26 December 2006

The Thursday that will never be

If on this upcoming Thursday I had an on-site client meeting at 10am, a one-on-one with my boss at 3pm, and a happy hour at the Round Robin with that good-looking but slightly arrogant lobbyist who followed me into the elevator (off the street) last week, what would I wear?

And to make this hypothetical situation more interesting, let's say I have no budget.

Let's start where I always start -- with shoes.

These 4-inch Sigourney heels from Report ($143.95 at zappos.com) are, in my opinion, the *perfect* professional heel, especially if you work in a male-dominated, intensely serious industry like politics, law, or defense. The closed round-toe is the least severe (i.e. least threatening) of any style out there. There's a sense of sweetness to a round-toe pump that a peep-toe and a pointy-toe just can't match. That somehow we forget just how vampy it is in the back is further evidence of the round-toed's deceptiveness. With its crocodile print and subtle buckle detailing, this pump is not a sexy going-out shoe but a take me seriously even though I'm better looking than your wife shoe. Back it up with subject matter expertise and the suits giving you a hard time will come around. Boys always do.

Since I will be representing my firm at this meeting, I'm going to temper the sexiness of the tall heel with a pair of very long, wide-legged wool trousers like the ones below from Michael Kors ($725 at neimanmarcus.com). The high-waisted look is very fashionable right now, but even more important is that they look good on just about anyone over 5'5" and under a size 10. Pair the high waist with the wide-legged silhouette, and any woman wearing these who falls in the aforementioned group will look at least a size smaller. Some women are afraid to take the wide-leg plunge, because they fear they'll appear bigger than they are (I was definitely in that camp), but the trick is to find a pair that fits snugly - not tightly but snugly - in the waist and bum. As long as you've got those bits looking good, the legs will follow.

The best complement to a pair of high-waisted trousers is a sleek blouse or sweater. Since this particular pair is so simple, I feel completely comfortable throwing some drama at my top half. This Kacia blouse by Theory ($235 at bloomingdales.com) is ideal, because it's a button-down (read: professional) but with its modern tuxedo ruffle and blousy short-sleeves, it's not boring or dated. This will serve me well when I meet my future ex at the Willard after work, too. Important to point out about this blouse is that it is slim to the body, which will make it easy to tuck into the trousers. The reason why I advise women who are larger than a size 10 to abstain from this look, is simply because if you want to show off the high-waistedness of the trousers, you've got to commit to the tuck-in. If you're a lady with a thick mid-section, you're bound to spill out of the muffin pan in all directions, which isn't good for anyone. Spanx can only do so much.

I keep hearing from my male colleagues that I don't wear enough jackets. They tell me it's okay to just wear a nice pair of pants and top, but if I want to be taken seriously, especially in a client's presence, I need to invest in some jackets.

Here's the thing, I'm not a suit girl. I don't like the matchy matchiness of a suit. I don't like the idea of buying two of my major outfit components in a single credit card swipe. I'm not closed to the idea of owning a suit one day, but given a choice, I'd prefer to pick something from this collection and something from that collection. Essentially, I want to be the one making the final decision, not some junior designer at Ann Taylor. Since I have a black AmEx in this fantasy, fine, I'll jacket myself, but I reserve the right not to wear the other half of the Michael Kors suit. Instead, I'll opt for something a little more youthful, a little more whimsically cut. Designed by Taikonhu, this ruffle-edged, stand-up collar tweed jacket ($258 at anthropologie.com) accomplishes two things. First, if my colleagues are right, wearing the jacket will earn me more respect and attention from those in positions of power. Second, and to me the more important victory, the jacket hides the high-waistedness of my high-waisted pants. This could work to my advantage if I get to the meeting and feel that my audience is too conservative to handle such a modern look. If that's the case, then the jacket stays put. If, however, I see other women taking risks with their outfits and they don't seem to be suffering from any professional prejudice, I can slip it off my shoulders. Similarly, if the one-on-one with my boss turns out to be a casual discussion, I can demonstrate my level of comfort by leaving the jacket in my office. If, on the other hand, it's something more serious, my full armor remains intact. Having options with your outfits is an easy way to keep your confidence high throughout the day.

On most days, I try to throw in a punch of red or green or yellow so as not to look too predictable or "too DC". Client and corporate meeting days are different, though, and I've learned 'tis more effective to wow those individuals with my irreverent humor and capacity for dessert consumption than with exposed skin and high-fashion.

And finally, just because I've always wanted a big-ass black patent leather bag, this is the cherry I would choose to top it all off with. It's by Fendi and totally and utterly unrealistic, but whatever, an analyst can dream...




($2000 at net-a-porter.com)

And that, good or bad, is the Thursday that will never be.

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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your colleagues aren't saying wear a suit, just wear the feminine equivalent of blazers and sports coats. And they are right on the money.

I have a question, though. What's the female equivalent of Canali? Or in this case, Canali Propuesta?

New Yorker in Exile

Anonymous said...

Can you do some more pieces on makeup, moisturizer, and so forth? Including web links? Those are lifesaving gift ideas for those of us still doing our Christmas shopping.

New Yorker in Exile

Anonymous said...

I'm a little concerned about your attitude. You say the "boys will come around," but do you ever worry that the more-than-slightly sexiness you're recommending here could set a girl back in the workplace? And more, set all of us who are struggling to be taken seriously, even if we can't wear the wrap dress like you apparently can. I'm not trying to be hostile, just curious about where you are in the great debate about what kind of femininity suits the modern workplace. Love your blog.

Johanna said...

To anonymous:

I'm so happy you're enjoying my new little project! Thanks for taking the time to post a comment. And for the record, I didn't think you were at all hostile and bringing up the point you did.

I'm really not trying to promote dressing sexily in the workplace. In this particular posting, I was writing about what *I* would wear given an unlimited budget. The only part of that outfit that, in my view, would be categorized as sexy would be the shoes. Let me address those first. I'm a heel girl. I wear heels from the time I wake up until after I walk my dog. Heels truly are more comfortable to me than flats. Has something to do with my high arch and high pain tolerance, I've been told. But even so, I chose a pretty demure shoe for a 4-incher. In no way was I saying to my readers "you MUST wear these shoes to get ahead." I fear I may have been unclear on that. I'll do better in the future.

I'm not sure if it's just me or the male-dominated industry I'm currently in, but I constantly feel the need to assert my femininity. It makes me feel more confident both in and out of the office. Whether that's a good or bad thing, I'm still not sure.

We all need a check now and then, so I thank you for bringing this to my attention.

Keep reading!

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