Workwear Hall of Fame: Theory Suits …(and, the Differences Between the Different Gabes)

Theory-different-gabesFor busy working women, the suit is often the easiest outfit to throw on in the morning. In general, this feature is not about interview suits for women, which should be as classic and basic as you get — instead, this feature is about the slightly different suit that is fashionable, yet professional.

OK. I don’t know if I’m the only one who has been confused by Theory lately, but there have been so.many.tweaks to staples in their line, with minimum changes to the name of the style.  Their staple suiting pieces have, at least in recent years, been the Gabe (blazer), Golda (skirt), Max (bootcut pants), Emery (wider trousers), Betty (sheath dress).  Let’s take the blazer for example — first it was just the Gabe blazer. Then it was the Gabe B. blazer.  Then it was the Gabe B.2 blazer.  Now it’s the Custom Gabe Blazer.  I saw this “Urban Gabe Blazer” at Last Call and my head exploded — was this a new diffusion line?  So I called the store to see if they could give me some insight.  It’s actually pretty simple:  all of the old Gabe blazers are obsolete and not being produced any more (including the one pictured below, which is why it’s on sale).  The newest version is the Custom Gabe, which has a wider lapel and is more structured through the bodice.  “Urban” is the name for the fabric that went with one of the previous versions (the Gabe B.2 I believe); the current fabric they’re using is named Edition.  (“Tailor” is another fabric name you may recognize, which I believe went with Gabe B.) The new fabric is a similar wool blend, but has a bit more stretch and feels a bit softer.)  Some of the old product pages still exist on Nordstrom, so I’ve taken screenshots of them all here for comparison purposes if you bought one in the past, liked it, and are trying to stock up on sale online (Gabe B., Gabe B.2, Custom Gabe).

In the MEANTIME, yes, Last Call has a pretty good price on an older version.  The jacket (Gabe B 2 Urban One-Button Blazer) is $299, formerly $375; the pants (Max 2 Urban Bootcut Trousers) are $199, down from $275.  Additionally, there’s a less traditional blazer, also in the Urban fabric (Theory Lanai Urban Open-Front Blazer), was $375, now $279.  Last Call has all three in both black and oatmeal.

Plus size readers, please discuss: what is the classic black suiting that comes in plus sizes, and is thought of along similar lines? What is your go-to brand? I could link to a similar black suit for a plus-size comp, but I’m more interested in the discussion — is there a brand or suit that has a similar Hall of Fame status?

2016 Update: This suit is now in our Workwear Hall of Fame! It’s been a hit for years (see our notes above) and is still a best seller at Nordstrom (jacket / skirt / pants / dress), Bloomingdale’s, Saks and more — and occasionally, if you know what to look for, yes, you can find sales like the one we posted about here at Amazon, Last Call, or Off Fifth.

Theory suiting

theory gabe differences



  1. Wildkitten :

    Has anyone gotten LASIK in DC and would like to recommend their doctor? TYVMIA.

  2. First Year Anon :

    Good post Kat. I like posts that figure things out that I would never bother to do, but still would be helpful to know. This isn’t something that I would just be able to google to figure out.

  3. I recently purchased a Gabe suit (I can’t remember which iteration) and found the shoulders to be too padded for my taste. It reminded me of a suit David Bowie wore in the 80’s.

  4. Getting kids to read :

    NPR story on Raising Kids who want to read

  5. This is just silly. Why do manufacturers give confusing names for their products, and fabrics (Tailor?)? At least Thoery still uses true names for their colors.

    • Meg Murry :

      Yes, I just ordered 2 different JNY suits – one was “charcoal” and the other was “Heather Alloy” Do you know what the “Heather Alloy” looked like? Charcoal gray. I understand not calling it “charcoal” and then getting people upset when the 2 didn’t match perfectly because they were different fabric content, but WTF is “Heather Alloy”? Do they not understand that Heather is a plant and Alloy means mix of 2 metals? Metallic flowers, is that what we’re naming colors now?

      • But what is the color you think of when you think of metal (steel, aluminum, iron)? Gray.

        Heather is also a color mix when applied to fabrics. Or an obnoxious group of clique-y girls.

        • Meg Murry :

          I know, I guessed it was just grey – but it was hard to tell from the pics on the website, and I was wondering if it was actually more of a blue-black heather instead of gray and black. Again, just silly and annoying, not the end of the world.

      • I have always wanted to be a professional color-namer (think of the different industries you could serve! Crayons! Clothes! home décor! make up! I digress) but it’s hard not to roll one’s eyes at “heather alloy.” #tryingtohard #industrialchic?

  6. I’m completely distracted by the model’s lack of shoes in the first picture. Why would you not wear shoes with a suit? And is she standing on her toes, as if she’s wearing heels, even though she’s not? Also, it really looks like the pants picture below is the exact same shot, just with shoes (the pants are draped exactly the same, as far as I can tell). So, one of them is photoshopped. But why???

    • Fascinating. They’re probably both photoshopped.

    • I think they put the clothes on a mannequin and then later photoshop in a more realistic skin color/face so it looks like a real model. A bunch of retailers like H&M do this online, because it’s cheaper than hiring an actual model.

      • I think you nailed it! In the first picture, the feet definitely look like molded plastic.

      • Fascinating. That would explain why the feet are raised, too – like a Barbie doll, so they can wear heels.

        But it still doesn’t explain why they didn’t just put real or photoshopped shoes on her/it. Why???? (And this is from someone who would happily spend the whole day at the office completely barefoot, if it were socially acceptable.)

  7. I feel like suiting is one of the many tumbleweed-wastelands of plus sizing but I’m interested to hear what others have to say . . .

    • Lady Tetra :

      It’s definitely not great. When I first started working, I wore almost exclusively Tahari by ASL basic suiting separates (like these: Separates%26sp%3D1%26spc%3D157%26slotId%3D2%26kws%3Dtahari%20suit )
      The quality is not great, but they are affordable and they fit consistently. However, they only go up to size 18. I liked the old Eloquii for suiting too, but the new iteration of it doesn’t really have suiting pieces. I also have a few Anne Klein plus suits, which are ok but not great. I have no idea where to get really high quality plus size suits — I’d love to hear if anyone has a go-to brand.

      • Sydney Bristow :

        New Eloquii has 1 or 2 suiting options. When I looked recently they only had black and navy. I own the navy one and it works. The quality definitely isn’t great though. I have no other ideas either. This is a market that is definitely not being adequately served.

        • Second on poor quality for eloquii. The clothes are not bargains but after 4 months, the pants I brought from there look terrible. Too bad because they fit well.

    • I swear by Nordstrom’s Sejour line. They come out with a new suit every few months and I’ve bought (and liked) most of them. I do get them tailored in store (even if I order online). I also have some Talbots and Tahari ASL. Calvin Klein from Macy’s is also OK.

  8. MoinBoston :

    Advice needed! I recently transferred in my company to a new role on the West Coast. My boss of 5 months is retiring and his last week is right before the Easter holiday when I have planned vacation/travel to visit family back East. No retirement festivities are scheduled as yet. Is it awkward to potentially miss festivities for this reason? Should I think about rescheduling flights? (Am I insane for thinking it’s better to just wish him well before I leave and then enjoy my vacation?)

  9. Anonymous :

    I have Gabe B 2, Max 2 and Lanai in black – Best. Suit. Ever. Looks young, sharp and modern. Highly recommend.

    • TO Lawyer :

      What’s your body type? I’m looking for a charcoal suit and the only shade I’ve really liked is Theory but I’m pretty hippy. Really I’m just sick of trying stuff on that doesn’t fit me. Is a Theory suit worth it to buy it and get it altered if necessary?

      • TO Lawyer – I’m also hippy (and also in TO!). I have a Theory pants suit, and it fits great (after having the waist taken in) and is one of the most comfortable suit pants in my closet. It’s probably around 3 years old now, but assuming they haven’t changed significantly, definitely worth a try in my opinion.

      • Everyone I know who loves Theory is slim (close to straight up and down), especially those who are tall and slim. I’ve heard that it doesn’t work well at at all for those of us who are hippy, but ymmv.

      • Anonymous :

        OP here. I am definitely not straight up and down, I almost got offended for a second! I am 5’6″, slim, fit but not muscular, 32D, narrow back, round apple butt, size 2 in vanity brands, 4-6 in normally sized ones. I think that Theory would not work if you have broad shoulders/bigger arms/generally more stocky muscular build but if you are hippy, it should be ok. You should give it a try!

      • I thought Theory wasn’t for me because I am not straight up and down (pear) but I got my first Theory suit during their after-Christmas sale. I tried it on in the store and ended up with a jacket in size 8, pants on size 10 and dress in size 12. I actually like the suit a lot better than my Jcrew suit – the pant rise is much better for me (though I need to get the pockets taken out) and the jacket and dress fit me better too. So if you are not straight up and down, you may need to play around with the sizing, but in my mind it is worth it.

  10. SF in House :

    Does anyone have recommendations for navy blue, pointed toe flats?

  11. anon for this :

    Y’all: I’ve dived back into the shark-infested waters of online dating. So far, so good, at least as far as meeting nice (or nice-enough) guys, and I’ve been on a handful of dates.

    Here’s my real issue: I’m a traitor to my generation and don’t like a lot of texting back and forth, at least in the early days. One guy I met recently, who I otherwise liked, appears to love to text and wants to start with a “good morning” text and go from there. I tried gently suggesting today that I’m too busy at work sometimes and that I’d rather hear from him at lunch time than in the morning (because I’m so not a morning person), and he took it fairly well, but I still feel like we’re talking past each other, a little bit. (He said something about not wanting to bug me, I said I appreciated that, he said he didn’t mean to imply that saying hi feels like an obligation to him…)

    Anyway, I’m sure I’m overthinking this – we’ve literally gone on ONE DATE – but, seriously, how does one navigate different communication styles?

    • After one date, there shouldn’t be anything to “navigate.” Texting all day is A LOT of contact, and you handled it just fine. If he doesn’t get it and you’re uncomfortable, the problem is not about your generation or different communication styles–he’s just coming on too strong and turning you off.

      • Haha, Monday, how did you know it was me? ;)

        • I felt suddenly, eerily compelled to burst out of lurkerdom; now I know why. That’s just darling…

      • Yay! Suit of the Week! I love this, but the Golda pencil skirt from Nordstrom’s is $200 and my tuchus would sureley make it stretch in ALL sort’s of UNNATURAL way’s. There should be skirt’s that provide a littel more room to profesional’s like me that must sit on our tuchuses all day. Once I sit all day with a tight pencil skirt, it start’s lookeing like a mushroom when I get up b/c of all of the strain on the top of the dress from my tuchus and stomach. FOOEY on that!

        As for the OP, if you have just started dateing, do NOT waste your time texteing with this schmoe. I think guy’s who text alot are very needy and need CONSTANT reinforcement from women like us that we are into them. Or they think that if you text back enough that you will be a pusheover once he is there in the flesh. That is what hapened with the internet guy, Evan, who had bad breathe. He texted all the time and then somehow b/c I texted him back thought that I would do sexeual thing’s to him while he took it all in watcheing, if you know what I mean, and he would do NOTHING for me. FOOEY on men like that. That is what you must look out for. Men who want to lean back and relax while you are kept very busy continuouseley serviceing them. DOUBEL PTOOEY ON THAT. That schmoe, Evan, who had terible breath, kept telling me he ate Pineapples so I should greately enjoy our interluede. What was he thinking? Please do NOT fall for that line. I sure did NOT! You want a man who will be an equal to you, emotionaly, physicaly mentally and sexueally. NOT a domineering OAF that expects you to bow down to him and his winkie, like Gonzalo. NO WAY HOZE! You go girl and do NOT let him bully you into doeing anything you are NOT comforteable doeing. FOOEY!

      • Wednesday's child :

        I always feel weird when people formalize texting or act like its a thing you have to respond to right away when you receive it.

        I would just respond to his texts when I have time/when I feel like it. If that’s noon, or after 5 pm, or whatever. I don’t think casual texts (ie. good morning beautiful!) warrant immediate responses. If I was busy all day, I would just text him in the evening “good evening! How was your day?” or whatever.

    • Cream Tea :

      I would just not respond until you are free and available. If he texts you in the morning, respond at noon, when you have the time. He’ll get the picture. As long as you’re receptive he shouldn’t expect an instant reply. And if he does, it sounds like he’s the one who is over-thinking it!

    • la vie en bleu :

      omg seriously you are not alone. I HATE the extreme use of texting in general but especially in dating it makes me bananapants. But my solution is just to not respond when i don’t want to. And stop responding when I’m done with the conversation. At least early on. It doesn’t mean the guy stops necessarily, but I just choose when and how long I feel like paying attention.

      Once I am actually serious about someone and we’ve been going out a few months, I might bring it up and have an actual discussion about communication styles and how much I hate over-texting and we can work it out. But there is no point doing that whole thing with someone I might not even be seeing for much longer. So yes, I do think you are overthinking this. Don’t worry too much about ‘navigating’ things like this til it’s worth it. ;o)

      • Am I the only one whose tr0ll alarms are set off by this commenter?? Am I just too easily irritated? (If you are not a tr0ll, I apologize.)

        • I think she’s an old regular posting under a new name (in other words, not a troll).

          • I’ve been thinking the same – it’s odd how you recognize certain writing styles.

          • I’ve had the same thought. Mostly has to do with volume of posts…

          • la vie en bleu :

            This again? Posting a lot is not what troll is either. But yeah I guess it’s nice to post as anonymous all the time so no one notices you are ‘posting too much.’

            but if we’re still kicking people off of here for participating that’s kewl.

        • la vie en bleu :

          how do I seem like a troll? I do not think that word means what you think it means.

          (also, good call, January ;o))

        • Anonymous :

          Yeah, not a troll. What January said.

        • Seriously? Yeah, maybe she posts sort of frequently compared with other (but not all) named commenters, but always on topic and kindly. What the F is your problem?

    • Hey, I met my SO online and we are extremely happy/planning marriage and happily ever after. First, you said you don’t like texting and then told him you’re too busy at work. Which is it? Both? Whatever it is, you should treat it like any dating – be honest and communicate. If texting throughout the day is very important to him, do you want to do your best to chat when you can at work? For him, is not texting throughout the day not good enough for him? For both, is this something you can compromise on? Or even want to compromise on?

      I had dated guys before that texted all the time and if it was a slow work day, I was happy to indulge, but it was never something I initiated because I am not huge into texting. Also not something that could be sustained on my end when days are extremely busy. I’m in biglaw and my SO now is in a similar workplace – some very hectic and busy times and some down times, too. So at most we have a smattering of texts and save the conversations for in-person, but that works for both of us and we both feel secure in the relationship.

      • Oh, my tongue was planted firmly in my cheek, I promise! No disrespect intended (and besides, since I’m dating online, wouldn’t I also be one of the sharks?!)

        Thanks to all of you for the advice/reality check. I knew I could count on this group.

    • I have this issue too- especially with online dating (I’m 27). I think people are excited to meet someone they like and they get a little overeager- plus they want to err on the side of caution and display interest, otherwise you might get bored and find some other dude! (srsly). Plus, not everyone has jobs that are as busy/demanding. But it drives me BONKERS. I barely know you, I do NOT need to send you a text/ hour or update you on how my day was….especially if we’ve only been on a few dates. Or heaven forbid you respond to one text circa 10 pm and then they want to have a text convo with you till midnight when you’re dying to go to bed… this is why I’m alone.

      I usually text back at my own pace, and if it seems like that’s not communicating the less is more message, I will say, verbatim: “Hey, I like you and I like texting you, but I just want to let you know upfront that my days are super busy/ I try to keep focus while at work and you shouldn’t expect me to respond right away. I’m just letting you know so that you don’t worry or think I’m not interested or ignoring you.”

    • Ha, you aren’t a traitor to your generation for wanting to focus on work during work hours! I think a few texts are fine, and it’s an easy way to show continued interest in the early days when you aren’t seeing each other that often. I certainly wouldn’t want to text all day with someone I barely know, but if I’m sitting on the couch after work with my phone in hand anyway, why not? Respond on your own schedule and he will get the hint.

    • I always just outright said “hey just a heads-up that I’m an almost purely functional texter, not so much of a conversational texter”, and then behaved accordingly (e.g., would respond to a “Hi!” text a couple hours later with “argh I hate text conversations, let’s get drinks after work!”). For me, the result of this approach was that I ended up with a man who sends me occasional texts/photos with an observation or piece of information that requires zero response (which is ideal, in my world).

  12. definitely anon for this :

    Just wanted to say thanks for the support this morning about my likely herpes diagnosis. I talked to my boyfriend at lunch and despite one pretty loud and shocked “WHAT??” I think it went okay. We’re going to talk about it again when we see each other this weekend but I’m so glad he didn’t respond with and immediate nope.

    • Also consider: he might have infected you with herpes and not even be aware that he has herpes. Dan Savage has done some really good podcasts about how not-a-big-deal herpes are if you are looking for information.

      I hope you feel better!

      • definitely anon for this :

        I’ll look up the podcasts–I love Savage Love. And there is definitely a non-zero chance that I got this fr boyfriend. I haven’t had another sexual partner in a year and a half. I literally do not care about having HSV (minor skin condition? please. I had a round of HPV a few years ago–I’ll take skin irritation over possible cancer/death any day) but just ugh to the stigma and dealing with that. I hope my man continues to be cool.

  13. Anyone afflicted with stress hives?

    Since Thursday, I have been breaking out in hives from my elbows, through my chest/back, and down to my knees. No environmental changes or strange foods. So I am guessing it’s due to stress (and it feels similar to an outbreak I had due to stress years ago).

    I called the nurse and she recommended a 24-hour antihistamine. So I am using zyrtec and the hives are gone (for now).

    Anyone else have stress hives? How long do they last? When can I exercise again?

    • Yes, I’ve had stress hives a couple of times. I took a random antihistamine, and they went away, they finally stopped coming back after a few days. I never heard anything about not exercising, so maybe call the nurse again and ask?

      • The nurse suggested not exercising because it releases(?) histamines into the blood stream. I am tempted to put the zrytec to the test and try to exercise to get rid of some of the stress (that is causing the hives). Thanks!

    • "Allergies" PSA :

      I sometime get hives (not stress, allergies). In addition to a 10mg Claritin in the morning and in the evening, my allergist has me add one Pepcid tablet (or generic equivalent) because the famotidine in the Pepcid works together with the loratadine in the Claritin to make them more powerful together. We ramp up (1 Claritin/day –> 2 Claritin/day am/pm –> Pepcid with one Claritin –> Pepcid with both claritin) until the hives clear. Once they are clear for a period of time, we ramp down in the reverse order. Don’t know if the cause of your hives would mean that the treatment should be different (and I am NOT a healthcare worker), but that’s what we did.

    • First Year Anon :

      I had this happen after a bad breakup. It went away on its own in a few days once I realized what it was and tried to relax more.

  14. Help needed: just found out my mom invited about 20 people to Easter at my house. (I did tell her it was ok to invite people, just didn’t realize it would be on this magnitude.)

    I was going to do BBQ side dishes, with a bring your own meat thing and we could grill it as people come (this would have just been for my immediate family…about 10 people). Now I’m thinking this isn’t going to work for 30, because of timing. Any ideas for an easy potluck style dinner? I’m thinking Mexican food (tacos, enchiladas) or Italian food, but it’s already hot here, so I’m open to lighter fare! The easier the better because I have obligations Saturday night and Sunday morning!

    • Would you still be doing just sides or are you going to provide the full meal?

      Here are a few ideas:
      -brunch (depending on the time), including fruit salad, various pastries, overnight french toast, breakfast meat, etc. Most of this can be made ahead
      -Taco bar. Carnitas and/or chicken tinga can be made ahead and kept warm in a crock pot. Stretch it out with sides of Mexican rice, beans, etc. I think of tacos as warm weather food, maybe because Mexico is warm!
      -Salad buffet. Everything from pasta salad to caprese salad, with a main dish of a classic Easter ham (which can be served warm or room temperature). This is easy to outsource (to family or by purchasing) and most can be either made ahead or prepped ahead of time and then just dressed before serving.

    • I think a big ham would work well here, with rolls or bread for sandwiches. You could also do a big green salad and then have people bring sides: fruit salad, asparagus, maybe an egg dish, muffins, cookies, etc.

      • Lobbyist,
        Your suggestions sound like spring! I like it!

      • Also in Academia :

        This sounds like a situation for which the Honey Baked Ham company was invented!

      • This is how we do holiday dinners (30-40 people with the local crew). Host does the meat (and maybe potatoes) for all invited guests, and everyone else chips in with salads, rolls, beverages and desserts.

        Feel free to go with paper plates :)

    • I like the idea of a taco bar because you can meet almost every dietary restriction, and there are bound to be multiple with 20 people. You can also prepare and cook a lot of things ahead of time or in multiple cooking vessels. I’d make rice and beans ahead of time, pork or beef in a crockpot, and shrimp or fish on a grill. I’d ask people to bring toppings (guac, salsa, lettuce, tomato, etc) and maybe even things like the rice and beans. Provide tortillas/shells, cheese, whatever.

  15. Can I (should I) wear a full slip with a skirt? Getting my wardrobe ready for spring/summer realized one of my skirts *requires* a slip, but I’m on a budget so I only want to get one. I thought I could get more use out of a full slip for dresses but I want to make sure whatever I buy actually fulfills the original purpose (for the skirt!). Thanks!

    • Wildkitten :

      Probably. Try it on with what you want to wear – walk around, sit down, stand up, have a friend observe – so you can be sure the one you buy will work with what you want.

    • as a follow up to this, do most people wear slips with work skirts? i wear tights/hose with lined suiting skirts (mostly), but then wonder if i should be wearing the extra layer of a slip when i want to go bare-legged? is this common amongst those who wear skirts with bare legs?

      • I only wear a slip with an unlined skirt. No need for a slip with a lined skirt.

      • I have a few cheap half-slips from target I wear in the summer with bare legs, because they extend the number of wears between washing/dry cleaning the skirt itself. I also wear them in the winter with static prone tight/skirt combos.
        I actually don’t think I even own a full slip- I wear the half slip with dresses too (maybe with a camisole? clearly it’s been winter for too long).

  16. Is there really anything wrong with any of the Gabe blazers, even the ones that Theory considers “obsolete”?

  17. The Gabe blazer is for sale on theory for like $200 (!!), but only in one size up from my normal size. Anyone familiar with the sizing and/or cost and hassle of tailoring think it’s worth going for, or better to spend the $$ up front and get closer to my normal size?

  18. I’m in my early 20s and need to invest in a suit but can’t afford to pay retail. I’ve seen lots of good prices on gently used theory suiting, but I’m worried things won’t match. If I stick to true black, will most theory suiting separates match, or is there enough variation from year to year and style to style that this is a bad idea??