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I’ve been net-window-shopping (multiple window shopping?) again, thus fashion is on my mind, so you’re getting another silly fashion article.

Ladies, let’s talk about your business wardrobe. (Most of you at least have an interview suit moldering in the back of the closet.) And about updating it. (Gentlemen: I’ll have a word with you as well, but some of the color advice here applies to you too.)

Firstly, there are a few things which should be eliminated from your stash. Some of you are old enough to remember the Great Pants Shift, and it’s that time again; trousers will be worn straight or tight at the ankle from Henceforth, and bell-bottoms or flares and many varieties of “boot cut” are Right Out. Anything with a wider cuff than its knee is going to be the “mom jeans” of 2015, ladies. You can still have a wide leg – just get a very straight one.

Also, the waist has risen, risen at last. So you’ll be able to sit down in your new trousers without half your butt falling out! On the other hand, there will be some extremes of *very* high waists, and you want to avoid those if you’re short-waisted or just short (for the most part – a black high waist and a bright blouse can work in some short figures, but you want to be very careful there).

What this means is that anything bell-bottomed or flares is starting to look rather dated by fashionista standards, and in a year or two will look hopelessly dated even to people who don’t think much about these things. Time to start eliminating those big flares – or at least hide them waaaay back in the closet for a decade or so. The low-rise stuff may last a little longer, but it too is starting to fade away and may start to look dated.

Which does NOT mean to give up those neutral basics! No, in fact this is the best time to dry-clean your boring basics and wear them – with a snappy bright accent like a scarf, belt, jewelry, shoes, and so on. You *might* be able to wear the same black boring suit for a whole work week by swapping out differently-colored accessories (although it’s going to get a bit sad towards the end, so let’s hope for casual Friday or at least a non-neutral blouse). And there are quite a few neutral basics out there, so if you need to replace that flare-bottom suit right away, I suggest a black, tan, gray, navy sort of deal in something unpatterned and eternal. I am leery of white suiting, but if you work in a hot climate, go for it – consider Scotchgarding it first and for the love of fashion make sure the material is LINED, lest your new neon blouse show through or worse, the matching underpants.

Let’s also talk recession dressing. The last thing anybody really wants in these pinched times is to have to re-do the whole damn wardrobe. The result of this is that “accent colors” are back with a vengeance (in the case of neon, a blinding one). The theory of an “accent color” means, basically, tossing on a few accessories with your same-old neutral suit to give it some life and update your look if necessary. The fashion people may try to sell you flamingo-colored suits and so on; you don’t have to listen to that.

Bright accent colors can really help you look sharp for an interview or on days you want to get noticed. Many people err on the side of dull and boring for work fashion, so a perky bright helps you stand out and look a little more lively than navy, gray, brown, khaki and so on.

But what colors? Technically, as long as they flatter you, it doesn’t matter. But looking up-to-date is important to a lot of people – including other women who may be your interviewer. You may not know or care that your favorite blue is So Last Year, but they will – and may downgrade you if your look is out of date. Which is why I advise people to pay a hair of attention to what colors are in fashion – plus you can stock up on what you like if you know ahead of time that Your Color’s going to be Color Of The Year. Or curse and switch to your backup color if you are enraged that suddenly everyone else is wearing Your Color.

There’s two big color sets available right now. One is lots of plastic toy brights and some neon: orange, turquoise, fuschia, coral, cobalt, and this year’s Color Of The Year: jade green (aka ‘a bright slightly bluish bright green’, since ‘jade’ comes in a lot of colors; think jade plant here). Orange is last year’s COTY, but it’s a long-standing bright accent that will be around for a bit longer. Purple is looking a little dated, but it can still work in the right mix. Think Life Savers Tropicals and Easter candy and you aren’t far off – cheery, bright colors that draw the eye and distract us from the recession, and the fact that this is last decade’s black suit we’re wearing with it.

Let’s assume that you know which of these colors flatters you and which ones make you look like a zombie. If you are scared of brights, hold some up anyway – you don’t have to wear them right next to your face or in big amounts. Pale colorless Summer ladies are often scared of the brights, but try them and see – even the wussiest blonde can handle a little turquoise and fuschia and coral and jade. Warm-toned ladies should head for that orange and fuschia and any bright yellow or neon green still lying around. Goths can get away with that raspberry dark red and may like the cobalt, and should consider a few ivory accent pieces for all their black – white lace corsage, perhaps. How do you wear those bright brights without looking hagged? Pick flattering ones, and don’t wear them in such huge amounts that you are overwhelmed by them. It’s an accent color because it’s an accent, not the whole outfit. You can even get away with colors that aren’t your bestest friend this way if you wear them away from your face; orange belt and shoes won’t hurt anybody.

Now think about what you wear and why. If you’re the kind of gal who buys cheap shoes, doesn’t walk much, and changes them every six months, but will hold on to a handbag forever – buy some cheap bright shoes and tie a wee neon scarf to the Hermes bag. If you’re going to wear those heavy-duty walking business shoes for a decade, think about belts, scarves, earrings, and the like. Skinny belts are big right now and are great for a bit of color. Enormous corsetty black elastic things are coming back too, but they’re rarely good for workwear. Where do you have room for accessories? Here’s a short list of things that you could wear with a neutral pantsuit and white blouse: shoes, socks (if it’s that kinds of shoe), necklace, bracelet, earrings, hair ornament, skinny belt, hair ornament, scarf (possibly as a belt or hair tie), nail polish, handbag, and there’s probably more.

Pick a good bright accent color and a secondary accent color that coordinates with it, and that go with your wardrobe. If you have a lot of brown stuff, for example, go for the orange or turquoise. Navy suits took over your closet? Jade is a classic. Coral works on almost anyone and picks up black wonderfully. And if you really missed the fuschia-hotpink-and-black combo from the Eighties, this is your lucky day.

Now we go accessory shopping. These brights are going to look pretty dated in a few seasons, so don’t go nuts on anything expensive; hit up the discount stores. (I rarely advocate cheap shoes, but if your feet don’t mind wearing them, go for it in the brights.) Don’t thrift for these; brights fade badly and won’t look their best, and these colors are mostly pretty recent so you’d have trouble finding ‘em in thrift anyway. A blouse or top or two won’t hurt. Do not fall for the flamingo coral suit unless you really, really want to and can afford it.

Don’t just throw one neon piece on your neutral suit; you want at least matching makeup to pick up that color and make it look like you tried to pull a look together. I suggest a couple of skinny belts, a couple of hair ornaments, bracelets if you like them, and a scarf or two. (Seriously, tie scarves to stuff even if you never wear them yourself – even your ugly backpack will perk up with a bright scarf or a big hair tie on the handle, and I know your back hurts but please consider a better work bag.) But no more than three – this wants to not overload – and if it’s a big piece of color like a skirt or blouse, you only need one accessory.

Jewelry is running to the chunky and plastic. This is kind of good, because it can be had for cheap. If it seems too chunky, don’t wear it all at once – maybe just the big-arse bracelet and the earrings, or the necklace alone. Stick to one big scary chunky piece, be it jewelry or shoe or bag. Pick up the color with a less-big item in or containing that same color – skinny belt, scarf, and so on. If you find a good big pin, it is your friend – wear it on the lapel, the scarf, the belt over the buckle. Earrings sometimes work for that trick too. The other trend is for chunky metallic – we haven’t quite hit rapper gold chains yet, but we aren’t far off either. If the bright jewelry is too much, pick up some clanky ghunky goldette or faux chrome to shine up the old suit.

Consider a few pieces in patterns that contain more than one of those colors together – a scarf in cobalt, jade, and white; a blouse in fuschia and coral. Then you can just throw on one more accessory in any of its colors and bang, it’s an outfit. Another option: something that’s a paler version of the bright. A pale minty scarf and eyeshadow with a seriously jadeplant pair of shoes, or peach with coral, pink with fuschia. (Paler versions can also be a good way to handle the makeup thing.)

With the exception of big pop-arty patterns and colorblocking, you don’t want to mix this stuff up too much in patterns. Although if you’re scared of the brights, a few accent stripes or a small colorblock is safe for almost anyone. But messy patterns with too many colors will diminish the pop of these brights. This wants a relatively sleek look, with the colors doing the work; don’t throw in a ton of patterns and textures and stuff besides.

You can now throw any of these sorts of things onto a neutral suit and white blouse and have a cracking good outfit that gets you noticed.

Makeup: I think we’re finally over the worst of the lip gloss craze and can have matte lip color again, but gloss hasn’t gone away. Pale beigey-nude lip shades are big, and everybody can wear some flavor of coral (you may not want to, but it’s there for blush and lips). On that note, hey, we can have blush again; bronzer is not dead, but it’s a lot quieter. Take the pinky-orange shades from that neon palette and wear them on the lips with boring eyes; put the blues and greens on as eyeliner or a paler shadow with boring lips.

A word about barrettes (and to a lesser extent, earrings): don’t knock a good fluffy flower pin or chunky metal thing in those colors. I’ve got a pair of coral-orange flower barrettes on alligator clips that I have worn: as a lapel pin; on a pair of beige sandals; on an olive green hat; on a necklace; and even in my hair once or twice.

And lest we forget the blander colors, there is another option. Palette number two: New Romantic Victorian kinda pastels – think very early Madonna or Pretty in Pink here. Black, burgundy, and a swath of super pale things like lavender, taupe, dusty rose, palest peach, and the like. Super girly. These are all colors that you can get a lot of re-wear out of (assuming you aren’t a warm colors girl – if you are, head straight for those brights and get out of here). There will be florals and ribbon and lace, some of which is not so suitable for the office. (New Romantic Goths should go nuts, but don’t go full Siouxsie at the office.) None of these make good accent colors, frankly, although the pale lavender is also showing up in a bright version, so it kinda crosses over. But if you like cool pale gothy stuff, it’s a good time to shop. And they’re safer makeup colors for the cool-toned folks. This color set will have tiny little Laura Ashley via Liberty via Grandma’s Sofa floral prints in muted shades. You may be able to wear some of those to the office as a blouse or scarf, but they’ll lack the impact of the brights, so don’t do that for a job interview.

And on that topic: please, people, do not call that pale shell dusty pink-beige color ‘nude’, because anybody who isn’t that color is super insulted by that. On this note: please be very careful with accessories that are the same color as your skin. (I have not forgotten you, otherwise hot black lady wearing her-skin-tone-match brown Uggs that gave her scary, scary cankles.) That “nude” shade is on a lot of shoes lately, and believe me, you look weird with Barbie feet and no visible shoes. If you want shoes in this color (any accessories, really, but shoes go double) then I really suggest shiny fake-patent and some buckles and other distinguishing shiny bits so it’s noticeable as something that isn’t you. Or wear ‘em with patterned tights if you’re brave.

Tights. The patterned tights people are back – and thanks to that New Romantic trend, there’s lots of florals and black lace and so on. Ladies, please be aware that patterned tights are extremely dangerous (much the same for leggings, but you are surely not wearing seriously patterned leggings to the office). First, they’re super eye catching – so much so that the rest of your outfit can get lost. Two: they can instantly add many pounds to your legs. Go cautiously here. I’m not convinced patterned tights should really go to the office, but I am notoriously old-fashioned about officewear.

And since we’re on to leggings: leggings are not trousers. If you are wearing leggings – particularly lightweight ones – you had darn well better be wearing a long top or a skirt or something that covers your butt, because otherwise we have underwear lines and too-thin fabric revealing your underwear pattern and all kinds of bad things. Leggings are great as an underlayer, but they are very dangerous. Few of us look at our hind end before leaving the house, and it all too often shows. Or shows through. While some exception may be made for stretch pants (into which we shall toss “jeggings” and other heavier trousers-fakes), it really is a good idea to check your butt in the mirror or with a trusted adviser before wearing them out uncovered in public.

There are lots of long-hem tops to wear over those leggings. Avoid a hem (of shirt, blazer, sweater, or skirt) that hits at exactly the widest part of your butt or thighs, because that’s just asking for yourself to look even wider than necessary. Hems should hit below the widest point of you – and ideally be belted in or in some way admit to you having a waist.

Skirts are mostly straight; the pencil skirt is rarely gone, but it’s all over the place now. Narrow and straight is the watchword here also. The maxi skirt now has a high slit, which isn’t really good for the office either. I don’t care if the result is still shorter than your office miniskirt, it’s not always about length, and it’s an arrow pointing to your girl bits. Fluffy flowy things are not appropriate for the office, but if you miss your Madonna lacy tiered fluffy things, they’re probably back in town too.

We must also briefly mention the Peplum, because some cruel bastard has brought the thing back, and some of you might think it was therefore acceptable to put an enormous ruffle between your waist and your hips. Let’s discuss why this can be a Bad Thing, and how to make it work. The peplum – whether it is just a little bit of fluff at the hip bones or a full-on ruffle drape around the whole – is very, very dangerous if used improperly, which it almost always is. It’s great for folks who don’t feel they have enough in the hips – which is very, very few of us of working age – and can flatter other figures if used properly. Here’s how to make it work better: The top of the ruffle should start at or very near your natural waist, that is, the narrowest part of you. (Which may in fact be the floating ribs. Hang in there.) The peplum should not be any higher and not too much lower than this point. It should fall easily – it’s a ruffle, not a damn tutu, it should drape rather than hold up a tea set. And it should reach as far as, and ideally farther than, the widest point of your hips – or stick out further than the hips if it does not. The peplum is supposed to be a big triangle that points at your tiny little waist, and does this without pointing too much at your hip width. If you are thick-waisted, squarish, or would rather not call attention to the hips, avoid the peplum. And whatever you wear with it should taper inwards beneath it – tight-ankle pants or a narrow pencil skirt.

The baggy square blouse is inexplicably back, even though it flatters nobody whatsoever. Especially when it has enormous boob pockets. Do not be fooled, ladies; unless you are a fairly square sort of lady, AND those pockets are perfectly placed, you will not look sexy or professional; you will look like your blouse doesn’t fit and those saggy pockets are reminiscent of saggy other parts. Go carefully. Ladies with an extra blessing from the Boob Fairy *may* find that these can minimize their blessings, but those pockets can also act like targets. Ladies who remember the Eighties workwear may be wondering where the shoulder pads are. There are a few, although less extreme than before, and there may be more. Bottle-shouldered gals rejoice and go buy a few more; naturally square-shouldered gals, you’re probably safe from the football pad syndrome, although things are being cut much more square, so be cautious.

Necklines: quite high, sometimes boat-necked. This is good for everyone with the possible exception of the very short, but it is at least safe to wear to the office as long as that boatneck hasn’t slid off the shoulder. Beware bra straps beneath those wide necklines, too. If you have to hitch your bra straps in before the shirt looks right, chances are they’ll creep back out again later in the day. When the neckline isn’t straight across, it’s a very deep V neck – like a long cardigan over that boatneck blouse. Cardigans are warm and it may be worth stashing one in a drawer at the office, but they rarely look professional and often look frumpy as heck. (And no matter what Victoria’s Secret says, no man has ever found a bulky cardigan sexy, even on a lingerie model who is wearing nothing else besides lingerie.) Cardigans lack any waist definition for the most part, and a long one will remove what little you had. If you’re really freezing and need to look professional, find a thin and light cardigan and wear it under the Emergency Blazer you keep at work for the day the vice-president shows up unannounced (assuming you didn’t come to work wearing one).

A trend that’s mostly in dresses and clubwear is cut-outs, and things which pretend to be naked but aren’t – like the top which is black stretch lace from neck and cuff to boob line and black below that. I have a big grudge against cheap stretch lace and against this kind of look, the one that makes guys think “hurr hurr she isn’t wearing a bra under that” and women think “She’s wearing a flesh-tone bra, flesh-tone liner beneath the shirt, or a fancy strapless thing, whoop de do”. But many men have a weakness for a suddenly bare shoulder or whatever, so if you’re on the hunt, it’s nice in clubwear. Just make sure that the cutout or colorblock is drawing attention to something you WANT attention to, and that your underwear doesn’t show badly. Do not be fooled by cutouts at the waist or ribs, as these rarely flatter an imperfect figure. Remember that dark recedes and light doesn’t, and put the neon bright color or flesh cutout on the bits you want to emphasize, not your potbelly, arse, or least favorite feature.

Flats are great with all this workwear right now, which is great news unless you’re a podiatrist. Please do not buy really crappy ones and wear them out; there is seriously no point in not wearing heels if you’re just going to find other ways to ruin your feet. Cute flats and oxford-y things are good. Ankle boots are very big right now, but go easy for workwear; no stilettos or glitter or crazy stuff or spikes (seriously, shoes are covered in spikes lately; in addition to lacking professionalism, they will ruin your patterned tights and nylons the instant you cross your legs, so watch that). A faux cowboy heel or similar medium heel is great. Avoid platforms for work. Being taller than the men in the office will not get you promoted. If you want heels, stick to plainish ones; the higher the heel, the plainer the shoe if you want it to look professional. Pink heels might squeak by; neon pink leopard platform stilettos with gold chains are not professional and will distract from everything else about you. Including your work performance. If all the boss remembers about you is your shoes, that’s not good come review time.

Your suits probably need an update too, even if they aren’t bell-bottomed. If you want to be chic and trendy, you too can wear these brights as a pocket square, shirt stripe, tie, belt, or sock. (That’s a dress trouser sock, not to be worn with sneakers, please.) Shirts are especially bright lately and ties are getting narrower; neon shirt and black narrow tie can happen. (Do not wear a satin or leather tie to a job interview unless it is for a record company and even then you’d better check with me first.) For the most part, the tie is in a similar color range to the shirt, not a high-contrast deal (so a mint green shirt with a greenish tie, not a pink one). Your dress shirt is fitted and tight. No, you aren’t supposed to be able to have full range of shoulder and arm motion in it, it’s a dress shirt, why are you doing jumping jacks. Your suits are straight and skinny. If you are a guy who is decidedly not skinny, you still want straight. Narrowish lapels, high vests, relatively high jacket buttons.

Please stop wearing hoodies anywhere that is not outdoors or extremely casual. Yes, I mean you, jerk who wore a freaking hoodie to take his girlfriend to a nice steak restaurant. I hope she was looking at my husband’s suit enviously. And I hope she finds a better guy. Dress up for dates, lads; otherwise the lady won’t either. Or will find someone who does. (Ladies: likewise, your hoodie, even the goth one, is only for dive bars and outdoor venues. If you must wear a dumpy coverup, get a cardigan and get out of 2002.)

For more casual wear, gentlemen, you may have your ugly Eighties sweater back, although there’s a lot to be said for a nice thin layerable v-neck over a buttondown. There are also some cardigans, but I’m really not sure if that’s good for anybody who isn’t flamingly gay or hipster or Eighties, so go carefully if you are not a queer hipster Cosby. There’s lots of checks and stripes and military shirts around for casual wear. The t-shirt with some vaguely album-art off-center on it is going to have to start phasing out soon. The polo will probably be all the rage this summer. Your jeans should be heading back for your waist instead of somewhere around the top of your testicles, thankfully, but trendy jeans are staying pretty tight. You may also have your enormous Eighties brightly colored phat sneakers back if you promise not to wear them anywhere nice.

The Members Only jacket is back. Mall bangs, thank heaven, are not, and there is no sign of the dreaded banana clip, but big hair is back in a less staggering way. There is no real sign of parachute pants returning to wear by actual humans, but it’s not impossible in the future. Guess-type jeans with ankle zippers are back. No, you may not pop your collar. Not unless you are under the drinking age. But the Henley shirt is back big-time, military-style for guys, and I expect small-button for ladies soon. Worse, acid wash denim is back in the teenybopper aisles. I suggest that if you are old enough to have worn it the first time around that it may not be the best idea for you, although a pale or light denim might be very nice to have. But you don’t have to wear any of these things. Especially if you already did in the Eighties.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 18th, 2013 06:08 am (UTC)
God damn, am I disappointed that waists are going back up on clothing. For the past decade I've been able to wear jeans and have the waist actually be at my navel rather than at my sternum. It was the first decade of my LIFE that I could do that. Gaaaah! Maybe I can get my current flared jeans tailored to be skinny, or something, because it is SO NICE not to get a blister on my sternum from the waistband of my jeans.

And don't get me started on the colors. I've tried the entire f'n palette for spring and it all makes me look like I died last week. And not in the sexy Goth way, either. GIVE ME JEWEL TONES OR GIVE ME DEATH.

Cardigans: the way to get around the No Waist issue is by applying a belt over the cardigan. That's what the trendy people (such as the people who work in high-end PR) are doing around here. It is The Thing people wear instead of a jacket. I've also seen it in Lucky so I think it's a trend.

So, questions for the fashionista, which may be worth a separate post, as it is largely about casual clothes:
1. The cigarette-style jeans that hit about two inches above the ankle that I've been seeing everywhere. How the hell does a plus size girl wear that without seeming like she is all hips?
2. I have been seeing said cigarette-style jeans paired with Oxford-type shoes and no socks. My feet stink when I don't wear socks, and my ankles get blisters if I wear Oxford-type shoes without socks. Is there an acceptable sock?

I cannot speak for anywhere else, but here in LA a suit would seem a little odd for a woman even for a job interview unless you were interviewing at a law firm. Dress yes, suit no, and pantsuits are roundly mocked in the "really, are you Mary Tyler Moore?" way. (I learned that they hired me despite my suit rather than because of it...)
Jan. 18th, 2013 03:11 pm (UTC)
Oh, and one other man-fashion thing that I've noticed is getting bigger: the button-down shirt in a moderate color with the inside of cuffs and collar lined with a fabric that POPS. Down here, as well as with the high-style international-traveler men I interact with in my job, the big thing for business meetings is to wear that kind of shirt with jeans. I've noticed it's becoming more prevalent lately.
Jan. 18th, 2013 03:39 pm (UTC)
Yep, those men's shirts with the accent-fabric placket are A Thing up here in SF, too. And I like them! The accented placket is a nice, subtle touch, but one that can have far-reaching effects if done right.
Jan. 18th, 2013 05:01 pm (UTC)
I LOVE that look, very European shirtmaker.

One shirt style I personally don't like at all but is A Thing in finance circles is the stripy dress shirt with white collar and cuffs. It's a throwback to turn-of-the-century shirts with detachable collars and cuffs, but I have never known anyone who favored that look to be a pleasant person (think the boss in "Office Space").
Jan. 18th, 2013 06:47 pm (UTC)
Hey, I... well, I don't know if I 'favored that look", but I used to have a shirt like that, back around 1987/'88-ish, up until around '95 or so, and I kind of liked it.

Then again, you'll note that I haven't worn that style in more than 15 years, so I guess I'm safe. *g*

(In fact, now I kind of think, "What was I thinking?")
Jan. 19th, 2013 06:29 am (UTC)
I love this look a lot too, particularly for casualish shirts, as it has the same effect as a good tie without the tie stuffiness.

I secretly kinda like the contrast white collar, but I associate it with sassy British gay bankers for some reason, and I also have a huge weakness for menswear. I think it *could* be done right, but I don't think I've seen it done well in the USA. I'd love to see it done with non-white fabrics, actually.
Jan. 19th, 2013 06:26 am (UTC)
I feel you on the waist thing - my natural waist is so crazy high that I've never even WANTED pants that fit up there,and torso length weirdness and... yeah. Lower waists aren't going away entirely, thankfully, but the 4" rise is.

You've got coloring like my mom, IIRC, so unless your hair color's very different from what I remember you usually having, you should be able to wear the turquoise and corals at least, although either away from the face or with stronger makeup. But the paler gothier palette is going to be a lot easier for you.

The Cardigan is indeed super trendy and not going away any time soon, and I should have (and meant to) be more specific on it. The slim faux-cashmere deals are a very good idea, especially with a skinny belt. But there's some chunky afghan-like things and Cosby cardigans out there, and they will a) need a sturdier belt and b) add a lot more thickness and look less professional. I was thinking specifically of the thick shawl-collared double-knit Fair Isle suckers I saw the other day which will add a minimum of two inches to anybody.

The Cigarette Pant:
Firstly, I admit that I am a little vague on when it is a cigarette and when it is a capri and when it is a highwater and so on, so I'm just gonna go by where it hits on the body.

The Fifties-style just-above-ankle pant cigarette style: popular on Audrey Hepburn and other boyish figures for a reason, and worn with a Goodyear girdle by other ladies so as to make sure that even if the hips are out to there, the waist goes way back in. The curvy Fifties girls would wear them in dark or plain colors and wear a bright blouse with some volume to it, and heels, to offset the hips and bring the eyes to the waist and boobies. You can also try breaking up the cigarette silhouette by wearing them in a pattern - I just saw a pair of those pants somewhere in a muted small pink floral print, kinda Laura Ashley, that might have the potential to disguise some hip-ness. Another helpful tip is to look for ones that have a slit at the hem and which therefore fall a little straighter from the calf, instead of being leggings-tight all the way down. This shows off your biking calves and redirects the line a little away from the hips.

2) I think it's abusive to wear good leather shoes with no socks, both to the feet and to the shoes. But I am old-fashioned. I have seen half-socks and socks that just barely exist which supposedly solve this situation, but I have trouble getting them to stay on my feet so far. I have not sen a fashion solution for this, but I'll keep an eye out. I'd wear short ankle socks (like, that stop at sneaker top height) in a perky coordinating color so it's obvious I'm Making a Statement with my Socks rather than just refusing to go bare. Or say 'fuckit' and wear some scrunched argyles, but I'm like that. (And while we are at it, damn the fashionista hatred of nylons, stop ragging on Kate Middleton for wearing them, some of us like to not freeze to death in a British breeze and don't spray-tan. Grr.) Or wear Oxfordy or sleep cowboy ankle booties instead and hide the low ankle socks under those. That way you also get a bit of a heel to help your leg curves out. Flats and tight cigarette pants is great for Audrey Hepburn and models, but not for folks with curves.

LA is a weird fashion zone; in many ways I know more about what they are wearing in Tokyo than in LA. But blazers are all the hell over the fall fashions; remember the Eighties blazer with rolled-up or scrunched sleeves? It's back. If suits are too stuffy, go for separates, ideally in less-stuffy colors like khaki. I tend to frown on things I feel are too feminine to be taken seriously, like lace and florals, but a floral blouse or top or even those cigarette pants could work. I tend to buy suits so I have the option of a suit and wear them as separates half the time. But if they're all about the cardigan, go cardie.

Jan. 18th, 2013 06:58 am (UTC)
This is very good. I disagree about the cardigans, though - very on trend for the past few years and looking to stick around for a while.
Jan. 18th, 2013 03:09 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I agree with you on that point.
Jan. 19th, 2013 06:32 am (UTC)
I really meant to expand on cardigans. I am all good with the thin twinsetty cashmere cardie with a good belt, it's the monstrous fat Cosby sweaters I'm seeing that might be too fat for a belt and might just be kinda ugly. Nobody looks professional or particularly attractive wearing a double-knit afghan set on top. (Doubly so in a wheelchair, but hey.) I'm not a fan of ruanas or ponchos either unless they're in fairly thin materials or made fairly well. If you're going to dress like a blanket, just give up and get a granny square or something.
Jan. 18th, 2013 08:38 am (UTC)
Yes, I mean you, jerk who wore a freaking hoodie to take his girlfriend to a nice steak restaurant.

I think this guy brought his entire family to Ruth's Chris the other night; I felt as though I were dining near the cast of Jersey Shore.
Jan. 18th, 2013 04:27 pm (UTC)
In line with the question above about cigarette jeans, what does a plus-size person wear while presenting an acceptable profile? I have very very wide thighs (and a huge butt, that's another fashion issue to solve), and very very small ankles. I can't wear straight pants because if I do the ankle fabric is so wide (based on the straightness being defined by my thighs) that it flaps around my ankles and I might as well be wearing bell-bottoms. Right now I just go for a look that defines me as a cartoonish tube pretty much straight down from round shoulders to the ground.
Jan. 19th, 2013 06:42 am (UTC)
Part of it depends on whether you're a plus size with a waist or not; apple, pear, and so on. If you've got a good waist, show it off. If not, if you aren't too short, some of the waistless long top looks should work well.

By 'straight' pants I don't mean they have to be as wide as the hips all the way down. (Although that sort of look is visually different from a flared bottom, and works well in different ways. It's like the difference between a straight skirt and a mermaid skirt, if that helps; straight versus curves out at the knee-calf area.) The thing to start avoiding is an obvious flare outward below the knee. A tapered silhouette is preferable.

As mentioned to Nikki above, the Fifties curvy ladies solved the pants problem by yanking in the waist with a girdle, but most of us aren't willing to suffer a rubber corset these days. Having them go straight down - an this time I do mean straight - from the calves will help to break up the line and shoe off your calves if you've got good ones. A slit at the seam of the pants is common and that extra little width does some of what a flared bottom would do. Otherwise, we're back to the old standby of "wear black on the parts we don't want stared at and wear brights on the good bits", or wear something else. A lot of these leggings looks will work well with short skirts that we might not ordinarily want to wear if not for the leggings underneath. And there are still a lot of maxi skirts out there too, just straighter ones than before. There are some unstructured flowy skirts, like bubble skirts and hi-lo hems, that are less formal but can look good on wide hips. For interview stuffs, I'd wear a pencil skirt unless you're very short.
Jan. 18th, 2013 04:54 pm (UTC)
If I get around to it, I'll make a post on plus-size trends. I work at a company that makes plus fashion.
Jan. 19th, 2013 06:33 am (UTC)
Ooh, that'd be super awesome. I lack sources for good on-trend plus size stuff these days.
Jan. 18th, 2013 04:57 pm (UTC)
One of my favorite sources are the books of Kim Hargreaves. She writes knitting patterns, but her visual stylists are spot on when it comes to relaxed, stylish dressing:

Jan. 18th, 2013 08:34 pm (UTC)
I think you would hate Seattle.

People don't wear suits here unless they're a lawyer, a banker, or certain kinds of staff (security/maitre d'/driver/movie theater)*. Wearing a suit to an interview often works against you. Wearing a suit to work is Right Out in most cases. Even wearing what is considered business casual on the other coast can be seen as too much. Dressing up for dinner or shows is still allowed in most cases, but most people don't do it. :/

*Or if they're in town for business from somewhere else.
Jan. 18th, 2013 10:31 pm (UTC)
Heh, yeah, I was thinking this too. Reading in an interview that someone might judge me negatively because my colors were last year's fashion is this instant, "well, that person and I are clearly never going to have a productive working relationship anyway, who wants THAT job?". I think I'm well placed for my fashion sensibilities... I live somewhere where most people don't care, and I get to be iconoclastic enough when I travel that even people who do care mostly make an exception for me. I have run into situations where my clients cared about my look in ways that were jawdropping for me... the bank that complained to my management about my "overly bold socks", for example. (But everyone at my job ended up mocking the hell out of them for caring about that more than they cared about the multimillion dollar data loss that I was there to address.) I am fortunate that most of what I wear is black and classic enough that I basically never have to worry about it changing.

We have sent people who are not me in to super conservative clients to be my meat proxy. They were no more fashionable than I, but they were more male, less goth, and more mainstream. This basically made it okay.
Jan. 19th, 2013 07:02 am (UTC)
You don't think we could work together? Because if someone is wearing something that was super trendy three or four years ago to an interview, I will wonder about their cluelessness and if it extends to other areas of interpersonal relationships. (I don't care if they thrift-stored it or not. Trendy is dead in three years, and you can always find classic at the thrift store.) It's at least as clueless as wearing a three-piece suit and tie to a tech interview that's taking place in a coffee shop. I'm not saying I wouldn't hire them, but I'd wonder what planet they were on and if there was a good reason they were that out of it. Spent last six years on a nudist desert island drilling for water for the natives? Just moved here from the other side of the globe and a less-connected nation? Sure. Refusing to give a damn what other human beings think of you? Doesn't bode well for future teamwork or client meetings or your chances of wearing deodorant. Shitty self-image often means you're a pain in the ass to work with. Not bothering with any presentation values on yourself may mean you hate yourself. Wearing stuff desperately out of step with what is appropriate or what everyone else is wearing can either mean high self-confidence if it looks good and is well-chosen, or can mean you're just seriously clueless.

You present with a deliberate set of presentation choices, a color scheme, and clothes that fit well. You're saying "I don't care about trends or about looking like everyone else, but I do have rules and hygiene". You're taking a risk in that outfit just as much as I am in my suit, because you aren't wearing Polarfleece and khakis. But you can instantly tell from looking at either of us (at least on interview day when I've brushed my hair) that we care and we thought about how we look. Poorly chosen clothing says that someone doesn't care - and that says they may not care about their work, either.
Jan. 19th, 2013 07:16 am (UTC)
I have no idea what was super trendy three or four years ago. [grin] So I suppose I might stumble into that by accident. Also, I think context matters... I have worn my most formal suit to a tech job interview in a coffee shop. But that was in DC, and they expected that, and I got the job.

I suppose the difference is that I don't think not following fashion much is refusing to give a damn what other human beings think of you. These are orthogonal concepts. Style is one way that people communicate, but there are many ways you can express yourself. It's like saying that anyone who doesn't volunteer at their local homeless shelter doesn't care about other people going hungry. Volunteering is a fine thing to do. Putting thought into helping others is great. But maybe they're out saving the world in other ways.

So I think I read way less into other peoples' fashion choices than you do because it's not an area of expression that is particularly important to me. I don't know a lot about it, so I probably couldn't read in deeply if I tried. I would be more likely to read in to their choice of software hobby projects, for example, or which tech conferences they thought were fun. As for my own presentation, I don't consider it as risk-taking so much as an early compatibility assessment. [grin] I am interviewing them as much as they are interviewing me; either of us can decide that this isn't a likely fit. It is only in cases of mutual accord that we go forward. So, maybe some past client has decided that they liked my hair and therefore I was the network auditor for them, and I thought they had an interesting project and therefore they were the client for me -- I have no way of really knowing. But it's not something that carries tremendous weight for me beyond "neat, clean, and level-of-formality appropriate".
Jan. 19th, 2013 06:45 am (UTC)
Part of my problem is I still say "suit" when I mean "suit separates", like a black blazer and khaki capris. But yeah, and yes, I do hate it, and I hate that Silicon Valley does this too - thank heaven for SF's foreigners and financial district still dressing decently.

And it's not too hard to casualize suiting into hip awesome. But if people think you're weird for wearing anything that isn't Polarfleece and hiking pants, well, I think they're schlubs, so we aren't going to get along.
Jan. 18th, 2013 10:08 pm (UTC)
So well written and comprehensive!

I had my first faculty job interview and to my utter surprise, I found myself adding a bit of hot pink to the black suit. I usually only wear black, but for a job interview, I wanted to look mainstream but cool. I got a beige silk blouse with a subtle snakeskin pattern, a black placket, and a medium-pink color that looked great under the blazer since so little of it was showing. And then I splurged on these amazing low shoes with hot pink accents which are so not my usual style but which I now plan to wear all the damn time:
Jan. 19th, 2013 06:48 am (UTC)
Ooh, those are adorable shoes! Very cute, and yet super practical. And snakeskin and leopard and their friends are all over the fall lines as well, in both subtle and WHOA NEON YOWZA variants.
Jan. 19th, 2013 05:33 am (UTC)
Sorry, but I'm going to keep wearing my flare-leg pants (and jeans) and A-line skirts because they're flattering to my figure, and cardigans because I get cold too easily and they're more appropriate officewear than a hoodie (and less binding than a blazer, though I will be wearing those once the weather warms up). Also, coral and neons look hideous on me. :)
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