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How can you make professional, stylish work outfits using suit separates? What are the do’s and don’ts of combining parts of the suits in your closet? Reader A asks…
I’m a 2nd year law student in New York and will be starting work at a firm this this summer — I used your tips and articles throughout the interview process. I would love to hear your thoughts on this: Can I wear suit pieces as separates? For example, can I wear my gray suit pants with a white shirt and then a black blazer?
Great question, and one we haven’t talked about in a while. (For other work outfit ideas, check out this post on building a capsule wardrobe for work, or this old post on building your professional wardrobe.) You absolutely can wear your suit pieces as business casual separates — that’s part of why a suit with separates is such a great investment to make. Here are some suggestions for creating your work outfits:
- Pay careful attention to texture — particularly when you’re adding a blazer on top. This matters almost as much as color! If the texture of your pants or dress is too similar to the blazer texture, it’s going to look like you’re trying to make a suit instead of wearing separates. (Affordable suits can be found really easily — I think my record was $30 for a skirt suit set.) So I’d suggest keeping the textures very different. Pair seasonless wool or thick ponte with tweed, winter wool, velvet, corduroy, and more.
- Better yet, avoid the blazer issue completely and wear your suiting separates with cardigans or other toppers. You can always keep the matching jacket in your office and throw it on if you’re heading to a big meeting.
- Don’t wear the same piece two days in a row, unless circumstances force you to (such as traveling with a small capsule wardrobe for work). Clothing like suiting separates will always benefit from being hung up and allowed to fully dry/air out between wears. Plus, even if you’re wearing the same gray pants as part of two different outfits, someone might notice — there’s a limit to how often you can repeat work outfits and rewear the same pieces.
- Dry clean all of your pieces together to ensure they wear the same.
Readers, what are your thoughts on using suiting separates to expand your wardrobe?