Talbots’ suiting

So I’ll admit it: Monday was a wake-up call. I took one look at my picture over at Sal’s, and my immediate reaction was, “whoa, WAY too casual for work!” Now allow me to stipulate, I think the ensemble itself looks fine, and subjectively is probably more formal than what a lot of people in my office wear on a daily basis, but by my own standards, it’s not the business image I want to project.  My work style pendulum has swung too far toward the Casual Side! Tuesday, in an attempt to dial it up a notch, I dug out my Banana Republic black wool trousers and an Ann Taylor stand collar tweed jacket from last year, added some low heels and felt more aligned with my own concept of business attire.

While I still find a matched suit is just too fussy for my own workplace, some pants or a skirt with a tee shirt and jacket should bring just the right amount of “business.”  Menswear type blazers aren’t cutting it for me, but a softer jacket, asymmetrical or collarless should be just the ticket. A little more structure is what’s needed, stopping short of full Corporate Drag.

Worn with slim pants, this longer, knit Eileen Fisher jacket is flattering and comfortable, and adds a bit more architecture than a cardigan.

Looks better on than in the picture, and It’s Washable!
(Confession: I bought this jacket back in December, and love it.  Need to wear it more!)
This Talbots jacket has a softer, more fluid look, and oh la la, those 3/4 sleeves! 

This Classiques Entier sweater jacket from Nordstrom looks softly structured, and adds some subtle color and design details.

Ann Taylor has some nice looking, non-blazer jackets, but their website uses Flash player exclusively, so I can’t show you any pictures.  🙁  (Google Is Our Friend.) But this jacket has possibilities too.

While a lack of hard-and-fast guidelines for workplace dressing still has me flummoxed from time to time, it’s good to have options, and the space to find my own way.

Have you worked out a formula for workplace dressing?  Has it changed over time?

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  1. It is *so* easy to slide to the more casual end of the continuum. I’m wearing a lot of twinsets- look for the ones that are not too conventional from TSE, Bompard, MaxMara. Also wear jackets like your EF, and avoid menswear cuts in woven fabrics- though admire a precisely tailored menswear piece on other women, I look too tough in it.

  2. This is EXACTLY the solution I came up with for work, right around the time my midlife belly expanded just enough that cardigans started to look sloppy on me. Jackets. Not super-formal jackets, but jackets nonetheless. I found that places like Banana Republic and even the Gap had good ones for not too much $$$.

  3. I already told you I clutched my (teal freshwater) pearls when I saw that photo as it seemed at odds with what I expected from all your wonderful posts on the subject.

    [Not that the guest post –and outfit — wasn’t wonderful in its own way.]

    And I agree it’s very easy to slide towards quite casual when there seems to be a tolerance for it.

    I’m currently in a “more business than casual” business casual place and have a raft of boring solid neutrally colored suiting separates — that I rather like, ha! — and having finally crossed into the land of color and pattern I just toss ’em on with more exotic-to-me items.

    And I even wear full-on color-color together some days.

    I eased myself into that by buying classic shapes (pencil skirts, blazers) in versatile colors that aren’t the standard neutrals.

    Nothing like a deep green pencil to make me feel less staid, but still polished….

  4. actually, I thought the boots were a bit on the too-casual side for an office. But otherwise, I liked your outfit…

  5. beautiful selections. i’ve been taking another look at talbots lately. (i confess to not having set foot in one since the 80s! but now that they’ve gone “j crew-ish”, i am impressed.)
    i’m an artist- in the studio, i wear whatever is comfortable and won’t matter if paint gets on it! when teaching, i step it up a notch but not much if the kids are painting; it’s a tricky balance to look professional yet paint-friendly. when doing gallery work, i can really step up on the fashion/style scale. but almost always in black: my favorite clothing “color”.

  6. The t-shirt with blazer or cardigan seems to be my work uniform. I try to keep it interesting with accessories. But I find this time of year hard to get dressed – bored of my winter wardrobe and just want spring to get on with it.

  7. Miss J LOVES a suit for her workplace. And dresses- they just makes her mornings so easy. Of course, Miss J’s workplace isn’t at all casual. Even the rare casual Friday here doesn’t allow for denim- khakis only.

    To bring her own personality into the picture, Miss J will wear an asymmetrical T from Anthropologie under a pinstriped suit. Last weekend she purchased a ruched burgundy T and matching sweater from Max Studio. At work, she wore them with a black Elie Tahri skirt, tights, and knee-high black boots. That evening, she simply changed to jeans and brown cowboy boots for a casual dinner with friends. Scarves, earrings, and especially vintage brooches help Miss J insert her own senses of funk to her somewhat buttoned down workplace. And she can do almost anything she wants with shoes, so she does.

  8. The Ann Taylor jacket is a big problem for those of us who are short but sturdy — don’t need any additional shoulder enhancement unless we would like to resemble a fire hydrant!

  9. crgilvr – I haven’t seen this jacket in person, so don’t know how much the shoulders are padded. I’ve found in the past that just a hint of padding can be flattering, as it gives my rounded shoulders more of an angular look and helps clothing drape better.

    Duchesse – yes, far too easy! The universe tends toward entropy in all things, even workwear. I’m with you on the tailored menswear pieces; they just feel entirely too mannish for me these days, and it’s been tough to find jackets that aren’t either boxy or menswear-styled.

    WendyB – in a weird way, I do too, just because it was easier to figure out what to wear!

    LPC – I’ve actually come full circle. For a long time, jackets were my wardrobe staples, then they just didn’t seem to be working for me. I think the trick is finding those softer jackets that drape well.

    Sal – thanks so much! I actually like that outfit a lot too, but think I need to tweak some of the elements to feel more like workwear.

    Barbara – thank you! I do like the outfit, and will continue to wear it, though for my non-work time.

  10. Kady – actually, I wear “slim” (straight leg) pants, not “skinny” (skin-tight) pants, which aren’t flattering on me either. though I can do leggings under a longer tunic. I’ll do a post in the next few days on some of my faves.

    Vix – our work environment is pretty darn “casual tolerant.” But as someone in management, I feel that I need to project at least a skosh of authority in my image, and seeing that picture made me realize I’ve strayed too far from that. I’ll probably always gravitate toward neutrals, but do like to add some subtle color with tops and accessories. I think you’ve done fabulously with bringing some color into your wardrobe though!

    Susan Tiner – thanks so much. Talbots has been hit-and-miss for me lately, but I’m hopeful that some of these softer jacket styles will deliver the goods.

    hostess – I’m not planning to “re-outfit” so much as look for a piece or two I can add to what I already am wearing to take the professionalism up just a notch.

    Jean S – I absolutely agree with you there. I love the boots, but will relegate them to non-work wear.

    Style Odyssey – wow, that’s really a challenge! Do you wear some sort of smock over your clothing when paint is around?

    Tracey – I’m hearing that from a lot of people who are living where there’s real winter. Here in LA, it’s been almost springlike this week, though mornings are chilly. There are so many pretty pieces for spring starting to show up, it’s easy to want to rush the warmer weather.

    Miss Janey – I think your instincts are good. It’s easier to get away with edgier details if the foundation pieces tow the corporate line.

    Tiffany – it sounds as though you really have a variety of situations to dress for, but that you’ve throught them through and have a good handle on what’s expected. Dresses are one thing I just can’t seem to work with. Other than one print wrap dress purchased last spring, I have a hard time feeling “right” in them.

  11. I think that slim, tall models and people like Lisa look great in tailored blazers and suits. The rest of us —no. Too mannish, too tough. So, I applaud the soft jacket concept.

  12. Hmmm, I really liked your photo at Sal’s, but I’m not very attuned to a corporate workplace — you’d be well-dressed for my gig! That said, I like all the choices you offer here for a smart yet not too office-y look. I really like the Smythe jackets I’ve found with the bracelet sleeves — they shape nicely, but somehow that illusion of pushed-up sleeves keeps them quite approachable rather than forma.

  13. I love the Eileen Fisher jacket, not available in my size tho – darn. Can I ask about your skinny pants? What brands have worked for you? I love the look, but every time I try on a skinny pant, I always feel like my hips and thighs completely overwhelm the rest of my figure.

  14. Susan – I agree. I see a lot of cardigans available right now, but softer jackets are a bit more elusive.

    materfamilias – I really am going to have to find some of those Smythe jackets to try. I do like the ones you’ve found!

    Rose AG – I’d been gradually moving away from more tailored pieces which I like in concept for the workplace, but no longer feel like a good fit for me. While I do find the softer pieces more flattering, I’ve realized I still need to search out that middle ground between “softer” and “professional.” It’s a tricky balance, and I’m still finding it!

  15. When I have meetings with corporate clients I will usually wear pants and a silk blouse and heels – a blazer on top if it’s not too hot (or my MaxMara camelhair jacket in winter). I find sheath style dresses work too, but I need some new ones.

    I also have clients who expect me to be the ‘creative’ type, so for them I’m more likely to wear jeans (premium denim, dark wash, etc) in place of pants (and more interesting shoes). I’ll wear cardigans when the rest of my outfit is structured, but a jacket if the rest is softer, if that makes sense.

    I love the sweater jacket in your post …

  16. Glad to hear you chime in. I found the outfit to be out of synch with the items you’re usually highlighting, which tend to be on the dressier/tailored side.

    It was a nice outfit, not issue there, just not what I would have imagined you’d highlight as a workplace outfit.

  17. Semi-Expat – I was able to get a look at the Classiques jacket yesterday, and unfortunately it’s pretty, but limp and shapeless on. If the fabric had more body, it would be a great piece.

    Rosina – yes, that would work on a PC, but I’m on a Mac now, and haven’t yet figured out how to “print screen.” 😮

  18. I went to check out the pic you’re referring to and I think the fluid nature of the cardigan is probably what makes it so casual. In tandem with the riding style boot, I see what you mean. I bet with a belt and a pump it would make it just a tad more professional.

    I thought it was a nice outfit, nonetheless! Enfin, à la prochaine:) I found you through The Citizen Rosebud. Love finding stylish ladies!