Suiting Tutorial: Breaking Up a Suit

Jun 15, 2010

Last week, I was rushing to get ready for work (what else is new?) and in my haste, I selected the most boring outfit ever: navy J.Crew suit, white button up shirt, nude pumps.  Yeah, I was a disappointment to myself.  In fact, I spent the entire day catching glimpses of myself in the mirror and then hanging my head in shame.  Bad fashion blogger, bad.

Every woman on Capitol Hill has a handful of boring, neutral business suits that, while good basics, don’t offer much in the way of personality.  So for the next three days, we’re going to feature a few posts on how to turn you basic navy suit (navy should always be your first purchase) into something special.  Today, we’re starting with how to break up a suit.  

Note: For our purposes, we’re going to be using the simple Super 120s suit from J.Crew.

I’m a big believer that when you buy your first suit, you should a) spend a little more money, and b) buy all three pieces.  Having a skirt, pants and blazer will make it easier to get your money’s worth out of your suit.  If you have all three pieces, you can break them up to create even more outfits.  Here are some suggestions.

Sassy Chic

Michael Kors Mushroom Leather Jacket (Bluefly, $270)

Bamford Silk Front Blouse (TheOutnet, $299)

Combining the soft, feminine blouse with the structured leather jacket adds some rocker chic to your basic suiting trousers.  Pair with simple earrings and a basic flat for a look that is professional but unfussy.  

Sparkly in Sequins

Heritage Sequin Tank (Banana Republic, $98)

Forever Skinny Jeans (Gap, $70)

Don’t be afraid to wear sequins to work!  Even if you’re not allowed to wear jeans to work (like yours truly), you could still wear the sequin top with your suit to add a little sparkle.  And if you want to wear the outfit out on a Friday night, try adding a pair of long chandelier earrings like this Indian inspired pair from Zales.

Pretty and Powerful

Calpurnia Blouse (ModCloth, $49)

Scoop Neck Vest (NY&Co., $25)

Adding a vest to a pretty blouse and tailored skirt is a simple way to look pulled together without adding a jacket in the hot summer months.  Just remember when buying your vest that you fit the biggest part of you.  So if you’re bigger in the bust, make sure it fits you there and have the waist altered.  

Dress It Up

Black Halo Courtney Sheath (Couture Candy, $298)

Lookout Belt (Anthropologie, $148)

If you have a basic sheath dress and you want to give it a little bit of life, add a suit jacket and an interesting belt.  Just make sure that the belt is wide enough to cover the buttons and the flaps of the pockets, or else it looks a little silly.  And if you wear a belt with your jacket, make sure that the buckle on your belt at least coordinates with the metal on your jewelry and shoes.

Rebel Yell

Silk Blend Cardigan (Banana Republic, $70)

Printed Tee (Arden B, $25)

Long Asymmetrical Necklace (Arden B, $24)

So can you wear a printed tee shirt to work?  Well, I don’t know.  It depends on a few things.  First, how casual is your office?  I could easily get away with this on a Monday with no votes, but maybe your bosses don’t have much of a sense of humor.  Secondly, you need to pair this look with a skirt, pumps and a pretty hair do.  Because when you add pretty pieces to a casual tee shirt it elevates the whole look a bit.  Hence, the ribbon necklace.

Tips and Tricks

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