Category Archives: style

Hey, Paper Doll, Let’s talk SFW and Business Casual

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No doubt about it, dress codes can be difficult to navigate.  But here are some things that “safe-for-work” (and here I am talking about most “corporate” desk jobs) should honestly never, ever, ever include:

  • Thongs/flippy-flops
  • Ugg boots
  • Any kind of pajama
  • Sweat pants
  • Yoga pants
  • Cut-offs
  • Anything that shows your bra or bra-straps on purpose
  • Skirts so short that could be mistaken for a belt
  • Tube tops
  • Ripped/super-distressed denim
  • Anything that reveals any part of your midriff (sorry Taylor Swifty, but we all know that *you* don’t have a desk job)

And here’s a list that I’d consider you to think hard about twice before wearing. A lot of these could fly in many contemporary offices, but if you’re headed to an interview (!), or a new office, when in doubt (scream and shout) avoid these items, too:

  • Any kind of shorts (even the “fancy” ones)
  • Open toed-shoes/sandals (even peeps)
  • Tops/dresses that reveal cleavage
  • Tank tops
  • Halter tops
  • Any cutaway style (even if it uses lace or sheer to obscure skin)
  • Unlined lace or sheer tops that reveal undergarments
  • Thigh-high boots
  • Leather/pleather pants
  • Tights as pants

Remember, Taylor Swift is a rock-star by profession and Amal Clooney is playing the part of celebrity wife, not barrister, when you’re catching her in photos in People. When it’s time for you to shine for the paparazzi, be sure you go no-holds-barred but until then, remember who you are and what you’re dressing to do.

Made to measure

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I was recently lucky enough to be offered a chance to select a dress from PIOL, a new company offering made to measure dresses. PIOL lets you piece together your desired style, choose the fabric you want, and then uses your measurements to create the perfect dress just for you.

The PIOL website is pretty spiffy–all pointy clicky–and you can see your dress take form as you are directed through an easy-to-use step-by-step creation process. The most difficult parts of the process? Actually committing to a design and getting your measurements right.

So how did I do? I wanted to make sure I judged the dress on a fair playing ground plus I wanted a dress that I might wear to death and wear everywhere, so I chose a tailored silhouette, a moderate v-neck, a long pencil skirt, and cap sleeves. In black. But before you judge and shun me for not choosing one of their multitudes of great patterns, I just want to say that I thought black would be the best option for seeing the true lines of the dress. AND, I chose black matte stretch, which turned out to be a to-die-for fabric.

The dress is lovely and looks exactly as it’s shown on the site.

piol

UNTIL, and here’s where the advantage of off the rack comes in, you turn it around and see…

The exposed stainless zipper. Which I know was all the style last year but it’s not a readily disclosed feature on the site (although I can sort of see it in the photo now) and it really destroyed the LBD demure dress image I had in mind.

For my measurements, I measured and measured and measured again before submitting them. The bust size is spot on. Unfortunately the bust size fails to take into account my slightly broad shoulders and the fit isn’t quite perfect there. Also, I feel like I would take in the waist and hips in a future dress. It’s a little roomy. At maximum fatness, the dress would probably be fine but since I dropped a bit of weight since taking the measurements a few weeks ago, it’s not perfect. I probably should have cinched that measuring tape right up like a corset. Mea culpa. Completely. But I was also afraid of getting a dress I couldn’t slip on. Which would have been worse.

So would I do it again? I’m not sure. I’ve got a lovely Tahari black dress that fits me quite nicely that cost a small fraction of the PIOL retail. But I DO have difficulty finding dresses that fit (I’m talking to you J. CREW!) and I am certain that I’d have the measurements completely dialed in the second time around. But the zipper was a real shocker and I would be super nervous about choosing a pattern without seeing it in real life. To its merit, PIOL does its best to minimize risk and does offer a very gracious return policy (all you are responsible is for the shipping costs both ways). So I guess I’m undecided (although I know I would be tempted) and I hope they work on a hidden zip option soon.

Sing the blues during your next interview

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A recent CareerBuilder survey makes the connection between colors and employers’ impressions of them. Over 2,000 hiring managers and human resources professionals from a variety of industries and company sizes were surveyed.

They were asked to advise job applicants on the best color to wear to a job interview. Their top pick? Blue. (Although admittedly, blue received only 23% of the total vote.)

Your worst choice? Orange. While it’s associated with “creative”, it’s also associated with “unprofessional”.

Interview challenge: under $350

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I thought I’d give myself a small challenge today and see what it might take to suit up in pieces I might actually wear again.

I decided that sale items were fair game if they weren’t one-of-a-kind close-outs, but I made sure that the pieces I put into my hypothetical shopping bag met a certain standard–they had to be versatile enough that I would mix them in with other things I might wear once hired and they had to be good quality pieces that would stand up to scrutiny (no unlined jackets, no trousers that wrinkle if you look at them wrong, nothing that looks like it might not last a day’s wear–nothing that would go to the back of the closet and stay there for good).

What made the cut ?

I started by finding a jacket I liked that had some matching pant options. LOFT was having a sale so I gravitated to this suit, knowing that they offer a good range of sizes and that the fit and finish would be very good. Once the jacket and pants were settled, I moved on to a top. Since the jacket is an open style, I wanted a color to punch up the outfit a bit, but I didn’t want to spend money on a colored silk or poly shell which I might move to the back of my closet. I like T’s under jackets. They’re versatile and cheap and truly the Target brands are great ones (there’s no need to premium dollar here). And then it was on to accessories. Timex makes a great classic watch. Since real pearls can be had at the same price or less than many women’s retailers, I chose real ones. I opted for a pair of classic black leather pumps–in a rather non-neckbreaking height. And then, a Zara tote that looks almost as good as it would in leather.

Total cost: $341

In the wild: gone wrong

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Sometimes we make poor outfit choices. We all do. We’re rushed. Or we get fixated on grabbing for our favorite items. But sometimes things go very wrong–as they did for our consultant who turned up this week looking less than the put-together field expert she should have been.

Her choices: a Nehru collared jacket in dusty rose velvet with a row of baby buttons up the front, black poly-blend, pleated slacks, a black rib knit turtleneck, pink topaz drop earrings, mother of pearl and horn bracelet watch, a long gold wire-wrap necklace with iridescent burgundy crystal drops, black athletic anklets with grey trim, terribly scuffed black loafers, and a black chiffon hair bow. I’ve done my best to recreate the actual outfit below. Words don’t come close to describing how wrong the overall outfit looked all pulled together.

When I thought back on it (and seriously, I could not stop thinking about how wrong it was), many of the key individual items weren’t wrong on their own. Where did she go wrong? First, like a bad magpie, she chose too many of her favorite pretty, pretty things to adorn herself. Second, no one over the age of ten or not cast in the remake of Heather’s can pull off a big hair bow. And third, from the ankles down she dressed as though she were working a shift at Cracker Barrel.

But is the outfit salvageable?

Yes!

And I even figured out two possible ways to style the core pieces and look like a polished professional ready to instill confidence in her paying clients.

It doesn't have to be like that

Skirting the issue

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I confess. I’m like a deer in the headlights when it comes to dressing the skirt suit for an interview. I love the way a skirt suit can look so fabulously polished and yet, I have such an aversion to wearing “pantyhose” that it is territory that I avoid like the plague. Bare legs paired with a dress or skirt haven’t been on the “no-no” list for years here in California unless you’re in the court room or in a bank. And in my mind, they are the trappings of an older generation (not to mention that I my pumps always slip off my feet when I wear them with hosiery). However, the interview dynamic dictates that we fall back to more formal, conservative attire–so bare legs become more of a question, even if they’re something that would totally fly in the normal office environment.

I recommend that if you go the way of the skirt suit, you absolutely err on the side of hosiery for your first interview. Go skin tone. Get as close of a match as possible. As sheer as possible. Sheer black nylons were left behind in the last millennium (for good reason). And opaque tights (even in black and even if they’d totally be your go-to at the office) can make even the chicest suit look instantly matronly. Nordstrom has some good nude options that won’t break the bank. Calvin Klein has some great super sheers, too. And of course, Wolford probably offers the best of the bunch–but their prices aren’t for most budgets.

Pro-tip: Avoid stay-ups–they never do. And skip the garters/stockings combo–the fasteners can show through thinner suiting material.

Or wear trousers. I do.

Cats and dogs

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It’s been a rough winter season for most of the US, but we’re just beginning to see rain here in California. Inclement weather can really throw a wrench in pulling together your interview look but if you have the right gear, you can still look polished.

It’s fine to carry a coat and umbrella to your interview. Your coat should ideally be a trench style that fits over your suit jacket. Leave your bulky ski jackets at home. If you’re braving snow, slush, or salted sidewalks, it’s acceptable to carry a tote bag big enough to hold your boots, and change into interview shoes when you arrive at your destination but avoid a dramatic costume change in the lobby.

Need some inspiration? Say no more…

cats and dogs

Interview style recon

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It can often be difficult to figure out what exactly to wear to your first interview. And while I stand by my claim that you can’t go wrong with this number, the right outfit can vary by occupation and industry.

If you’re going to interview at a larger company and have the benefit of some spare cycles prior to your interview, a small lobby stake-out can tell you a lot about the workplace attire. However, it may not reveal what’s expected of you as an actual candidate. As an example, I worked for a number of years in the engineering arm of a high profile software/hardware startup. While I wore jeans, company logoed unisex tees, and Keds to work, my expectations were that everyone I interviewed would come prepped and dressed to show me their interview dance. Even in that most laid-back environment, a suit was a given for at least the first round and the absence of one didn’t go without remark.

Cue Glassdoor.com. Although I have visited Glassdoor before, it wasn’t until today that I had noticed that some users were including comments on attire. The volume of posts that include style comments is low, but it could lend some insight into what you can expect. You need to join if you want to view more than ten reviews but accounts are free so there’s not much to lose. And, Glassdoor reviews cover a wealth of meatier topics that can help you know what to expect and get you prepped for questions.

It’s a great time for a new suit

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Did you know that January is considered one of the best times of the year to buy a suit? It is. According to Who What Wear, since January is considered a slow month for suit sales, retailers often lower prices to boost business.

Given it’s the last Friday of January, that means it’s a great time to shop the sales for a new suit.

High on the places you should start looking? Ann Taylor, where they are offering 50% off your entire purchase, in store and they have a great selection of marked down suiting separates online which are and extra 50% off as well. Most major department stores (think Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s) have some good finds (plus an extra percentage off this weekend) if you’re willing to spend the time digging through their sites.

My find of the day: a stretch silk shirt from Brooks Brothers.

Stretch Silk Blouse - Brooks Brothers

Um, hello? Did someone say stretch silk?! A silk blouse that won’t look like a train wreck after the first ten minutes?! I find Brooks Brothers to offer excellent quality, but often a cut that doesn’t work well for me, so I don’t often shop them. But I occasionally stumble on great (and more affordable) finds in their sale section and it’s worth checking out what’s lurking in there every now and then.

In the wild: marketing consultant

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What just walked through my door? Our marketing consultant in an Ann Taylor outfit that kills it.

In the wild: marketing consultant

What made this ensemble sing? The blush shell (almost like the one shown but with no embellishments at the neckline) and a rose-gold Michael Kors chronograph watch worked to soften up the brown suit and were spot on compliments to her skin tone and hair color. The large tote (again, almost a match to the one she was carrying) was large enough to let her slip her laptop inside-she was our PowerPoint queen-eliminating the need to lug along a clunky and ugly company issued laptop bag.