Tag Archives: style

Building a Business Casual Wardrobe

For my current position, I get to dress business casual, which is awesome – except I didn’t really have that much business casual clothing.  Over the last six months, I’ve acquired a few new pieces and repurposed some old ones to put together outfits that work.  When I started, I pretty much had three pairs of black pants and a few skirts and I would just rotate them with two button downs and four or five knit tops.  A newly employed friend on Twitter asked for advice on building a wardrobe, and since I’ve had to do that recently, I thought I’d pull together my thoughts.  This is not about style.  This is about buying practical pieces that will allow you to go to work and look like a grownup for the next five years.  If you want fashion, there are other blogs for that.

So when it comes to building a business casual warddrobe, start with the bottom up.  First up, shoes.  They should be comfortable, and something you can wear in the summer without stockings.  I recommend flats.  I love my Eccos and I also highly recommend Merrells.  You should definitely have at least two pairs of work shoes, and they should be different colors.  Either black and brown, or black and red, or blue and purple.  As long as its practical for the rest of your taste.

So you have your shoes to start with.  Then, if you are going to need some socks (I know I said you should be able to wear the shoes without socks, but that doesn’t mean you should do it all the time).  I recommend ankle height nylons, to go with pants, and you should buy a pair of stockings if you are a lawyer or get cold.  I found a six-pack of ankle stockings at the Leggs Hanes Bali Playtex outlet and highly recommend them.  You can get knee highs if you prefer, but I was surprised by how much I preferred the ankle socks.

So then the exciting part: pants! You will need at least three pairs of pants.  One should be black and one should be gray and the third should be another neutral.  I recently got two pairs from the Limited and I love them both – they come in interesting colors so you have more than basic black, and they are really comfortable.

If you’re short on cash, I recommend the Style & Co. Everyday Value line from Macy’s.  Comfortable, flattering, and washable, all for under $30.

I have had good luck in the past with the Express Editor pant as well.

And, if you are looking for comfortable, you can’t beat the NY and Co. City Knit line.  It’s like wearing pajamas to work.

As far as skirts go, you should definitely own a pencil skirt, but not one that is super tight.

Tops:

I love knit tops and sweaters for business casual wear.

You should also invest in a few plain t-shirts that you can dress up with a sweater or a scarf.  These are great because you can also wear them on the weekends.

I find it’s helpful to have a few button down shirts, but I don’t buy many of them and I mostly wear them under suits, because I don’t actually like them that much.  If you like button downs, get a few in some different colors and patterns.

If you get cold, you should have a sweater you keep  in the office to stay warm, especially if your office runs the AC on high in the summertime.  I like a “topper” sweater that can work over dresses as well as with any outfit.

If you have the budget for it, add in at least one work dress – great for lazy days when you don’t want to match pants and shirts.

And if you still have a few pennies left at the end, throw in a blazer if they are your style.  This one is pretty pricy, but I found my favorite one on the clearance rack at New York and Company for about $15.

So there you have it – the beginnings of a solid business casual wardrobe.  If you are wondering where to shop, I would start with New York and Co. and The Limited (featured heavily here because NY & Co. doesn’t let you copy and paste their images.)  I also recommend the Ann Taylor, J. Crew, and Banana Republic outlets if you are near an outlet mall.

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Makeup

So I wrote this post awhile ago, but the past two weeks, I’ve caved.  I’ve been wearing makeup.  I’m wearing it for me, which you know because I work in an office with three people and I don’t see clients anymore.  But I’m pretty happy doing it, because it only takes an extra two minutes and I just wear foundation and blush and a bit of lip gloss and it makes me look a lot better and feel a lot better about how I look.  It’s stupid, but I’ve been breaking out lately and so I need the extra help of some makeup.

So this leads to the next issue: if I wear makeup, I need to take off makeup before I sleep.  I use those makeup remover sheets, but I don’t like them.  They are kind of itchy and my face doesn’t feel clean.  I would much rather use just a washcloth, but that doesn’t seem to get everything off.  I’m not going to use cold cream, I’m just not.  Also, it’s winter, almost, and my skin has gotten dry.  So I need your help and suggestions for:

-A good makeup remover or makeup removing soap (I’m not wearing eye makeup yet, so I don’t need anything hardcore)

-A good technique for washing the makeup off my face without water running down my elbows

-A good face scrub (I’m on a budget here, so let’s keep it under $10) to exfoliate, since I’m using an Olay one right now that I don’t like and they seem to have discontinued the last one I liked.

-A good pressed mineral foundation (again, budget – must stay under $15) because the loose minerals is not working for me anymore.  My office has an Avon lady – does anyone use Avon and recommend it?

-A good tinted moisturizer, in case I decide to go back to being lazy.

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Footwear Fail

Yesterday, I finally went to spin class.  Yay me!  Except upon arriving at the gym, I realized that I had everything I needed for spinning class, including my bike shoes…except for the minor detail of shoes to wear between the locker room and the spin studio.

Dress shoes and bike shorts, guys.   I really hope that nobody I knew saw me.

I am glad that it wasn’t a bigger forgetting that would have led to me having to go home instead of going to class.  What kind of gym-related mishaps have you had?

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Fashion Cents: Patent Leather Confidence

So a bunch of us were chatting on Twitter about how we don’t really know how to dress ourselves and we want to dress like adults who have Serious Jobs but not be boring or frumpy or make ourselves seem younger because we are not confident in how we dress.  And I was thinking about how over the past year, what with the unemployment and all of that, I haven’t bought a whole lot of stuff.  What I have bought is stuff that I know that I need, that is high quality (save for a few tide-me-over cheap items), and that I wear all the time.  But more importantly, I bought stuff that makes me feel good.  Not in a bad-retail-therapy kind of way, but in a, “I am excited to get dressed in the morning and go to work” kind of way.

May favorite of my new wardrobe additions is one that has been in the works for awhile.  In my first year of law school, I bought a pair of green Nine West flats which are super cute and I wear with my brown suit and green shell.  Or black suit and green shell.  I love them and they jazz up an outfit.  So at the time, I decided I would get more colorful/fun flats.  I bought a pair of zebra striped ones that are Dr. Scholls but they hurt my feet so badly I can’t wear them to work.  So when we were last at my in-laws and I hit the Ecco outlet, I had my eye on a pewter pair I knew I could wear to work.  Instead, I came home with these (which, since it’s the outlet, only set me back $40):

I love them.  They make me feel sassy and stylish, but the buckle says, “I’m still a lawyer.”  I love wearing them – although I still don’t know what to wear them with, besides black suits with white shirts.  Or gray suits with white shirts.  Suggestions welcome.

I had been wanting a pair of red shoes for awhile now, and so when I saw these, and the price was good (especially good for Ecco) and I knew I would like them because I like my other Eccos, I went for it.  They have breathed new life into some of the pieces in my wardrobe I was tired of, like my constant supply of black dress pants and white shirts.

A few other acquisitions have been a new gray plaid suit, which is a variation from my other suits, dress pants, and a few other pieces, like tank tops to wear with my skinny jeans.  I find that unemployment has been a bit of a blessing in disguise in a lot of ways, but a big one is that I have had time to sit back and reflect on what things I want to add to my wardrobe, I have to consider what I want to pay for those pieces, and I have to be sure before purchasing them that I will get enough use out of them.  I’m also much more likely to invest in a high-quality item now than I used to be.  I don’t want to have to shop for new work clothes in a year when everything is threadbare.

I’m still a long way from having a sense of “style”.  I know what I like – but I’m not quite sure how to put everything together and wear it to work.  I also don’t feel like I can pull certain things off – like I want a white summer suit jacket, but I’m not sure how to wear it.  (I get that one arm goes through one sleeve, etc.) I don’t know how to wear certain shapes and things like that.  So I still dress like my career center told me to for interviews for anything serious – interviews, court, etc.  In between, I work as I go.  How does everybody else go about developing their personal style?  Anyone else sort of in the dark going, “hmmm….this works….I think…”

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Fashion Cents: Skinny Jeans

So, in the winter, I wore my skinny jeans with my Keen boots and a long bathrobe-y sweater.  It covered my hips and made the skinny jeans work.  However, in the spring, I had no idea how to wear the skinny jeans.  Which is unfortunate, because I can’t wear normal pants bike riding since they get stuck in the chain.

So last week, I set out to do a bit of retail therapy and find long tank tops or shirts for cheap that I could pair with my skinny jeans and feel comfortable.  I finally had some luck at Forever 21, where I found 2 ribbed tanks, one for $3.50 and one for $4.50.  Yeah, I know when I can buy a shirt for that little, something is wrong with the manufacturing, clothing quality, or quality of life of the workers.  Nonetheless, I plan to concern myself more with that kind of thing once I have a job and can afford to spend $20 on a shirt again.

I paired the tank with my flowy sweater and my skinny jeans and rode my bike off to whole foods.

The only thing I’m not sure about in this outfit is my wedding Tevas.  I actually thought they looked pretty cute, because they look like casual wedges; but my friend Hana says “no.”  Obviously, it would be way cuter paired with mary janes or a pair of adorable skimmer sneakers, but I don’t own any of those and I needed something that would stay on my feet on my bike.  So wedding Tevas it was.

I feel like the outfit works, but I’m open to suggestions.  I recently bought a wide black belt that I have no idea how to wear.  I keep tying it around baggy sweaters and then being sad when it doesn’t look right.  I think it may actually have to settle for holding up my pants, instead of being high fashion.  Any suggestions?

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