Improving the Suit: Transitioning to Winter

Today we are going to talk about transitioning your fall work wardrobe into winter.  One of the challenges I find is that even as the temperature drops outside, my office temperature seems to actually feel warmer.

Pair your fall/spring blouses with Warmer Pieces – I like to mix a lightweight blouse with my heavier wool suits.  This way if I get hot, I can take off the jacket.  Plus it helps me feel more girly.

Top Coats are Your Friend – I am amazed at the number of professionals who do not own a winter dress coat.  This is the best way to avoid buying a whole new winter wardrobe.  Put a dress coat over your normal suit or dress.  It will keep you from freezing outside and burning up inside.  I have added a coat section to my Pinterest board.

Bring In Winter Colors – I love winter white.  It is such a feminine look, and really helps you pop amidst the sea of black, navy, and charcoal.

Pull Out Your Tights– Nothing gives a skirt new life like a pair of tights.

Don’t forget to visit my Pinterest site for my ideas.  I would also love to hear your ideas of how you transition to winter.

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Improving the Suit: Transitioning to Fall

First, I love fall.  If you check out my Pinterest page, you will find that my weekend style has a lot of fall elements.  Today we are going to talk about transitioning your summer work wardrobe into fall.

Put a Blazer on It (Yes, I was jamming to Put on a Ring on It earlier) – Take your summer dress and add a fall blazer.  If it is warm, push the sleeves up.  And if you get too warm, take the jacket off.  I have a navy and white shirt dress that looks great with my camel blazer on top.  This is also a great rule for your sleeveless tops, adding a fall blazer makes them current without being so hot.

Dust Off Your Closed Toe Shoes – I am old school, so I tend to transition to closed toe shoes after Labor Day.  I find it help to make summer pieces look more fall.  I will wear my cropped suit pants with a closed toe shoe to transition.  The added benefit is with cooler mornings, your feet won’t be cold.

Bring In Fall Colors – Because I am in the south, I have some lightweight fall pieces.  I have a plum knit blazer that is great for this time of year.  I have a couple of cowl neck sleeveless tops in fall prints and colors that also transition.

Pull Out Your Long Sleeves – Sleeveless shift dresses can enter fall with a dress shirt under them.

Don’t forget to visit my Pinterest site for my outfit ideas.  I would also love to hear your ideas of how you transition to fall.

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Weekend Manager Style: Do You Dress for the Job You Want?

As I start to write this article, Erin Brockovich comes on the TV and I have to laugh … she dresses in what she likes and I really do love that.  I think your clothes should reflect your personality, and you should feel good in them.  However, I do think as a manager you need to consider how out of office attire reflects you.  Here are the two questions I ask myself when I consider wardrobe choices?

  1. How would I feel if my boss wore that?
  2. Would I promote someone wearing that?

The cliché “Dress for the job you want,” is a good thing to keep In mind as you make those critical wardrobe choices. Here are some of my weekend outfit ideas.  Don’t forget my Pinterest page is full of my favorite seasonal style guides here.

Spouse’s Company Picnic (Summer) – I usually opt for a sundress with a summer weight cardigan.  That way, I am covered on the top, but not so hot.  I pair with some cute, comfortable sandals and twist my hair back in a loose chignon for an easy but polished look.

State Fair (Fall) – I love comfy jeans and I think distressed jeans are fine out on the weekend.  I pair my distressed jeans with cowboy boots, a cotton jacket, and a long sleeve t-shirt.  I find a jacket raises the level of the outfit.

Christmas Parade (Winter)  – You should be warm and comfortable, but you can still do it in something that you are okay meeting your boss’s wife wearing.  I have a really fun raspberry colored wool wrap coat that I add a navy and cream scarf around my neck, add jeans (either lined or get some cuddle duds underneath), add brown leather gloves and brown boots, and a cream turtleneck sweater.

Night Baseball Game (Spring) – I know it is a ball game, but if you are in town then you have a good chance of running into coworkers.  I like a stretch skinny cropped pant, flats, a tunic, and a layering cami.  I think the outfit has a little more polish, but is still comfortable.

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Improving the Suit: Maternity Style

I have received several Ask Southern questions about Maternity Wear in a Professional setting and post-baby clothing.

First, congratulations for all of you moms to be.  I loved being pregnant, but I also remember the tearful mornings of your pants not fitting and it is still the first trimester.  Yes, you are going to have to invest in some clothes.  However, I am going to talk you through both pre and post clothing and try to help you get good pieces that will get you through both and more than one baby.  Also, I have posted some of my favorites on my Pinterest site.

  • Bottoms – Can I wear my existing pants/skirt?
    1. Yes, if they will accommodate your widening hips. My pants that had some lycra in them worked, but they then became part of my maternity wardrobe and I had to retire them after I rediscovered my post baby hips. (My NYDJ black ponte pant was a favorite both pre and post baby)
    2. To keep wearing them invest in a belly band (They sell them at Target) or my favorite the Blanqi maternity tank (both allow you to wear your bottoms unfastened).  Yes, this means untucked tops
    3. I would still invest in at least two good pairs of pants in the next size up
      1. This will be your post-baby go to. And you will celebrate the day that they were too big.  (I had a pair of black and white check wide leg White House Black Market side zip pants that were designed to be a little loose and they were my favorite – They were comfortable and dressy)
      2. Budget Saver: Go to a consignment store to get great deals on nice clothes or shop ThredUp
    4. G yourself at least two pair of maternity pants.
  •  Blazers
    1. Wear them unbuttoned while pregnant – I did not see the use in buying a stretchy tent like jacket
    2. My favorite outfit was my NYDJ ponte knit pants with a black v neck ruched top and my cropped black and white blazer with colored heels and a great statement necklace
  • Tops
    1. What about my dress shirts?
      1. Let it Go (Save them for post baby and if breast-feeding – post that)
    2. What can I wear
      1. Knit Tops – but know that you are going to stretch them out. I like a cowl neck top that can go in the wash while pregnant and post baby and doesn’t need to be tucked in.  Look for ruched pieces as well to use early in pregnancy and post baby.  Again, go up a size in regular tops.  I found they fit better than maternity and give you post-baby options.
      2. Maternity Tops – Go for flattering empire waist tops. I liked things I could add a belt to.
  • Dresses
    1. Dresses are your new BFF (at least they were mine) – Look for empire waist pieces to use early on and post baby. Wrap Dresses can get you through all stages if you go up a size (I bought a black Old Navy wrap dress one size up).  I bought a black and white print empire waist dress at Kohl’s one size up in a stretchy fabric (I used a black cardigan belt over the elastic empire waist to dress it up and would pair with a long colored Ann Taylor cardigan to give it some interest and a pearl statement necklace)
    2. I did buy Maternity Dresses – Gap had and empire waist shirt dress that was a favorite, I bought a black knit dress
  • Post Baby Needs
    1. Belly Bandit (I wore this after both religiously for six weeks and only took it off to shower) – I got my hips back
    2. SPANX – or whatever similar brand you like – to help fit back in your clothes. I wore 2 at a time, because I always wear one
    3. If breast-feeding
      1. Pack a towel in your pump bag to avoid mess
      2. Pack wipes for cleaning up
    4. Keep a change of bra and top (in case a meeting happens)
    5. Scarves are your friends – they hide a multitude of sins
    6. All new moms – keep a spare outfit at work, I have found myself with snot of my sleeve or a yogurt handprint on my pants and Tide To Go is also a good thing to keep
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Improving the Suit: How to Dress Appropriately for the Heat

This time of year presents a huge dressing challenge.  You need a suit that works for both chilly conference rooms and for surviving an outdoor walk around your campus in the Southern summer heat.

Fabric – I choose a lightweight fabric.  Linen can be your friend if you buy a linen blend, and I always have it lined.  The combination of lining it and the blend reduces the wrinkling.  Another option is cotton sateen, which is just a dressier cotton that doesn’t wrinkle as easily as regular cotton.  Again, you want to get a lined pant or skirt.  A third fabric is a lightweight wool (some stores call this a summer wool or seasonless wool).  I still find this fabric to be a little hot and really feel it is better suited for days you will not be outside long or if a cool front came through.

Top – Sleeveless is your friend.  I always wear sleeveless.  Ann Taylor offers their perfect shirt online in sleeveless.  They also have some cute shell options.  I love a cowl neck shell as another option this time of year.

Skirt or Pants – The day you are hiking around campus, I recommend a skirt or dress.  However, I am old school Southern, and that means sheers on your legs.  The long day in a chilly board room is definitely a pants day.  (I also keep a pair of trouser socks and different shoes in my bag for those occasions)

Dress – I like the option of a dress – it somehow makes me feel cooler psychologically to only have a dress and a blazer.  This also gives you the option to wear a lighter fabric and the choice of something with a little more movement.

Things I Keep in My Bag to Refresh: Boogie Wipes (I like to consolidate – so these little guys are great for removing sweat and for cleaning up little monkeys), Travel deodorant, Aquage Travel Dry Shampoo (I turn my head upside down and spray a little to reboost my style and it smells great), Touch Up Make Up with Oil Absorbing Papers

 Don’t forget to check out my Pinterest page for outfit ideas!

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Improving the Suit: Are Your Shoes Making or Breaking Your Suit?  

I LOVE shoes.  I am a girly, girl – so I love high heel shoes, and they are my shoe of choice. However, I think flats are a good choice if that is your personality – my rules below will still apply.

Rule #1: Shoes that look like they could float and if given a tiny motor be Barbie’s new form of transportation are not professional.  Former nurses, that means your Dansko’s are not suit appropriate.  (Obviously this rule does not apply if you work in areas that require this type of shoe.  However, I suggest keeping these in your office and changing for meetings.)

Rule #2: Platforms that exceed ½” do not have a place at the office for 9 to 5 girls.  I have some cute date night platforms, but they really are not work appropriate.

Rule #3: Heel height that exceeds 4” is really best for after 5.  I don’t exceed 3”, but that is both a practical and comfort choice.  (Find the height that works for you and have all your pants tailored for that.  I also have a few flats and pants that work with those.)

Rule #4: Glitter and sparkle are also for after 5.

Rule #5: Have fun.  Buckles, patterns and color are your friends and you should let your shoes express some of your personality.  They can really spice up your black suit.  I love doing a black suit with a black shirt and a red heel.

Rule #6: Shoes are a great way to slim your look.  Matching your pant and shoes or matching your skin tone when wearing a skirt really elongates your look.  A pointier toe, will also elongate your look.  Post baby, I would wear dark suits with matching heels to elongate the overall look.

Rule #7: Dress boots or booties are okay with your suit.  Especially on rainy or cold days, I like the ability to wear warmer socks, and dressy boots are fine with your pant suit.  Or for those of you on trend, a cute bootie with your skirts.  Just follow the above rules.

(Mommy Tip: I keep flats in my car and just fold up my trousers for the heels I don’t want to cart baby in.)

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Improving the Suit: Adding Your Own Style and Personality

Last week we looked at getting a great fitting suit on a budget, and today we are going to talk about bringing your style and personality to your suit.  Recently, one of my favorite nurses took a Nursing Director position, Miss M was always the bright spot of your day when you went to her floor because she rocked the neon scrub and it worked for her. I was so sad to see her in a boring black suit with a white dress shirt at a meeting.  You do not have to sacrifice your personality to wear a suit.

Colorful Tops.  Tops are an easy way to inject color and interest while on a budget.  They are usually less expensive than your suit bottoms and jackets, and are much easier to shop on sale.  I have dress shirts in shades of pink, blue, green, and purple.  I have numerous patterned tops.  Let your personality shine.

Recycling Tip: If I buy a pattern, I look for a shirt that can also be dressed down for the weekend. I also look for a color or pattern that I can wear with multiple suits to create different looks. I am loving the Pleione Faux Wrap Blouse (see my Pinterest page) right now for this purpose.  Next week, I am going to talk more about recycling pieces to make a great suit.

Buy what suits YOU.  If your style is more laid back and less structured, then find suits that are the same.  J Jill has a great line of more relaxed suits.  If you are more feminine, look for feminine details like a top with some lace or look for a great print shift dress that would pair with a solid jacket.  If you are less girly, embrace the menswear look.

Warning: As you embrace your personality and style, still remember you are dressing for 9 to 5 hours.  This is not the place for the jacket from your bridesmaids dress.  Glitter and Rhinestones are not 9 to 5 items. 

Shoes and Bags.  Shoes are my absolute favorite way to brighten a suit.  Remember the warning above … those red satin shoes are not 9 to 5.  However, red patent leather are.  I have a black and white work bag and a red one.  I use them to inject style into my look.

Jewelry.  I believe in picking one piece to make a statement, and I prefer that to be my necklace, scarf or a broach.  I think earrings should be understated.  However, your necklace or scarf is an inexpensive and great way to bring in color and style to any outfit.

Money Saving Tips: I scour the White House Black Market end of season sale for inexpensive statement necklaces.  I also shop Nordstrom Rack for great tops, scarves, and bags.  Lastly, 6pm.com is my current obsession for great shoes.  I recently purchased a pair of Cole Haan heels for 75% off.

 

Don’t forget my Pinterest site for fashion ideas.  As always, please send your questions, comments, concerns, or issues to southernservicestyle@gmail.com

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Improving the Suit: How to Get a Great Fitting Suit on a Budget

I am going to start a series of articles on getting a great suit on a budget for women.  Today we are going to kick it off with fit.

I work in healthcare, which means we have people that now have to wear suits who used to wear scrubs all day.  Many of these people are committed to the idea of sets.  They buy the two piece pant set and the pants are never quite the right length for their shoes.  They either have high waters or they are dragging the hem across the floor.  If their jacket buttons, they usually have too much left up top – it looks like they need some football shoulder pads to fill it out.  There are also those that the jacket clearly won’t button, but the top part fits great.  Either way, the whole look says I have to wear a suit, but nobody said I had to care how it looked.

Buy Separates.  This is a good rule for a couple of reasons.  First, you can get the right length.  I like heels, and the regular size in pants is too short for that – so I always order longs. Second, you can buy both pants and a skirt which give you more options for changing the look. (which will be next week’s article)

Buy what Fits YOU.  Don’t shop for what your girlfriend wears, if you aren’t built the same.  Go and try on suits until you find a brand and style that works best for you.  I am a rectangle shape, so Ann Taylor and Theory suits both fit me well.  I actually don’t need their jackets altered, which is a win for me.  You should buy things that make you look good.

Money Saving Tip: First, buy during a big sale like the Nordstrom semi-annual sale.  I replaced my charcoal Ann Taylor pants and jacket during their 40% of storewide sale that they ran the week before Black Friday.  I then waited for their after Christmas sale, and bought the matching skirt at 75% off.  The key is to pick a fabric and material that they always carry. 

I actually find it ironic, that when men go to buy a suit having it tailored is the norm.  However, as women we think we should be able to just buy something off the rack and have it fit.  I don’t know about you – but I find that most of what I buy doesn’t fit quite the way I would like it to off the rack.

Get a tailor.  Use social media and your colleagues to find one.  We have a social media site for our neighborhood, and that is how I find mine.  As I mentioned above, I always order the pants in a long and have them shortened. When wearing heels your trouser pants should be 1” from the floor and with flats they should be ½” to 1” (personal preference).

Shop Consignment.  I am currently loving ThredUp (www.thredup.com) They have a new with tags section, and I bought a new with tags pair of Theory pants and Jacket for under $100.00.  I have a friend, who shops the local thrift stores, and she has bought some great suits that were hardly worn and has had them altered.  She has a gorgeous Ralph Lauren charcoal pinstripe that she bought for $25.00 and then spent $25.00 to get it altered to fit and $10.00 to dry clean it.  So $60.00 for a suit that looked like it was only worn 2-3 times that fits perfectly is a steal.

As always, please send your questions, comments, concerns, or issues to southernservicestyle@gmail.com

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Casual Friday – What It Really Means For Women, and How To Do It Right Without Breaking the Bank

shutterstock_188155589What does that really mean for female professionals?

An excuse to wear your leggings with an oversized sweater and boots with cute boot socks to work?  Not if you are looking to move up the corporate ladder.

Men have it so much easier, polo or dress shirt, no tie and chinos or slacks.  They don’t have to think twice about “work appropriate.”

But what do we wear? We all know that our choices will always face more scrutiny. The answer can be simple and affordable if you buy strategically

Tone down your work-week look. Simple changes – swap a dress shirt for a dressier t-shirt or a tank top under your blazer but ONLY if you aren’t taking the jacket off.  Swap a pair of more casual pants or a more casual skirt for your trousers or slacks.  Swap a cardigan or sweater for your blazer, pieces you probably already have but can rotate in on a Friday.

I wear a lot of pants, not because I am anti-skirt, but our meeting rooms tend to be cold and I am the computer trouble shooter before we call the real computer team – so pants are just more practical for crawling under desks.  My work week is a pair of dress pants and a blazer or a suit coat.  So toned down for me is a more casual (but still tailored) pant and a more casual blazer or just a dress shirt.  As a mom and someone no longer 25, I find that blazers offer a more figure flattering structure. If your work week choice is a skirt – then go for a knit version or a chino version that says professional without being overdressed.

The rule to live by: Take it down a notch , but be careful.

For fun, here are a few of my go to Casual Friday outfits

  1. Dark Denim – (No, not your I am painting my house jeans or your jeggings.) Ann Taylor Trouser jeans in dark denim complement a favorite pair of navy patent heels. The dark heel blends to elongate my legs and it adds a touch of sophistication.  In fall and spring, I have a navy and white Caslon blazer that I bought at Nordstrom Rack for $25.00 this fall.  Paired with an untucked white dress shirt in warmer weather or an ivory corduroy jacket that I bought on consignment when it is colder, interesting pieces (and this has a navy and red lining) can bump up your look. To switch it up, I add a navy turtleneck on and flip the cuffs so you can see the lining (and keep the ivory edges of the cuffs safe from  every day dingy wear when your cuffs rub a table or your desk.)
  2. Ponte Knit – I love a ponte knit pant. I had a black NYDJ trouser pair that I had for 3 years and finally had to accept the fact that I had worn them out.  I replaced them off 6pm.com for 60% off recently.  I pair these with a black sweater turtleneck and big jewelry that includes pearls (I usually buy a string of necklaces when White House Black Market runs them on sale). Simple pearls work, too, and black dress boots finish the look.  The black is post-baby or holiday forgiving and the knit makes for a comfortable day.  If cold, I add a black and white or solid color coat on top.  I have a wrap coat that is Hot Pink or a ¾ sleeve black and white check that just makes this interesting.  When warmer, I pair with a black or black and white boat neck sweater – sometimes putting a white blouse underneath.
  3. Chinos – I do have one pair I love, and they are circa Ann Taylor when the dress pants were still lined (I also air dry them and they have held up beautifully) – they are actually a true dress trouser fit, so they are dressier and they have no pockets. I wear them with a cute short sleeve navy sweater that has a fake dress shirt neck and cuffs attached that is navy and white.  I usually pair it with camel colored heeled loafers.  I add a denim jacket to come into the building to show my “fun” side to the staff but ditch the jacket in my office.  When too cold for short sleeves I pair with a green blazer with white piping I bought on sale at Gap.  It is also a knit but with more structure.  I add a dress shirt underneath and it dresses up the look.
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