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.
It happens every January of every New Year. We make a time-consuming list of resolutions (usually the same ones from the prior year) and by the third week in January, we gradually go back to our old ways. In fact, by the time March rolls around, we can’t even remember our top 5 New Year’s Resolutions unless we go back to the place where they were once faithfully written down. My theory on keeping resolutions is to tie them to an aspect of our life that is meaningful, such as our health, wealth, relationship, or career. Keeping each resolution simple and with a clear purpose is essential. Opt for a collection of small resolutions to accomplish one result in order to keep them from seeming insurmountable.
Today, I’ll share a cluster of 5 easy-to-keep New Year’s resolutions to help you spark, sustain, and succeed in your career. Remember—they’re short and sweet— but collectively they will have a long-lasting effect not only on this year’s career achievements, but on your career success for years to come.
1. Organize Your Closet:
An organized closet is essential for job seekers and those of us who want to succeed in our careers. Think of all the time and brain cells you’ll save in the morning if you don’t have to give what you are wearing that day a second thought. Also, when your closet is organized you’ll be inspired to add accessories and coordinate outfits that are more interesting and intricate— all portraying a more upscale and sophisticated image of yourself.
2. Wash Your Hair the Night Before:
Bad hair mornings are the source of much anxiety in the morning, missed trains, and lateness for meetings and interviews. Washing your hair in the evening not only frees up time for you in the morning, but massaging your scalp before you go to bed will aid in a more pleasant and restful night’s sleep. You will feel more alert in the morning and ready to take on even the most difficult of bosses or work challenges. In addition, hair that’s been washed the night before has less static and is less slippery for styling. Use the extra time you’d normally spend fussing with your hair in the morning to plan and strategize your day’s work.
3. Go Into Your Archive of Friends & Acquaintances:
We tend to be creatures of habit. We eat the same things, wear the same things, and reach out to the same people. We stay within our comfort zones just because it feels safe. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn and grow by reaching out to more than the same five friends you’ve called within the past year. Go through your holiday cards (both personal and professional) and make a stack of people who you haven’t seen face-to-face in a year. Reach out to at least five people every month throughout this year: that’s sixty “new” people who can feed leads and information to help propel your career or job search.
4. Reward Yourself Without Breaking the Bank:
The holiday season can really be a rat race to send cards, bake cookies, entertain, shop, and wrap presents until wee hour of the night. Feeling depleted will absolutely show on your face and in your performance at work. So it’s important to pamper and reward yourself in ways that will invigorate you without breaking the bank. A simple manicure ($10-$12 + tip) will restore your nails and cuticles post holiday cooking and gift-wrapping. Treat yourself to an at-home aroma therapy bath and spa night after kids and/or significant other have gone to sleep. Indulge with a friend, co-worker, or partner on breakfast, coffee/tea, or after-dinner dessert instead of lunch and dinner—meals which tend to be more expensive social dining options.
5. Be Genuinely Open to Change:
Yes, we desire change. We hope for change. But are we really genuinely open and ready to change? Embrace small changes that will collectively make a difference to the big picture in your life. Choose colors, patterns, and textures in your wardrobe that you may have overlooked in the past. Change your walking or driving route to work, even if it means walking on the other side of the street. Change your lipstick color or the handbag you’ve neglected to clean out all year. Even these small changes will influence you to have an extra little hop in your step. That extra bit of positive energy is sure to fuel your disposition at work. An upbeat disposition is often rewarded with bonuses, promotions or other types of recognition in the workplace.
Make 2012 the year of your career!
Throughout past holiday shopping years, I recall my experience being one that literally caused me to drop at the end of a trip. Couldn’t really figure out why shopping for gifts took so much out of me until this year when I finally stopped shopping for myself. It used to be that just about every gift I bought for someone else, I somehow justified buying for myself. Well, this year I’ve finally come to the realization that I don’t really need or want everything I’m gifting. Chalk it up to maturity or a limited budget—either way holiday shopping has become a lot more manageable since I took myself off my list. But just because I’m not investing in new wardrobe pieces for myself doesn’t mean I’ve lost my zest for reinventing some of my favorite pieces; adding holiday bling at a fraction of what it would cost me to buy a brand new item. A cab ride from my office to one of my favorite stores in Manhattan, M&J Trimming (http://www.mjtrim.com) inspired tons of possibilities that are sure to transform many of my ‘drab’ wardrobe items into ‘fab’ holiday wearables. Hope to motivate you to do the same for yourself. All you need is a little creativity, patience and a decent seamstress (if you don’t sew yourself) to help you along the way. Save your energy and your money for things that really count this holiday season without compromising your style.
10 DIY Ideas to Add Holiday Bling
1. Buttons (1.98 ea) – Buttons are like jewelry for me. In fact, I often skip jewelry altogether when I’m wearing a garment with interesting buttons. Nothing says holiday party wear than adding rhinestone or crystal buttons to your favorite everyday article of clothing.
2. Faux Fur Trim (11.98/yd) – Spruce up your favorite sweater or coat by adding a faux fur collar or cuff. It adds a luxurious look to a simple garment and since it’s faux, the price is a fraction of the cost of real fur. Also, it keeps you in good graces with PETA.
3. Feather Trim (28.98/yd) – Update headbands, hats, collars, sleeve cuffs and hems with variegated feather trims for a ‘boho’ holiday look or solid black ones for a refined roaring 20’s flapper look.
4. Belt Buckles (4.98 and up) – Use belt buckles to renew a pair of traditional pumps or emphasize your waist with a fabulous focal point on your belt. My cobbler at Grand Central Station knows me by name for the number of times I have him change my belt buckles around during the year.
5. Metal Chains (3.98/yd or ft) – Thicker, braided metal chains are wonderful accents on handbags (ala Marc Jacobs). Medium-sized chains make beautiful trims on round or “U” shaped collars as they emulate the look of a beautiful link chain necklace. Thinner metal chains can be glued to the center of a belt (ala CHANEL) or sew multiple strands to the front of a scoop neck top or dress for a tiered necklace look. Create interesting textured looks by layering chains or varying the widths and links.
6. Ribbons (2.28/yd) – Line the inside of a collared button-down shirt or the inside of a shirt’s cuff to give a classic tailored shirt some holiday oomph; especially if you choose a tartan print or any other holiday-inspired print or color. Sew a beautiful ribbon along the neckline of a cardigan sweater and use the ribbon to close the neckline instead of a button.
7. Patches (.98 ea) – Patches are no longer just to cover worn clothing at the elbows and knees. Utilize patches to give the breast pocket of a blazer a designer flair or use an extra large patch on the back of a hooded knit shirt/sweater or jacket. Choose a sequin embellished one for added holiday glitz.
8. Flower pins (24.98 ea) – Flower pins are so versatile you can really liven up just about any garment or accessory with one flower pin. Use a flower pin as a brooch to hold two or more strands of pearls or any other beaded necklace. Place a flower pin on the lapel of a suit jacket or coat to add a feminine flair to your look. For a less formal look choose one made out of denim with frayed edges or choose a seasonal flower that brings holiday cheer to you.
9. Fringe Trim (15.98/yd) – Fringe trim adds a modern hippie-chic element to your wardrobe, especially if it’s dip-dyed. Attach as a bold trim to a pashmina wrap or scarf. Fasten a fringe trim to the bottom of a woven cross-body bag for a boho evening look.
10. Nail head trim (4.98 pkg.) – Mix nail head trim with sparkly gems for an unconventional holiday detail on the lapel or shoulder of a blazer, on a handbag, belt, headband, or ultra-hip jeans. Create cool patterns or holiday messages (“Ho-Ho-Ho”) by arranging these tiny adornments in a variety of ways.
Last night’s 63rd Primetime Emmys’ entertainment portion of the show began right on the red carpet. After weeks, possibly months of diet (in some cases starvation) and rigorous fitness routines the “Amazing Race” was on as far as which TV divas were dressed to impress. As star-struck spectators, we sometimes fail to realize that this annual celebration is comparable to say, The Annual Accountants Awards Ceremony. Of course, the difference is that we’re not engaged by accountants’ weekly work performance the way we are with some of the shows and actors nominated for Emmys. So, we don’t give a hoot about what they’d wear or how they’d look for such an event. Somehow, we view Hollywood entertainers as proprietors of the utmost confidence and style. After all, their livelihood depends on presenting an image (particularly at big awards ceremonies) that will make them memorable and marketable to renowned directors and producers like Martin Scorsese. Given the opportunity for self-promotion, why in the world would they risk looking anything but dazzling on such an evening? Why leave fate in the hands of wacky stylists whose decisions favor the lavish garments instead of the mega stars wearing them? Surely a biased suggestion, but they would be much better served by an image consultant (www.aici.org) prior to even window shopping for a gown or having one designed for them. This year’s Emmys had an astounding number of actresses who missed the mark and only a handful who created a buzz on their trademark. Following are my picks for bitter ‘Hot Mess’ and sizzling ‘Hotness’ at the 2011 Primetime Emmys.
Christina Hendricks in her Johanna Johnson crystal-studded gown sabotaged all of her curves. The plunging, deep “V” neckline revealed enough of her breasts to scare me into thinking that if one got loose; I might lose an eye or some other important body part. The wishy-washy neutral color of the gown did nothing for her pale skin and the hem of the bodice emphasized the widest part of her body–her hips. It also shortened her legs. The beautiful Minka Kelly looked surprisingly matronly in her lace, midnight-blue Christian Dior creation. The lace tiers on the skirt of her gown, along with the overpowering long sleeves were reminiscent of a mother-of-the-bride dress. Julianna Margulies took home a statue for Best Actress in a Drama Series, but on the red carpet her white Armani Privé column dress was less than appealing. The cylinder-shaped bodice resembled a lampshade which concealed her feminine physique. A black and white gown would have been a striking option for her. Not only would it have reiterated her creamy skin and dark hair, but she would have been right on trend with the fall-winter 2011-2012 runway looks. The adorably fit and perky Julianne Hough’s pink and beige Carolina Herrera satin gown also seemed like an odd choice for her skin, hair, and eye coloring. The extra-wide black, sheer sash looked severe over the soft hues of the gown. The harsh color contrast and width cut her torso and took inches off her petite stature. Katie Holmes looked like she ran right from “Mommy and Me” class to the formal event. Her cadet-blue Calvin Klein frock had simple lines that created optical illusions of flaws she doesn’t even have—huge shoulders and arms, no waist, no chest (okay this one was just accentuated not created). Her tousled tresses looked equally casual and harried. Katie does get an A on practicality as she could easily use the dress as a maxi cover-up at the beach.
Kudos to Christine Baranski for holding on to her ‘hotness’ status at age 59, in her navy Zac Posen gown. She chose a gown that accentuated all of her assets: cap sleeves showed off her toned, willowy arms, “V” neckline was just sexy enough, form-fitting bodice flaunted her slender-yet curvy body, and the flared train added the right amount of drama and star quality. Heidi Klum’s strapless ‘can-can’ style cocktail dress took some warming up to, but the more I gazed at her, the more in love I fell with it, and her. While the taupe-y/grayish color would wash out a lot of women’s features, Heidi was able to make her inner glow shine through with this Christian Siriano creation. Her choice of oversized, brightly colored-stone jewelry completed the fashion-forward look with expert panache. Two vibrant red dresses that turned actresses into style ‘Goddesses’ were Leah Michele’s Marchesa gown and Nina Dobrev’s Donna Karan strapless design. For Leah Michele, the cowl back was a delightfully, sexy surprise added to the beauty of the rosette sleeves, which were visible from all angles. For “The Vampire Diaries” star, Nina Dobrev it was the sultry, strapless neckline, curve-hugging fit, and stunning, pleated “handkerchief” train that made her a memorable bombshell.
“Modern Family” star Sofia Vergara tastefully accentuated her voluptuous curves with her one-shoulder, Vera Wang coral masterpiece. The gorgeous gown was asymmetrically yet perfectly balanced from every direction with prominent flattering design details like the matching-color tulle that peeked out of her magnificent train. Sofia’s hair, make-up and stately chandelier earrings refined the Columbian-born star’s look as my favorite of the night.
Christine, Heidi, Leah, Nina and Sofia–thanks for exemplifying the kind of beguiling Hollywood style we all visualize flaunting in our own worlds. As for the rest, I echo The Canadian Tenors’ “Hallelujah.” Thank goodness we don’t have to lay eyes on those mournful gowns ever again!