budget amount, and the rest goes to big savings goals.
      I realized that my clothes style was pretty basic and functional but I could do a lot to spruce up my look with semiprecious jewelry. I work in a lab so don’t spend a ton on clothes that have to be functional and could be ruined but nice jewelry can really dress up a basic look.
      At first it felt weird but now I look forward to it!

    • Yes! I know exactly how this feels, though I recognize how warped it is. I recently bought myself something small (a Blue Nile sterling silver necklace under $50 that I LOVE) and now I’m feeling ready to go bigger.

    • Why don’t you pick out a nice piece of jewelry with your kid and give it to yourself from him or her? Gifts of jewelry don’t have to come from a man. Also, I think it’s fine to buy yourself a gift to celebrate your kid’s milestone birthdays – after all, it’s the anniversary of when you became a mom.

    • lawsuited :

      Treat yo self, JenK!!

    • In my culture, a woman receiving jewelry is A Big Deal. When I was a little girl, I had this concept of My Own Jewelry, which was separate from my mom’s, that had been gifted to me since birth. I took pride in every piece my parents and their friends gave me. I remember asking my dad for a pair of earrings once when I was around 12 and he said that my husband will buy it for me. Fast forward, no husband. And I began wondering exactly What The H3ll am I waiting for. I have money to buy the jewelry I want. It felt supremely unnatural the first time but it gets way easier. And now I’m on my way to a respectable gold collection, all paid for by me.

  17. karenpadi :

    Oh, I love jewelry. Kats advice is solid. I started pretty conservative: diamond studs for law school graduation and fake pearls from target. My first big purchase was a simple diamond necklace and later I got a sapphire ring. I would say that my taste has only gotten more bold–yes, I wear a 33 carat topaz ring to work. My latest rut is a more costume-y necklace and earring set that didnt break the bank.

    I love buying good jewelry for myself. I don’t understand why anyone would let someone else pick out an expensive piece that I will wear for the next few years. My heart breaks when I am in a jewelry store and a guy is arguing with a woman about which ring she should wear for the rest of her life.

  18. Corporate Fledgling :

    I use the same rule for jewelry that others may use for perfume: It should be so subtle that others only notice it when they get close. My necklaces and earrings match my work attire, whether it’s my pearl earrings (love to wear them with a nice button-down and sweater) or my small Australian opal necklace (adds a little color to a black and white dress). I suppose the important thing is that all the pieces (clothes, shoes, jewelry) make a complete package.

  19. Naive summer associate here. Is wearing jewelry on a daily basis such a work MUST–i.e. you simply cannot look professional without it–OR are we discussing it as another option to self-expression, to jazz up and add some personal interest to an otherwise fairly standard office outfit? I wore almost no jewelry at my biglaw job this summer and felt very comfortable/appropriate…but did everyone else in the office think I look weird/jewelry-naked? Yikes.

    (I’m excluding from “jewelry” the watch and wedding/engagement/signet ring combo that everyone’s recommended–these seem to serve some cognizable function independent of looking good, and they’re not what I’m wondering about here.)

    If it’s just self-expression, I’m a bit of a wild dresser in my non-work life, so I feel no deprivation in looking a little boring. I am happy to continue looking boring 70% of the time so long as this doesn’t affect my professional credibility/authority…

    • No, of course it’s not a MUST. Do what you like. Some people fidget with jewelry and that makes them look unprofessional. You do you.

  20. PearlsPearls :

    Some fun pearls. I bought a slightly different one they don’t sell anymore, but this one was close second. I like knotted or loose. If you get restrung with clasp, can wear tripled and works with all necklines, casual, corporate, up to semi-formal.

    (My stylist friend says long necklaces like this are slimming. I think esp so when worn with shirt/shell and suit blazer open.)

    Then I have some more formal pearls I wear when I am being more posh/conservative. I am not a white/beige pearls personality person. I feel like with dark color pearls it’s a little more former-punk-in-a-suit kind of vibe.

    I have the 16″ of these, AAA. They are REALLY classy and look like stuff that retails for WAY more $$. They were a bday gift from my husband. How, oh, how could he have figured out they were JUST what I wanted.

    If you are richer than me, that site also has some gorgeous Tahitian and other lovelies I’ve never even heard of but wow.

    Oh wait, here are the ones I bought bluenile, seems like they might bring them back, maybe?

    I was a little pearl obsessed earlier in the year.

    • Oooh, those are pretty. I’m a conservative dresser in general and feel downright dowdy when I add regular pearls to the mix. But these! I could totally do these.

      • PearlsPearls :

        If you like it less conservative, maybe “baroque” pearls?

        Aspirational Power Pearls:

        (…which were inspired by Pelosi’s)

        All right, enough jewelry dreams, off to mediation.

  21. mary jones :

    I love the wear hats with my jewelry to church.

    All my hats are purchased from this place:

    Womens Church hats

  22. I like to keep my jewelry simple. I don,t want to have to match up earring and bracelets every morning to outfits.I think I saw this on someones blog before,but I wear the same pieces everyday to make my life a little simpler. I wear my gold signet ring on my left pinky ring,a gold watch on my left wrist and a pair of gold studs.they go with everything and looks very professional

  23. It isn’t necessary for a professional woman to stick to the same pieces when it comes to jewellery, such as diamonds and pearls. There are heaps of interesting pieces available that are affordable, look stylish and elegant and are acceptable in an office environment. An original necklace or bracelet can transform an ordinary suit and make you stand out from others – and not for the wrong reasons either. It’s fine to be individual and unique, just have some taste when it comes to choosing select pieces.