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 Post subject: looking professional
PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2012 2:31 pm 
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I work in a casual office and have for years (wearing yellow pants and a neoprene shirt today, for example), but have to appear at meetings and hearings and such looking professional pretty regularly. I'm loathe to spend a lot of money on suits and such since I only wear them 10-20 times a year rather than every day, but am also only required to look professional in high stress situations so want to have an easy option for looking like a grown up and blending in with the people who blow dry their hair and wear suits every day.

Of course, finding nice suits, blouses and heels that are fairly conservative, vegan, not too expensive, not cheap looking and relatively comfortable is pretty much impossible. Does anyone have any good sources for ladies business attire?

I saw that j crew now has a cotton suit but their stuff doesn't fit me all that well (I could probably make the skirt suit work with tailoring, but their pants are out of the question). I've also seen cotton suits from theory, but that's super expensive. I'll go down that road if it's really the best option, but I hope some of you have better ideas!


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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2012 3:50 pm 
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Look for Calvin Klein suits at Marshall's and TJ Maxx. I've found gorgeous ones as low as $30. All of them have seemed to be blends or linen; haven't found wool ones there. They are cut nicely.

Ann Taylor Loft is another decent option, though you'll pay more as those don't go on sale as often.

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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2012 4:49 pm 
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I second looking at place like TJ Maxx's and Marshall's. I sometimes have to wear professional attire for work but I'm not a big suit person. Instead, I've gotten designer suit jackets (Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, etc.) at Goodwill. I pair them with dresses that are long enough that I wear anyway or a skirt/slacks with a top (not even a suit shirt). I keep my coat buttoned and sometimes wear a belt over the jacket. I wear stockings and closed-toed heels, looks just as professional as a suit, and works even in very conservative places (e.g. court). I actually get a lot of compliments when I dress this way. I go this route because, like you, I don't want to invest in suits that I don't really wear but a nice suit jacket can go with really anything.

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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2012 4:57 pm 
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another vote for Ann Taylor.
i have gotten really casual in the last few years-- but when i need to meet with clients my shoes get an upgrade, i put on my nice blazer and a scarf. i only have a few pairs of "formal" pants but those and the dresses (almost exactly as MM3 said) work just fine with the good blazer. i have a few blazers, but the "good one" is a moral support for me when things are really tough or high pressure-- it's an old Issey Miyake I bought in Tokyo ages and ages ago, and it makes me feel good in a sick way to know that that damn blazer is probably worth more than my car.
and just sayin, when i worked in the US i bought soooo many Jones New York suits from TJMaxx. I was a bit bigger then and they were cut so nicely that I used to wear the suit pants without the jackets.

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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2012 5:09 pm 
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Thanks for the Marshall's and TJ Maxx suggestions. I live near both, but always forget about them! I'll look for suits there!

I actually do want suits, not dresses/separates and jackets (which is what I do now and I always feel just a little bit under dressed when every other person in the room is in a suit). It doesn't help that I look about 10 years younger than I am, so I'm kind of self-conscious about looking grown-up and not like a college student in these situations.

Anne Taylor/LOFT is a great suggestion too, sadly, their clothes don't fit me well at all (I have much smaller hips and a much bigger ribcage than they cut their clothes for). Same problem I have with J Crew.

Any suggestions for shoes? I've ordered practically every pair of vegan and accidentally vegan closed toe black pumps under $100 off of zappos and they're all hideously uncomfortable (I wear tall shoes all the time, so it's not just the fact that they're heels).


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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2012 5:38 pm 
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I'd also say go to department stores and hit clearance racks. Dillard's or Lard & Taylor have awesome clearance racks. You could also try Nordstrom Rack. I find TJ Maxx to be too expensive (I've seen the same items cheaper at Lard & Taylor) and Marshall's to be a bit too hectic.

For shoes, that's tough because I live for Zappo's shoes. I don't wear heels though.

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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2012 5:42 pm 
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Cotton will wrinkle like a mofo. It's ok if it's a relaxed summer outdoors thing, or if everyone will be wearing cotton or linen anyway. But, if you are looking for a sharply pressed suit look, I'd go with a rayon/poly/lycra blend if possible.


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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2012 5:50 pm 
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linanil wrote:
I'd also say go to department stores and hit clearance racks. Dillard's or Lard & Taylor have awesome clearance racks. You could also try Nordstrom Rack. I find TJ Maxx to be too expensive (I've seen the same items cheaper at Lard & Taylor) and Marshall's to be a bit too hectic.

For shoes, that's tough because I live for Zappo's shoes. I don't wear heels though.


Marshall's is no joy to browse in, for sure. TJ Maxx really varies--it all depends, but this time of year they drastically mark down all the things like suits to make way for summer dresses, swim suits, etc.

Macy's.com sometimes has good stuff. I got a great suit there before my first teaching interviews. You can return to the store too, which is nice.

There are some nice linen blends now that have a little spandex or something so they stay nice and crisp. Good quality lining helps too.

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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2012 6:13 pm 
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Goodwill can be great, although very hit or miss. I got an amazing Ann Taylor suit there for $15 that looks perfect.

I also like NY and Co. When they have sales you can rack up for pretty cheap.


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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2012 6:33 pm 
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I'm not a fan of Calvin Klein suits, but I have found and loved several ones by Nine West (I didn't even realize they made clothes) at Macy's. They've lasted well, and are cute and sut/styled somewhat younger/more hip. Macy's often has deep discounts via sales and coupons.

For shoes, honestly even when I can afford better, I've done best at Payless for cute vegan heels. I get low kitten heels because I don't find the higher ones comfortable, and they work great. I have two pair of Novacas from Mooshoes, which are more of a splurge, but have held up well.

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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2012 7:07 pm 
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I think it really depends on your body type.

I am short and curvy and Ann Taylor looks great on me. I also have Tahari suits, but most other designers look wrong on my frame. I'd say post a picture so we can help.

I am also a big fan of cardigans over pencil skirts for looking professional without much effort, but your mileage may vary based on your work environment.

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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2012 7:49 pm 
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aiee wrote:
Ann Taylor/LOFT is a great suggestion too, sadly, their clothes don't fit me well at all (I have much smaller hips and a much bigger ribcage than they cut their clothes for). Same problem I have with J Crew.


Have you tried different sizes in the tops and bottoms? Ann Taylor sells their suits as separate pieces (I think J Crew does, too). Just wondering if that might help.


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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2012 9:57 pm 
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Payless is the only place I've ever found work appropriate shoes that were both comfortable and vegan. Granted, I only wear flats, but they have a lot of different styles of cute shoes that definitely work with business attire. I just bought three pairs of work shoes there yesterday, actually.


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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2012 1:17 am 
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My suggestion would be that after you get whichever suit you chose, spend a little money on having it tailored to you - it makes such a difference to how great you feel wearing a suit.

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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2012 6:29 am 
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Now I'm annoyed that both payless stores near me closed down. Now the nearest one is 50 miles. Boo.


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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2012 6:56 am 
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I always got supercute work shoes at Target fwiw. It sucks because they aren't fair trade but I really haven't found a great fair trade vegan shoe. I bought a few from MooShoes, but ended up not liking them.

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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2012 5:26 pm 
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I get most of my shoes from Modcloth and Asos, both of which have tons of cute, affordable vegan options. I don't really wear typically conservative shoes (I only have one pair of black shoes in my collection), but they're totally work appropriate and I always get great comments from colleagues.

I also vote for spending a bit on a nice, properly tailored suit jacket rather than a cheaper full suit. I never wear the skirt part of my suit, I just throw the jacket over a dress or top and deliberately non-matching skirt (like a coloured one or something, then you look intentionally cute rather than sloppy and bad at matching shades) and I'm good to go. I've dressed this way for (successful) job interviews and to meet senior federal government ministers and I've never had anyone seem to think I didn't look professional enough.

I'm the youngest person in my area at work and I'm also stupidly tiny, so looking young is a concern. But I find that I feel like I'm playing dress ups in a full suit. You'll always look better if you feel like you still look like you, rather than some generic 'professional'!

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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2012 6:11 pm 
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I second the idea of going to target for good vegan work shoes. Very affordable too.

I have found some real winners at TJ maxx and marshalls, but some of the stores are a mess. I am lucky and the ones by me are awesome.

Also found some good ones at Ross Stores, but it is more hit and miss there.


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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2012 8:00 pm 
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Meh, I'm really having to start working on upping my professionalism this weekend. The worst part is that I'm almost at the end of week 3 of insanity and just now starting to see body changes, so I don't want to spend a ton on perfectly fitting clothes and I'm also not buying stuff that doesn't fit. I did spend $100 at Loft outlet today (which is like a bazillion for me) but the whole store was at least 30% off, AND I bought only clearance stuff so I wound up with 3 cardigans, one skirt, one dress, and a few shirts. The dress had an original price of $80 and the skirt had been $60, so I think I spent my money well. I may run back tomorrow and get that same skirt in brown because it looks great on me.

Another thing I did was look at several "wardrobe capsules" before I left to get a good feel of how to make the most of my purchases. I used that while I shopped so everything I bought today is interchangeable (as opposed to being individual, stand alone outfits) as I did a palette of black, white, and lavender. I'm going to look at some inexpensive places for necklaces to dress things up a bit but I suck at accessorizing.

They also had some really cute blazers that were half off, but that still comes out to at least $40, so I'm sticking by my thrift store advice for jackets and blazers.

eta: Do you happen to sew? I plan on making several things once I finish Insanity. If you (or anyone else) wants I can point you in the direction of good sewing patterns for business attire.


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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2012 7:22 pm 
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Check to see if you have a Dillards Outlet or clearance rack store. We have one in a ghetto closed down mall in Arlington and they always have amazingly cheap stuff. It's a hot mess, kind of like a thrift store. Also 1/2 price store / Gordman's is another chain of cheap clothes that are high quality. The stuff is usually last season kind of stuff.

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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2012 8:48 am 
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I save the really nice suits for trials and get by with separates throughout most of the week. I would like to find more environmentally-friendly, socially-responsible materials, but for now I'm still using suits made from mostly synthetics. You can get good suits and separates at JC Penney or Macy's. For less formal outfits, I've had pretty good luck at Target.


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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 8:38 am 
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For shoes check out Shoe Shi Bar online. Thye make awesome, stylish vegan shoes. They are an European company, but I think it would be worth the postage, as they are comfortable, super nice shoes!
The sizes are Pretty normal.


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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 10:17 am 
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I got some great, comfy black pumps at payless, so thanks for reminding me to look there!

I still have to work on the suit, but that's less urgent now that I have proper shoes.


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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 10:29 am 
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Ruby Rose wrote:
My suggestion would be that after you get whichever suit you chose, spend a little money on having it tailored to you - it makes such a difference to how great you feel wearing a suit.


I totally agree with this.

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 Post subject: Re: looking professional
PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 4:36 am 
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I just want to chime in, and say that unless your workplace has a super strict dressing policy, there is a little room to play around with the professional look. Sometimes I have to look professional, but I feel super uncomfortable in suits.. I like to mix things like high waisted pants, a white shirt and a black blazer (i have one which is perfect: it's a silk like material, so it's super thin, but it's also very nice and streamlined - which makes it perfect for professional occasions..)

think:
Image

pants like these, only with a buttoned up white shirt and a black blazer. (the red lipstick is also a cute addition, if you're into that!)

Image
this is also a great look, although i would probably have chosen a very light button up curry-yellow shirt.

Image
this is a great professional look! i'd probably not be too into it personally, because i'm weird with clothes, but i think most people of any size would be able to pull off the simple black and a nice tailored blazer!

Image
oversized blazers can look really great. i'd probably mix this with some brown pants and a nice shirt and very simple shoes.

Image
a white blazer with black shirt and pants can look really streamlined and great aswell! (alhough, you might want to avoid the fake leather pants! :) )

Image
this kind of blazer would work wonderfully with regular black pants aswell! or even skinny jeans, if you just want to look casually professional..

Image
blazer dresses can be super great - although, you might want something with a little more length..

i realize that these looks probably won't work in a strict professional environment, but for anyone with a little room to play around (or those who only need to dress super strictly every once in a while) there might be some inspiration to find! i think one of the great things about blazers is, that they can look good on almost everyone.. especially if you get a decent quality one and get it tailored. blazers can also look wonderful over a summer dress..


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