+ Three Ways

Three Ways: Conservative and Professional

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Shoes: Ann Taylor Eryn Pumps ($158)

Conservative, Ring: Minkoff Pave Link Ring ($68) Jacket: Rome Valence Blazer ($405) Bag: Mango Saffiano Bowler ($80) Dress: Takiloa Crepe Dress ($495)

Professional, Jacket: J.Crew Cobalt Tweed Jacket ($248) Skirt: DKNY Pencil Skirt ($285) Earrings: Michael Kors Pyramid Studs ($65) Ring: Northern Star Band Ring ($95) Top: Mango Contrast Trim Blouse ($59) Bag: Madewell Sloane Satchel ($268) 

Professional, Earrings: Malachite Amy Earrings ($30) Bracelet: Tahari Filigree Cuff ($65 + 20%-off) Bag: Michael Kors Weston Bag ($428) Dress: Hugo Boss Sheath Dress ($470)

Without question, the most conservative thing you can wear to work is a well-tailored dress suit.  If you’re in the market for a new one, I would start with Ann Taylor, J.Crew, Nordstrom or The Limited.  Look for suits in classic shapes without a lot of embellishment, and make sure to budget for tailoring.  And un-tailored suit is like an unwashed car, it will get you where you want to go, but it won’t look very good while doing it.

Conservative. I searched around for hours for a suit or suit separates that I could feature in this post, but when I didn’t find anything Polyvore-ready in a price point below Armani, I decided to call an audible.  Wearing a dress under a jacket is a great suit alternative.  For this outfit, I paired a sleek sheath dress with a tailored blazer for a crisp look that is appropriate for the office.

This sheath from Malene Birger is a great option, but it’s certainly out of my price range.  Instead, I’d swap in this Banana Republic Combo dress or this inexpensive 9 & Co. Sheath Dress.  If this blazer is more than you can spend, the closest thing I could find was this peplum, one-button blazer from Anthropologie.  Or you opt for a more traditional one-button and choose this Jones of New York blazer.

To complete the look, I added one piece of jewelry and a structured bowler bag.  If you’d like real Saffiano leather instead of faux, try the Michael Kors Selma Satchel.

If you work in a conservative office, you need to wear nylons.  The more sheer the better.  I like Donna Karan The Nudes Sheer Hose.

Professional. A tweed jacket is a great separate to have in your wardrobe.  It can sub-in for your suit blazers or be worn with denim.  It also looks great worn over a dress.

This J.Crew jacket has nice mix of cobalt and black.  Should you need something less-expensive, try this $90 Nipon jacket in a mix of grey and black, which also comes in plus-sizes.

I chose this blouse because I liked the contrast piping.  I think it plays well with the trim on the jacket.  The texture added by the pleats is just a bonus.  If you need something more basic, I would opt for a simple white shell.

As for the accessories, I chose some more fashion-forward pieces.  I like these pyramid studs, but if you need something cheaper, try these $20 earrings from Vince Camuto.  I also liked this simple, geometric ring from Elizabeth and James for its versatility.

Lastly, I added a structured tote from Madewell with clean lines and a unique shape.  Prefer something around $50?  I found this Emperia leather tote and this Samantha Crossbody Tote at Nordstrom.

Professional. A structured dress is the staple of my work wardrobe.  I love them because they’re classic and sophisticated, but they require minimal effort.  Simply add accessories and go.

Black Halo is my favorite brand, but I’ve also found great dresses at Reiss and Karen Millen.  If you like the Hugo Boss dress above (Hugo is another great brand), I found two less expensive alternatives.  First, this Illusion Pencil dress from Anthropologie in tonal black.  Second, this panel stretch dress from J.Crew in gray and black.

I added a green bag and coordinating Malachite earrings for a hint of color.  I also like the way the filigree in the bracelet matches the shape of the stones in the earrings.  This outfit would be a great choice for a woman who needs to look professional on Fridays, but also wants to go out after work.  Should you want to make the outfit a bit more casual, you could easily dress it down with a pair of opaque tights and flat boots.



  1. Mandy says:

    Just discovered your blog and I absolutely love it! Definitely one of my new daily reads. I just wish that for these posts, there were three separate pictures that appeared alongside the text so that readers don’t have to scroll back and forth between the picture and the text. Overall, though, your blog is awesome!

    October 1, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Thanks for the suggestion, we tried that for a few months. The three pictures make the post too long. Most people weren’t reading past the second outfit. Glad you like the blog!

      October 1, 2013/Reply
  2. apirl says:

    I love separates. I am very long waisted and new suits out with the short jackets just look silly. This is also difficult when trying to find dresses. But I keep up the good fight.

    October 2, 2013/Reply
  3. Jess says:

    That Hugo Boss dress is to die for! Love your alternative, cheaper suggestions, but the leather is what made me swoon.

    October 2, 2013/Reply
  4. CR says:

    Love your blog! It’s one of the few I’ve seen that accurately represent a real working woman’s wardrobe. I know you love wearing dresses for your professional outfits, but I’d love to see some more pants options. What can I say, I feel more confident and professional in pants 🙂 Sometimes I’m able to look at your pictures and mentally swap out skirts for pants in the same color, but I feel like issues of proportions, color and pattern get a bit more complicated when dealing with pants. Plus, ensembles like this, which are all dresses, aren’t readily translatable for me.

    Obviously, it’s your blog, and I love it and will read it anyways, but that’s my request!

    October 2, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I don’t really wear pants. And they strike me as so basic, but I’ll look and see if there are some out there that I like. But I’m really a dresses girl at heart.

      October 2, 2013/Reply
  5. KS says:

    FWIW, I’m pretty sure the name is just Jones New York – no “of” in it.

    October 3, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Is it? Could be. I’ll look into it.

      October 3, 2013/Reply
  6. MC says:

    Anybody else think Ann Taylor is TERRIBLE this season? Even with coupons for 50% off, I couldn’t find anything I wanted – everything looked cheap and tacky….

    October 4, 2013/Reply