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09-07-2011
  241
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ATM1985's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: USA
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Conservative/Business Style
I started a job as a clerk at a law firm a few months ago, and I'm almost done finishing law school. The law profession is fairly conservative in how they dress, and I've really been struggling with dressing stylishly, while also staying conservative. I'm in a department store basics rut here, and I'm not really sure how to spice things up.

I know we've got some professionals here on this board, so I thought I'd throw out a general question - how do you all dress professionally? How do you stay conservative looking, but still keep your style?

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10-07-2011
  242
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Join Date: Mar 2009
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I'm in law, albeit in London, and my firm is slightly less conservative than most of the American firms I know. My work wardrobe tends to be:

-Dresses: Not too tight; just above the knee, or just below (office policy is no showing thighs); materials depend on season: silk/cotton/wool. Nothing shiny or embellished. I tend to stick to greys and black, but I have worn red and navy (solid colours).

- Skirt suits / Trouser suits: with shirts/blouses (again, no embellishments or motives)

- Grey or black skirts: with a more detailed blouse (no heavy jewellery)

I always wear sheer tights in the summer, and black tights in the winter.

I tend to pair my simple dresses with statement shoes (nothing over 4" though). I would say that I find it terribly dull to be in a suit 24/7, so unless I am seeing a client/expert/in meetings, I try to have some of my own style in the dresses and shoes that I wear.

I would say it also depends on the office policies that are in place - i.e. jewellery; make-up; height of heels, etc.

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10-07-2011
  243
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ATM1985's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
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I'm lucky in that it's a small office, so there's no real set dress code policy, but we also represent criminal defendants, so I have to be cautious there in how I come across. I've mostly stuck with navy and black suits and plain button down blouses because I'm afraid of coming across poorly. The attorneys are all men (black suit + white shirt + conservative striped tie every day), so I've got no cues there, as the support staff dresses far more casually. I think I've got some wiggle room, as they seem more like the type who don't want to think about their clothes, than those who are extremely conservative. I'm struggling, though, because as you said, suits are boring.

What do you think of solid color sheaths outside of red/navy/black? I've seen some nicer dresses in olive or even a deeper rust color that I thought could look nice with a sweater or blazer. Would that be too flashy, or not taken seriously?

Also, as far as statement shoes, how much of a statement do you go for? I've stuck with pumps so far, but I think shoes would definitely help lift my blah-suit-spirits.

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10-07-2011
  244
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saann's Avatar
 
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I've helped quite a few women (though none in the law profession) and what we've usually done is play around with scarfs or discreet accessories and really just work with different cuts. A suit doesn't have to be boring, you can experiment with different lengths and fits and small detailing. Sometimes there is nothing more stylish or flattering than a perfectly fitted suit.

You can also play around with different pants styles, either go skinny or slouchy ones. You can play around with skirts as well, do highwaisted fitted skirts with looser blouses tucked in.

I think the dresses you mentioned could work. The thumb rule I've worked with is you can experiment color or material. If it's an 'out there' color it's best to tone it down on the material and detailing. The more solid and serious the color, the more you can play around.

A trick to spice up a suit can be to replace the buttons on it for more playful or decorative ones.

I hope any of this helped , but again I've never helped anyone in law.

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10-07-2011
  245
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Join Date: Mar 2009
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Ahh I can see that it is hard to gauge what would be appropriate. Like you say, it sounds as though the men in the office are probably not all that conservative, but men generally find it easier to wear a suit 24/7.

I think solid colours outside of red/navy/black are OK, so long as they are not colours that will scream attention for the wrong reason - pinks/purples, etc. Muted greens, including olive, and rust red sound good. As long as the colours are solid, I think it will be ok?

I find shoes seriously help lift my mood. I've worn: Dries van Noten heels (purple; browns; black and white); Miu Miu mary-janes; Finsk wedges and pumps (3 varieties and all were positively commented on by partners/others); red pumps; green flats...[so more colour and design, and a variety in terms of heel height...]

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10-07-2011
  246
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I think what everyone else has outlined sounds wonderful, and very office-appropriate. I would like to add that dresses or separates, in muted solid colors allow a bit of room for interesting cuts, draping, or seaming. Think a slim black skirt, but with some godets or pleating at the bottom, or a demure blouse with sheer sleeves. Under a jacket, all would be proper, but without, shazam!







I hope you find a style which makes you feel like yourself, as well as comfortable at work!



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11-07-2011
  247
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God, I hate suits, nothing is less me...
Which is why I on the rare occasion I have to wear one, I do all I can to make the experience less cringe-worthy:

Chunky or casual silver jewelry work better to de-cheesify a plain black suit
Slouchy long thin scarves
Roll up jacket sleeves...
And lastly, as Saan says, skinny or slouchy pants for example can be stylish now. The cut can make or break...
I'd think Theyskens for Theory and Lanvin for inspiration...

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14-07-2011
  248
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Join Date: Dec 2009
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^ Yes at Lanvin FW04 and SS06 will always be my favorite inspirations for corporate dressing.

I'm not employed yet but I go to business school, and will be starting an internship soon, and we're expected to come in corporate attire at least twice a week. The tropical weather here in my country makes it hard for me to pull off suits/blazers though so a decent cardigan is good enough.
I wear button-down shirt/blouse-pencil skirt/trousers-pumps and occasionally, dresses. I'm not too experimental with prints and colors so my wardrobe's plainly muted while the only accessory I need is a wristwatch.

+J Uniqlo is my go-to brand and Vanessa Bruno for dresses - she has great LBDs.

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18-07-2011
  249
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ATM1985's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
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So I bought the olive green dress. I'm also on a student budget, so as much as I'd love some nicer designer things, I'm trying to be practical for now.



Source: Macy's

It's definitely a bit more stylish than my plain Jane suits, and I think the color could work year round depending on what accessories I pair with it.


Last edited by ATM1985; 18-07-2011 at 08:52 PM. Reason: Trying to get pic to load.
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20-07-2011
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Join Date: Dec 2009
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I just found out today that I've been hired! It'll be my first post-uni graduation job, working as an assistant/coordinator in an HR department.

I don't have many work clothes (1 good grey Theory suit, 1 red pencil skirt, 1 pair of black pants that need replacing, and a couple of chiffon blouses), so I'll need to get quite a bit to start working.

The place that I'll be working is quite casual-when I interviewed I think the woman had on khaki coloured pants and a dress shirt, and the man had dress pants and a dress shirt rolled up to the elbow. I think I'm going to be the youngest person working there, and to be honest most people seemed dressed a bit "dowdy". I don't really know where to start-my style is much more All Saints than JCrew. I want to dress nicely, with a bit of personality/edginess, but not so much so that people don't take me seriously.

Vancouver doesn't have much workwear-wise, and I'm heading to NYC next week so I'm hoping to stock up there. Where are good places to get stylish work clothing besides JCrew and Ann Taylor? I want to get items that are a bit different, but don't distract.

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22-07-2011
  251
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spaaaaaaaaam ^^^^^^

@ etceteraism - i'm lucky because i work in fashion in NYC and 'business appropriate' is really flexible (are the shorts too short? but they're alex wang! it's okay! etc), but i've run into this problem before. i tend to stick to a lot of basic and minimal silouhettes in darker tones -- black pencil skirts, grey silk blouses, etc, and pull in the edgy with accessories, shoes, and, uh, the fact that I have a nose ring and am fond of crazy nail polish...

Going with classic menswear stuff for the girls is also a way to fit the dress code but still look a little quirky and stylish if that's your style too. I feel your pain on the dowdy though, a few years back I had a dull office job in a hospital and despite toning it down about ten notches I couldn't go a day without one of the old ladies in head-to-toe Ann Taylor/Gap/whatever I worked with making a passive aggressive comment about how "arty" I was.

I shop a lot at stores like Oak here as well -- plenty of stuff that still fits into "work appropriate" but also "more my style," like a weird drapey layered Kaylee Tankus skirt, Helmut Lang blouses, etc... Check out the NYC shopping thread for some suggestions -- and honestly i've found some of my best 'businessy' stuff at thrift stores here, and for some reason a boring black pencil skirt seems way more exciting when it's YSL and i found it at the bottom of some thrift store bargain bin than if I just had to buy it from J Crew or whatever

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23-11-2012
  252
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Join Date: Dec 2009
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Updating work wardrobe
I'm about to start a new job and am looking forward to taking the opportunity to update my work wardrobe. I will be working in a fairly formal environment-when I asked (I interviewed on Friday when people were wearing jeans) I was told "corporate during the week and business casual on Fridays. Men wear shirts and dress pants but no ties". To me jeans aren't business casual but oh well.

I won't have a problem fitting the dress code with my current work wardrobe, but to be honest I'm bored of it. I always wear the same thing-a simple sweater or a silk button up with a pair of boot cut dress pants or a colourful pencil skirt. I dress very feminine/conservative at work, but on weekends I dress a lot more edgy (think AllSaints sweaters, combat boots, McQueen accessories...) and I haven't really found a way to find an in-between that is office appropriate but still reflects my style.

Any suggestions for items that would work? The only thing I can't wear are really skinny or cropped trousers-I'm very tall and pear shaped so they always end up looking unflattering and being an odd length.

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24-11-2012
  253
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^ I like to make my accessories more interesting, like red patent, animal prints, etc. I also try to keep each piece interesting, with some little detail that makes it stand out, if only to me.

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28-01-2013
  254
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If anyone can help me, it's you guys.
I'm a student and I work at a store selling cosmetics and things like that. We have to wear white on top and beige/tan/khaki/camel/arentthoseallthesame on the bottom. Over that an olive coloured apron. No peeptoes on the bottom and no sleeveless tops. I really struggle with this, I mean, I like all these colours, but not together.
I own one white blouse (sleeveless, of course), a camel colour pencil skirt, which REALLY does not suit me, because I'm pear-shaped and a white short sleeve skater skirt which I wear all the time. Also ordered a lace shortsleeve skater dress in white because I get so much wear out of the one I already have.
I seriously need some inspiration with these colours. Or some pieces I could buy? I'm on a student budget, sadly. But still want to look like myself in my uniform! Please help

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28-01-2013
  255
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^ i'm thinking maybe the skirt is ok as you'll have the apron over it??

i think the best thing will be a nice long shopping expedition where you visit stores/labels you've had luck with in the past & try on everything they have in these colors. you should be able to get some nice details in the tops, and hopefully excellent fit in the bottoms. maybe you can also have some fun with the shoes.

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