How to Edge Up a Conservative Look

how to be edgy.indexedHow can you “edge up” a conservative look (and still look professional)? Reader T wonders…

I’m in a creative field (aspiring commercial director) and recently came out of a personal branding seminar where I was given the suggestion to “edge up” my look, which I think is actually a good idea. I dress pretty polished (J. Crew, Theory) – any suggestions? I do tend towards bold shoes and bright handbags, but I think that’s not enough and need something visible from the waist up (i.e. during an interview or over coffee). I’m leaning towards always making sure I have one statement piece of jewelry – chunky ring or bib necklace – but would love to hear other suggestions, from the temporary (giving my hair a gray streak, painting one nail a different color) to the more permanent (a small tattoo on the wrist). Any suggestions for how to do this without spilling over into kooky art-teacher land?

My gut reaction here: gaaah, don’t get a tattoo! I actually think the statement piece of jewelry idea is a good one — this is one of the only times I would encourage someone to think “volume” in terms of accessories, but layered bracelets, rings, or necklaces can all have a big impact. There are lots of other ways to edge up your look in ways that are not permanent. Here are some ideas on ways to push your naturally-conservative style towards an edgier vibe:

1) Personality glasses (also called “birth control glasses” by some of the readers). These won’t necessarily be flattering or attractive, but they will make an impact — see, e.g., the J.Crew catalog and the various bespeckled models there. For bonus points: get a pair of sunglasses and have the dark lenses changed to clear lenses; also consider checking out the mens’ section.  Even getting a classic pair of sunglasses, like the RayBan Wayfarers, converted into eyeglasses can make a big impact; choosing an unusual color can also be an easy way to make your look edgier.

2) Go for impact makeup.  For example: if I were to stop wearing all makeup except for dark red lips, that would make a huge statement. (See, e.g., Tilda Swinton’s Oscars 2009 look.)  Make sure you find a great red that doesn’t change colors, and stays put when you want it to.

3) Get a a bold haircut.  Can you pull off a pixie cut? Alternatively, I like your gray streak idea — I’ve also seen very sophisticated “ombre” effects involving colors like blue and hot pink.  Part of this depends on your age, I think: if you’re over 30, the time for trying out pink or blue hair has passed.  If you decide to color your hair, though, I beg of you: find a top notch colorist to do it.  Particularly with edgy looks, that makes all the difference between “chic” and  “oh, there must have been a home hair-dye disaster.”

4) Study your wardrobe.  The easy advice here is to switch to all black and throw in a few very outre, of-the-moment accessories (fur vests, huge neon watches, etc.) (If you’re in a fashion or design industry these should probably all be real items, not knockoffs.)  You could also consider wearing just one color.  I remember a New York magazine piece a few years ago about a woman who wore only blue — she was so committed to it that she even bought white Louboutins and dyed them blue with a special blue Sharpie.

I would probably only choose one or two of these ideas, but that’s me.  Readers, what edgier looks have you seen that could have grown out of more conservative looks?  Have you ever felt the need to make your look more edgy?


  1. Hey, Birth Control Devices (BCDs in ArmyTalk) are actually standard-issue military equipment!

    The civilian counterpart–which are far less ugly and come in many more varieties–is Architect Glasses.

    • Former Army here, and boy were they ugly. Seriously ugly. I wore my contacts instead in Basic.

      • Agreed. They should go back to the prior (Buddy Holly glasses) version like woah.

      • You were allowed to wear contacts in basic?! Luckily, I didn’t develop the need for vision correction until my basic training days were well behind me, but contacts were not an option in basic when I was there. I had a lot of schadenfreude moments at the prissy girls having to wear BCGs [birth control goggles. Air Force version]

        • Oh I didn’t ask permission. I just did it on the sly. Not the smartest move–lots of dust on the firing range and out in the field it was hard to clean them. But I was young and dumb and full of p!ss and vinegar.

    • I wear a pair of “architect glasses”, I think; squat rectangle frames in black. I stumbled upon the style eight years ago and it’s become my signature to the point where I would look seriously strange in contacts. Also makes me look vaguely hipster–well, I’ll take the good with the bad. ;)

  2. and so anon :

    I agree, do not get a tattoo. Many will see it as tacky, and it’s not terribly original or all that creative.

    Bracelets and rings might get in the way, a haircut and new makeup might work, but you have to be prepared to maintain them, and directors sometimes work crazy hours.

    I would try scarves.

    • Cher got her tatoos removed in?? the late 80s? By 95 in any case. So don’t think they’re any sort of edgy at all..

  3. Has anyone seen this post over at Above the Law – quite a contrast in fashion advice! Then again, they are talking about summer associate attorneys practicing before judge’s…

    • SF Bay Associate :

      I was just coming over here to link to that. Main points posted below:

      Suits and Separates
      Skirt suit or no skirt suit? If you’re going to wear a suit, a skirt suit registers better than a pant suit. In male-dominated fields like law, skirts and dresses are particularly rewarded, as they are more appealing to men. In interview situations in particular, women should always wear a skirt or dress, as it is heavily favored over pants by interviewers (many of whom are men).
      Collared shirt or collarless shirt? As a general rule, work to create balance in your outfits. If you’re wearing pants, opt for something more feminine on top (that means a collarless blouse or sweater). If you’re wearing a more flowing skirt on the bottom, a collared shirt is fine, but consider belting it to make it more feminine. And if you must wear a traditional oxford shirt, be sure it is extremely well tailored and fitted (and consider rolling the sleeves, adding a necklace, and slightly popping the collar). I almost always favor silk blouses over collared oxfords (if the blouses are sheer, be sure to wear a camisole underneath).
      Can women wear blazers instead of cardigans? Blazers are great — especially with skirts. With pants, I prefer a cardigan (it’s softer and adds more feminine lines).
      Is it appropriate to do separates (e.g., a black skirt with a colorful jacket) in front of a judge? Every judge is different. I’ve heard many different answers to this question, so the best bet is to either (a) know how conservative the judge is in advance, and then dress accordingly, or (b) opt for the safe (albeit boring) outfit in front of the judge. Court is the place where you can afford to take the fewest liberties. Items like patterned hosiery, or fishnets, or anything too loud and colorful are not good options in this instance. Think conservative and structured, as opposed to flowy and feminine.
      And for the men, what color suit should they wear? Black, navy, small pin stripe, or grey. Avoid brown or olive green — it looks dated.

      How high is too high for heels? For a law firm, anything over 3.5 inches is too high (if there’s a small platform (1 inch or less), 4 inches is the limit).
      Is there some unity on open-toe — omg, peep-toe! — shoes? A good rule of thumb is to follow the lead of the most senior woman at the firm. If/when she wears open-toe shoes, you can, too.
      What about flats? Avoid flats, except in emergencies. They do nothing for your stature or outfit, and they are some of the least powerful footwear you can wear.
      What kind of shoe is most appropriate for men? Avoid super-pointy or square-toed shoes. Opt for a slightly rounded toe. Black or saddle brown are best.

      • Anonymous NYer :

        Sorry, at 5’10” with problem feet and back, I wear flats everyday. Cute ones, of course, in pewter and with fun buckles, etc., but I’m not killing myself in heels because some stylist chick thinks I look weak. For interviews I break out some 2 inch heels, just b/c with hose & skirt I think they look better (firmly on team no hose ordinarily). Granted, I’m lucky that I’m tall so I already project the same sort of stature, but jeez, wear cute flats if you want to/need to.

        Also, not a SA, but a new lawyer, but I would never begrudge a woman for wearing flats.

        • and so anon :

          I wear a very low heel myself out of practicality and principle. I think a low heel creates a better proportion than flats, but at some point you really have to focus on the person’s work and background, not her appearance.

        • Former MidLevel :

          Agreed. There is nothing wrong with flats.

        • I love flats. First of all, heels would look ridiculous in my workplace–I work in a school. And secondly, I just think they’re more comfortable. I have cute, professional-looking ones. If you have a problem with that, tough.

      • and so anon :

        I don’t think it’s bad advice, it’s essentially a polished preppy look, e.g., the Oxford shirt and necklace. What summer associates would be appearing before judges?

        Yes, it’s tailored to the male gaze. Don’t expect too much change until there are a lot more women partners and judges.

        • “What summer associates would be appearing before judges?”

          Well I was never BigLaw, but at both my summer gigs (both state-level gov’t agencies) I frequently went to court with the attorneys in my office. Eventhough I never argued before the Court, I was expected to be appropriately dressed for the occassion.

          • Agreed. My former law firm frequently brought summer associates to court. Of course, they were expected to wear suits.

        • lucy stone :

          In both the state where I went to law school and the state where I practice now, you’re allowed to get admitted under the student practice rule. I tried a case and did intake and bail hearings as a rising 3L and during my 3L year.

      • I wonder–at 4’11”, can I get away with a slightly higher heel? Will anyone be able to tell (provided I can still walk in them)?

    • SF Bay Associate :


      Nail polish and nails: length / shape / color? Keep nails short, clean, and simple (clear or just a very translucent pink). If you’re going to use a color, keep the colors classic — a deep red, a pale pink — and the nails extra short.
      Do women really have to wear makeup? Wear at least a little bit of makeup. Studies have proven that women in makeup are rewarded in the workplace and perceived as more competent. At a minimum, use mascara and lip gloss — and a little healthy glow on your cheeks can give a nice boost, as well.

      How to Stand Out

      Let’s talk about hosiery — are patterns and fishnets okay? I’ve seen several women wear patterned and fishnet stockings. Patterned hosiery is okay if it’s not too lacy or too loud. Stick to more traditional shapes (e.g., a ribbed tight or hosiery with a slight stripe) as opposed to wild geometric patterns that can be more distracting than striking. Opt for muted colors (greys, dark greens, mauve) instead of anything bright or fluorescent. Flesh-colored fishnets are okay; wear black fishnets only with pants (showing a little at the ankle and foot is fine, but an entire leg exposed with black fishnets falls into the distracting category and isn’t worth the risk of ridicule). Stick with very conservative hosiery when dressing for court. Judges tend to frown on anything remotely sexy or fashion-forward.
      Is a conservative pant suit with loud shoes okay (e.g., animal print, bright colors)? Introducing a bit of flair with a conservative pant suit is a good way to soften your look. Some animal print or red shoes are a great complement to the otherwise very masculine pant suit.
      And for the men, are colored/patterned ties okay to wear in front of a judge? Men should err on the conservative side when in front of a judge. Ties in muted colors are fine, but save your more whimsical, colorful neckwear for the office — they are seldom appreciated by judges.
      What kind of jewelry should I wear? No dangly earrings. Statement necklaces are okay, but pair them only with small studs, and without any bracelets or rings (except wedding rings, etc.). Wear only only one or two rings at a time, and skip them altogether unless they’re very high end. Bracelets are fine, but make sure they’re not too loud and distracting.

      • momentsofabsurdity :

        “In male-dominated fields like law, skirts and dresses are particularly rewarded, as they are more appealing to men. In interview situations in particular, women should always wear a skirt or dress, as it is heavily favored over pants by interviewers (many of whom are men).”

        Sorry, but this seriously skeeves me out.

        • Well, in male-dominated fields like engineering, you are more likely to be comfortable wearing a pant suit for an interview. Heels are not necessary. Wearing a skirt or dress makes your legs stand out – it just screams LEGS LEGS LEGS LOOK AT MY LEGS.

          Know your industry.

          • Absolutely agree with this. Also, in my industry an interview onsite generally includes a lab tour. I try to only wear interview clothes and shoes that don’t look shockingly out of place to walk through a lab, so a pantsuit with high heeled boots underneath is my favorite.

        • AnonInfinity :

          I had the same thought, momentsofabsurdity. This advice makes me want to not wear a skirt.

        • HereThere :

          Agreed. This just talks about how women need to show femininity to get ahead. How about those of us that look fine, but MORE IMPORTANTLY (sorry for the Ellen caps, but rather needed) get work done, interview well, and basically are good employees? I know most of the situations this seems to be meant for are impressions, but – I mean, can we not go back in time? I realize that law is an old fashioned field, but really now.

        • Nice to know that I’m not the one kinda creeped out by the statement. Ewww.

          While I agree with a fair amount of her suggestions, I think some of the rules are very arbitrary (such as statement necklaces are ok (as long as the rest of the jewelry is subtle, which is a good rule when dealing with statement jewelry generally), but dangly earrings never are).

        • In surgery, which is a VERY male dominated field (think 20-30% female, with the majority of women under 40) as well as very conservative/traditional when it comes to dressing, I really don’t think there is a preference to skirts over pants. In fact, dressing sensibly is rewarded, and while in clinic we all dress slightly more formal than business casual (my usual uniform is wool slacks, silk blouse and cardigan or blazer) there’s also a chance that you are changing wound dressings or other potentially nasty stuff. I don’t think I wore a skirt once in my entire 5 years of training and it really wasn’t an issue. Not that this article is addressing this, but it’s another view on the whole skirt versus pants debate.

        • Me too. If hiring is done based on the legs of the female applicants, you probably don’t want to work there. Also, how insulting to assume this about male interviewers.

        • I think the distinction is actually between *traditional* and non-traditional. In a few (and getting fewer by the day) very traditional work setting, like some judges chambers or some white-shoe law firms, you might want to wear a skirt suit to an interview in case you run up against older partners or judges who feel those are what you “should” wear.

          But in engineering/medicine/etc., those feelings tend to be less prevalent so its unlikely for you to run into that at all.

        • sweetknee :

          I wonder if ELLEN wrote that article. FOOEY

        • Well, engineering is male-dominated all right, although granted the men can often be better than lawyers. But a skirt would only say “look at me, I’m a ditz” and not speak well for you at an interview.

          How perverted that women can be convinced that they look more powerful when they can’t move.. Surely it should be obvious that being balanced and moving easily are more desirable qualities in a good worker?? Teetering on high heels while trying to follow an interviewer through an office would be perceived as absurd.

      • Slightly off topic but most definitely a style statement:

        I saw a co-worker this morning wearing sandals (def more foot than shoe) and her pedicure was a new to me twist on the French pedicure: most of the nail had clear polish and the tips were blood red. I thought she looked ridiculous.

        • That sounds horrific.

        • I’ve seen this sort of thing on people’s fingers. I think its a variation on the statement manicure — like the statement french manicure with a colored tip. I just did a quick google image search trying to find a site to link to to show it and they were all sort of sketch blogs, but I did see one girl whose tips had polka dots on them, so I’m 100% behind it. :-)

          • Yeah I know people do it and like it but I found it very disconcerting to see the tips of her toenails looking as though they’d been dipped in blood. ::shudder::

            Now you kids get off my lawn!

      • “Studies have proven that women in makeup are rewarded in the workplace and perceived as more competent.”
        Not exactly… ONE study has sort of suggested. Not at all the same.

  4. Kontraktor :

    I like all the suggestions so far, especially with regards to some fun glasses and bold makeup. Glasses are a great place to start. There are so many fun varieties out there. My friend raves about a site called (I think) Zunni Optical or something, and she gets tons of pairs in really funky colors and shapes for $5 or $10 a pair. In terms of makeup, I like the idea of finding something stylized and wearing that often, think matte red lips or thick black eyeliner with a flick at the end. Love the idea of bright or unconventional nail polish (think Minx manis or the SallyHansen knock off versions).

    I think colors, accessories, and patterns are a good way to add some zest to your look. Buy things in very bright colors or wear combinations that contrast greatly (orange and bright blue, all black with a bright pink accent). Layer different types of patterns and experiment with that. Buy shoes with patterns (NineWest and ChineseLaundry seem to always have some interesting printed pairs floating around). Poetic License and NaughtyMonkey are two other good brands to try for printed, colorful, different shoes.

    I think another way to become a little more unique is to head to an antiques or vintage fair. Pick out some pieces like a statement piece of jewelry, a scarf, a dress. Construct an outfit based around that piece, or alternatively, get a few things and put together an outfit with a ton of pieces that nobody else has.

    • If we’re talking glasses brands, I love my Warby Parkers!

    • Hey Kontraktor, it’s Zenni Optical and I’m wearing a pair of their glasses right now! I would totally second them for fun inexpensive glasses. My glasses are a bit funky but they were French frames and molto expensive, so when I needed computer glasses, I went to Zenni and found something really similar. You just take a picture of yourself without glasses, face only, upload it and then you can “try on” frames. I recommend them to everyone.

  5. Anon in SF :

    Birth Control Glasses? Ouch, Corporette. That sounds more like something Perez Hilton would say. I wear statement glasses and don’t manage to be untouchable.

    • TurtleWexler :

      That’s actually the standard nickname for the glasses you get issued in basic training in the military. Has been for decades (long before Perez Hilton). I recently saw an article about how the CG is currently updating theirs to be slightly less ugly!

    • Senior Attorney :

      “Birth Control Glasses” has been military slang for a particular style of glasses for years. I don’t think Kat meant to go all Perez Hilton on anybody’s, uh, glasses.

  6. Is it bad that when I read “edge it up” I grimaced?

    Maybe it’s because I’m not particularly creative, but some of the things mentioned made me remember really badly done looks. I’d say that whatever you decide to do, just… don’t be heavy-handed.

    Personally I would rather stand out for my qualifications, expertise… anything except my appearance (with the one caveat of – “wow, wasn’t that a well-dressed, put together person that just left our office?” That I am okay with.)

    • I think the point is that you pick and choose–you don’t go for the ombre hair *and* the fur vest *and* the neon watch *and* the statement nails.

      Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with wearing a stand-out outfit. (At this very moment I am wearing a geometric paisley silk scarf. It’s lime green, turquoise, lavender, and gold. So you know, understated.) But then I believe we’ve established that I am a Special Little Flower that would wilt in a super-conservative office environment.

      • FormerPhotog :

        I think this is a good point. My thing is my hair. I have a very edgy cut with brightly contrasting streaks. I’ve had hair like this forever, I interviewed with a version of it, and it’s not planning to go anywhere anytime soon – the cut may vary from my current asymmetric 80s inspired shape to a severe A-line, but the colors always been dramatic.

        I balance this by always dressing (for work) fairly conservatively. I never wear jeans, even though they’re perfectly acceptable in my office, I wear simple, conservative makeup. I favor dresses and pencil skirts with cardigans and blazers and low heels.

        If I’d stayed in the Balt/DC area I might have had to swap things around – seemed like companies preferred slightly wilder clothes and more buttoned up “mutables” like hair/makeup, which I always found weird. I can swap my hair in 2 hours and $10. Not so much with my clothes.

    • I get the OP’s dilemma though, while you want to look professional and pulled together, you also want to “fit in” with the culture/style of your company, to a point.

      As an in-house lawyer, I found that I had to trade many of my more formal biglaw suits for more business casual separates so my internal “clients” find it easier to relate to me and I don’t come across as intimidating.

  7. Aww, Kat, why no love for glasses? As a daily glasses-wearer since the age of seven, I obviously think they can be both flattering and attractive. (Plus, you don’t have to touch your eyeballs. Gag.)

    • I didn’t think it was glasses in general, but the big, thick, horn-rimmed oversized “hipster frames” she was meaning. You know – the kind you wear specifically for impact, and not to go with your face? At least, that’s how I read it. Birth control glasses, at least in my mind, bring to light a very specific type of glasses. (Also – I believe Kat herself wears glasses, if memory serves?)

      But maybe as a newly bespectacled lawyer I’m just glossing over the fact that some people find them unattractive. I personally like my new glasses, and since I only really need them for office work, contacts are not an option for me.

      • I do wear glasses, and love ’em. But I buy glasses primarily because I think they’re flattering and comfortable on my face shape — not to make an impact or be edgy. I think it’s a rare look that will both make an impact as “edgy” and be flattering.

        • These are mine: (in the Black 155 – snow leopard look). I definitely dress a little edgier than most in my field but I’m senior so it’s never been an issue. These are probably the most “out there” glasses I’ve ever had, but I love them.

        • I think you can wear glasses that have impact, but that also go with your face. I definitely wear big, thick, horn-rimmed “hipster frames,” (these guys: in Sandalwood Matte) but they’re incredibly flattering, way more so than the thin, more understated frames I wore back in the day. It might take longer to find the right pair, but it’s possible.

    • Glasses Poll :

      Speaking of glasses, how much do yours cost? I haven’t gotten glasses in about three years, and when I went in today at lunch to get a new pair (thanks Kat, for the informative article on contacts, dry eyes, etc – with my doctor we’ve decided I need to take a break) – my lenses ALONE cost $300. With the glasses and a protective coating it was going to be about $620.

      I have astigmatism and a -4.5 prescription, so I have to get the thinner-type lenses or they will be 1/2 inch thick, but still – wow.

      • Pretty much the only place to get them for under 100 (or 200 if special) is WalMart, from my experience. Mine are from there, though (figured I rarely wear them, so no reason to spend tons), and I always get compliments on them.

      • Two things: First, try to find frames online, they’re usually cheaper than in the stores. Second, check out Costco – I don’t think you need to be a member to use their vision and prescription services. I’ve brought my frames and prescription to Costco and have been very happy with the glasses I got. Probably saved me a couple of hundred bucks, at least.

        I, too, have astigmatism and my Rxs are -5-ish and -4ish.

        • Agree on Costco! No need to be a member to go to their optical store. Just tell the person at the front door that you’re going to optical.

        • I also love Costco for glasses! I just got a new pair and their sweet, and the frames + lenses only cost $180.

      • I just got my first pair in a decade, and they were freaking $1100. I have an even worse prescription that yours though, so I too had to get the crazy thin lenses. I opted for the thinnest they make though those were a couple hundred more than the still-pretty-thin ones – figured that I never wore my last pair bc you could see the lens edges too clearly, might as well pay a little more and get some actual use out of these. But good grief, who knew.

      • Kontraktor :

        Glasses are expensive. Granted, I have splurged on designer frames for my 3 pairs, but I always also go for the highly treated, high quality lenses. My perscriptions are not that high (I think I have -1.5 in one eye and -1.25 in the other), but I feel that since I wear my glasses 100% of the time and they are right on my face for the world to see, so I don’t mind paying more for them. I want frames that I like and lenses I feel comfortable wearing.

        I think all of my pairs have been $600-800. The first pair I got when I was younger, so my parents paid for (about $600). The second pair I bought overseas during a promotion special the eye store (like LensCrafters) was having, and I got about 50% off the pair and ended up paying about $300. The most recent pair I bought through my insurance, and with all my discounts, I got about an $800 pair of glasses for about $260.

        I’ve never tried discount/online glasses places but a lot of people have great success with them. You can get pretty decent pairs at places like that for way less, apparently.

        • Online prescription eyeglass companies offer significant savings. HOWEVER, make sure you have the precription checked out when you receive the glasses. I ordered from and received a fairly good looking pair but they made a mistake with my prescription. I sent it back and it still came back with a slight error. Very dissapointing!For some prescriptions , it would not make a difference but I have astigmatism and have a lens with greater than 4.00.

          Some people have praised Zenni Optical, which I have not tried. Their glasses are assembled in China, I think, hence the low cost.

      • I said it up there and I’ll say it again–Warby Parker! Frames and prescription lenses are $95. I think there’s an add-on for those lenses, but it’s not a lot. You can order six pairs of frames for a home try-on. It was super easy and they have amazing customer service.

        I love love love the pair I got from them last year, as much as all of the $200-plus pairs I had before. There are also some other discount eyeglass websites, but the only one I’ve used is Warby Parker, so I can’t vouch for their quality.

      • I wear progressive lenses so I think that is more expensive to fill. I also buy Chanel frames which are somewhat high. I get a discount being a member of husband’s plan, but since I bought a pair last year, there is no outright coverage for frames or lenses. So my glasses cost close to $900. Thank goodness for MSAs.

      • lucy stone :

        I pay out the nose for glasses. My frames are Anne Klein on one pair, Banana Republic on another pair. I think each were about $200. My lenses, on the other hand, are about $700 AFTER DISCOUNTS. I have an astigmatism and am -9.75, -8.75.

      • dancinglonghorn :

        Wow! I’m -9.6/-8.5 with astigmatism and always get the thinnest, reflective coated lenses and I’ve never paid more than $300! I go to Lenscrafters, find the style I like and then look for it discounted online. A lot of people pay more for the same frames because they buy them at boutiques (small optimitrists) rather than from discount outlets. I like

        • lucy stone :

          You have just convinced me to look online for my next pair.

        • I can’t agree with this enough – I’m -7.5 in both eyes and had always paid $500-$600 for frames and lenses at LensCrafters, thinking that I would never be able to pick frames that I liked online. In addition to the idea of trying on frames at LensCrafters and then ordering them online, I’ve also discovered They will send you five or six pairs of frames to try on at home (free shipping and return shipping) and then you can pick the pair you like best. The lens quality is every bit as good as LC, and the last pair I bought cost a total of $90 (they were having a 50% off frames sale, and the lenses that are normally $450 at LC were about $75). Glasses used to be my #1 “healthcare” expense – now they are just a blip on the annual budget.

      • Socksberg :

        I don’t have astigmatism, but I went the Zenni Optical route and got mine for about $40.

      • Online!!! There are a bunch of online websites (Zenni, Warby Parker, Coastal) and they’re really great if you want a few extra pairs.

        I went to Costco to get my prescription checked/changed (detached retina several years ago, realized recently that I’m more comfortable without a prescription lens for that eye)
        You do NOT have to a Costco member to go to the “Optical Department”, but not all Costcos have one. They don’t take insurance, so you would bring the receipt to your provider, but it’s only 60 doll.ars.
        You can also get glasses from them, but I don’t have any personal experience with that (I think specialty lenses maybe be cheaper at Costco than online, maybe search some reviews?)

        Where ever you go, ask them to also measure your pupilarry distance. You’ll need that number and your prescription when you order glasses.

        I ordered mine from Coastal when they were running a “first pair free” special so I only paid for a UV coating and shipping – 19.99
        Then I had my SO order me another pair in green- 19.99
        + Costco eye exam – 60
        Total for two glasses: 100

        Most websites will let you upload your picture to “try on” different frames. I would also suggest measuring the width and arm length on a pair of glasses that you already like.
        Warby Parker will send you 5 frames to try on at home (I would have ordered from them but they were sold out of the green frame I wanted) and I think Coastal has a 365 day return policy.
        If you want thinner lenses or any coatings, that can add up online. My prescription isn’t very strong (mostly correcting for an astigmatism) so I’m fine with the “basic” lens.

      • My everyday glasses were $950. The frames (French – see above) were about $300 and the rest was the lenses. I wear progressive lenses (mainly because my prescription is so high, like -12 that it creates a prismatic effect) and they have to be ultra ultra thin. As I mentioned above, I ordered my computer glasses from Zenni (they’re not progressive and they’re a lower prescription) and they were about $55. I love Zenni.

      • If you have astigmatism or progressives (much less both :-)) a deviation of only a couple degrees from the desired axis can cause really horrible headaches. Beware that some of the latest-generations coatings will cause slipping and so are unsuitable as well. But mostly it means that you would do well to go to a live competent optometrist. Even $100 is too much to spend on something which will cause you pain and probably hurt your remaining vision as well.
        I spend a fortune on my lenses (also almost myopic enough to need custom lenses) which need to be high-index (but not the highest so as not to cause gross distortion). So I may as well put them in a nice frame since nobody will ever see me without them :-). But it’s all worth it..

      • Tiny greyhound :

        I second Costco (my current pair is from there, Pucci cats eye glasses that ran about $150: but if you really want to be a bit original look into eyewear stores in your area that carry brands like “face e face”. They aren’t cheap but you won’t see other people wearing them. I’m always amazed to see women carrying really expensive bags who wont shell out for good eyewear. It’s really the first thing people see on you if you wear glasses. I have frames that were $700 for just the frames and some that are a lot cheaper, though, not nearly as fashion forward.

        • I love Face a Face! My last pair were that brand. I was so bummed that I couldn’t find another pair I liked this time.

      • Target offers a decent range of frames, you can get a really nice pair for $250-300 and that’s with brand name frames like Vogue, DKNY. If you choose their store brand collection, I think it would be slightly less. Ask for discounts such as AAA for some extra savings!

  8. Related question– I’m in media/advertising/marketing and have an interview next week. Based on my communication with the organization so far, they seem more formal than my past/current companies.

    Bold nail polish is my “thing.” It makes me happy. I generally go polished-conservative in my dress, and will likely wear a black skirt suit with a silk tee and stud earrings. Does my nail polish have to go?

    • Kontraktor :

      What about a different color that is still trends towards conservative? Like maybe a shade of gray? Or perhaps a rich maroon color? These colors are not necessarily bold like neon yellow would be bold, but are sort of on the edgier side of something more traditional.

      I would say that whatever color you choose, do get a manicure, especially for an interview. I kind of cringe when I see bold nail colors on yucky and unkept nails and hands, especially since people often try to do the colors themselves and that lends to streaks, bleeding of the color on the fingers, etc, and those imperfections are just highlighted with a really bold color.

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      I think for a media/advertising company, you can go bold, but bold in the red-pink color family, not say, neon green.

      I am a person of color, and pale/pastel colors really don’t look good against my skin, including on my nails, and many clear polishes have a pale pink base that also doesn’t look that great (since the skin underneath my nails isn’t pink, it is tan). Instead, I go for a bold pink and honestly think it is not that big a deal (and I am in a conservative industry).

      • Agree that what looks appropriately conservative for an interview (or just the office, period) varies with skin tone. I’m as pale as pale can be, but a former coworker of color rocked most of the MAC counter on a regular basis, and looked fabulous (and professional). I would have looked like a frantic tropical fish.

        • Cornellian :

          I look a frantic tropical fish, too! My hair isn’t particularly fair (dark blonde/auburn/light brown/strawberryish) but with blue eyes, blond eyelashes/brows, and super fair skin, tiny amounts of color can sort of overwhelm me. Sometimes I hate not being able to put on colored eyeliner without looking like a frantic tropical fish, but it is nice to be able to looked put together with 30 seconds of make up application.

    • Anonymous NYer :

      I think it’s never a bad idea to err on the conservative side for interviews. When you get hired you can let your personality shine through your polish, but if there’s even a question, why push it for the couple of hours you need to win them over? Doesn’t seem worth the risk for something so easy to alter/remove as nail polish.

      • Former MidLevel :

        Agreed. I don’t think that going more “bold” (especially along the lines of Kontractor’s suggestions above) is overwhelmingly likely to hurt your chances–but it might. So, to some degree, it depends on your level of risk aversion. No matter what you choose, good luck with your interview.

      • It’s always manicures for me (doing them myself leads to disaster, always), and I remove the polish as soon as there are noticeable chips.

        I’m currently sporting a bright coral, but for the interview, I’m between no nail polish and dark red/purple, or maybe a shade of grey (I’m a pale blonde).

        • All of those choices sound perfectly fine to me. Dark purple, red, or gray are pretty conservative.

      • Agreed, NYer. Basically, I think if you wonder about something you have your answer right there. Nothing in your interviewing outfit should give rise to wondering.

    • Regardless of field, I would go with a neutral nail color for an interview. Especially in this situation, you want them to notice your personality and qualifications, not your nail color. Now when you land the job, I say go bold all the way!

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  10. SoCalAtty :

    Ok, hive – my husband and I are going on our first out of the US trip in 24 days! We are going to Italy. I’ve booked hotels for our first 3 days in Cinque Terre, the next 4 are in Tuscany (Sovana) for a wedding we are attending, and the last 2 are in Rome.

    I had planned to rent a car, but I think we will train it to Cinque Terre and then take a train to the nearest place we can rent a car and drive to Tuscany, then back to Rome and ditch the car as soon as we get to Rome. We are big hikers, so our packing will consist of our 2 carry on sized backpacks and very little “stuff,” and each of us will have a duffel bag rolled up in the bottom so we can check bags on the way back if we have too much “stuff.” (The only reason I am OK with coach is that it = more $$ left over for shopping!) We’re going to do the long hike between the Cinque Terre towns and spend a day in Levanto surfing. In Rome I’ve booked the Vatican garden tour. On July 5th we have the wedding in Tuscany, but other than that I don’t have much planned other than wandering around.

    Let’s see..I plan to used my AMEX Platinum card everywhere possible because they have great exhange rates, and my credit union only charges me $1 per withdrawal so I will use either that or my Wells Fargo account to get cash. I’m planning on getting maybe 500 euros here to have with me.

    I’m slightly frustrated because we booked this trip way back in December, and my husband’s business has been WAY slower than anticipated so we’re a little tight on money. (Contractor, family business, had best year ever last year so I don’t know what the #@*#$ is going on this year!) I hate travelling when I have to tap cash reserves, but it isn’t like we can cancel. I’m good with “eating local” because I know the food will be better and cheaper anyway.

    Anything we just can’t miss? Anything we should know as first time euro travellers? We’re planning on dressing conservatively (think khaki colored, nice hiking pants and either tops with sleeves or carrying wraps/sweaters).

    Also, my firm does not have direct deposit, and I would normally be paid on 6/29 this month…but I will be gone to catch my flight that day. Do you think it is ok to request a check the day before as long as I promise not to deposit it until the actual 6/29 payday?


    • Make sure you call your credit card company before you leave and let them know you’ll be out of the country. Otherwise, they’ll see international charges and start denying them!

      • Gail the Goldfish :

        Credit cards *and* banks for debit cards you’ll be making cash withdrawals from. My bank called me about withdrawals when I was in Turkey. It apparently didn’t occur to them that if I was in Turkey, I wouldn’t be able to answer their phone call to my US number asking if I was in Turkey.

    • I don’t know about AMEX but all credit cards charge a commission (typically 3%) when you use the card outside of the country, except for those issued by Capital One. And they all get good exchange rates – when you use a credit or debit card, they get the bank-to-bank exchange rate. If you don’t already have a Capital One card, you still have time to apply for one and receive it. And this is really bad advice but I’ll put it out there: Capital One is offering 0% APR for a year if that’s something that would interest you.

      • Amex Platinum does not charge international transaction fees. However, I travel in Italy often for business and it is good to have a back up Mastercard/ Visa you can use. Not all smaller places in Italy will take Amex. And yes, make sure to call all your cards before you go.

        • Seconded. Also, make sure to have at least some cash on you at all times, especially if you are out in the sticks. I had a few problems in the very very countryside of France at New Years time because I didn’t have a chip and pin card.

    • Kontraktor :

      Food was way more expensive than I presumed. And portion sizes seemed really small. I only went to Rome, but I assume my experiences could be generalized. I would say make your main meal of the day lunch. Lunch prices are so much cheaper than dinner prices, and there are a lot of places that have really (really) good prix fixe deals at lunch. The same meal might be 2 or 3 times the cost at dinner. Another thing to think about food/restaurants in Europe- a lot of times it seems like they charge for extras. So, bread is extra, water is sometimes extra, meals don’t always come with sides, etc. Keep that in mind when ordering. With bread in particular, sometimes you have to actually refuse the bread, or they will plop it on your table and charge you for it (not free). When I was traveling in Rome, I ate breakfast at the B&B I was staying in (meal was included in my rate), made lunch my big/main meal, and then I tried to pick at cheese, cold cuts, fruit, etc. for dinner. I found picking which places I wanted to eat in advance really helped because when I didn’t, I found myself wandering forever and starving and more likely to end up wherever I could find regardless of cost.

      If you are planning on touring around in Rome, you might want to look into the pass that offers discounted admissions for sites. When I went it included a free (I think?) metro card for three days as well. I believe the 1st two sites are free, so I picked the 2 most expensive places (Villa Borghesse which is a pain to get to btw, although a pretty walk) and the Collesium, and basically the pass paid for itself (almost) with those two things. If you go to a few more places, it definitely will. But if you would prefer to laze around, the pass is probably not worth it and you would probably save by just paying admission for what you want to see (although I do believe pass holders get to skip some certain lines in places? not sure, I went in December and Rome felt deserted).

      I really loved everything I saw in Rome (then again I studied tons of classics/Latin back in the day) so I say see everything. :-) But that’s probably not feasible. What do you like? I love art history as well and saw some paintings/sculptures/artists that I die over and it was an amazing experience to see some of that stuff in person. I am also somewhat religious so I went to mass at quite a few places (including the first church in Rome to reinstate pre-Vatican II Latin mass, and one of the only churches doing so). Let me know what you like and perhaps I can suggest some stuff.

      • Anon Lawyer :

        I love that you think portion sizes are small – whenever I go to the US, I always think ‘whoa, who can eat all this’! But in fairness, the reason for that in Italy usually is that they have two main courses, a first plate and second plate, first being pasta and the second some kind of meat dish.

        Also, you pay for bread/water because you don’t pay for service or tip the same way as in the US usually (unless it’s amazing).

        • Kontraktor :

          HAHA, I just posted a thread here recently about how I feel I consume massive amounts of food compared to a lot of people. But you’re right, it is customary in Italy to get the two plates of food, although for as big as my appetite is, my wallet doesn’t match sometimes. So, I never got two plates as such unless it was for lunch and the deal was really good.

          But… yeah. I eat a lot. :-) So, I guess for people with smaller appetites this would not be a problem, although I found the insane amount of walking I did in Rome really contributed to the “I’m starving/must consume feat” feelings.

      • Your trip sounds great! I think it’s the Roma Pass but according to the website, it’s not available right now (search for “Roma Pass”)? May still be worthwhile checking around to see if it’s available when you’re there.

        Also, make sure you can the electrical plug converters since Europe uses 220V.

        The Rick Steves website has some free audio tour guides that may be helpful, haven’t tried them myself, but I definitely followed his advice for other things. I believe he was the one who made Cinque Terre popular.

      • Also, I don’t know if you’re planning on sampling the nightlife, but frequently bars/clubs will have little buffets that you can graze off of for dinner if you buy 2 drinks each. It was a pretty unique setup and actually some decent food. You may need to find a guide/local to clue you in on the places though, as when I was in Rome our study abroad program person was the only one who could find the darn places! :-)

    • Sounds like it will be an amazing trip. I haven’t been to Italy, so can’t tell you want to see and do there, but here are a few comments.

      Don’t bother to get any euros here in the States; the bank will charge a ridiculous fee. Just either change some dollars when you get there or, better yet, use your ATM card to make a withdrawal at the airport when you arrive. Make sure to call the banks that issued your ATM and credit cards before you leave to tell them you will be in Europe, so they don’t flag suspicious transactions and maybe even freeze your accounts.

      Even if you don’t want to plan out a lot of the trip, do get a guidebook or two in advance, at least to read on the plane. You’ll want to have an idea of the best hiking areas, the cutest little towns, what museums might be worth a visit and which ones to skip, etc. The books also will give you train information, so you can decide on whether to get single tickets or passes. The Rick Steves books are very good and have travel info for all budgets.

      For the transatlantic flight, think about investing in noise-cancelling headphones, which will make the trip slightly less miserable. If there are still any “premium” coach seats available (like the emergency exit rows where there’s a bit more legroom) you might think about paying a little more to get them, it will be worth it.

      And I don’t think your firm would mind giving you your paycheck in advance. (I asked for it once or twice at my old firm when I was an associate, and we do it here for our staff members if they’re going on vacation.) Failing that, however, is there someone you trust (and who you don’t mind knowing your pay) who can make the deposit for you? I have had my secretary make my deposits (of pay and expense checks) so many times that the tellers at the nearest branch at my bank call her Jules and think she’s me; they’d probably call the police if I came in and tried to make a withdrawal from my own account.

      Have a great time and don’t stress out too much about money — it will be an amazing experience.

    • This is such a minor thing, but make sure you know ahead of time where you are supposed to drop off the car. My DH and I were returning a rental car in Rome and drove around for 2 hours trying to figure out where we should put it. We tried to call the car rental company, but they didn’t speak enough English and we didn’t speak enough Italian to communicate. Turns out the location was inside Rome’s train station, and we had to sort of just pull the car over on the side of the station and walk inside. And, because we were 2 hours late in dropping off the car, we got charged for another day.

      Have a great time – Italy is so much fun!

    • Agree with many of the comments made here but thought I’d add a few more:


      1. Do research on restaurants. There is a TON of great information on the web. If you end up wanting to splurge while in Rome, I cannot recommend The Library enough. It is small, incredibly hard to find, you’ll need a reservation and you might be the only people in there. But man, oh man, is it worth it. We go every time we’re in Rome.

      2. Many of the churches are free or “donate what you want” – take advantage! In particular, Sant’Angese in Agone Church in Piazza Navona stands out.

      3. In line with the above, spend some time in Piazza Navona – at sundown it is gorgeous and you can wander around the stalls with goods for sale while admiring the fountains, listening to the musicians and just taking in the atmosphere.

      4. Visit the Pantheon – also free! And there is a great square outside as well.

      5. Check out Context Travel for tours – though they can be pricey, our experiences with them have been amazing.

      6. If you are interested in a private tour for the Vatican/Sistine Chapel, respond to this with your e-mail and I’ll send you our guy’s information. We have had two of the most amazing tours I have ever been on with him. He charged us 50 euros an hour for the two of us to go on a private tour and was worth every cent. We liked him so much we’ve stayed in touch with him and met up for dinner when we were last in Rome.

      7. Eat gelato. As much as you can. Perche no! in Florence is great, if you happen to make it there.

      General Tips:

      1. Have a lightweight purse. You would be surprised how heavy your bag can get after hours of toting it around. I carry my Longchamp and it is great for this.

      2. Don’t forget a charger for your camera!

      3. Bring cold medicine if you can fit it. I’ve found that someone inevitably needs it on every trip and it can be hard to find NyQuil in Rome (I had to, two trips ago, and it wasn’t fun!).

      4. We’ve found breakfast to be funky in Italy, so we’ve taken to packing a box of trail mix bars and typically eat those every morning in lieu of pastries.

      5. Although you mentioned that you’re a little tight on money, don’t cheap out on the whole trip. I’m not advocating that you spend beyond your means, but pick some places to enjoy the trip. You don’t want to come back feeling like you didn’t enjoy the trip because you didn’t allow yourself to spend a little bit.

      That’s all I can think of for now. Have an amazing trip!!!

      • To add to these great tips I would ad that when you go have coffee (which you should, at LEAST once per day!!!)– I found that nearly everywhere, if not everywhere, has two prices for coffee: a lower price if you stand and drink it at the counter, and a higher price if you sit down to drink it at a table. Sometimes you want to spend an extra euro and sit down, but sometimes you are on your way out sightseeing and could just get an espresso or macchiato at the counter and pay less and be on your way!

        I included this because I studied there for 6 weeks 2 years ago and didn’t know this at first. And they don’t tell you!

        • *add !

        • Also, in Italy cappuccino is a morning-only drink. You will encounter disapproving stares if not outright refusal if you try to order it after a meal or in the afternoon.

      • TurtleWexler :

        Lightweight purse is a good idea, but just make sure it has a zipper or buckle so you can close it securely. When I was traveling in Italy with a friend a few years ago, she was pickpocketed on the bus and I ended up having to lend her money for the rest of the trip (fortunately her passport was in a different spot). This can happen anywhere, of course, but it really sucks when you’re on vacation. So be careful — but have fun!!

    • First, sounds like a fun, but really packed trip! I’ve traveled to Italy many times and I lived in Rome, and let me just say that 2 months isn’t enough time to spend in Rome, let alone 2 days. So realize that you aren’t going to be able to see everything you want, and sometimes the best moments are those unplanned ones, just wandering the streets and happening upon an ancient ruin tucked between two apartment buildings. Just say to yourself that you can always come back, so give yourself time to just relax and enjoy being there.

      I’ve always been more one to not plan lots of museums, events, etc and more just “gone with the flow.” That tends to work really well, especially in Italy, where the zeitgeist is a bit more laid back (especially in summer!). To each his own, I know, but Rome in 2 days is a lot to take in!

      For restaurants/dining out, again I err on the side of looking for places the locals are eating, rather than the places with the English menu and lots of tourists (although in June in Rome tourists are unavoidable). Get off the beaten path, explore Trastevere, which is a charming residential area of Rome just south of the Vatican and the Janiculum hill (on the Vatican side of the Tiber river), that tends to be more locals and less touristy. You’ll find lots of great small pizzerias and osterias that are likely much less expensive than those by the Spanish Steps or Coliseum. I never took the Vatican garden tour, but absolutely loved exploring the Forum (if you’re into ancient history, it’s a great place for a picnic!) and Piazza Navonna is a great place to stroll and people-watch in the evening. Campo di Fiori is a great open air market and a lot of of fun to explore as well.

      One other point, and please don’t be offended by this, but the khaki/polo shirt kind of look just screams “American.” You may be okay with that, but you will almost never see Italians wearing khaki pants, especially not women. If you’re interested in fitting in, especially in a fashionable, cosmopolitan city like Rome, I’d suggest going more with comfortable skirts with nice flat wedge sandals. You’d still be physically comfortable and also more comfortable fitting in with the locals. Or … wear what you want and don’t listen to me, just have a great time!

    • agirlfromoz :

      re: the hike in Cinque Terre – you may not be aware, but there were some quite serious floods back in October in 2 of the villages. Not all the trail may be open – when I visited for the day in February this year, the only bit of the hike that was open was between Riomaggiore and Manarola. You have to buy a pass to walk the trail, this can include train travel between the villages (I think there’s a multiple day option as well as a day pass option). And make sure you validate your train tickets in the yellow machines before you get on the train – every train I rode to/from and around Cinque Terre, I had my ticket checked…

      Not everywhere will take cards for payment.

      and I second the ‘eat as much gelato as you can’

      for Rome – if you want to visit the Vatican yourself – go early to queue up. And be aware that the Vatican museums are closed on Sundays (except for the last Sunday of the month, when entry is free)

      • Oh man! I did that hike in 2007 and it was incredible! (OMG that was 5 years ago, it feels like yesterday!) Sad to hear this, hope it’s all fixed up soon.

    • If you start with a wedding, can you plan to mail the wedding clothes (and shoes!) back home right afterwards? Most likely they wouldn’t do you any good on a hiking trip, or even an ordinary sightseeing trip.
      I’d definitely maximize train trips. Entire comedy careers have been built on Italian driving, not to mention the tragedies..
      And I hope you’re planning on bringing at least a Visa to supplement on the many occasions that AmEx won’t be accepted? Although I certainly think you should ask your work for your check a day or so in advance..

      • I would recommend NOT mailing from Italy. Out of about 5 packages mailed by my roommate and I only 1, missing some things, made it to the US. It was horrible as we both lost souvenirs, clothes, books, etc… It was a horrible experience, my roommate spent hours on the phone and filing claims trying to get anything back. Finally about 4 months later I think she got $5 or something “for her trouble.” You’re better off throwing the clothes away, then at least you haven’t sprung for postage.

        • Totally agree with CA Atty. We tried to mail 2 boxes with books and other random things (like some knitting) back from Rome a couple years ago, and only 1 made it back somewhat intact. We never tried filing claims.

    • Italy has great coffee and gelato….but remember , if you sit down at the coffee places as opposed to standing and drinking it at the counter, it costs more….

      Food is divine but portions , though reasonable, may be smaller compared to US portions , which quite frankly strike me as wasteful.

      Don’t miss Sienna and San Gimignano in Tuscany….both easy drives from Florence. And visit the ponte vecchio in Florence and check out the gorgeous jewellery.

      Enjoy! Italy is our favorite place to visit and we are going back there for our 15th anniversary next year!!

  11. Anonymous :

    First of all, be yourself. If you feel like you are trying to play dress-up, you probably won’t pull the look off.

    I know you are in a creative field, but look around at your coworkers and the bosses you aspire to be – if you don’t see any colored ombre hair or fur vests, you might stand out in a bad way.

    I second others on the statement nails idea – nails are very of-the-moment right now and there are tons of ideas on pinterest and other places for funky do-it-yourself manicures; you can also get rid of a manicure in about thirty seconds if you realize its not quite working for whatever situation you find yourself in.

    • I third the nail polish idea. Navy, black, grey, grigolet (greyish purple), red, orange (very hot right now), greens – all will work for a bit of an edge and also like the idea that as long as you’ve got one of those remover packets tucked in your desk and/or purse, you can always remove a color on the go.

      • Anonymous Girl :

        Fourth this one. I’d definitely start using more off-beat colors, like bright teals and greens to add edge. Reds and light pinks are classic. I am a lawyer and I love to push the envelope a bit with nail polish.

  12. Romans et al. :

    Recommendations on stay-put lipstick please.

    I’ve tried the drugstore and Targt brands, but my lips feel so dry and seem to get more lines/wrinkles in them. Plus, using vaseline to remove it gets old.

    I’m reading at Mass for a wedding in August. Would like, professional lipstick advice. I usually wear Nars foundation, powder, eyeshadow, MAC blush, and drugstore mascara.
    I’m old enough to be the bride’s mother, fwiw, and don’t want to be trying too hard nor too MOB like.

    Was thinking a red with blue undertones…always makes me look good. However, bride selected a vintage Scaasi black column dress with a bright fuschia sash that has a long tie on it (in the front). So, fuschia nails and lips would be ok as well.

    Thanks, hive! I’ve been panicking about this oh-so-visible black tie wedding honor.

    • Former MidLevel :

      I like MAC for red lipstick – my favorite is Dubonnet.

      • THANK YOU! I have Dubonnet but the name rubbed off the bottom and I could not remember what it was called. I need to buy a new one and now I know what to ask for! Hooray!

    • Diana Barry :

      I would suggest NARS Cruella (matte crayon), as a lipliner/first coat, with NARS Red Lizard over it. Blot in between. I have used this for special events (it is a great red) and it does NOT come off! :)

      If you have probs with dryness/chapping, exfoliate lips gently every other day for the couple of weeks before the wedding (can use a washcloth, you don’t need the exfoliating lip scrub), and use moisturizer/lip balm about 1/2 hr before applying the lipstick.

      The dress sounds awesome!

      • You can exfoliate your lips? Revelation.

      • I was going to suggest exfoliation too! I have a product that I like, though. The Sara Happ lip sugar and lip slip are just great for rejuvenating dry lips.

    • I use the MAC long-wear lipsticks, generally layering the traditional one with a cream one, and find that, while the color doesn’t stay as bold as the initial application, it will give my lips some color all day long.

    • I know this sounds like a joke, but a friend of mine who’s a pro makeup artist uses cherry Jell-O. She says it’s universally flattering (she’s SEAsian, fwiw) & the best lip stain out there.

      No comment as to the safety of Red Dye No. 2 (or whatever else is in it).

    • I love Clinique’s Red Red Red.

  13. Anne Shirley :

    I think rather than trying to be edgy, the goal should be bringing more you to the table. If “you” is edgy, go for it, but if you isn’t, don’t force it. I’m quite a traditional dresser, with deep running anglophilia, a love of navy, and a strong affinity for tailoring. I’d probably edge it up with a new Reiss blazer, a fabulous navy bag, and a flashier red earring than I’d do for work. Not edgy, but more of a Defined look

    And getting a Tatoo to look edgier is a terrible plan

  14. spacegeek :

    I got told I looked particularly “colorful” today… that’s not really what I was going for! But I understand it–navy trousers, sea foam suede blazer, pink shell with blue accents and a blue cami. Yeah I guess that is a fair amount of color. Perhaps I overdid it… It has warmed up here, and I gravitate towards color in the spring/summer months for my anything-goes workplace.

    • Former MidLevel :

      Your outfit sounds lovely – not like you overdid it at all.

    • Kontraktor :

      I would totally copy this outfit if I had a pink/turquoise blouse. I love it. I have navy trouers and a nice turquoise cardigan, and I love the idea with a pink blouse. But I agree, I would need it to be pink and turquoise to tie the turquoise in as you did with the two instances of blue.

  15. When I read “Women, Work and the Art o f the Savoir Faire” I was drawn to Mireille Guiliano’s suggestion that women in the workplace develop a “signature” like dramatic eye glasses, statement jewellery, coloured pumps, bold scarves, monochromatic outfits, etc., etc. I loved the idea and have made prints my signature, especially boldly printed blouses and sheath dresses. It makes me memorable (hopefully in a good way?) and most importantly, makes me love what I wear every day!

    • I like the idea of a “signature” but I have trouble taking advice from a woman who also advised that a half a banana, eaten in pieces with a knife and fork, makes a delicious dessert.

      And I like bananas (and fruit in general) for dessert. But not half one. Or with a fork and knife.

  16. Agree with all of Kat’s suggestions (including not getting a tattoo). I’d wear mostly black, funky shoes and maybe wear more hardcore jewelry – black chain styles, a leather cuff, etc.

    Love the idea of red lipstick only. I used to work with a woman (who worked here as an admin but was really an artist) and she did that look and it really set her apart. She also had longish hair with one wide blond streak in front.

  17. Sorry – my first sentence is unclear. I’d wear mostly black clothing, with funky shoes and add hardcore jewelry.

    I actually think it would be fun to go on an edgy jewelry shopping expedition.

    TCFKAG?? Hit it.

    • First of all, I will make the mandatory and necessary not do Kanye. She has some cool stuff with edge.

      In terms of a statement cuff, I’m loving this Kenneth Lane number:

      • Then I’m kind of digging this giant horn necklace.

        • As well as this braided metal chain.

          • OH TCKFAG, that one is calling my own name. You are bad for my finances, girl.

        • And if you have the cash…

    • I’d wear this bracelet

    • I like this necklace

    • And this from Kanye

      (I like pearls with an edge, and Kanye does that wonderfully)

      • Just to be clear, we both might have problems mama bear.

        • you think?

        • Also from Kanye’s store, the addition of these earrings would toughen up any outfit!

          • I have to stop because my conference call just ended (what? Don’t you internet shop on conference calls?) but I also like this tough-looking necklace from Kanye.


          • I liked it better when I thought its name was “Iron pyrite necklace triple strand FOOLS”.


    • I wear a skull charm snakeskin bracelet. Might give the ladies at some offices the vapors, but I feel like a freaking rock star who might trash a hotel room just for fun when I wear it.

  18. Katharine :

    The example that springs to mind is “iconic” Kate Lanphear of Elle. She might be a bit more rock-chick than the letter writer has in mind on some of her outings, but much of her style is minimalist yet edgy, work appropriate with maybe a few tweaks, and grows out of her use of classic items in a limited palette and her distinctive hairstyle.

    I’d say that maybe pushing a classic style with a few statement pieces (not even as weird or extreme as fur vests — unusually cut or deconstructed items would probably serve as well) and something bold in the headsuit would actually go far, while not demanding that the writer actually dress as somebody else. And, you know, perhaps some really odd exciting shoes. Because odd shoes are fun, and memorable, even if they aren’t visible while sitting behind a table or desk. Fluevogs or United Nude or something.

  19. S in Chicago :

    I’m in a creative field. People trying to look edgy often look like they’re trying too hard. Instead of forcing on some quirky glasses and skulking around in all black like every other Joe, just let your taste be your guide. Honestly, a small pop of color on a conservative dresser often stands out a lot more in a sea of funky glasses and hairstyles. When everyone around you looks “artsy,” it’s the more classic looks that draw attention.

    • I have to have a small giggle here because that is my natural taste. :) I have a closet full of black and white, and semi-quirky glasses. I have a lot more fun playing with accessories, though, because I don’t often have to worry about matching/clashing, and since I don’t fiddle with my hair (it stays down and wavy, or pulled back in a low queue), I can play a bit with makeup.

  20. Awesome topic, spicing up work wardrobe with a bit of you is essential.

    monthly jewelry subscription boxes

  21. Personally I think all black is the way to go. It works for me. But if I worked in an office where they told me to be more edgy, I think I would find the preppiest pastel stuff to wear. Just to be contrary. What’s the fun in being edgy if it is required?

  22. I got a nose stud.

  23. OP here. First off, thanks for all the suggestions (starting with Kat and on down through the thread). I thought I would chime in with an update: since my original email, I did some serious reckoning with my taste and what I own, and actually found much of my “new” look in my closet already. My taste in clothes has always tended towards the monochromatic, so I’ve decided to embrace that more fully, pairing up my mostly black and white staples with bold accessories (bright tights, belts and/or shoes – not all in one outfit). I also got a new haircut with some serious heavy bangs – the effect is simple yet dramatic and I love it!

    My goal has been to create a look that’s strong, sustainable (i.e. not too trendy) and ultimately me; I think I’m there, or pretty close.

  24. I say the key is to just figure out what thing you feel the most comfortable in is, and then figure out a way you can make it stand out – brighter, bolder, etc. The key is to make sure that whatever you are choosing isn’t too time intensive or too much work, because you may not be comfortable, and that kind of ruins the point of giving you something to improve your personal branding image.

    (I tend to wear long necklaces with pendants, because big earrings get caught in my hair, I can’t afford multiple pairs of glasses, and I often wear flats (due to disability issues). Plus, it makes people focus on my jewelry instead of the fact that I look awful in dress pants.)

    I, personally, can’t wait for the day that people get over their tattoo hangups. I work in a pretty conservative company and industry, and I thought getting the tattoo I have behind my ear would be the death of me – but it was still something I wanted to do, because it meant so much to me. Turns out, my bosses like it and most people just think it’s interesting. All that stress for nothing! :)