Sunday, July 20, 2008

My (and maybe your) Work Wear Essentials

I have been avoiding this post. I seriously wondered, Have I written a check I can’t cash? Geez. Personally, I don’t like lists that dictate what one should or shouldn’t wear. It goes against everything I think true style is. There are always exceptions to the rules. However, after reading this post from one of Glamour mag's blogs I decided I couldn’t renege on my promise. So, I have managed to create a five item work wear essentials list based on my experience and observations without creating any mandates or absolutes. How lame would that be?

Although I work in a relaxed office in terms of dress code, I have totally taken into account those who don't. I hate when magazines publish career fashion features and style models wearing fishnets and five-inch heels. The average woman can't wear that to work! So know that this list was formed with all professions (and budgets) in mind.

Here goes:

a suit (pants or skirts) - I prefer pant suits but obviously the choice is yours. I actually enjoy pairing a traditional suit with a wife beater or even a lacy camisole to mix it up a bit. For those working in a traditional corporate setting, a less bare top would probably be more appropriate. But whether I was working for Morgan Stanley or running a cupcake business from my kitchen, the key for me is still details, details, details. As I’ve mentioned before, I love the craftsmanship of Paul Smith (gonna get one of his suits when I grow up) so contrasting linings are a huge plus for me. So are double lapels, interesting details on pockets and unique top stitching. I’ve surprisingly scored amazing deals on suits with these special touches and more at Barneys and Nordstrom so don’t sleep on them! An extra benefit of high-end stores are the in-house tailors.

a "crisp" white shirt/blouse - My mom has always said you can never have too many and I now have to agree. Whenever you’re in a bind, pop one on with a black pencil skirt or trousers and you’re bound to look professional and pulled together. (Remember when this was the church choir uniform?) To avoid looking like a waiter, complete the outfit with a pair of pumps and/or a handbag in bright color. If that is still too "out there" for your office, let your jewelry display a hint of personality. The Gap did a line of designer white shirts a couple seasons back that were a little left in a cool way. At the moment, I’m really digging this one from Target which I happen to own in royal blue.

a sensible pair of pumps - I mentioned in a previous post that black pumps were a wardrobe staple for me. While I guess this is true, I do like a surprise braided slingback, a rounded toe or even a funky heel as well. The hidden platform in this pair from Samanta make them more comfortable than they look. In most corporate office settings, flip flops or open-toe heeled sandals are a no-no but that doesn’t mean the school principal or law firm partner can’t still have a mean shoe game. Accessories are such a fun way to expose your creativity despite what you do for a living. Think Joan’s character on Girlfriends.

a substantial bag (that can hold resumes, recco letters, a portfolio, etc.) - Since we are in the midst of the digital age this might not be a big deal to some but I still think there is something so authoritative and professional about walking into an interview or important meeting/presentation with a portfolio case or tote bag versus a purse. Don’t you? The choices are endless right now as the handbag market is constantly getting new offerings. I "splurged" on a monogram Louis Vuitton shopper tote a few years back and I truly believe it was an investment. It is classic, seasonless and literally goes with everything. And since folks are currently plopping down 2/3 g’s for bags maybe it was actually a bargain…

a trench coat - The trench is so ideal in the spring, fall and sprinter. There is not too much I can write about the trench that hasn’t been written before. It too is a classic. While it always says "I mean business," something about cinching the waist with the belt screams femininity. (By the way, if a tradional trench feels too stuffy for your taste, try switching the belt it was sold with for a leather or suede one.) There are a plethora of colors, styles and price points available so take your pick. It is always disappointing to see someone wearing a fly suit under a casual bubble jacket to a professional occasion.

What did I miss? Leave a comment and let me know.

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