Entries Tagged as 'Ask Belle'
My husband and I recently relocated to Chicago for his job and I need to start looking for work. I work as a corporate accountant, and would like to find two or three suits to wear on job interviews. Maybe a black one and a navy one, what do you think? And where do you buy your suits? I need to pay around $250 for each of the three.
Hope you can help me! Angie
Regardless of the industry you work in, I think every woman should have at least one suit hanging in her closet. Who knows? You might wind up accused of a crime you didn’t commit and need a suit for court. (Okay, probably not. But it’s good to be prepared.) Here are a few suggestions in your price range:
Contrasting Tweed Colorblock Suit (Jacket: $109 and Skirt: $70) // Single Button Suit (Jacket: $99, Pants: $59) // Modern Tweed Blazer (Jacket: $119, Skirt: $59)
Calvin Klein. All three of the suits above come from Calvin Klein. Right now, CK is one of the few labels making affordable suiting that is good quality and not completely boring. You can find these on their website, along with several others, or you can find different styles at major department stores.
I would wear the basic black suit to a first interview to gauge the corporate clothing culture. Is it staid? Is it funky? Is it casual? Then, I would supplement with the more interesting suits as needed for future interviews. I also like this purple (burgundy?) pantsuit. Need both pieces for under-$100? Try this skirt suit.
Tahari makes several sub-brands that fall into your price point. I like this pinstriped charcoal-grey Tahari skirt suit. This leather trimmed tweed suit is also a good choice. And if you’re looking for a basic black pantsuit, try this one. The fabric is not the best quality, but it they are solid suits, though you absolutely.will.need to have them tailored to make them look their best.
Ann Taylor. Basic suits at good prices can be had during one of Ann Taylor’s regular sales. The store also carries petite and tall sizes. So if you need a solid-color, conservative suit in a flash, try Ann Taylor first.
Sale Brands. There are several suit brands that I would also look for when they are on sale. One is Classiques Entier from Nordstrom (they also have lovely dresses, like this v-neck ponte dress.) Another is Nanette Lepore. Marc Jacobs also makes nice suit. Kay Unger is another brand to watch, but make sure that you select a suit made for day and not one of the many suits she makes for evening–no shine, no sequins. And I’m always on the hunt for discounter Rebecca Taylor suits and jackets.
Also, don’t miss J.Crew when the sales start. I own a handful of J.Crew suits and while the quality isn’t as good as it once was, it’s still a good suit for the money when it is on sale. They also sell suits through their Factory outlet store.
Lastly, consignment stores, second-hand stores and the like for good suiting at reasonable prices. Many women buy a nice suit for job interviews and don’t keep it after, so you can find really nice suits at a discount if you don’t mind them being lightly worn. And I am a long time advocate of eBay for suiting, I’ve purchased most of my business suits on eBay, because it allows me to buy better quality suits for less. Just try the brands on in the store, so you have an idea of sizing, and then make the rounds looking for the designers you like.
If you have suggestions for suiting, please leave them in the comments. I’d especially appreciate any comments from petite, plus-size or tall women about where to shop.
P.S. If you love suits, I fell hard for this white Albert Nipon suit with an obi belt. Great for summer.
Hi there Belle,
So I have a problem that I’m sure many women who work in a secured government building have: I need a way to wear my badge (which has to be tapped at security points) that doesn’t make me look like a mall cop. Do cute lanyards exist? Please and thank you.
When I was on the Hill, I used to carry my ID on a clip-on badge holder, which I could wear on the waistband of my skirt/the neck of a blouse or clip to a belt loop. Some of my fellow co-workers wore necklace-style lanyards like this one from Boojee Beads. I also think this is one place where wearing the logo of your alma-mater or favorite team is okay, though I do prefer the skinnier ribbon.
My sister-in-law is getting married in February, and some of the reception will be held outside. The wedding is in North Carolina, but it will still be really cold. Can you recommend a cardigan to wear with a strapless gray dress?
Kate Middleton wore a mohair cardigan to her reception, and I thought that was a stylish look. I really like this pale grey cardigan from LOFT (also in petites) with gemstone embellishment. I also like this cardigan with a pearl necklace embellishment, but white would probably be inappropriate for the wedding.
If you’re not married to the cardigan idea, I would try a leather jacket. I like this slouchy House of Harlow Coltrane jacket, and this slim-cut, faux-leather jacket from INC. Plus-size? Try this cool leather jacket with a sequin sleeve.
This post has stuck with me for a while and I was looking into ordering one for myself. How did you like yours? The comments claimed it was very heavy. Any thoughts on the difference between the Slim Bag-in-Bag (much better colors!) vs the Original Bag-in-Bag medium?
Love the blog! Thanks, Megan
I still use my bag insert from Invite.L in my larger satchels, but it is heavy. I think the Slim option could work if you just want to organize a few things. I’m also thinking about picking up their iPad sleeve in navy and camel trim, it’s a very clean look.
What should be a simple item to find, a black long sleeve dress not made of flimsy jersey, has become my unicorn. Do you have any suggestions?
I own this Trina Turk long-sleeve sheath and I like it. The tucks at the waist lend nicely to a belt, and I find it to be warm enough when I wear it with tights. I also like the look of this textured Isaac Mizrahi sheath, and the price is good at $120. I can also recommend this Theory dress, and don’t forget about the M.M. LaFleur dresses from two weeks ago. I’m partial to the Akiko.
Plus-size? Try this Anna Scholz dress or this Ralph Lauren dress in structured jersey. Petite? This Ann Taylor knit dress with teal side panels is lovely (also in misses and tall sizes).
I heard the speech about skills and attire for job interviews that you gave at Gonzaga last month, and I had a follow up question. You said that women were moving away from big necklaces because some styles looked juvenile. Can you give me some examples of what’s wrong and right?
Thanks for taking the time to talk to our group. Go Zags! Meghan
I’m so glad you liked the talk I gave, it was really cool to be back on campus talking to young women. There are many things that I wish I had known when I graduated, and it’s my pleasure to share my experiences with professional women who are just starting out.
Let me put your question in context for other readers. A woman asked if wearing a “statement necklace” with a business suit was a good way to brighten up her interview attire. I told her that it depended on the size of the necklace.
When J.Crew started selling “bubble necklaces” a few years back, they birthed a legion if imitators. Suddenly, women were wearing giant, heavy necklaces with nearly every outfit.
At first, it was cute and on-trend. Now, it looks dated and a bit juvenile. Plus, the necklaces are so big that they weigh outfits down and rise to the height of distraction. And women are leaving this trend behind in drove and gravitating to smaller pieces. More delicate, long chain necklaces, thinner bracelets stacked for impact and skinny rings. And when they are reaching for pieces that make a statement, the proportions are smaller and the styles sleeker than a few years ago.
Left to Right, Fossil Dual Necklace ($128) // Stella & Dot Beaded Necklace ($33) // Gorjana Tusk Pendant ($88)
All of these necklaces are significantly shorter than the old bubble necklaces. The Fossil necklace has some of the same elements, but presents them in a softer, less overpowering way. If you want something of a similar size with color, try this Gypsy necklace from Piperlime or this green glass necklace. I also spotted this under-$20 necklace from Macy’s that mixes black and gold.
Multi-strand necklaces are also a good choice because they cluster their impact in a way that draws attention to your face. This necklace is actually one long strand double up, but you could adjust it to work with different necklines. I also liked the mix of berry and navy in this David Aubrey necklace. Prefer all metal? Try this silver necklace from Chico’s for $18.
Lastly, the Gorjana necklace gives you a simple, geometric pendant with impact. This BCBG plate necklace and this Kenneth Jay Lane Hammered Necklace both give a similar look for under-$100.
I just discovered your blog and I read several posts where you styled outfits with scarves. I’d like to buy a scarf not meant to be worn as outerwear but I don’t know where to begin. Can you suggest some stores where I can buy nice scarves for under-$75?
Layering on a stylish scarf is a great way to complete an outfit. Nice blouse with a pair of jeans feeling a bit boring? Grab a voluminous printed scarf. Need to pump up that boring tweed jacket but afraid a necklace will get lost in the fray? Put a scarf (not a bird) on it.
My favorite store for scarves is Zara. Every season they have a great selection of colors, textures and prints.
This season, they have a camel plaid scarf, which has been seen on nearly every blogger in town (this navy plaid isn’t bad either). They also have my favorite, a jacquard foulard with a black and white color palette that can be worn with anything. I also like this two-tone animal print scarf, which gives so boldness without being over the top.
Another good place to shop is Nordstrom. While not all of their scarves are inexpensive, they regularly carry cheaper brands. This infinity scarf from Tasha has good volume and drape, and costs $38 for two. I also like this Leith Fringe Scarf because it reminds me of the more expensive LoveQuotes scarves I adore, but costs 1/3 of the price.
As for what to look for in a scarf, I prefer a lighter weight scarf for indoor wear, though I sometimes waiver on that. I like scarves with a lot of fullness (as evidenced by the head-swallowing nature of the Zara scarf in this photo). And always look at the ends of the scarf to make sure that they’re sewn up properly and won’t fray and snag easily.
You mentioned in Tuesday’s post that “wearing a blazer with a dress is always tricky”. So true! Mastering this skill would double my work wardrobe, but I can never put my finger on why a blazer/dress pairing isn’t working. Something in the portions always seem off – can you offer some tips on pulling together this wardrobe combo?
Love the blog! -J
When trying to match a blazer with a dress, you need to be cognizant of three fundamentals: Structure, Fit and Proportion. Let’s go to the visual aids.
Left, photo via MyVicariousLyfe. Middle, photo via Veronika’s Blushing. Right, photo via District of Chic.
Outfit One. The gray blazer fits too loosely to define her waist, and the voluminous dress only exacerbates the problem. Thus, a lack of structure creates a fit problem, which when paired with the dress, creates a proportion issue that leaves the lady looking wider than she is. Which is a shame because the accessories and color palette are incredibly stylish.
How to fix it? I would add a belt, maybe a dark brown double wrap, and alter the jacket to taper at the waist. Then, you get to enjoy the voluminous dress and the phenomenal accessories without losing the wearer under a pile of shapeless fabric.
Outfit Two. The green dress she chose naturally defines her waist, while the jacket nips in to complement it. The bottom of the blazer cuts across the widest part of her, bisecting the dress and the body in just the right place. As a result, a dress, which is a bit too poofy for my taste, becomes sleeker and trimmer by adding a jacket.
How to improve it? Add a skinny belt to break up the emerald green, and tug down on the sleeve so that it doesn’t bunch at the shoulders. If you don’t want to wear a belt, I would consider a long pendant necklace that hangs in a v-shape to complement the neckline of the jacket. Preferably one with a more substantial pendant, like this Stella & Dot Sanibel pendant. You just need to break up all the green.
Outfit Three. If you’re going to wear a heavier jacket with more masculine details, like a full shoulder pad or large buttons, you need to pair it with a more feminine piece, like this flowy dress. Mixing these textures creates a different kind of proportion that maintains femininity and keeps the outfit from looking heavy. As you can also see, the jacket hits perfectly at E’s waist.
How to improve it? I’m not crazy about the black shoe with this. I would have gone for a softer grey pump or a colored heel, perhaps a cobalt, instead. There’s so much lightness on the top, I wouldn’t want to pull the eye down with a dark shoe.