Posts filed under 'Q&A'

Q&A: How to Build a Plus Size Professional Wardrobe on a Budget

Q: I’m trying to start dressing more fashionably and put together, but I am still a poor, broke, college student. I’m finishing my teaching degree and I would like to look professional all of the time. In addition to being broke, I am also plus sized.

Pictured (clockwise from left): Black Tie-Front Short Sleeved Jacket | $54 at Torrid, Stretch Poplin Button Down Blouse | $68 at Kiyonna, Classic Rise Wide Leg Trousers | $29.50 at Old Navy.

A: In order to build a professional wardrobe on a budget, we recommend investing in versatile, structured pieces that can seamlessly mix and match.  Structured pieces will help you look professional, while also flattering your figure.  Plus, your existing college-appropriate wardrobe will be instantly elevated when paired with these professional pieces.

Because fit is so key with these pieces - your tailored pants, blazers, and button-down shirts - it’s okay to stretch your budget in order to get the Right pieces.  After all, you’ll get so much wear out of them that the cost per wear will be manageable.  With a tight budget, take your time to find and purchase the right pieces.  You don’t need to buy all of them at once, and being picky will help you understand what brands and styles fit and flatter you best.  Plus, waiting to buy also helps you take advantage of sales and coupons that will reduce the price further.  Here’s three specific pieces to look for:

The Perfect Button Down Shirt in a stretch cotton poplin style.  A straight, body skimming cut with vertical seams will flatter your figure best.  You’ll be able to wear this shirt by itself - or unbutton it to midchest and layer a camisole or tank underneath.

The Classic with a Twist Blazer, which will pair with tailored pants, jeans, and skirts.  Pick a youthful take on this classic - try details like half sleeves,

Flat Front Pants
with a medium to medium-high waistline.  The higher the waistline, the longer your legs will look (and the taller you will appear). Pants with a slight flare at the leg will help visually balance your figure.

Have a great tip about how to build a professional plus-size wardrobe on a budget? Share it with us in the comments!

6 comments April 9th, 2009

Q&A: What to Wear in San Francisco

Q:  I am from Toronto, Canada, and I’ll be heading down to San Francisco for a week at the end of April. Any tips for what I should pack?

What to Wear in San Francisco
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Springtime in San Francisco is beautiful - it’s generally mild weather-wise, but be prepared for unexpected wind, rain, and a layer of fog to roll over the city.  The key to San Francisco style is layering, as the weather can change pretty rapidly from one moment to the next.  Happily, the city’s fashion scene tends to be somewhat eclectic, so you’ll be able to pull off unusual layering combinations if you need to.

While in San Francisco, you’ll want to be ready for daytime temperatures anywhere from the 50s to the 80s. Here’s what you need to bring:

Tops: Pack long sleeved tees and blouses, but you can bring a short sleeved tee just in case.

Sweaters: Bring a couple of sweaters for layering to adjust to temperatures inside and outside.

Outerwear: Pack a light to medium weight jacket, one that will protect you from wind.

Bottoms: Long pants and jeans are going to be your best bets.  No shorts, but you may be able to get away with a pair of cropped pants.

Dresses: One sleeved dress should be enough for your short trip.

Shoes: Bring shoes that are comfortable for walking–especially on hills.  Flats are a great idea; heels are not.

Accessories: A layering scarf is a good idea to help you adjust to whatever weather patterns come up.

If you’re going to be visiting areas outside of San Francisco (e.g. going up to Napa or down to Silicon Valley), be aware that temperatures tend to be warmer outside the city - and that the weather patterns are generally more stable.  Dressing in layers is still advisable, especially if you’re spending part of your day in the city.

Have a great tip about what to wear in San Francisco? Share your style with us in the comments!

13 comments April 2nd, 2009

Q&A: What to Wear to Work in London

Q: I’m going to London this summer for an internship. I’m aware that London street style is super funky, but I also want to be taken seriously. How do I show my youth and creativity while looking professional and dealing with the weather?

by Traci Tsai

A: Dressing appropriately for work depends a good deal on where you are working.  If your internship is at a more serious, buttoned-up large company, I would advise letting your accessories express your youth and creativity. But if you’re working at an agency or a company with a more youthful, casual culture, you can take some more liberties – you’d be surprised at how some people will dress themselves for work!

London style is very bold, so the key is lots of color and prints, and not worrying too much if you match perfectly. Once you have your work basics (e.g. trouser pants, blazer, buttondown shirts), here’s six funky, London-appropriate pieces to build your work wardrobe around:

The Long Tunic/Dress
Silence and Noise Boatneck Tunic | $42 at Urban Outfitters

You can get more mileage out of this piece if you wear it both as a tunic (to work) and as a dress (on weekends).  Don’t be afraid of bold colors here.

The Vest
Pinstripe Pocket Vest | $12.50 at Forever 21

A tailored vest is the perfect item to take a more playful look into work-appropriate formal territory.  Wear it either open or buttoned-up.

The Cropped Leggings
Cotton Spandex Jersey Placket Legging | $28 at American Apparel

Perfect for layering, cropped leggings can be used to make a too-short skirt appropriate for work.  Think of them as the summer equivalent of matte black tights. 

The Long Necklace

Mixed Metal Multi Strand Necklace | $16.10 at ASOS

London women own a lot of great accessories, and we’re fans of the colorful wispy neck scarves they wear during the winter.  But for summer, long stranded necklaces are a good way to add personality (and a touch of sophistication) to your outfit.

The Flat Shoes
Frye Cameron Skimmer | $115 (sale) at Zappos

Flats are key – we cannot tell you how many friends have moved to London and learned this lesson the hard way on day one. London is a walking town. A comfortable pair of flats is essential.  Bonus?  Flats are a great way to add extra color to any work outfit.

The Large Handbag
Monserat de Lucca Artacho Satchel | $255 at Bluefly

Carry a large bag for all the possible things you might need in a day.  Londoners tend to carry fairly large bags, which are both functional and stylish.   A couple of things to keep in your bag:
(1) A Thin Neck Scarf, a great way to add some personal style to a standard work outfit.
(2) An Umbrella is a must.  You will be shocked how quickly a beautiful sunny day in London can turn into a stormy, wet mess

What would you wear to work in London? Share your style with us in the comments!

13 comments March 31st, 2009

Q&A: How to Dress with Youthful Sophistication

Q: I am currently in school. Whenever I try a new style, I get strange looks. My friends tell me I look too dressy.  How do I look sophisticated and casual while still looking young and fresh?

A: Happy to hear that you’re experimenting with new styles.  Trying out new styles, cuts, silhouettes, and colors is the best way to discovering your own personal style–whatever your age.  I encourage you to continue your explorations into fashion to continue evolving your look.

Style is less about dressing a particular way, or in a particular type of clothing.  The key is to dress to fit your personality - and the situation you’re in.  If you’re in school, running from class to class in a cocktail dress or a suit (no matter how sharp you look) probably isn’t appropriate.  The trick to dressing sophisticated while keeping the look young is to either (1) Mix sophisticated details and pieces into a casual look, or (2) Create sophisticated combinations with casual pieces.

Tip 1: Mix Sophisticated Details into a Casual Look


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A sweatervest, a buttondown shirt, and jeans are standard fare, but the oversized buttons on the vest and the delicate tuxedo pleating on the buttondown shirt turn it into something special.  Notice the sophisticated woven bag–not your average book bag.

Tip 2: Create Sophisticated Combinations with Casual Pieces


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The striped boatneck shirt, the bomber jacket, and jeans are all casual items.  But put them together, and you have an outfit that’s at once Euro chic sophisticated and completely youthful.

Have a great tip about how to achieve youthful sophistication? Share it with us in the comments!

8 comments March 27th, 2009

Q&A: What to Wear in Tropical Tobago

Q: I’m going on vacation to tropical Tobago for 5 days and planning on taking only a small suitcase.  What do you recommend packing so I will be comfortable travelling from chilly NYC? Also, I’m planning on bringing a few hats - any tips on how to pack them?

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by Colleen Geary, fashion stylist and image consultant

A: To transition seamlessly from chilly New York to tropical Tobago, try a lightweight cashmere sweater over jeans.  It’s a comfortable casual outfit that travels well on a plane.  Add a pashmina for style - and to use as a blanket on the plane.  If you carry a large handbag on the plane, you can toss the pashmina right into the bag upon your arrival in Tobago.

While in Tobago, you’ll want to be ready for temperatures in the 70s and 80s. Here’s what you need to bring:

Tops: Pack some cotton tees and tank tops, as well as one dressier top.

Sweaters: A single cotton sweater will suffice.

Bottoms: Bring one pair of shorts and one pair of cropped pants.  You can also bring a casual skirt, if you’re going to need to dress up.

Dresses: One sundress should be enough for your short trip.

Shoes: One pair of flip flops for the pool and beach, and one pair of shoes that works for dressier occasions.

Accessories: Hats and sunglasses are a must, since sunny Tobago is so close to the equator.  Try to stay out of direct sun for long periods of time; try shady spots under umbrellas and trees.  Don’t forget your sunscreen!

As for packing hats, be sure to stuff them with tissue paper before attempting to fold them or place them in your suitcase.  Should you wish to bring a structured hat that could be damaged, purchase a hatbox.

Have a great tip about what to wear in Tobago? Share it with us in the comments!

6 comments March 20th, 2009

Q&A: Four Winter to Spring Coats

Q: My black wool winter coat looks much too heavy and "dead of winter"-like now.  It’s nearly spring but still very chilly.  Besides a trench, what are some ideas for a full or longer-length coat to get me through these chilly evenings?  I’d like something about knee-length  to wear over dresses. Any cheerful, lighter options?

Clockwise, from left: 3/4 Sleeve Zip Anorak, Bustle Back Trench Coat, Dahlia Loose Cropped Sleeve Tailored Jacket, Karen Millen Casual Funnel Neck Lightweight Coat.

Since it’s nearly Spring, it’s hard to find good chilly weather coats in stores.  Here’s four suggestions for coats that bridge the gap between Winter and Spring:

3/4 Sleeve Zip Anorak | $74.99 (sale) at Banana Republic
The light color and collarless neckline allow this anorak to transition between casual and formal.  And I love the look of this crisp white jacket over a printed dress.

Bustle Back Trench Coat | $97.41 at ASOS
I know you don’t want a trench, but would you consider an unconventional take on the classic style?  The ruffled bustle on the back of this coat makes it flirty and feminine–perfect for bridging the gap between Winter and Spring.

Dahlia Loose Cropped Sleeve Tailored Jacket | $115.57 at ASOS
For a more unconventional look, you can try an oversized blazer.  The cropped sleeves on this tailored jacket are singing Spring.

Karen Millen Casual Funnel Neck Lightweight Coat | $328.55 at ASOS
The military style of this crisp cotton coat will elevate your Spring dresses.  It’s not a lighter style - but it will pair well with your cheerful, bright dresses.

Have a great tip about a perfect Winter to Spring coat? Share it with us in the comments!

6 comments March 17th, 2009

Q&A: Three Fresh Ways to Wear a Trenchcoat

Q: I’m a 20-year-old college student who just got a calf-length London Fog trench coat for a smokin’ deal.  I love it and know I’m going to have this forever, but I was wondering if you had any ideas as to how to wear this without looking like the Queen Mum.

A: Even though you’re sporting a classic piece like a trenchcoat, you don’t have to keep your entire look classic.  Just pair your trenchcoat with appropriately youthful looking pieces.  Here’s three ideas to keep your look young while wearing your sophisticated trenchcoat:

Tip 1: Wear Knits, Not Wovens

Youthful Looks with a Trenchcoat #1

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Wear your trenchcoat with a sweaterdress.  Tailored, woven dresses will keep the look formal, but a sweaterdress will give the outfit a more youthful look.  Edgy details like lace-up boots and a zipper-encrusted handbag also give the look a young feel.

Tip 2: Say Hello to Bright Colors

Youthful Looks with a Trenchcoat #2

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Dark colors and neutral colors give a more sophisticated air to any look, but bright colors would help liven up those looks.  A shot of gold doesn’t hurt as well.

Tip 3: Embrace Unstructured Fabrics and Silhouettes

Youthful Looks with a Trenchcoat #3

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Tailored cuts and structured fabrics are natural pairings for a classic trench.  But they also can make the look more stodgy.  Unstructured fabrics, like knits, and blousy silhouettes do just the opposite–they give the look a breath of fresh air.

Have a great tip about fresh ways to wear a trenchcoat? Share it with us in the comments!

9 comments March 12th, 2009

Q&A: Great Details for a Bespoke Suit

Q:  I’m getting a bespoke suit.  Looking forward to it.  What sorts of interesting details are possible on a men’s suit?  I’ve heard about the working button holes and such, but perhaps you have heard of some totally awesome details?

Pictured: Duncan Quinn Bespoke Suits.

A: I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “totally awesome.” If you mean “totally awesome fit,” then yes, most good bespoke tailors will fit you a suit that wears better than anything else you have (except for another high quality bespoke suit, of course).

Bespoke is more about personal style and quality than fashion.  Translation: avoid a loud, statement-making suit that may be in fashion right now but will go out tomorrow.  I trust you know how to find a good tailor and how to tell him what you want, so I’ll skip right ahead to the details that are available out there.

The bottom line is that bespoke is expensive.  And that’s kind of the point.  It’s not for everything, and the exorbitant price is largely why it stays that way.  If you’re going to go bespoke, you might as well go all out.  At least, don’t skimp on things to try to save a few dollars here and there.

With bespoke, you can indulge yourself in details ranging from patterned jacket linings to exotic materials.  Duncan Quinn, highly regarded in the bespoke world, for example, offers a suit made out of guanaco.  If you can pull it off, feel free to go bold with pinstripes or checks in whatever color you’d like.  Of course with details like these, you’re talking about a suit ranging well into the thousands (Duncan Quinn starts at $4,000 per suit), perhaps even into the tens of thousands. 

But given the sinking economy, a bespoke suit feels even more extravagant than it does in normal times.  You don’t need to go all out with a suit to go bespoke.  Try a bespoke shirt (try Charvet, Tom Ford, or Borelli for the best) or shoes (try Barker Black).  Ties can be made just for you as well.  Just keep in mind that designers may require you to order multiple items at once; especially smaller items like ties and shirts.

Have a great tip about what to look for in a bespoke suit? Share it with us in the comments!

5 comments March 11th, 2009

Q&A: What to Wear in Japan

Q: I am traveling around Japan for 3 weeks beginning in late March. What do you suggest packing? I plan on dressing casually and packing as lightly as possible. We will be doing a lot of sightseeing and walking around. What shoes would be comfortable and would go with everything (I only want to pack one pair)?

What to Wear in Japan
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by Colleen Geary, fashion stylist and image consultant

A: How lovely—March is the most popular time of year to travel to Japan.  It’s the beginning of their Spring season, which means that their famous cherry blossoms will begin to bloom.

Fashion wise, Japan is a fascinating country.  Fashion forward young people are so creative in dress—influences range from Harajuku (which encompasses a variety of styles, from gothic Lolita to cosplay) to Hime (a new princess craze).  But these edgy styles aside, Japan is a very conservative country when it comes to fashion.  You can get away with casual dress when you’re out seeing the sights, but remember that Japan is a place where attention to appearance is paramount (especially in business situations).  Japanese women have a penchant for meticulously tailored garments—and often wear heels even with casualwear.

For sightseeing in Japan in late March, here’s what you need to bring:

Tops: Bring an assortment of nice, relatively conservative shirts and blouses, both knits and wovens.  Sleeveless styles are OK, but nothing that shows cleavage, nothing tight or clingy.  For late March, long sleeved blouses and knits are going to be your best bet; it may be Spring, but the weather is still going to be a bit chilly. 

Sweaters: Pack a couple of versatile sweaters to layer over your tops; this will allow you to dress in layers to adjust to the heat and cold. 

Bottoms: Your bottoms wardrobe is going to center around long pants.  Pack a couple of pairs of casual pants, and one pair of dressier pants.  You can also bring jeans—tourists do wear jeans; however, they’re somewhat less common amongst the more formal Japanese women.  Skip the shorts, but cropped pants are do-able if they work with your figure. 

Dresses:  If you’re going to be attending any more formal events, you can also pack a dress (knee-length or longer) for the occasion.

Outerwear: For late March, a light jacket should suffice to keep you warm (especially if you’re layering with sweaters).

Shoes:  If you’re planning on bringing only one pair of shoes, you will want a comfortable yet stylish flat that will work for sightseeing and dressier occasions.  I recommend a pair of Cole Haan flats with Nike Air technology or a pair of Softspots with a tempurpedic footbed. 

Last thoughts?  Get a pedicure before your trip, and make sure to bring lots of pairs of socks.  As you sightsee, you’ll often be asked to remove your shoes when you visit temples and other buildings.

Have a great tip about what to wear in Japan? Share it with us in the comments!

15 comments March 5th, 2009

Q&A: Youthful Wear to Work Fashion

Q: I’m 23 but look no older than 18, and my wardrobe hasn’t been updated since college. I deal with the public a lot, so I’d like to retain a casual air so as to be friendly and welcoming rather than overbearing and stuffy. At the same time, I want to be taken seriously. What are some essentials I should add to my closet that walk the line between professional and casual?

by Traci Tsai

A: High quality fabrics and structured silhouettes are the key to a more professional and mature look, while extra details add a fun and casual element to a work outfit without taking away sophistication.

Do a different take on the suit jacket: the cropped length and flower pin are a little more casual than your normal business attire, but the silhouette is still put-together and business-casual.

Flower Pin Blazer | $24.80 at Forever 21

Wide Leg pants in basic black, dark grey or a dark pin stripe pattern are a must-have. After all, pants feel more business-like than a skirt. Remember: tight-fitting pants are a dead giveaway to youth, so make sure you choose a cut in a wider leg and a looser fit to keep your attire appropriate for work.

Creme Fraiche Heather Trouser | $98.75 at South Moon Under

A blouse is an essential for a young female professional – it can be paired with skirts, dress pants or trouser jeans depending on the type of workplace, and it fits nicely under a blazer. If you choose a blouse like this one, the bright coral fabric adds a touch of youth, but the elaborate detailing at the neckline adds an air of sophistication.

Silk Ruffle Blouse | $69 at Banana Republic

Patterns are a great way to add some flair to a work outfit. The knee -length hem and sleeves are all relatively conservative, but the geometric print adds visual interest, so you get the best of both worlds. To add another element of maturity and structure to the silhouette, you could replace the fabric waist tie with a more substantial wide belt.

Geo Print Wrap Dress | $130 at Banana Republic

Patent Pumps are an easy, everyday work outfit complement. Pumps are classic and sophisticated, but the patent leather shine makes for a younger look and will stand out more than your typical leather pumps.

Nine West Barb Patent Pumps | $68.95 at Zappos
Never underestimate the power of a few good pieces of jewelry. The right accessories can instantly add a level of maturity to an outfit. We recommend investing in a few versatile long-strand necklaces and some long earrings. Here youth is an advantage, and you can be more daring with jewelry types and colors without it taking away from your professional look.

Layered Chain Necklace | $49 at Banana Republic

What would you wear at work to walk the line between casual and formal? Share your style with us in the comments!

10 comments February 24th, 2009

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