One good thing the recession has done is rouse fashion designers to become more pragmatic and value-conscious in response to consumer demand. Style-makers are resonating with the economic climate; presenting elegant, well-constructed, non-frilly, yet feminine options that are easily transferrable from runway to office. With these realistic standards in mind, catwalk models are finally sporting refined and redesigned traditional looks that are both fiscally and physically attainable. This fall/winter’s easy-to-wear trends cater to today’s busy career woman—“You.” The season’s blend of soft textures, jewel-tone colors, classic patterns, flowy silhouettes, demure hemlines, and contrasting trims pay attention to work-style convention, while adding just enough of a twist of modern panache.
This season you needn’t feel pressured to over-spend on an abundance of wardrobe pieces as you may already own most of what’s deemed a “must-have.” Instead, treat yourself to one or two of my top 10 office friendly style picks—sure to revive your existing wardrobe, guarantee a great impression, and get you noticed at work—without breaking the bank.
1. Houndstooth is the winning pattern of this season. This traditional black and white print pattern found in everything from dresses, skirts, scarves, coats, shoes, totes, and leggings works exceptionally well with jewel tone colors for a contemporary-chic look. The mini version of this print, referred to as “puppytooth” is suitable for the most corporate of office environments. Increase the scale of the print from medium to extra-large for an added splash of dramatic appeal.
2. Motorcycle jackets are not exactly what you would consider office appropriate in their original state. Reinvented in materials like buttery suede, lush wool, plush tweeds and modified asymmetrical zippers; the motorcycle jacket has earned its place as an alternative to the classic suit jacket. Particularly suitable for sporting in creative and fashion-forward office environments where business casual is acceptable in lieu of a suit. Choose a motorcycle jacket for business appeal that says, “va va voom!”
3. Green is the new “black.” Tones, tints, and shades of green seem to be popping up on the runway, editorial pages, retail, and e-stores. May the craze be partly attributed to global optimism for a rising economy? Perhaps so, but it is perhaps more coincidental than anything else. Regardless, I particularly love an emerald green and teal color combo. It bears the retro vintage look and feel of wild and feathery peacocks that communicates daring femininity—just what you need to bewilder your business adversary.
4. Textures are soft, nubby, tweedy, embroidered, and embossed—all of which are associated with opulence or comfort. High fashion work environments provide a natural setting for head-to-toe usage of these textures; while in ultra conservative atmospheres they may be designated to accessories such as shoes, belts, and handbags. Create interest and depth to fall looks by combining plain or twill weave textures with a variety of sumptuous textured weaves.
5. Cinched waists bring the illusion of an hour-glass figure to every body shape. Peplum dresses and belts on sweaters, jackets, and coats provide a slimming effect for thicker waists and a camouflaging solution for elongating or shortening torsos. Indented waists also appear more tailored and business-appropriate. Who doesn’t want to come across neat and pulled together at her next interview or company-wide meeting, right?
6. A-line skirts and dresses are influenced by the ultra-feminine fashions of the fifties introduced via designers like Christian Dior. With its narrow waistline and wide skirt, this silhouette reinforces the cinched waist. Paired with a short fitted jacket or cardigan, A-line skirts and dresses offer vintage style with an added advantage for women wishing to camouflage molded hips, midriffs, and buttocks. A-line skirts also balance shoulders that are considerably larger than hips. Select this look for after-hours company dinners and events for a touch of corporate class.
7. Oversized coats in bold colors and magnificent fabrics are a popular favorite this season. Adorned with details like oversized buttons, patch pockets, high-low hems, or funnel, inverted and shawl collars, these maxi coats will become your staple outerwear garment for business and play. Customize the voluminous look by accessorizing with a contrasting belt or streamline your appearance by pairing with cigarette pants, leggings, or jeggings.
8. Brooches are making their way back into your jewelry collection this season. Functional and decorative, an interesting brooch will get you noticed at the office and make you stand out at a networking event. Pin one to your lapel, shoulder, scarf, hat, or handbag and experience how much of a conversation starter a brooch can become; especially if there is an exciting travel adventure or an interesting story behind how it was acquired.
9. Leather/leatherette trim transforms the most ordinary garments and accessories into cutting-edge designer looking pieces. While all-leather apparel is typically not appropriate for business, a trace of leather on a vest, suit jacket, or trench coat offers just enough zest to update your image at work. Braided leather trims add even more visual interest and texture in a subtlety sophisticated way.
10. Smoking Slipper Loafers are this season’s most coveted footwear trend. Lasting comfort meets preppy styling—ideal for smart-casual business dressing. Choose these men-inspired flats over their feminine ballerina flat contender for a sophisticated look that is sure to earn you newfound admiration at work. Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground with slipper shoes that elevate your confidence.
There are countless reasons why you may be missing the mark on job interviews, or being passed up for more visible positions within your current workplace. You may be lacking credentials, experience, people skills, or “professional maturity.” It can take you months or even years to overcome such objections, but HYGIENE—the silent career killer—is one obstacle you can overcome in as little time as it takes to brush your teeth. Yet so many people would sooner get a PhD than address their VbBO (Very bad Body Odor). While travelling into Manhattan today in a not-so-well air-conditioned train, with 100 degree weather outside, a wretched human stench brought Phoebe Buffay’s (played by Lisa Kudrow on NBC’s ‘Friends’) rendition of ‘Smelly Cat’ to mind. If you don’t know who you are (you never do), the safest bet to avoid being crowned “Mr./Ms. Stinky” is to take a preventive approach. Unpredictably, seemingly innocent odors or flakes are liable to turn into near-suffocating and stomach-turning obstacles in your career. Following are three of the most common hygiene offenders and ways to dramatically improve your hygiene scorecard in business and beyond.
As our body temperature rises, our sweat glands come to rescue by secreting fluid, known as perspiration, to cool us down. It’s our built-in sprinkler system, if you will. Yet, if you are someone who tends to perspire a great deal it does not automatically mean you should not smell fresh. Surprisingly, the clear secretion produced by our glands is actually odorless. It’s only when the bacteria found in our skin and hair takes over the secretion that odor is emitted.
Combat body odor by bathing once or twice a day with an antibacterial soap rather than a lavender or musk scented bath gel that will only disguise your smelly syndrome. Pay close attention to areas like your neck, underarms, groin, feet, toes, and just about everywhere there is a crease or a skin fold for bacteria to linger. If you like particular floral or woodsy scents feel free to apply them after the use of antibacterial soap. You may also consider hair removal options to deter bacteria from finding a cozy home.
Nicotine breath, empty stomach breath, sick breath, tuna fish sandwich breath, or poor oral hygiene breath will surely keep you at more than an arm’s length from a potential employer, co-worker, or client. Avoid thinking that chomping on a stick of gum will fix oral smells. It will only temporarily mask the problem and create bigger issues down the road (i.e. cavities and TMJ or lock jaw). Also, as far as business etiquette faux pas go, gum chewing is at the top of the list.
Combat offensive breath by flossing and brushing after every meal. Arrange visits to your hygienist every six months, even if your insurance only covers going once a year. You, your breath, and your teeth will be rewarded tenfold for doing so. Examine food choices that may be the cause of gastric issues which permeate through your breath. A tasty and practical solution if you’re rushing between interviews, appointments, or meetings is to eat a whole apple on the go. It will not only satisfy your appetite; it will also act as a natural flossing agent to dislodge food particles from your teeth.
Aesthetically unpleasing and embarrassing, dandruff is an uncomfortable condition that is often exacerbated by weather changes (cold to hot or hot to cold) and high-pressure situations like interviewing, or dealing with stressful deadlines. Poor food choices, lack of sleep, bowel dysfunction, and excessive use of hair products may also be responsible for aggravating dandruff.
Combat dandruff by choosing shampoos meant for dislodging the dry skin cells from your scalp. Maintain a balanced diet and choose high-fiber foods that help cleanse your system. Experiment with home remedies such as adding cider vinegar to your shampoo for cell removal, or massaging mineral oil into your scalp before washing your hair to help restore moisture. Regularly brushing your scalp also helps stimulate it and removes flakes. A combination of shampooing, conditioning, and eating right will alleviate this ever-frustrating challenge that may be branding you as the office outcast.
As a wearer and lover of hats I’m amazed at how many women discount them as an accessory of choice. Yet hats are ideal for adding spark, style, and sophistication to any plain or dreary outfit. Even self-proclaimed Fashionistas will often overlook hats as chic add-ons; investing in ones worn solely for weather protection instead of fashion hats meant for style and prestige. If your nature is to be casual or reserved, a hat may actually enhance your privacy by keeping you ‘protected.’ My passion for hats along with my mission to inspire a hat trend among modern women led me to devote this blog post to hats. Once you appreciate the practicality, originality, and totality a hat can bring to your overall appearance— you too may become a hat evangelist. Avoid thinking of them as foreign, intimidating, or cumbersome pieces; and remember to observe proper etiquette when wearing a hat. As soon as you define the role of a hat in your wardrobe you will be excited to explore their endless possibilities.
Use hats to…
• Beautify messy, limp, or unshampooed hair
• Hide dark or gray roots
• Add height to your body as usually done with high-heels
• Emphasize your eyes
• Incorporate personality and flair into an otherwise ‘blah’ outfit
• Create a signature look for yourself
• Balance the look and style of your shoes for a complete & polished look (think of hats and shoes as bookend accessories)
Choose hats to accentuate, balance & camouflage…
• Wide Brimmed & Oversized Floppy hats offer the most protection from weather elements, but also camouflage large ears and long necks. Glamorous, dramatic, and voluminous in shape and size, these are a perfect option for balancing curvy silhouettes. Choose wide brim hats for lounging by the pool while sipping a frothy drink. Wear oversized floppy hats under long, loose curls with flowy maxi dresses for a romantic, retro-chic look.
• Fedora hats gained their name from Sarah Bernhardt’s 1882 play ‘Victorien Sardou,’ in which she also starred as the heroine, Princess Fedora. The narrow (2-2.5 inches) brim of a Fedora makes it a classic, understated hat option. Wear your Fedora tilted to one side in order to camouflage asymmetrical features or eyebrows. Tilt it forward for a mysterious and seductive look, as well as for camouflaging a protruding nose. Pair a Fedora with a tailored suit, dress, or trench coat for a perfectly refined image.
• Cowgirl hats are worn by women who choose to accentuate strength and ruggedness— though they are ironically interpreted as sultry and sexy. The high-crowned structure of this hat adds inches to your height, thereby accentuating slender physiques and balancing molded ones. Throw on a cowgirl hat whenever you want to kick your t-shirt and jeans up a notch or with a cami-top and tiered skirt for a look that is edgy yet relaxed.
• Baseball Caps & Visors are the natural choice for hat atheists. Baseball caps and visors are easy to throw on for a quick supermarket run or trip to the hairdresser. Gender-neutral and universal for pairing with casual wear or active wear, these are flattering for all face shapes and silhouettes. Baseball caps and visors are ideal for comfort, protection, and versatility. Invest in baseball caps or visors without emblems or sports logos in denim and velour fabrics or classic plaid and tartan prints to combine a bit of urban with upscale.
• Cloche hats emerged in the 1920’s and gained popularity alongside flapper dresses. The bell shape and snug fit of a cloche hat make it a perfect solution for camouflaging ears and foreheads that protrude. Short hairstyles can be neatly tucked under this hat and paired with a drop-waist dress to achieve a roaring 20’s vintage feel. Cloche hats complement women with fine facial features and petite silhouettes. Add a gemstone or floral pin to accentuate and personalize this classic feminine look.
• Bucket hats are soft with a downwards sloping brim which offers moderate shade from the sun. Favored by competition archers and fishermen, bucket hats provide a cool and sporty option for wearers who prefer to do without the fussiness or drama of wide-brimmed and floppy hats. Typically constructed from heavy-duty fabrics like denim and canvas, bucket hats are a great option for adventurous or outdoorsy women looking for protection and flair. Bucket hats accentuate a camo-safari look with simplicity and comfort.
• Beret hats associated with French culture are flat-crowned, soft, round, and moldable caps that are transportable and easy to wear. Berets soften angular features, elongate round faces worn tilted, and balance oblong faces worn slightly off-center. Hand-knitted, crocheted, or woven berets may also be dressed up by adding a decorative pin. Berets complement just about any outfit, and look especially chic with military jackets since they originated as uniform headgear for soldiers during the seventeenth and eighteenth century.
Keep fashion hats on whenever…
• The national anthem is being sung or played
• A national flag is raised or exhibited in a parade or funeral procession
• Attending a religious service
• Dining at a luncheon, wedding, or garden party
• In a residence
• Sitting at an indoor performance or event
Remove fashion hats whenever…
• Interviewing for a job
• Working within a professional environment
• Dining in business
• They obstruct the view of a person sitting behind you
• Wearing unisex hats such as trendy baseball caps/visors or stylish cowgirl hats during: formal introductions, funeral/processions, flag raisings, mealtimes, religious services, indoor performances, work environments, or while entering public buildings or restaurants.
*Cancer patients and women with Alopecia Areata are exempt from these hat removal etiquette guidelines
Have you ever had one of those panic-stricken mornings when you feel like you own absolutely nothing to wear to work? It hardly seems possible given the countless pieces you’ve acquired throughout the years. Aren’t those treasures just waiting to be delved from the deep black hole you call your closet? Maybe, you’re a recent college graduate or back-to-work mom who’s lived in t-shirts and jeans for the last five years. Where do you begin to figure out your career wardrobe? It’s costly to go on an aimless shopping spree before you’ve even set eyes on your first paycheck. For those of you who’ve remained employed and active career wear shoppers, there may be too many unfitting choices in your closet. Luckily, building a practical workplace wardrobe need not be expensive or overwhelming. In fact, the key is to invest in fundamental garment pieces that will support your wooziest, dreariest, or hastiest morning ever. Some of my picks may already live in your closet. You’ll just need to breathe new life into those items you identify as your “go to” pieces. Regardless of whether you’re building or revamping a business wardrobe, let this post serve as your career style navigation system. Shop online, a boutique, a mall, or in your closet. Done purposefully it will be the best source of ‘retail therapy’ you’ll ever experience.
✓ White Collared Shirt
A blank canvas waiting to be painted is what a white collared shirt is within your wardrobe. It instantly brightens your eyes, skin, and teeth; and it epitomizes meticulous grooming when worn pressed and stain-free. The white collar of a shirt highlights your face the way a picture frame accentuates a beautiful painting. On its own or layered under a jacket, cardigan, or colorful scarf, a white collared shirt is the universal staple of every career wardrobe.
✓ Sheath Dress
Classic and chic, with a simple silhouette and tailored fit, the sheath dress is an indispensable piece that magnificently transitions from daywear to after work cocktails wear in a flash. Choose one with a neckline that compliments your face shape. “V” and cowl necklines elongate a round face and short neck. Round, mock, and turtle necklines camouflage a long neck. Bateau necklines balance oblong faces. Accentuate with an oblong scarf to kick up the style factor. Works well under a suit jacket for a formal office look.
✓ Suit Jacket
Impeccable fit, construction, and fabric are essential to this focal point garment in your wardrobe. The suit jacket formalizes any outfit and transforms it into a professional ‘power’ look. A suit jacket worn over your shirt, collared shirt, or camisole commands status and attention. Solid colors and tone-on-tone patterns are most practical as your first or only suit jacket option. Since it is the most ‘influential’ career wardrobe staple, you should invest in the most timeless and well-constructed one you can afford.
A-line skirts for women with rounder derrieres and stomachs work best, while pencil or straight skirts compliment sleeker physiques. Matching a skirt with your suit jacket works well for a job interview, but choosing a skirt in a complimentary color and fabric will give you a polished look with a modern edge. Reveal a youthful image with a hemline that brushes the top of your knee cap. Show a more conservative appearance with a hemline that falls right below your knee cap. Look for one with a front, back, or side slit for a hint of feminine flair.
Find a pair of ready-to-wear slacks that fit well and you will live in them (a hint of spandex—about 2%—often helps with proper fit). Choose a straight leg for a traditional look, tapered leg for a contemporary look, or a wide leg for more a glamorous look. Vertical patterns lengthen your legs, while plaids shorten your legs. Select slacks that match your suit jacket so you have the flexibility of wearing them as a suit or as separate pieces.
✓ Cardigan Sweater
What’s not to love about the cardigan sweater? It is your ‘all-occasion’ friend. Select a cotton or cashmere cardigan over your collared shirt or camisole for a polished year-round look. Add energy and excitement to your wardrobe with a vibrant-hued cardigan that becomes your favorite transitional garment. As a layered piece or on its own, the knit cardigan sweater withstands the test of stretch-n-grow; especially if you’re one whose weight tends to fluctuate with office picnics and holiday parties.
✓ Camisole Top
Camisole tops are a necessity in your wardrobe regardless of your size, age, or style. I really can’t say enough about them since I own one (or more) in just about every color. For the purpose of this blog post, we’re trying to keep it simple so one will have to do. Camisoles are amazing as they add a layer of support, comfort, protection, texture, and color. Sport one under your white collared shirt, cardigan sweater, or use a dressy silk one under your suit jacket. Select a ‘cami’ with compression qualities to smoothen and slim your bust line and midriff area.
✓ Mid-heel Pump Shoes
Invest in quality mid-heel pump shoes that you can presumably wear every single day. When it comes to a work shoe, comfort trumps glamour. Think of shoes as you would car tires—they must fit and be in great condition for reliability and speed. I can’t stress the importance of being able to walk gracefully in heels. Observe yourself or ask an honest friend to watch how you walk in up to 3 inch heels. If you feel wobbly or insecure, reduce the height by half inch increments. Your confidence and poise should be communicated through your gait. Therefore, avoid awkwardness. A note about color: regardless of the color the value (referring to the lightness or darkness of the color) should be similar to the value of your hair. Think of your hair and shoes as bookends which securely hold the complete you.
✓ Tote Bag
A roomy tote is your cost-effective answer to staying organized with one main bag for work and play. Totes come in a variety of styles, shapes, materials, and price points. Also, in case you were wondering, tote bags needn’t match your shoes, belt, or other accessories. Totes are sort of an upgraded retail store shopping bag so they don’t really have to even match your outfit. Show your artistic side with a mixed media tote or your conservative side with a traditional choice.
✓ Oblong Scarf
Even if you’re normally intimidated or can’t be bothered with scarves, you should incorporate at least one into your wardrobe essentials. An oblong scarf can easily replace a belt, a long necklace, or tote bag charm. In addition, a scarf will add flush, flair, and fusion to any dull outfit in need of a jolt. Scarves with geometric patterns will offset curvy body types, while scarves with swirl motif designs will balance angular body types. If you prefer to accentuate your body type, choose a pattern that replicates your natural body lines.
Refer to this list of career style essentials whenever you need guidance on assembling or replenishing your mainstay wardrobe items. If you’re downsizing your overloaded closet, these 10 fundamental pieces will turn your morning dressing into a worry-free practice you’ll never dread again.