In a July 2010 global survey conducted on by Thomson Reuters/Ipsos on Workplace Attire, 2/3 (66%) of respondents said that senior managers or individuals that run an organization or department should always be more dressed up than their employees. If this is the case, do you know how your summer wardrobe is being perceived? Is it considered too casual? Will your current summer picks get you to that senior level you striving for?
If you are not sure about the answers to the above questions, here are some tips to help guide you in understanding what is considered too casual for the office.
1. Decipher Company Dress Code Policy
First and foremost, be sure that you are familiar with your company’s dress code policies. Many companies have clear policies outlined in the employee guidebook as to what is considered appropriate vs. inappropriate for the office. Some offices are more conservative than others so it’s important to understand the varying degrees of acceptance. Don’t “assume” you understand simply by checking out what your peers are wearing.
2. Find Your Fabulous Fabrics
Select natural fibers for summer wardrobe pieces that can allow for breathability and staying cool. Good fabric choices: Cotton, Seersucker light weight jerseys and tropical weight wools. Avoid (as much as possible) clothing that is made of synthetic fibers such as polyester, spandex, acrylic, rayon, nylon, etc. If you opt to wear linen be sure that it’s not on a day when you have an important meeting. Linen is a wonderful summer fabric but is known to wrinkle very easily.
3. Don’t Over Expose Yourself
55% of employers consider tank tops and exposed undergarments as the biggest work-wear mishap in an office (flip flops is the second).¹ Summer apparel is lighter in color and lighter in the weight of fabrics so clothing can sometimes be see through so it’s important to factor this in for the workplace. Invest in undergarments such as slips or camisoles to help provide more coverage. For light colored pants (white, beige, etc.) be sure you choose brands that have a lining. Avoid: Plunging Necklines, bare shoulders and back, and if you are in a conservative office environment, don’t go sleeveless. However, there are great summer dresses that are sleeveless so be sure to bring a cardigan to cover up during the day and take off for the evening.
4. Pay Attention to Your Communication Style
Workplaces tend to become more “casual” in the summertime but that doesn’t mean your communication skills should become less formal. Office environments are a place of business and how one communicates should always reflect polish and professionalism when dealing with colleagues, managers, clients, prospects, and vendors.
5. Put Your Best Foot Forward
Sandals are a wonderful option in the summer but should be kept to after work hours or weekends. Instead opt for closed toe pumps or if your office is less conservative, choose a nice peep toe that isn’t exposing much of your foot. Avoid: Flip flops – yes even during the commuting. You never know who you might run into before you get to your desk. Also avoid wedges, strappy sandals, espadrilles and for all those that know me, I need to include the “croc!”
6. Handle Your Hygiene
Yes it’s true, we sometimes need a little bit more help in this department especially in the summer months. If you tend to get “over heated” in the summer be sure to carry around a travel size stick of deodorant so you are not put in an uncomfortable position during a meeting. For women, I suggest investing and carrying face blotters so you aren’t caught off guard with an ultra shiny face in the office.
What other types of summer wardrobe missteps have you seen in your office? Would love to hear!
¹Business Casual Causes Confusion by Stephanie Armour, USA Today
Woman in Lace Bonnet - Photo credit: Getty Images
Have you noticed the invasion of lace found in stores lately? It’s quite the fashion trend these days and can be found on everything from dresses, tops, leggings, to shoes, handbags, headbands and more.
While lace (back in the 15th century) was considered a luxury fabric and a sign of prestige, once the lace machine was invented (19th century) and easily accessible to all, it lost its unique appeal. However, many countries today still invest in the hand making of lace and it is now once again revered as a luxury fabric and one can pay a handsome fee for a garment made of lace. One only has to look at a $10,000 price tag of a Vera Wang hand made lace wedding gown to understand the true value of this fabric.
Fortunately, due to technology advances in manufacturing, we can enjoy wearing lace but at affordable prices and in modern and chic styles.
Here are some of my favorite looks in skirts, tops, shoes and dresses. With the holidays just around the corner, lace is a great choice to celebrate tradition and look stylish at the same time!
From left to right: TopShop Lace Dress, DVF Leather Lace, Spinning Lace Dress by Anthropologie
From left to right: Free People Aphrodite Jersey Top, Ann Taylor Laced Tier Shell, Tracey Reese Silk Lace Blouse
From left to right: Elle Tahari Laced Trimmed Sequin Skirt, Forever 21 Contrast Lace Skirt, Ann Taylor Metallic Lace Skirt
Lace Inspired Shoes
From left to right: Giuseppi Zannotti Lace Silk Peep Toe, Ann Taylor Ankle Lace Bootie, Oscar de la Renta Lace Ankle Boot
It is almost NEVER the case that I can walk into a clothing store, fall in love with my purchases and NOT have to make a pit stop at my tailor. However, when I visited the wonderfully talented petite designer, Henrietta Pertruz’s showroom, this is exactly what happened! I purchased three beautifully made wardrobe pieces and skipped a trip to the tailor!
Being 5 ft. tall in stocking feet has always presented challenges in the wardrobe department. Often, petite collections are a bit dated, proportions are never quite right, inventory is sparse and quality of fabrics is subpar. So I cannot clearly articulate the sheer joy of discovering Henrietta’s clothing line geared for the 5’4 and under woman. Her collection is made here in NYC, the fabrics are gorgeous, fit is perfect and pieces are timeless and modern!
Here are a few photos of my fall purchases (photos courtesy of Henrietta)
The Molly dress "unbelted"
The Molly blouse paired with the Day to Night Jen Trousers
The Molly Dress Out & About at New Jersey Fashion Week!
Molly and me
The Molly "belted"
Catherine Schuller and me before our fashion show - Photo courtsey of Madison Plus
Being a “special” size has always presented unique challenges for me in developing a wardrobe that helped achieve my personal and professional goals. I learned at a very young age, 3 important strategies in building a “workable” wardrobe: planning, tailoring and shopping my shape. So I was thrilled Lord & Taylor invited me to speak about these “strategies” in celebration of their newly (and gorgeous) renovation of their flagship store in Manhattan. I along with my colleague, Catherine Schuller (former plus size model & now Image Expert), presented “The Long & The Short of It; Special Sizes Figure&Fit Shape Shopping.” The premise of the presentation was based on the fact that petites and plus are now on the same floor and although these sizes are at different ends of the spectrum, our wardrobe challenges are very similar.
Whether you are a petite or plus, there are frequent challenges we face when shopping so our presentation and fashion show focused on the following issues and explained how to dress for each.
1. Long waisted, short legs or short waisted long legs – The goal is to find the overall proper proportions for your body type.
- Short waisted with longer legs – you want to create the illusion of your waist being lower. How do you do that? Think long over short; A tunic paired with skinny jeans or leggings. Long blazer over short skirt – these wardrobe techniques help create the long illusion of a longer waist which brings the leg and waist into proportion.
Petite model to the left wearing long blazer over tunic paired with leggings creates the illusion of a longer waist. Photo courtsey of Madison Plus
2. Camouflaging the mid section – The goal is to draw the line away from the middle section to the face (with open necklines or detail around the top of the dress) or to the legs with slits or hem detail. Moreover, all over pattern or print is a great way to force the eye to not look at one specific area.
Petite model wearing an all over muted print dress that will help distract the eye from resting on one place. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Vincent
3. Volume Dressing – The goal is to select clothing that complements your frame and height versus overwhelming your overall body shape. For petite women, it’s important to look for apparel details in smaller proportions that complement your body frame such as smaller lapel widths, epaulettes, belts, buttons, buttons & sleeve widths. Moreover, choose light to medium fabrics vs. heavier chunky fabrics so that you don’t add “bulk” to your petite stature.
Petite Model on the left wearing proper volume for her frame. Faux fur vest on Plus size model wouldn't work for her. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Vincent
4. Accessorizing – The goal for choosing accessories is to ensure you select items that are the right scale for your body. The body scale of most women 5 ’4 and under is small to medium so it’s important to select wardrobe and accessories that compliment your scale vs. overpower your scale. The key in selecting accessories is to practice moderation! Because your scale is more small to medium, accessories should small to medium as well and if you want to go bold, keep it to one accessory as bold and rest smaller.
This smaller Michael Kors handbag is a better accessory choice for a petite body frame. Photo courtesy of Lord & Taylor.
This large Buddha Bag is more appropriate for a larger body frame. Photo courtesy of Lord & Taylor
So, the next time you go shopping in the petite department, remember this tidbit: the goal is to create the illusion of longer legs and creating a vertical line from head to toe!
I recently completed my seasonal ritual; switching over from my winter wardrobe to my spring wardrobe. During this time I take inventory of items I need for the new season and then take that list with me when I go shopping. Armed with my list I walked to my favorite store, Lord and Taylor on Fifth Avenue and was elated to find on display such bold, bright and beautiful fashion items. Coming out of the doldrums of a cold New York winter, this was incredibly refreshing!
After trying on multiple items I made my way to the cashier desk and realized that in my hand I had an array of sizes ranging from a size 0 to size 4. I’ve been fairly true to my size since high school with very little deviation in weight but of course through the years, things have “shifted” a bit but I tell myself that this is the beauty of life. I thought back to when I attended classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology and a former teacher talked about the lack of standardized sizing for women as evidenced by the fact that for every US size, there is approximately more than 12 variations in that size and this does not take into account the variations in color dyes which can alter the size (some shrinkage can take place). So if you take this number into consideration along with the plethora of designers out there you will begin to realize that the confusion as to what size you really are is absolutely valid. Now that you know this tidbit of information, the next time you go shopping do not shop for that single size you think you are, shop in a size range and focus on the fit. This concept is quite liberating!
With an unemployment rate of 7.2% for the month of December (2008)¹ and rising, the thought of heading to a retail store to purchase a new spring wardrobe does not seem realistic or attainable. Don’t be discouraged as help is here! I assure you that you won’t even need to leave your home and more importantly spend a dime to achieve new wardrobe combinations. How? By shopping your own closet and shelves!
I know this concept seems easy in theory but how can one actually put into practice. After working with many clients to do just this, I’ve put together a few guidelines to help you shop your closet and shelves more effectively and with more confidence.
1. Clean out your closet – take out all apparel and accessories and be prepared to literally clean the closet. Dust the shelves and clean the floors. This not only gives you the opportunity to put your clothes back in a nice clean environment but it helps you to see what your wardrobe consists of.
2. Eliminate pieces that you know you will never wear again. If you are unsure about certain items ask yourself a few questions:
– “When did I wear last?” Over 1 year eliminate it from your wardrobe.
– “Can this item be tailored?” If no, eliminate it from your wardrobe.
– “Is the item worn out?” If yes, eliminate it.
– “Do I love it?” If no, eliminate it.
– “Is the item age appropriate? If no, eliminate it.
3. Categorize your wardrobe – all skirts together, trousers, dresses, blouses, scarves, handbags, etc.
4. Separate your suits – if you have a pant suit, place the blazer within your blazer category and the pant with the pants category. This helps you to optimize your wardrobe by mixing your suit pieces.
5. Coordinate like colors – all black sweaters stay together, all winter white blazers sit next together, etc. Always go from light to dark when coordinating your colors.
6. Read up on the fashion trends to better understand the “in” colors and patterns, dresses, pants, tops, etc. for that season. This will help you start to put together new winning and modern combinations.
7. Replicate outfits by checking out sites such as Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, J Crew, Bloomingdales, Saks, Lord and Taylor, etc. These websites are a great tool to help you pair your pieces together with confidence.
1 United States Department of Labor
In recent articles titled, Designers sober up with chic office wear and The wardrobe of TV’s career women both talk about how the economic climate is impacting what women wear to the office. Muted colors, minimal jewelry, and sensible heels are in and everything else is out. Now while I agree with what is considered in, I disagree with the implication that these ideas were ever “out.”
As an Image consultant, I work with many executives and regardless of the industry they work in; I always urge them to air on the conservative side in their wardrobe selections. My general rule is that anything you would wear on a weekend evening out, should be avoided in the workplace. Why? Because studies show that an opinion is formed about an individual within 7 seconds of a meeting so within the confines of an office environment, it’s critical to project (within those 7 seconds) a polished and professional image.
My top 10 list for inappropriate office looks:
1. Tracksuits or other work-out type outfits – just because your firm participates in casual Fridays doesn’t mean they are suggesting you come in looking THAT casual!
2. Flip-flops, sneakers, open toe strappy sandals, stilettos and for all you croc loving folks, please leave these at home!
3. Visible art and body piercings – while I believe in self-expression, it’s better kept for after work hours.
4. Plunging and revealing necklines (no cleavage should be showing), no midriff tops and finally, no tank tops, camisoles or any other shoulder or back revealing tops.
5. Mini-skirts, yes even with a pair of tights.
6. Excessive, Glittery Jewelry – statement necklaces (all the rage now) should be kept for weekend looks. However, if you are in a creative industry, this could be considered appropriate if not overly done. Additionally, avoid large dangling earrings and bangles. The point here is to never allow your accessories to distract from what you are saying.
7. Excessive make-up – keep the smoky eye for the weekend.
8. Fishnet stockings – even if Vogue deems them as a critical addition to your wardrobe, please keep them for the weekend.
9. Ill-fitting anything – nothing screams “I don’t care about my look” more than an ill fitting jacket, pants, top or outerwear. The best investment in your wardrobe is a good tailor.
10. Barely dry hair and unkempt facial hair – I’m often sitting on the subway in the morning and notice so many women with damp hair heading to work. It’s not just that it’s damp, but the look is completely disheveled. Take a few more minutes and dry your hair completely! You never know who you will run into first thing in the morning. Additionally, men sporting a mustache or beard, please be sure to keep it well groomed.
So before you leave for the office in the morning, check to see if you are projecting a polished and professional look. If not, take a few more minutes to ensure you get it right.
In light of the recent DOW Jones plunge of 10,000 points, it is our responsibility to hunker down and evaluate how we can rebuild our savings and retirement plans. Clearly we need to prioritize our spending allocations to ensure we can stretch the dollar even further.
While statistics vary depending on the source, on average Americans spend at least 1/3 of their disposable income on their wardrobes. So it’s not a surprise that during this economic downturn, many people will look to cut spending in this area. This does not equate to looking less polished than before, it just means you need to be smarter and more creative about your wardrobe choices.
Here are a few tips that will keep you looking polished and professional without sacrificing your savings account.
1. 20% of the clothes in your wardrobe are worn 80% of the time, so switch this statistic and start wearing the other 80% that has been lying dormant in your closet. It will not only preserve your favorite pieces that you’ve been wearing repeatedly but also give you new options to wear.
2. Streamline your wardrobe and donate those articles of clothing you know you will never wear again. This will help you see more clearly those items you forgot you had because you couldn’t see everything.
3. Mix up your suits and use each piece as a separate ensemble. Many people view a suit as a single clothing option. I always have my clients separate the suit and hang each piece individually. For men, pair your suit jacket with jeans for a more casual weekend look. For women, pair your suit bottom with a sweater and a different textured type of jacket (i.e., leather or corduroy blazer).
4. Borrow or swap clothing and accessories with family or friends. This helps to “inject” new pieces into your wardrobe without spending any money.
5. Take footwear to get polished and if necessary resoled. It is less expensive to get your shoes/boots fixed up than to go out and buy a new pair.
6. Invest in new accessories (scarves, ties, handbags, etc.) in the newest trends or colors to help keep you current and modern looking. Purchasing a few new accessories is less expensive than investing in a whole new outfit.
7. Care for your fabrics so that you can get the most use out of them. Don’t feel the need to take everything to the dry cleaners all the time. Many of the dry cleaning solutions break down the fabrics quickly. Instead, opt for hand washing using eco friendly soaps.
Remember, it is essential to present your best self in all life’s endeavors so even though we are facing challenging times, don’t feel you need to neglect your best self
I’m often asked about essential clothing or accessory items I deem important in building a versatile wardrobe so I’ve compiled my “must have” list to help you shop smarter.
This is an area where I recommend clients investing in since this item never goes out of style and you will have for a long time.
Fitted Fashion Blazer
This is where you can have a little fun with your wardrobe and insert your personal style with a fitted (no droopy shoulders, sleeves too long, etc.) blazer. To define “fashion” blazer a bit further, I would look for details like stitching, zippers, interesting buttons, etc.
Pant Suit or Skirt Suit (Neutral Colors)
Depending on your level of comfort, opt for either a pant or skirt suit in a neutral color (black, brown, beige, gray, etc.). This allows you to mix and match the pieces with other wardrobe choices. For example, you can pair the suit bottom with a white blouse and a color scarf (items on my top ten list) or pair the suit jacket with the dark denim pant and cashmere sweater giving a complete and polished look.
The Non-Iron wrinkle free blouse at Brooks Brothers is a must have. I recently tested just how “wrinkle free” this blouse really is and I must say I am quite impressed. It traveled really well and I did not have to iron it during my trip.
Neutral Colored Pump
It’s important to have a pair of pumps that you can wear with any wardrobe piece so this is another area I encourage clients to invest in.
Cashmere Sweater (Color)
There are so many research reports that talk about the positive response people have towards color so when it comes to buying this item, opt for a color that enhances your skin tone.
Dark Wash Denim Pant
I state the term “dark wash” here because I feel the darker denim is more versatile and looks more polished vs. a lighter wash. You can pair this item with the fitted fashion blazer or pair with a white blouse and colored scarf to inject a pop of color.
I know many would argue that instead of this type of coat, I should have included a trench. While I do believe that the trench is an important part of any wardrobe, I think a car coat gives you the ability to express your personality and unique style more than the trench.
Diane Von Furstenberg is a successful women’s designer because she understands the female silhouette. She also understands how to enhance that silhouette by wearing the correct fabrics as well as the appropriate cut hence the success of the “Wrap Dress.” Every woman should have this in their wardrobe. I’ve never seen a woman look bad wrap dress!
Colored Silk Scarf
You cannot open up a magazine today without seeing a celebrity draped in a scarf. I have always loved scarves because I feel they add so much to an outfit; color, “chic-ness” and visual interest.
You don’t have to be on the cutting edge of fashion trends to be considered someone with panache or what I call, “flair.” For me, “flair” is easily accomplished by what is usually neglected by many and that is the proper fit of a garment. If you get the fit right, you too can look like you walked off a runway.
If you have traveled to Europe or perused through European magazines or websites, you notice how chic and polished individuals look. Why? The reason is that they invest in timeless wardrobe pieces and ensure their garment is fitted properly.
I am not one to follow every trend every season. I am petite in stature so it’s difficult for me to translate these trends into my wardrobe since most designers either don’t manufacture petites or if they do, they don’t do it well. So at a very young age, I started taking my clothes to a tailor. I used to envy my friends that could go shopping and pick up a fabulous outfit and wear it that same evening! I on the other hand had to wait until 1. I had time to take it to get altered and then 2. Wait for the alterations to be completed. On the positive side, I quickly learned the art of proper fit and how it helps to define your style.
Just having a garment fit you correctly is already setting you apart from everyone else!