Fashion Fridays: Bargain Shopping

How do you find cute additions to your wardrobe, especially your career clothes, at a reasonable price? 

The answer to this question constantly eluded me, and with three young children I have to watch when and where I spend dollars on myself.  Plus, quite frankly, I hate the messy chaos that pervades so many brick and mortar discount stores, and I’ve had incredibly limited luck finding high end pieces at secondhand stores. 

So my darling friend Kristin introduced me to ThredUp after she’d made a few killer finds. 

Have you shopped here?  It’s a very well organized on-line consignment store with an incredible selection of higher end items with little to no wear!  And your first shopping outing you get 30% off!  What!?!?!

You can select your style or just pick a category (outerwear) and size (they add equivalent sizing – why doesn’t everyone do this?) and “waa-laa” –  style on a budget!

Even better than any second hand or last call I’ve been to, anything that doesn’t work can be returned for FREE! 

I received my first polkadot box this week with five blazers/jackets, a pair of shoes (Kate Spade) as well as a pullover for the boys (the kids selection has more limited options with less of a delta on the deal – but the women’s section, wow!) for $200!  Not everything worked, and one item disappointingly smelled like cigarette smoke because they must not clean them first, but here’s a look at the items I kept:

This velvet teal blazer was about $10:

jacket

These plummy heels were 75% off of retail Kate Spade shoes and in excellent condition:

heels

My biggest steal of a deal was a high end leather jacket which retailed for $700 that I acquired for just over $100.  However, I didn’t like how it fit, so back it went (which means I spent less than $75 for heels, a blazer, and a kids pullover). 

 They estimate your savings against retail, and while it may be inflated, it still came in pretty impressively at nearly $1500 savings versus the new retail cost. 

What’s your favorite way to save money on career wardrobe pieces?  How do you look sophisticated one a limited budget?

Fashion Fridays: When Your Body Hasn’t Changed

Ahem, as you may have gathered, I’m frequently on a spectrum of sizes.  I currently have three “active” sizes in my closet – that means I’ve worn that size within a three year period.

However, I have friends, nearly approaching 40, that haven’t changed sizes, even post baby(ies).  God bless these people.

The only down side to this dilemma if you’re a career gal is that there has not been an intervening event that has required you to go buy new clothes.  You can get into the same clothes that you wore when you started your job 8 years ago.  You’ve been wearing the same pair of black pants every week for almost 500 weeks.  They’ve seen better days.

So here are a few tips for the fortunately fit woman who has managed to keep her girlish figure:

1.  Periodically buy new staples.  Because you stay the same size, you can shop off season or at outlets because there is no pressing need.  Those gorgeous wool camel trousers you wear twice a week in the winter, replace them in the summer when they’re marked down 50%.  Even though the classic staples don’t go out of style, they do get worn and faded and need an update for you to look polished.

trouser

2.  Evaluate trend pieces.  This means pick up an In Style or Vogue and see if there’s an on trend piece you can add to modernize your wardrobe as well as pull out items that no longer are current.  Sometimes, you can repurpose them.  I had two suits that felt dated because of the cut.  I pulled the pants out and wore them as separates, and then I took the blazers to the tailor to shorten the length so they would feel updated.  It’s also easy to modernize with accessories – injecting a new fabric or pattern with a scarf or adding an oversized necklace in this season’s colors.

necklace

3.  Eliminate items of your youth.  I have a gorgeous girlfriend at work that still had items in her closet from college even though she was in her late 30s.  A number of them were racy and form fitting.  Her body hadn’t changed but she was ready for her style to mature.

4.  Get a third party perspective.  You’ve seen that I’ve edited girlfriends closets or taken them shopping with a new look in mind.  But there’s lots of folks that do this as a profession.  My same fabulous girlfriend, once she’d decided to modernize her closet, went to Nordstrom’s and booked an appointment with a personal shopper there.  The shopper doesn’t charge, asks your price point and for ideas about your style, and I think my friend walked out with 16 new pieces for her wardrobe that were versatile enough for work or date night.

So congratulations on staying the same size.  But don’t forget to edit your closet at least once a year to keep it fresh and modern.

Fashion Fridays: The Work Conference

I’m in Austin today at, drumroll please… a work conference!

As I started packing Tuesday night for a few days away from home I thought what a fashion challenge the work conference can be.

Arguably, at least for me, it’s slightly less formal than work so no suits needed.  Additionally, conference spaces are always (regardless of the season) freezing cold.  However, it’s 100 degrees in Texas in August, and I’d be heading outside straight from conferences to post conference receptions/dinners.  Finally, I like to fashionable and that always means heels but frequently there’s a fair amount of walking around a mega hotel or center at a conference.

So how do you dress for the work conference?  Keep a few things in mind.  First, you’ll be meeting new people that could build your network so always look professional.  No skin tight dresses, ripped jeans, or plunging necklines.  Second, you aren’t at work so have a little fun and embrace your sense of fashion.  Maybe that means cool wedges or bright colors or a big necklace.  Conferences can allow you to remain professional but have more fun with your “work” clothes.

What did I pack?  Well, as you know, I’ve recently embraced the ankle pant, so I packed a pair of black ankle pants in a not-terribly-wrinkly fabric to pair with a neutral shell and new bright red long modern blazer.  I packed high heels to wear during the day during the lectures and wedges to transition to for post-conference events.

I stick with the same base color scheme which means my jewelry, shoes, and tops are interchangeable, so I also packed a black shift dress and black pair of pants along with two simple (and easy to pack) blazers with fun jewelry – new vintage dangling earrings I picked up on eBay and some old chunky necklaces from years ago at Ann Taylor.  I also wore a pair of dark denim jeans into Austin for pre-conference dinners because it gave me the option of changing into them for post-conference dinners as Austin is an incredibly casual town.

The red blazer is from Nordstrom’s and I picked it up on sale: conf

Black ankle pants you can pick up anywhere (see my earlier post).

As for accessories, pick your price point and your style and you can find options anywhere – from Charming Charlie’s to every department store to Kendra Scott.  I think this necklace is interesting and Ann Taylor is having their 40% off friends and family sale:

conf1

Everyone needs a dark rinse trouser fit pair of jeans and Banana Republic offers one of my favorite pair:conf2

And then find a pair of funky wedges that are comfy for all the walking but also super cute – these are on sale at Banana Republic:

conf3

How about you?  What do you pack when attending conferences?

Fashion Fridays: Royal Blue Will Broil You

In the late ’80s (for you spring chickens, that was the century that began with 19 instead of 20), I attended church summer youth camp.  The kids were divided into teams by colors.  We competed in an assortment of real and imaginary sports.  My team was Royal Blue.  Our slogan was Royal Blue Will Broil You.  And we sort of did.  Despite my complete lack of athletic prowess, I think we came pretty close to winning the summer games.

What does this have to do with Fashion Fridays, you ask?  Well, it’s my on-again-off-again love affair with the color.  Quite frankly, I’ve been off of royal blue for pretty much the entirety of 21st century because the color, all on its own, reminded me of the ’80s.  It somehow felt dated.

Yet now it’s everywhere!  Royal blue at every turn!  And I look good in the color to boot.  Interestingly, most people look good in royal blue.  (Maybe that’s why our team nearly won the competition – everyone was stunned by our collective lovely appearance in royal blue with every shade and color of team members!)

It’s likely why the color has been rereleased to the general public.  So here is a smattering of what’s on the racks in royal blue right now and a recommendation for you to try it out again – it’s not just for county fair prizes anymore ladies.

This adorable royal blue polka dotted dress graces the cover of Ann Taylor’s fall collection for this season:

 blue1

I’d been coveting this lovely royal blue crepe dress for work but held out until Talbot’s ran a sale this summer marking it down 60% off:

 blue

Bloomingdale’s offers this complete luxury weekender coat by Max Mara in a gorgeous, smidge darker, shade of royal blue:

blue2

Inspired by my co-worker’s ensemble this week of simple black trousers topped with a gorgeous royal blue blazer and blue chandelier earrings, I found this reasonably priced blue blazer from Nordstrom’s which has a couple of days left of their anniversary sale:blue3

And don’t even get me started on accessories – from earrings to shoes, royal blue is everywhere.  These few items would all pair beautifully with a work outfit and are all on sale for a few more days at Nordstrom’s:

bluejewlbluejewl2bluejewl3

bluejewl4bluejewl5

{From top to bottom, Alexis Bittar, Sara Bella, Kendra Scott, House of Harlow, and Ivanka Trump.}

So what’s the verdict?  Ready for Royal Blue to Broil You?  Or are you going to leave it in the ’80s?

Fashion Friday: Career Hair

My favorite work colleague and I were walking back from lunch when she told me about an article she’d read.  Something about how your executive potential is limited if you wear your hair long.  She wondered, with her lovely long hair blowing in the wind, you think that is true?  Hmmm, I’m not sure, I responded.

I thought about all the executive women I knew.  I couldn’t think of any with long hair.  But then again, none of them were in their late 30s or early 40s.  I’ve experimented with my hair over time – going from very long when I married, to a fairly short inverted bob, to my fairly nondescript shoulder length style now.

So I decided to do some research.  Yes, it seems completely superficial, AND IT IS, but what goes in print?  Think about it.  During Hillary Clinton’s race, the media talked about her hairstyles and wardrobe.  It’s completely a double standard, but does long hair put you at a disadvantage if you’re trying to climb the career ladder?

Where do you start?  Well, I started with the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women in the World.  I already knew I’d exclude any television/music types on the list because the corporate career rules don’t apply to them.  I also thought it would be interesting to see if there were universal rules versus the rules that apply to American corporate woman.

The first woman on their list was German Chancellor Angela Merkel who has short hair so there went my European theory.  The third woman on the list had long hair, and not to diminish the incredible work that she does (truly, she’s amazing), but it was Melinda Gates who came into her money through her husband’s career so I didn’t feel like I could count her as one who climbed to the top of the corporate ladder with long hair.  Weighing in at number 11 was South Korean President Park who also sports very short hair.

mayer

At number 18, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo had about the longest hairstyle out of the top 25 (tied on length with the President of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner).

Here’s the women that made it to the Top Five:

merkelyellen

gatesrousseff

lagarde

From top to bottom: Germany Chancellor Merkel, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Philanthropist Melinda Gates, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde

Then I thought, well it’s age.  Most women tend to shorten their hair as they age.  What about young CEOs? So I looked at Forbes list of the Most Promising CEOs Under 35.  They listed 23 CEOs in different industries.  ZERO of them were women.  That’s right, absolutely not one promising young female CEO out there apparently.

So I settled in on The 25 Most Powerful Women CEOs list by CEO.com.  Aside from Maria das Gracas Silva, the CEO of Petrobras in Brazil, the only women CEOs with hair past their shoulders were in retail markets (Burberry, TJ Maxx).

I have no answer to this novel question about whether or not, even unconsciously by your evaluators, a hairstyle can impede your climb to the top, but I loved my friend’s perspective.  She said: We’re young.  Why don’t we change things?  We’ve got more than 20 years to stretch our career muscles and we should change things.  We should make sure that executive potential is never diminished over something as ridiculous as a hairstyle. 

I wholeheartedly agree (and spoken like one with oodles of executive promise).  First impressions absolutely count and, as you progress further in your career, you should make sure that your look exudes career potential.  That means looking polished, having a career wardrobe, and carrying yourself with confidence.  But I believe those exact principles apply to men.  Dressing for the job you want applies to any gender in a corporate environment.  Hopefully, as my friend and I move through our careers, short hair won’t be a prerequisite.

What say you?  What’s your take on a hairstyle impacting career potential?  We’re curious!

Merkel Photo Credit: AP Photo/Facundo Arrizabalaga
Yellen Photo Credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Gates Photo Credit: Frederic Courbet
Rousseff Photo Credit: Wiktor Dabkowski/ZUMAPRESS.com/Newscom
Lagarde Photo Credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
Mayer Photo Credit: Britta Pedersen/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom