By Rosaline Hsieh
In Corporate America, many offices
have switched from suits to a business casual policy. Men are dressing down from full three-piece suits, oxford shirts and ties down to golf shirts, khakis and loafers. As women, we need to be more careful about dressing appropriately in the working environment. How can we dress down without crossing the threshold of revealing, beachy, or just plain inappropriate? With a few basic guidelines, the modern woman can indulge in the fashion world – piecing together funky and dressy outfits that transition wonderfully from weekend to working day woman – without breaking the bank.Quality vs. Quantity?!
Ahh... the question that all women ponder when flipping through the racks of clothing – is that $350 blazer really worth it? ...or could I save myself a couple bucks buying the knock-off version at the Gap? My advice is this: classic & well-made always wins over trendy & cheap. There is no substitute for a well-made piece of clothing – and if you think that people won't notice: you're dead wrong. I often encourage women to spend the extra $150 for that blazer that you really love – not only will it look unique and special, but what you will probably find is that in the long run, you'll likely get more mileage out of a well-constructed piece of clothing.
I believe in buying classic lines – for the young professional woman, looking to build up her arsenal of work
-appropriate attire. Classic colours and cuts are key to building up a solid wardrobe. Whether it be the thickness or delicate nature of a fabric, I look for fine stitching, no pilling, goodness of fit 'on the body' and then attention to detail (by the designer). When a designer chooses to command a higher price point for an item of clothing, I look to see what factors make that piece unique – whether it be cut, quality or design. If the item does not fit into any of these categories, we deem the piece (and probably the store) as overpriced.
Professional by Day... Vixen by Night?
The modern-day woman knows how to be a chameleon – transitioning from corporate professional to night-time party girl. Without breaking the bank, here are a few tips to 'stretching the closet'.1. Suits:
Wait...how do I party in a business suit? Often higher end stores, will carry suits that are sold in separates: jacket with a skirt or pant option. If a full suit costs $1000, the jacket usually covers 70% of that price since so much more detail and construction goes into a blazer, rather than a skirt or a pair of pants. Aside from my two basic black suits (in both pant and skirt option), I tend to gravitate towards fun, whimsical suits. Still looking for classic lines, detail and good construction, I choose suits that wear well from day to night. Often a suit with a great cut and unique design can be pieced separately so that the jacket can be toned down with a great pair of jeans.
These days, a fantastic blazer is almost an essential to party girl's nighttime wardrobe. A structured piece that frames the face and sets up the bottom half of the body, is key to looking well put-together. Having said that, a full-suit often looks too dressed up at the office (unless you are going to see clients) – which makes the bottom half a perfect separate on its own. A well-made pair of suit pants or a suit skirt can be easily dressed down with a bright twin-set on top, or else a luxurious top paired up with a knit cardigan. Matched up with a classic set of working
gal pumps, you've got yourself a killer work outfit. For the nightowl, throw on your sexiest jeans (with that great butt-shot), that rockin' camisole and throw on your funky suit jacket (with great detailing) to keep warm during the nighttime breeze.2. Twin-sets... a woman's best friend.
The combination of matching cardigan and sleeveless shell/tank is the perfect top-fit to take an outfit from day to evening. Pulling the cardigan over the sleeveless exposure at the office
, the woman puts together a polished uniform look without showing her arms or bordering on an inappropriate top half. A woman should never be caught just wearing a top with spaghetti straps and in some more conservative offices
, wearing tops with no sleeves is a taboo in itself. Not only is the cardigan useful to cover-up, but often, in the cool air-conditioned office, it doubles up to keep a girl warm at her desk. At night, she strips down to reveal a sexy shoulder or neckline, accessorized with some funky jewelry – and she's ready to get down and dirty.3. Pump up the Volume. Working
girl needs an arsenal of fantastic footwear. Don't let this small detail be overlooked. One can tell a lot about an individual by the look of their shoes. Are their shoes well maintained, polished and refined? I always stress to women that shoes are not to be left out of the budget. Don't scrimp on cheap footwear – your feet will surely pay the price as they bear the full weight of your body with each step you take. A young professional
needs three great pairs of classic pumps. Avoiding styles that are too trendy - a working girl first needs basic colours (black and tan) in a medium height (2.5 – 3 inches)... slightly rounded pointed toe with a classic refined heel. Look for detailing that makes the shoe special but one that bears the weight of your body well. Remember, a well made shoe will be comfortable, even in height.
Aside from choosing the classic pump, working girl needs to learn how to walk in them. The most off-putting thing is a girl that doesn't know how to carry herself in her shoes. Walk with the head tall, back straight, and feet pointing forward. Put each foot down with confidence, heel to toe – one step at a time. Practice slowly and you will soon be an expert in your smashing stilettos. I, personally, do not believe in wearing open toe footwear at the office. It's a fine line when you start allowing sandals into the workplace, whether strappy or beachy type shoes can be allowed and I find that a woman looks more professional
in classic pumps. Look for a shoe that elongates the length of the leg silhouette and most importantly, that you feel sexy in. A woman is unstoppable with a rockin' pair of shoes.4. Accessity/Accessorize/Accentuate...que? After all that effort, finishing touches are key.
Accessories are exactly that – a finale that lets the public know that this fashionista pays attention to the small details – and what could be a more important detail than the accessories that dress up your super duper outfit? There are a few groups to discuss specifically, within the accessories collection: jewelry belts and lastly, bags.
Basic jewelry can be summed up in one word for the working
woman: pearls. A classic set of pearls, these days, will only set a girl back three to four-hundred dollars for a double strand choker and matching studs. Pearls are the perfect everyday accessory to dress up a suit at the office and after work, to head out for martinis with the posse. A way to funk up the classic look is to twist a double strand together, forming a wreath to frame the face on top of a suit or twin-set. A good set of pearls complete the professional look and are the essential item to any girl's wardrobe. The second perfect accessory is the multi-functional brooch. Choose a medium-size brooch made of the best stones that you can afford – a beautiful brooch can dress up the most boring sweater or brighten up a old winter coat. Worn on a pant pocket, working
girl has a unique nighttime outfit.
It's so hard for a girl to find just that one bag that holds all, looks chic, isn't heavy and lasts throughout the season. What to do? I recommend that the young professional start off with the trusty three-pack: large canvas holdall, small black handbag, and lastly, fancy clutch. Three well-chosen handbags can carry a girl through an entire year of work and pleasure related functions – always appropriate for the occasion of the moment.
The large canvas holdall is essential for the working
part of the day – it fits the day-planner/palm pilot, large-form wallet, makeup bag, change, smaller handbag and other miscellaneous knick-knacks that a gal's got to have on-hand. It is paramount that the starter uses a canvas holdall – extending the life of the bag from fall/winter to spring/summer without looking heavy and outdated. Two smaller handbags keep our girl du moment day through evening. Look for a practical, good quality day-bag that has enough capacity to transport the essentials, yet chic enough to be hidden or clutched by the arm. Lastly, your fancy clutch should be embellished and unique, delicate and light: often, vintage shops will stock the most memorable finds.Color - or Lack Thereof...
Picasso's palette should be left to the masters, and the masters alone. While mixing colors and patterns can leave an outfit memorable, caution should be exercised. As an amateur, it is often better to start out with less and add on later, when one has mastered the art of style. Mixing shades can be a tricky business and an odd combination can leave a gal to be the subject of watercooler talk on a 'pump it or dump it' debate (ie: wearing a banana yellow suit might leave the impression of victimization, rather than a mastery of fashion prowess.)
Shade on shade is usually a safe bet when unsure, but the exploration of colour can really liven up one's 'same ol' closet. Choose solid pastels, non-busy floral patterns as well as vibrant hues but be sure to mix within the specific colour/pattern group. As a general rule, throwing red and green together is a bad idea, unless you truly want to go seasonal in December and two strong colours can make you too 'Austin Powers'.
Bold statements are welcomed within reason – remember, that you are still in the office, where too much attention drawn to oneself isn't always a good idea. Still, spring/summer often features the most whimsical notes: mint greens, deep corals and candy pinks. Take every opportunity to dress for the season and enjoy the beauty of vivid colour. These days fall/winter isn't limited only to shades of black and white anymore. Chocolate browns are a popular alternative to classic black and from year to year, paired up with pastel pink, electric blues or teal green – you've got a stunner of a winter outfit. Sale Sale Sale.....
Did we mention that bargain hunting is part of the game? I have so often heard the testimonial of a woman who has found the ultimate bargain. Not only finding that perfect item to add to your wardrobe, but additionally, a cheap scoop can only add to the elation of the recreational shopper. A sale find often means that even if you feel lukewarm about an item, you don't feel so guilty about the purchase, since it was a steal anyhow. Make sure that you always ask the return/exchange policy on an item before it gets rung in (since a gal's gotta have as many options as possible) and always check for imperfections – replacing the item because of a defect can be a pain, especially if you are the average size.
The best way for recreational shopper to find good deals is to be exactly that – a recreational shopper. Dedicated time is required to peruse the shops on a regular basis – finding comparable items (quality, and style of both item and shop) while regularly monitoring the prices of store inventory. You will likely find the best deals when you aren't looking for them – and savvy shopper's got to know, when to grab-it-while-it's-hot.
A conservative shopper will often miss out on a good deal – so it's best to be well informed of what's available in the city and what's a super bargain. At the next level, savvy shopper can begin to predict when items may go for second markdown or end-of-season sale. Regular shopping also helps you to get to know shop staff better – and befriending a good sales associate can be a key asset to spending wisely: detecting trends, finding out what the best-sellers are, or hold items.Vogue...Vogue...Vogue...Strike a Pose!
Like the song says – confidence is the key to the game. A frumpy outfit and a killer smile is enough to outshine any fashionista that fidgets and worries about how she looks all the time. Fashionista must be synonymous with diva attitude – know what you stand for, trust your taste and go for it. Confidence exuded will only add that extra layer of flavour to your attitude.
Often times, a lukewarm outfit (ie: masses either love it or hate it) can be won over by a confident attitude in the way you carry yourself. That 'chin-up' and 'back-straight' thing not only applies to shoe-wearing but also your show of attitude. Let people know that you're in charge of you and that you can take over the world – even if it's just a pair of killer shoes that's giving you the million-dollar grin Fashionista's General Guidelines
1. Transparent is not appropriate anywhere.
2. Only ever expose one part of the body at a time – overexposure is NOT sexy.
3. Chunky shoes were never fashionable.
4. Anything that is too tight is not appropriate for the workplace.
5. Above mid-thigh skirts and bellybaring shirts are also inappropriate for the workplace.
6. If you are questioning a piece of clothing's suitability at the office, better err on the side of conservativeness and nix it.
7. Strappy sandals at the office don't work.
8. Wear fabrics that represent the season – ie: no terrycloth in summer and no linen in winter, please!
Broken down, shopping for work isn't as difficult as it seems. Carefully consider each piece that you want to purchase: how it might fit into your wardrobe, and more specifically, what the final outfit will look like. It's very tempting to buy one-of-a-kind stunners that will knock the socks off your colleagues, but please contemplate the mileage out of a given item and where your dollars might be better put to use. Lastly, purging is an important part of good working closet maintenance. Review the contents of your walk-in at least twice a year: anything untouched for two years should be chucked away or else packed for donation. With these few tips, I hope I will find many more of you dressing for success. Good luck.
Source : http://www.hilary.com/fashion/career-fashion.html