Ask Belle Roundup Vol. IV, No. Twenty-Three
Jun 2, 2014
I will be attending a work picnic next month and am a bit puzzled about how to dress. What would you deem appropriate (or inappropriate) attire for a casual weekend event with colleagues?
This is always a difficult question to answer. We spend so much time thinking about how to dress for the office, that when we have to turn extracurricular activities into work events, we’re never sure how much to blur the lines.
Let’s start with the inappropriate things: No shorts with an inseam shorter than 3″. No spaghetti strap tops. No exposed bra straps. No jean shorts. No v-neck halter tops. For men, no tank or sleeveless tops. No t-shirts with graphics that advertise, are provocative or silly. No athletic shorts. And for both sexes, if you plan to wear sandals/flip-flops, clean up your nails and feet.
As for what to wear, try a navy chino short with a sleeveless cotton top. If you don’t plan to play sports, try a polo dress or a striped t-shirt dress. I also like the look of a pale pink ankle-length chino with navy printed top. Or wear a maxi dress with a sun hat for a boho-chic casual look.
The trend is – and has been for a while – flowy tops. Where can I find a good structured shirt that isn’t a button down?
While I’m pleased to say that empire-waist tops and their maternity-wear-like design are fading away, it is tough to find blouses that fit close to the body. I like the flowy tops tucked into snug-fitting, pencil skirts, but sometimes it’s nice to find something with structure. Here are a few choices:
Sometimes, you need buttons to give you the right fit. However, there are other styles besides the traditional oxford button-up. If you like silk, this Ann Taylor blouse is nice. I also found this short-sleeve Rebecca Taylor dotted blouse and this Lafayette Suri top with a pleated front hiding the buttons. You can also try a button-up, tie-neck blouse like this one from Wyatt in four lovely colors.
A structured blouse like this one from Tahari is also a great choice. I also found this Joie blouse in a vivid shade of green. And I love this wide-stripe blouse from Hugo Boss with pale pink and grey color blocking.
If you have difficulty finding fitted tops, you can buy any silk, crepe or cotton blouse and give it more structure using tailoring. Slimming the seams of a blouse is a fairly inexpensive procedure, and it can make a huge (HUGE!) difference in the look and fit of your clothes.
I read your thoughts in The Post yesterday on flip flops in the work place and it sparked a question of my own. A lot of women make the argument that they can wear flip flops for their commute and change into appropriate shoes at work. You disagree with this. Here’s my question: what are your thoughts on sneakers as commuting shoes?
Here are my issues with wearing flip-flops to the office, even on a commute: 1) They’re loud. That slap, slap, slapping is like a herald. 2) Walking down a city street in them? You’re exposing your bare feet to dirt and germs, and you’re not washing before you put on your pumps. 3) If you need to walk a long distance while at work (quick run to the Senate side, meeting cross town), you can’t just slip on your flips when your male colleagues are wearing wingtips. You’re either going to get stuck in your pumps for the jaunt or look like the intern. Same goes for post-work drinks.
So let’s talk about a few alternatives. First, try a close-toe cage sandal like these strappy Seychelles sandals or these dark tan Ralph Lauren flats. These sandals give you air flow for hot summer days and enough foot coverage to keep things casual but not pool-deck reminiscent.
I also like open-toe flats for my summer commute. If you can find a nice-looking, comfortable pair, you are in good shape. I like these Nine West d’Orsay flats and these gold ones, also from Nine West. If you don’t need or want open-toe, I’d check out these Cole Haan air ballet flats or these Geox Lola flats that give you air circulation with complete coverage.
Lastly, if you must insist on wearing flip-flops to work, do not wear the cheap, rubber ones from the bin at Old Navy or Target. Don’t bust out your Reefs, either. A simple pair of leather flip-flops is a small, but important step up.
I walk fourteen blocks to work every morning and I feel disgusting when I arrive. I read your post last week on keeping fresh, but what do you do when that fails? I’m tired of feeling like a sweaty/dirty mess.
If you have a long, hot commute or you don’t have time to shower after lunch-hour yoga, you need to look into Herban Essentials cleansing wipes. They clean off the sweat and the grime and leave you feeling better and smelling fresher. For a less expensive alternative, you can try baby wipes or adult washcloths.