Advice + Ask The Edit

Ask the Edit: Back to Work Roundup

This week has been crazy.  As the pandemic is ending, working is ramping up.  We’re back to the office.  We’re back to court.  Clients want to meet.  And I am realizing how unprepared my summer work wardrobe is, and I can’t be the only one.

So let’s answer some reader questions about workwear, getting back to the office, and the like.  Here we go!

Abra:

Where does one find a classic black blazer these days?  Ideally wool or a high-quality wool blend.

SKB

One of the reason’s it is so hard to shop for work right now is that retailers that we could traditionally rely on for workwear pivoted to casual attire during the pandemic.  (I’m looking at you Ann Taylor, with your linen dresses.)  Even the brands that held onto their professional lines, some department stores are refusing to stock them because they’re concerned they won’t sell.  So for workwear basics, you need to go straight to the source.

Theory is a great workwear brand that still makes many pieces in natural fibers.  This Etiennette Blazer is a classic in 96% “good wool.”  Their blazer-section is loaded up with fabulous styles in satin, crepe, wool, and other materials you don’t see much in this age of poly-blend.  If you don’t mind a blend, this same blazer is available in the stretch knit for under-$175 dollars.

For my money their Staple Blazer is still my favorite if I’m looking for a classic, wear for years jacket.  She’s not cheap, but I wore my first Theory blazer for almost five years.  Sizes run 00-18, and the pieces can run small, so always check the reviews.

J.Crew still makes a nice blazer.  Their Regent Blazer in wool flannel was one of my top ten purchases, ever.  It also comes in seasonless stretch wool.  Both of these blazers come in petite, tall and plus.

Need something great on a budget, material be damned?  Gilt, TJ Maxx and Nordstrom Rack are the places to go.  After last year, there are a lot of deals.

This might be a dumb message, but here it goes: I don’t own any shoes.  I seem to have nothing but slippers and flip flops now.  What do I buy for my mostly professional office?  Please don’t tell me I have to go back to high heels, I’ll just die.

Kayla

Of course, you don’t have to go back to high heels.  We’re only going back if we want to.  And who wants to right now?

I had a similar issue back in January.  I tried to wear heels to work every day, and I almost hobbled myself. My feet have tasted the good life, and they are going to demand flats from now on.

I went very simple.  I bought a good quality black flat, a good quality tan flat, and then a fun tortoise pair.  These Sam Edelman black flats are great.  This tan pair from Vionic are more of a modern loafer.  They also make the simple pointed-toe tortoise pair I bought.  Not feeling tortoise?  Go with a color like red.

Still need more comfort?  Rothy’s will get you through.  I recommend the big cat print.

Hi Abra,

One of the big takeaways from our time in isolation was that I don’t need so much makeup for every day.  I don’t wear much makeup anymore.  I only need it for work two days a week.  I’d like to say buh-bye to foundation, but I need something to just even things out.  Suggestions?

Liesl

I use Dr. Jart Tiger Grass Correcting Cream every day that I don’t wear foundation.  (I’m actually on my third jar.)  It eliminates redness, corrects tone, and gives me the natural skin-slightly better look that I want.  It’s not heavy, and it treats my acne and dark spots as well.

I should mention that some readers found the Dr. Jart made them shiny.  That’s not an issue I’ve had, but enough people mentioned that, it needs to be said.

Another great option, that Meghan at Wit & Whimsy recommends, is Erborian BB Creme and CC Creme.  Unlike the Dr. Jart, this comes in different skin tones, so you need to hunt down the right one.  But it also illuminates and brightens, or go for the water gel version for hydration and lightness.

Looking for a drugstore option?  The elf Camo Cream is highly reviewed, it’s a lighter alternative to foundation.

Hi,

I’m starting a new job next month (hybrid workplace), and I need to make a good first impression.  It’s only my second job since college, and I think I’ve forgotten how to meet new people in the pandemic.  Advice on starting over?

KL

My advice would be in two parts:

The first week, try to meet everyone and introduce yourself.  There’s a natural tendency to stick to yourself the first few weeks, but that’s when people are usually most willing to meet you and say hello.

Say yes to things.  If you can go to a happy hour (virtual or real), or join some folks for lunch, do it.  You’ll be busy and you’ll feel like you don’t have time, but this is the time to make the time.

My first real job, I didn’t spend much time getting to know people those first few weeks, and I regretted it later.  I had a much better experience at my next job when I made an effort to forge some early bonds.

Also, once you see how people are dressed and what the office culture is, make an effort to mimic that a bit.  If you show up day one in a blazer and no one else has one, don’t wear one day two.  If you usually just have a photo up on Zoom, and everyone else is camera on, be camera on.  Once you’re established you can be more yourself and buck the trends a bit, but in those early weeks, make an effort to go with the flow.

I’m sure other readers have advice as well, so I’ll let them take it away in the comments.

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    18 comments

  1. liz says:

    For a lighter “makeup” I do like the Covergirl smoothers – it’s a very lightly tinted lotion, like $6 or so at the drugstore. That’s what I use on the weekends – I’d put in at zero coverage, but a little evening on tone, and a nice added glow.

    Recently though, for during the week, I’ve been dabbing a few light dabs of concealer on the middle areas of my face, and then really buffing out with a foundation brush. It’s lighter feeling then full foundation, and actually seems to wear better into the day. I feel like I look a little more “polished” with my dark circles and nose redness under control, and that with that done, I don’t need a full face of coverage.

    July 29, 2021/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I do something similar on light makeup days: I put the concealer on the problem spots first and then used a Artis brush with some tinted moisturizer on it to smooth it all out. It looks like makeup, but it doesn’t feel like it.

      July 29, 2021/Reply
  2. Jen says:

    For fall, I need some casual, comfy, but put-together-looking pants or leggings to wear with my navy Rothy’s. It’s really hard to find navy leggings that look decent and don’t clash with the shoes. Any suggestions?

    July 29, 2021/Reply
  3. meghan says:

    For a non-foundation option, I’ve been loving the Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint. They call it a foundation, but it’s very thin, feels like moisturizer, and honestly, I think it’s better than some of my *actual* skincare. Two different people in my office asked if I had changed my routine because I was glowing. It’s magic.

    The Ilia website will shade match you via email, which I’m glad I did. The shade Ilia recommended wasn’t what I going to buy based on Sephora’s online color match , so if you do get it online without testing in store, I’d recommend using the Ilia matching service first (it’s free and easy).

    July 29, 2021/Reply
    • Mo says:

      Second the Ilia tint and the color matching with Ilia. They were spot on and I don’t balk at it the way I do the rest of my makeup now. That plus the multi stick on my cheeks and a swipe of Glossier mascara and I’m good to go.

      July 30, 2021/Reply
      • M says:

        Third! I used to love the Dr Jart product but it’s too orange for my skin tone. Illa is a much more customized color match. And the Illa stuff gives you some sunscreen protection to boot. I think if it like a tinted sunscreen rather than a foundation with sunscreen. It also gives a nice subtle glow.

        August 1, 2021/Reply
  4. Crystal says:

    KL — I highly recommend taking the initiative and scheduling lunches or coffee dates (in-person or virtual) with your new colleagues — chat them on Teams, send out the meeting invitation, add a suggestion to turn on cameras if they’re comfortable (if virtual) or suggest a restaurant or meet-up location (if in-person). I started a new position in May 2020 and have never worked in the office or met many of my colleagues. It really helped to start to put faces to names (if they were willing to get on camera) and to get to know one another socially. And taking the initiative also earned me some praise from my bosses who noticed that I was going above and beyond to foster relationships. Best of luck in your new position!

    July 29, 2021/Reply
  5. Lily says:

    I started a new (temporarily remote) job a few months ago, and to be honest I was surprised at how difficult it has been to onboard virtually. It is so much harder to build rapport with people when everyone is burned out on Zoom and you can’t connect over a coffee. Maybe set expectations low and try not to compare it to past jobs during normal times?

    July 29, 2021/Reply
  6. JLO says:

    For lighter makeup, I originally really liked Tarte’s Maracuja Tinted Hydrator. However, I’ve really been enjoying Fenty’s Eaze Drop. I know it’s a bit controversial in that some people love it, some hate it but as someone with very dry and sensitive skin, I have not had any issues and love the natural but blurring effect it gives.

    July 30, 2021/Reply
  7. HH says:

    For lighter “makeup” I love the Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream. (Ooh, that’s a mouth full. Had to look up the full title.) The Dr Jart Tiger Correcting Cream didn’t work for me, FWIW.

    July 30, 2021/Reply
  8. Laura says:

    If you’re new, I would say definitely be “camera on” for remote work. We have a couple of newer hires who don’t ever turn their cameras on during group calls (though almost everyone else does, so read the room). Very hard to make an impression that way.

    July 30, 2021/Reply
  9. Steph says:

    For the shoe question, my unexpected lifesaver has been a pair of black patent leather loafers I impulse-bought at Nordstrom Rack a while back! They make it seem like I’ve put way more effort in than I have… I truly wore them with some black joggers (read: Costco sweatpants) and a long cardigan, and my boss made the “do you have a job interview?” joke!

    July 30, 2021/Reply
  10. Emily says:

    The 4 season stretch Regent Blazer doesn’t list wool as a fabric, but instead poly/viscose/elastane. It has great reviews though. I am awaiting one that I ordered from 6pm.com, which also has limited sizes of the wool Regent Blazer in black and camel. Good prices on both, even better than j.crew on sale.

    July 30, 2021/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Damn. Sorry, I should have double checked it was still being made with wool blend.

      July 30, 2021/Reply
  11. Pam says:

    Any links to tortoise flats!!?? I;m gonna have to head back in a month and need sharp looking professional flats.

    July 30, 2021/Reply
  12. Becky says:

    I am 100% on board the ‘no heels’ train. As a taller woman, and one who now works in a less formal workplace, I scooped up all the heels I didn’t love and have donated/thrifted them.

    May those who receive my navy pumps wear them in good health and to great success. You can pry my Rothy’s out of my cold dead hands.

    August 4, 2021/Reply