I was asked by my good friend Kristin to do a post on work attire. Initially, I thought, “every post I do is work attire”. But the more adult part of me knew that she meant traditional work attire, i.e. suits. I love suits, just not on me. I recently had a conversation with someone about men’s suits. When worn right by a man, a suit is charismatic, powerful; the sexiest most mouth-watering thing he can wear. And, on a woman, if the fit is right and the attitude is there, she says, “I’m a bad ass, do not mess with me”. While I personally hate wearing them I do still have an opinion about them. There’s a right way and a wrong way to wear them and so I offer some quick tips:
Repeat after me: “no double breasted if you’ve got a rack”. If you close up your neckline and put not one, but two layers of fabric with buttons down the front of your body, you get what I call, the uniboob. There goes your waist, here comes a straight jacket-like effect in navy blue. Double breasted is reserved for super slender women who need the illusion of extra volume. And for the rest who are moderately-to-well-endowed, think open v-neck, single or double button jackets.
Fit, fit, fit. Suits do not come right off the rack perfectly fit for you. In fact, I can promise it doesn’t fit you. A suit is a complex construction that is built at the outset to be modified and tailored. If you buy a suit and you think it fits, take it to a tailor anyway and ask her if she agrees. If you don’t get it tailored, you’ll risk looking like a little girl trying to play dress up or worse, a sausage near bursting out of its casing. When buying a suit, go to a department store where they have tailors on hand and the sales folks know their stuff.
Cuffs on pants are reserved, well, for no one really. Stay away from them. They cut your legs off at the ankle and make you look shorter. A cuff is nothing but a horizontal line and any horizontal line interrupts the long, lean vertical flow that offers the illusion of ‘tall’. Think a crease down the front (a faux vertical line), think a pant length that barely skims the floor in your highest heels, think cuffs-be-gone.
Patterned suits are a no-no, at least worn together. A really cool blazer that has a distinct pattern is unique when paired with denim. But putting plaid on plaid from top to bottom is overwhelming and yields more of a circus clown appeal than a smart professional. If you buy or own a suit that has a prominent pattern, never wear it together.
Stick with basics, ladies. You can’t go wrong with basic black, navy, dark gray, espresso brown or even a pin stripe. A bright purple or fire engine red suit just screams bad taste and is too much color for the crowd to take in. Plus, a neutral gives versatility. You get longer wear and more mileage out of that navy blazer when you wear it over a white summer dress, use it to kick up your slouchy weekend jeans, or leverage it to elevate that T-shirt from lazy to Parisian chic.
Think outside a matched suit. Be playful. Mix the jacket with different bottoms or over dresses. Buy a cropped pants suit for different seasons. Wear your tailored pants with a cotton shirt and pretty scarf. Invest in a series of jackets – cropped length, three-quarter length sleeves, lapel details, different lengths, fabrics and patterns. You needn’t be confined to match Jacket A with Bottom B. As long as you have the components of the suit – the jacket and the tailored pants – you’ll look refined, current, and totally top-notch.
A few ideas…though I could go on for years.
Here is a classic, well-fitted, go-to black suit. The jacket is tailored and shows off a waist (or creates it where there is none), the pants are flat front (no pleats, no funky pockets), and the cut is a slight boot cut which balances most figures for a most flattering silhouette. Invest in this and the interchangeability is infinite. So if you’re experimental like I am, try some new things like a sheer, loose fitted blouse (don’t forget a cami underneath). Go for comfort with a basic v-neck and add a statement necklace. Even better, keep the suit all black and transform yourself with some animal skin pumps or a pair in an unexpected color.
Here, a really nice example of a cropped pants spring/summer suit. Instead of a basic button-down, offset the traditional lines with something super-feminine like a ruffle-front tank. Even more fun, is a glamorous and unexpected top like this striped sequin bit of genius. Wear nude pumps to keep the look subtle and clean or slip on some snappy, shiny flats for uber-mobility.
Now go. Get suited up.