It’s a way to make a liiiiiiiiivin’! Sing it, Dolly! Given that this Monday, Monday has me working out of our traditional office back here in DC, I’m featuring a guest post from a good friend and now, as of very recently, fellow blogger on office attire. While I wouldn’t peg myself as “old” (though some of my co-workers might, ha ha!), I do seem to gravitate more and more towards the “kids these days” type of reaction when examining office attire either at the workplace or around town, especially now the interns have descended upon a steamy summer DC season with their complete collection of flip-flops.
From her new blog, Todo de Lujo, here is Miss Lujo herself on the subject of office attire.
Nine to Five
One of my besties, Liz, is embarking on her high-powered law career and asked for my take on a good office wardrobe for her. I’m not the best-dressed girl out there – but I do think I have dressing for work down to an art.*
I put some pieces together for inspiration, but the more I thought about it I realized that when it comes to my professional wardrobe it’s not about what I have – it’s what I DON’T have. The key is to put constraints on the realm of the possible to hone your look and, more importantly, to make your life easier. If you do this well, you’ll have a closet full of clothes that mix and match well and always look sharp. So, I thought that I would also take a stab at writing down my rules for dressing for the office. My rules aren’t anything you haven’t heard before – but if you stick to them it might keep you from buying that random skirt or top that you wear once and never wear again. If you are doing a work-wardrobe overhaul I would recommend purging your closet as a first step before you go shopping. [Also – these rules are for work only! I’m not saying you can’t go crazy on the weekends]
My Five Rules for Professional Dressing
1. Wear heels. Yes, everyday. I don’t care how cute you think your flats are, or if you REALLY REALLY can’t walk in heels. Yes you can. It’s not hard. Wear heels in the office. Everyday. They don’t have to be very high and they don’t have to be very expensive, but a little bit of height goes a long way. In the defense industry I tend to work with mostly men, both as colleagues and as clients, and I like to be able to look them in the eye. The guys in my office like to say I’m 5’5” but I play 5’10”. Trust me, it matters. I love shoes but I don’t have that many. Here are my recommendations for a solid stable of work shoes:
A pair of patent nude heels [they make your legs look great, I promise]
A pair of light animal skin heels are a nice alternative to nude and add some texture to all black ensembles
A pair of black patent leather peep-toe pumps
A good tan or neutral wedge is optional – depends on how conservative your office environment is
A couple of pairs of patent black heels [chunky mary-janes, a sturdy mid-height heel]
A pair of suede pumps [black or grey] add texture in winter and look great with opaque black tights [black suede pumps with black tights have the same effect as nude heels in summer]
A pair of black booties is optional – again, depends on how conservative the office is
Standard pair of pointed black pumps
That’s sort of it. I’m not opposed to more colorful shoes, but I tend to put my money into good quality basics. If you do get more adventurous, I would not sink a lot of money into it. Oh, and there is never [ever] a reason to wear red heels in the office.
2. Invest in dresses. The dress is my go-to outfit when I’m feeling sick, when I’m feeling fat, when I’m feeling hungover. I have a dress for all of those days. I think I own almost 20 black work dresses. That is probably a bit much, but I wear all of them and have had some of them for more than five years and they still look great. I am a big believer in the dress. It’s easy in winter [long sleeved wrap dress] and in summer [a cool shift dress]. It simplifies getting ready on stressful mornings, packs well and always looks sophisticated. I love dresses.
3. The perfect white shirt is not just for men. A crisp white shirt looks great with scarves, under a black suit, with a skirt or pants. It won’t compete with big jewelry, and is the perfect top when you are trying to get away with wearing black jeans in the office on a Friday [not that I do that]. Make sure it is well tailored and doesn’t gap between button holes and you are golden. Mine are non-iron tailored fit from Brooks Brothers but there are lots of great options out there. See this Forbes article.
4. Don’t forget about color. This is the rule I most often forget. I pretty much only wear black suits and otherwise tend toward neutrals [lots of grey] so it is easy to fall into a color trap. Guys in my office also like to joke about me never wearing color — something about being a witch… Not wearing color makes some people feel sad, it makes me feel confident. I tend to default to inserting color through scarves and cardigans. Having one great dress in a solid color is also a good move – just be sure it doesn’t read trampy.
5. Accessories keep you from looking like you fell out of the j.crew catalog. A high-low mix of accessories is as important to making your look your own as a high-low wardrobe is. This is also an opportunity to insert some youth into an otherwise conservative look. I mix my wedding rings with bracelets from H&M. I wear jewelry from my mother and pearl earrings from my husband paired with inexpensive jewelry from my travels. I love oversized costume jewelry [pearls always play well in DC] to brighten up black dresses. A good bag for meetings is also essential – you don’t want to walk into a meeting with a small purse juggling your portfolio and everything else that doesn’t fit in it while trying to pull out your card and shake hands. Invest in a good black or neutral colored work bag; get something functional that you like and you’ll have it forever. You don’t want to be that girl on the train with three shopping bags full of her things and her “it bag” that doesn’t hold any of it over her shoulder.
*****These rules might seem super boring and square, but unprofessional dress in the office is actually a huge pet peeve of mine. DC is full of interns and 22 year olds that try and pass off their college going-out clothes for office wear. It makes me insane. It can be difficult to be taken seriously in the business world as a young person, especially as a young woman, why make it even harder?