Some Thoughts on Frump

professional frump2017 Update: We still stand by this advice below, bu you can also check out our more recent discussion on how to avoid professional frump.

We got this reader mail a little while ago, and it seems appropriate in light of the response to this morning’s cardi set (wow, you guys did NOT like that).

Here’s my question: What makes a work outfit frumpy or dowdy? Here’s why: I’m a 41-year old attorney with a private firm. My work wardrobe has evolved from that of a newbie lawyer wearing a skirt suit and hose every day to that of a more seasoned professional in an increasingly casual workplace. My clothing spend has gone more toward the casual/funky/weekend and less toward classic suiting. I’ve recently moved to a larger law firm, and have taken a cold hard look at my professional wardrobe. With the help of a digital camera, I’ve come to realize that some of my old standards now seem downright frumpy. Those pieces will not be going back into my closet. The irony is that I’m earning more income than ever, but am having a difficult time finding professional pieces that I love. It’s like I’m having trouble figuring out how to dress my middle-aged professional self. So I ask: What mistakes do professional women commonly make that might be upping our frump factor?

A few of the answers I know: Failing to tailor clothes to fit our bodies, wearing our skirts too long and our pants too short, choosing “tan” hosiery. I also might need to break my addiction to shopping at discount places like Marshalls or TJ Maxx. At this point in my career, it’s probably time to be prepared to shell out the bucks for higher-end pieces.

Like we said:  totally appropriate for today’s discussion.  Some thoughts, off the cuff:

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Tuesday’s TPS Report: Ribbon Cardigan & Tank

Our daily TPS reports suggest one piece of work-appropriate attire in a range of prices.

Michael Simon – Ribbon Cardigan & TankWe’re not quite sure why, but this one has eluded us — we first saw it in the Neiman Marcus catalog a while ago, and then couldn’t find on the website, and even now, searching for “Michael Simon” does not bring this sucker up.  Anyway:  We really like this cotton and cashmere sweater, which has those rare qualities of being sophisticated, playful, colorful, and black all at the same time.  We like the ribbons; we like the basketweave — and we particularly like the fact that it comes in petites as well as women’s sizes.  We can only find a link to it on the website in women’s sizes, but one can order it through the catalog:  items 12a-12f in the WBT10 catalog.  The cardigan was $180, now $120 ($130 for women’s); the shell was $90, now $60 ($65 for women’s).  Michael Simon – Ribbon Cardigan & Tank

If you’ve recently seen a great work piece you’d like to recommend to the readers, please e-mail [email protected] with “TPS” in the subject line. Unless you ask otherwise, we’ll refer to you by your first initial.


Coffee Break: Christa Basic Pump

AK Anne Klein Women’s Christa Basic PumpReader J wrote in to sing the praises of these wine-colored pumps from AK Anne Klein:

They’re quite comfortable, the heel isn’t too high, and the cut out on the inside of the shoe gives it a little visual interest. And I love the wine color – not quite a neutral and not so bright that it couldn’t be worn with a wide variety of outfits The price point certainly doesn’t hurt either!

Oooh, we like. They’re on sale at Endless for $37 to $68 (the wine ones are $54), in sizes 6-10. AK Anne Klein Women’s Christa Basic Pump


Etiquette Flash: Should you invite your colleagues to your wedding?

when to invite colleagues to your wedding2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on when to invite colleagues to your wedding — links have also been updated.when to invite colleagues to your wedding - stock wedding image via Stencil  

Today’s reader mail has to do with whether she should invite colleagues to her wedding…

Long story short, I just got engaged to another attorney at my mid-sized firm. We are both junior associates and we met as summer associates in 2007. Obviously, there are associates that we socialize with that we’d like to invite to the wedding. However, we’re not quite sure about whether to invite partners. Since we’re both quite new at the firm, we do work for lots of different attorneys. I’d hate to offend someone by not inviting him…especially in this economy!

Congratulations! The answer to this question depends on a lot of factors, the big ones being:
a) do you think you could make partner at this firm?
b) can you afford to invite a lot of work colleagues to your wedding?
c) how do you feel about mixing your wedding (and your grandparents and your college friends) (and any princess fantasies you’ll be indulging that day) with your work colleagues?

Pictured:  As of 2017, the pictured dress from Mikaella Bridal is no longer available. Check out some of these gorgeous strapless lace wedding dresses instead! 

Your future with the firm is the first consideration, we think. Even if you’re fairly junior at the firm, you and your fiance should have an idea of whether you could make partner if you wanted to, versus just hanging out until a better job opportunity comes along. If either of you are going to try to make partner, you should look at your wedding as an opportunity to create important relationships — to show the powers that be at the firm that you consider them to be part of the family.  If neither of you is gunning for partner, however, we’d say to evaluate your relationships with the partners.  Are they mentors to you?  Are they like family anyway?  And then we’d proceed on to question two…

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Splurge Monday’s TPS Report: Milly Ruffled Cotton Pique Jacket

Our daily TPS reports suggest one piece of work-appropriate attire in a range of prices.

Oooh, great jacket from Milly.  We love the unusual elbow-length sleeves, as well as the ruffle and the single button.  We’d wear it with gray trousers and a bright pastel t-shirt (yellow? mint?) in springtime, and, perhaps, a long silver chain.  It’s $425 at Bloomingdales.  Milly Ruffled Cotton Pique Jacket

If you’ve recently seen a great work piece you’d like to recommend to the readers, please e-mail [email protected] with “TPS” in the subject line. Unless you ask otherwise, we’ll refer to you by your first initial.


Weekend Open Thread

Wanted Turbo BootsSomething on your mind?  Chat about it here.

(Our suggestion for casual clothing this week are these great boots by Wanted — perfect for wearing with leggings or skinny jeans.  We have a pair ourselves, and they’re comfortable, and the quality is decent for the price.  They’re part of the great “Best of Boots” sale that Piperlime is having right now — were $80, now $39.99.  Wanted Turbo Boots (They’re also on sale at Endless.)

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