Wednesday, July 16, 2008

You're My Only Hope.

Alright, ladies.

I'm begging you: HELP ME.


Let me explain: Despite my affinity for Project Runway (new season! tonight! recording it on parents' DVR!) and all things Stacy and Clinton, (What Not to Wear, for those of you not as familiar with the wonderful world of TLC.) I find myself pretty lost when it comes to fashion and what to wear in the workplace.

Prior to my new job, I'd worked as a babysitter, at Cold Stone, as a housekeeper, and finally at an environmental education center. As you might surmise, my work attire was replete with jeans, t shirts, and even sports shorts. But, I did dress nicely whenever I had the chance, because I really do like to feel pretty. (Besides, I'm a firm believer in feeling better when you're dressed better. That doesn't mean I've abandoned my sweats, glasses, and the lovely built-in-bra camisoles. Never.)

I'm now working at a university. I work in the administration building, so it's not casual. As well, I look young, so I've been making an effort to dress nicely so as to look a bit older.

Here's the problem: I haven't built up my wardrobe to reflect a professional job. I have very little sense of what looks okay to wear to work, and what I should save for the weekend.

Here's an idea of what I've worn this week:

The pants are dress pants from Ann Taylor Loft, a short sleeve front-tie shirt from Delia's, and a jacket from ATL. (Let's be honest, I found them all at consignment stores or TJ Maxx-esque places.) Do not judge the awkward angle of my right arm or my end-of-the-day rat's nest.

I wore this shirt TWICE in three days. I have no shame, you guys. Help me. (And are these not the most awkward poses EVER??) Those shoes? Are white sandals, slight heels. They are so nasty and old. Help. Let's not talk about my hair. Humidity is bad when you're trying to go for the "straight, yet full of body" (aka: shower at night) look.

I have no clue if those are cute, acceptable outfits or not. I thought I looked pretty good, but I wore the same shirt twice in the FIRST THREE DAYS OF WORK, what the heck do I know?!

I'm thinking of expanding my wardrobe, but since I don't want to have a TON of clothes (you know me, trying to live "simply." Or at least, not go broke and/or have more belongings than I reasonably need.) I need to know what you guys wear - what are some staples I need in my wardrobe?

I think I'm set on pants, I have three pairs of dress pants - brown, gray, and black. (All SO long, even though they're petites, that I have to wear heels or I'm dragging. Short girls - any solutions!?)

Shoes are truly stumping me, as I have one pair of nice flats, one pair of nice heels, and some loafy-slide-heel type shoes. Nothing else to speak of besides sandal heels (what do you call those things? I don't speak shoe-talk.) I don't want a billion pairs of cute shoes, I want a few nice pairs I can wear with everything.

Friends, HELP. Am I doing okay? What should I buy? (Feel like leaving a URL? I'll love you.) What is office appropriate? How do you figure that out when your coworkers are wearing jackets with SHOULDER PADS?!


  1. Okay as an office worker my advice on staples:

    Three pairs of heels (one black, one brown, and one pair of whatevers, just make sure you rotate your shoes enough and give them time to breathe if you know what I mean). As for the short girl long pant issue, taller heels. haha. Today I am wearing my longest pair of pants and my tallest heels. And my favorite go-to heel is a pump. Always in style.

    I would also invest in a couple little jackets (navy, tan, gray, you get it). Your first outfit is totally adorable. And the good thing about jacket is you can wear a fairly casual shirt (or a patterned shirt) and through the jacket over and immediately look more professional. Where to shop? Ross, Marshalls, New York and Company, all have good basics.

    Okay I'm tired.

    Final note: Endless Shoes (sort price low to high)

  2. stick with solid colors.. easier to rotate with in the week (like you did.. no shame there... I do it too!) and to pair with other items.. so you are mixing up top and bottom combos from week to week. Plus, solid colors stay in "style" longer .. so you wont have to constantly change things.

    but so far... you look like you are doing just fine!

  3. I love, love, love that first outfit! It's fun and eclectic!

    As someone who works at a more casual office (and spends most of her time working outdoors), I don't know how much help I'll be with this. However, I think having a white button down (which you do have) and a few others in different colors are a must and can be dressed up or down.

    And if I could, I would TOTALLY wear dresses to work. Please do for me. ;) I've found that you can dress up a little sundress with a nicer-looking jacket or vest.

    As far as shoes go, probably just brown, black and blue heels will suffice to go with whatever outfit.

  4. OK... so....

    I would do basic black and brown shoes... maybe even a tan.. Those 3 are staple colors and can be worn with pretty much anything you'll buy ya know.. And face it - it's only work, it's ok to wear the same thing! I'd switch it up a lil though and maybe put a day or 2 inbetween the rewearing! And maybe add a cute necklace or something..

    If I were you I'd invest in a few basic things that can be switched around with each other to give yourself a few different outfits.. Try old Navy, they have very cute, inexpensive dress shirts and pants and also skirts... You can get a few things there and not spend a ton of money! Do you have TJ Maxx or Marshalls by you (or is that a Jersey thing)? They aloways have aweosme brand name things at slashed prices - Shoes too..

    Even go to Kohls and TARGET - you can find great things there.. And again not too expensive..

    Like I said Your best bet is to buy the basics.. A few button down shirts, a cute blazer/jacket, a cardigan, some dressy short sleeve shirts, and plain pants(black, tan, grey).. Then maybe go for a black or tan skirt to switch it up..

    My favorite: Even a plain dress that you can add a belt to or a fun necklace to make it look differnt!! I find dresses are the most comfortable and very cute and stylish!!

    Hope this helps...

    PS - I think you looked awesome in your other outfits....

  5. This post is right up my alley!!! And NO shoulder pads!

    Shoes - Black heels, black flats, brown heels, black flats. Very simple styles so they can go with everything.

    Pants - Buy a couple more pairs of black pants because black goes with everything. Also buy some black skirts.

    Cardigans - Load up on plain and simple cardigans that you can wear...especially if your office is cold. They are cheap but still look good.

    Tops - This is where you cam bring in color.

    Suit - Invest in one good black suit when you have the money.

    The key is to buy clothes that you can interchange. A good idea of outfits can be found at Ann Taylor Loft (my fav store) is a link to some of their work outfits.

    Also, what I do sometimes when I'm not sure what to wear to work...I go to ATL's website and look at the outfits and put something together that looks similary from my own closet.

  6. I really love black skirts made of silky fabrics that don't wrinkle. I think I have, like, five in different styles, and I always go to them when I'm too tired to figure out what to wear. Solid color tops in various colors (whatever looks good on you, although I'm partial to jewel tones) are great for mixing and matching.

    I'm kind of a shoe whore (Bryan made me throw out a bunch of shoes I wasn't wearing anymore, and I got rid of half my collection and still have a couple dozen pairs) but I don't think it's excessive to have nice closed-toe and open-toed shoes in black, brown, and a lighter color. Scuffy old shoes can make an outfit that is otherwise perfect look a lot less impressive, in my opinion.

    The thing is, Ashley, you're so cute that I think pretty much anything would look great on you! But good luck. I wish I lived there and could go shopping with you. :-D

  7. I don't want this to sound mean but I would remove that white dress shirt from your waredrobe, maybe it's the poses but something looks funny with it.

    Staples: black/khaki skirts, white and black dress shirts, classic button down, little jackets (navy, black, khaki) dress pants (same colors), cardigans and easy things you can layer together for a polished look. Look into accessories too they always make an outfit pop.

  8. I tend to dress up more for work because I just feel better, but especially in the summer when it's hot it is really hard.

    Summer dresses can be dressed up with the right shoes and jewelry. Also, I wear a lot of "labels", but I usually get them on sale. For important things like pants/skirts, you won't wear them if they don't look good or you don't feel good wearing them. Although Old Navy does a good job of replicating more expensive pieces at other stores, they usually don't fit me right. I shop a lot at Gap and J.Crew and Banana Republic and even Express and Ann Taylor. The stuff I find there is definitely work appropriate but I also wear it out with a pair of nice jeans.

    The shoe thing is a little harder. I have tons of black shoes, because I don't wear a lot of brown. A patent leather shoe in a black or a deep red can dress up an outfit significantly.

    I think most importantly you need to feel comfortable. Also, there's nothing wrong with wearing flip flops TO the office, and putting heels on IN the office. That sometimes helps with the practicality factor.

    And one suggestion - I know a few people have mentioned cardigans. They're a great idea, and come in a lot of different styles/colors (Gap, J.Crew and Banana usually have them year round). The second outfit pictured would be adorable if you wore that skirt with a white tank top and a light color cardigan (to match the lighter color in the skirt).

  9. oh lord, let's go shopping too.

  10. You look so cute in that first outfit! Hmm... I don't think I'm much help with your dilemma because I can wear pretty much anything at my office -- flip flops, short shorts, Ts... Like another girl pointed out, I would get a bunch of cardigans because usually offices are cold and also, cardigans can make a non-office friendly tank or dress look AOK with a skirt or pants/dark jeans (would dark jeans be OK?) Good luck!!!

  11. Shoulder pads?! No!

    I actually think you look great in those two outfits! And perfect for the office. I think you're on the right track with black/grey trousers (although, being 6'1 I have the opposite problem I can't find trousers long enough!) Also, get some coloured shirts, like the one in your first outfit. Because shirts almost by default look smart. Then get some kitten heels because they be smart or casual and look great under work trousers.

    When you're shopping, picture what you're buying with jeans and with black trousers, if it works in your head with both, snap it up!

  12. I'd stock up on a bunch of accessories. If you're wearing that same white shirt three times a week, but each day have a whole different hairstyle and/or accessories, no one will even notice. chunky necklaces in teal, red and black are super nice, and not too over the top for work.

    definitely get some cute cartigans and jackets, that way you can include shirts that are more 'weekend wear' underneath and no one will notice.

    =) good luck love. and remember, you're gorgeous in anything!

    (oh, and i love your hair in the first picture. i know you called it something about a rats nest, but it looks so cute.)

  13. Check out the group "Mission: Put Together" on Flickr. It's a bunch of bloggers who document their work clothes for a month, complete with hints, comments and tips.

    Good luck, and be sure to post results!


  14. ok first let's deal with the long/short pants issues: FIND AN AMAZING TAILOR! seriously, they will become your best friend. for ever.

    however, delias (i know, it's often populated with tweens or teenyboppers) and american eagle offer short & petite sizes in their pants that are actually short or petite. it's amazing.

    forever 21 actually carries a lot of work appropriate tops for cheap, especially if you browse online.

    for the shoes: TARGET! or even oldnavy.

  15. You look great! :-)
    Other than that I'm afraid I can't help since I have no clue myself. Thank goodness engineers are allowed to turn up in jeans and a tshirt ;-)

  16. oh sweety i know exactly how you feel. i got a promotion so i have to get a totally new appropriate wardrobe before i start officially in 2 weeks... sigh.

    i'll be reading over the advice and taking it on as well.

  17. I know this is after the fact, but I still have a comment... you know where I work (the office, not the restaurant), and I'm definitely the youngest person there by about thirty years. My building is populated with the dreaded "mom pants" and socks worn with open-toed sandals. Thick white socks. With tan open-toed sandals. EGADS!!! Therefore, I feel your pain. Also, rather than simply going for just black/brown, utilize other neutrals, like grey and dark green and deep blue. These sort of colors still go with everything but make ensembles more interesting, and will make you look a bit older, too, for being so suave with your clothing. =) I love Forever 21 and H&M for fun, unique pieces that are still work-appropriate; H&M especially has particular sections in their stores with work-esque clothing. Find one near you! Really!

  18. I haven't worked in an office in ten years and am so happy my last suit went to good will almost eight years ago. I do recommend basic colors - black, white and navy or brown that can be rotated. Seems like you already have a great sense of style, so I'm sure you'll be fine.

    bamboo and organic clothing

  19. your first picture looked great!

    my staples are a nice jacket, so even if i wear a crap top underneath it can't be seen ;)

    and little pencil skirts in neutral colours like tan, grey, navy, black.

    i love dresses too, and tend to buy them in prints or patterns. it breaks up the monotony of the skirt-jacket combo.

    just make sure everything is sharp and fits you nicely. nothing more sloppy than too-big tops or skirts!

    and i'm really short, so i hem my pant legs up. i don't want to be wobbling in ridiculous heels every day :)


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