Wednesday, January 11, 2017

How to Choose Business Accessories, One at a Time - With a Navy Suit

Monday, we pulled together a wonderful business capsule wardrobe with a navy suit for the reader with a new job, but let's get her some accessories too!

A 4 by 4 Wardrobe based on a navy suit, with accents of white, emerald and amethyst

Obviously, she had shoes on when she interviewed, but let's add a beautiful pair of black pumps, with comfortably low heels, to her wardrobe first:

How to add black kitten heel pumps to a business capsule wardrobe

And I always want earrings, sooner than later. I know women who never wear them and who look just fine, but I always feel more... complete? finished? when I get my earrings on...

How to add amethyst earrings to a business capsule wardrobe

While it's entirely possible to carry everything you need in your pockets when you're just banging around town, for work, a nice bag is essential. I didn't try to get navy leather goods for this wardrobe, because they are much harder to find than black, and because virtually all of the men in any workplace will wear black (or brown) shoes with a navy suit. Why should women make it harder for themselves?

How to add a black tote bag to a business capsule wardrobe

I love bracelets, and I thought that a cuff that didn't jangle around and make a lot of noise could be a big addition to this wardrobe. For someone who works on a keyboard constantly, this is going to depend on how to rest your arms/hands to type. If you hang off the edge of the desk, as I do, you can wear bracelets any time, but if you're using a "wrist rest" kind of gizmo, a bracelet might be uncomfortable...

How to add a gold cuff bracelet to a business capsule wardrobe

One of the joys of a relatively dressy job is that you can wear beautiful scarves without any fear of damaging them - no splashing foodstuffs, no messy hands, no constant exposure to damaging chemicals. So let's pick something truly special:

How to add a silk scarf to a business capsule wardrobe

The pants have belt loops? That means a belt is required! You don't need a million belts; I suspect most men only own/wear 1 or 2...

How to add a black leather belt to a business capsule wardrobe

Everyone needs more than 1 pair of shoes for work, and when I saw these purple pumps, I knew that an accent shoe might be a fun idea! If you don't like to wear bright shoes, you can try to scare up a great pair of dark navy pumps (like the ones in the middle). But always try to have 2 pairs; shoes last MUCH longer if they're given a rest (with shoe trees in them, of course) between wearings.

How to add accent shoes to a business capsule wardrobe

For days when a scarf just isn't in the cards, a fun necklace is a great alternative. This simple silk top just cries out for something lovely hanging on it...

How to add a green pendant to a business capsule wardrobe

For a second pair of earrings, you might want to make more of a statement, in a small way. I love the mix of colors in the middle pair of earrings:

How to add creative earrings to a business capsule wardrobe

One does NOT need to carry a tote bag or briefcase every day; if you're not literally carrying "briefs" (as in documents, NOT undergarments...) you don't need a big bag. There are so many lovely handbags in the world... sigh...

How to add a black handbag to a business capsule wardrobe

Since you're going to be working and won't be hanging on your phone, a watch might be a good idea. For people who aren't parked in front of a computer all day, knowing what time it is (and being able to tell others, when they ask you) can be pretty important!

How to add a feminine watch to a business capsule wardrobe

More scarves! In this case, I was looking for something that had lots of navy...

How to add a silk scarf to a business capsule wardrobe

Yes, this outfit in no way supports the wearing of a scarf, but I really wanted to bring another scarf into this wardrobe in order to brighten up the large amounts of navy and white. Choosing from among these 3 scarves was really difficult...

How to add a silk scarf to a business capsule wardrobe

And after you've become really familiar with the overall feel of your workplace, you might find that a good-quality pair of ballet flats will be appropriate. I'm assuming that nobody will notice that you're not wearing high heels, if everything else about you is dignified and appropriate. Somehow, someday, we've got to completely eliminate the requirement of pumps from dress codes - it's terribly unfair to those among us who can't wear them comfortably, nor walk in them gracefully!

How to add black ballet flats to a business capsule wardrobe

I don't wear navy at all, but I could grow to love this wardrobe:

a 4 by 4 Wardrobe in navy, with accents of white, emerald and amethyst

In addition to the outfits that we saw yesterday and today, there are lots of lovely ways to wear these pieces. If you want to emphasize the emerald accent, you can:

Three outfits from a business capsule wardrobe, emphasizing the accent color emerald

If you are in an amethyst mood, you have lots of choices:

Three outfits from a business capsule wardrobe, emphasizing the accent color amethyst

And for those times when simple navy and white is quite enough, you'll still look professional and beautiful:

Three navy and white outfits from a business capsule wardrobe

Were you surprised to hear that this dress code prohibited skirts above the knee, sleeveless tops, and any sort of cleavage? I wasn't, but I think some people might consider this very old-fashioned...

How to Choose Business Accessories for a work capsule wardrobe in a navy, green, and purple color palette
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  1. Lovely accessories! Such beautiful colourful shoes, scarves, earrings, bracelets... When I read about the totes I thought about pull-along briefcases if the contents was going to be heavy. There is definitely a place for totes in this wardrobe. Carol S

  2. I found myself agreeing with every single thing you wrote: I don't feel dressed until I have put on my wearings; WHY do women have to wear pumps in the workplace; black leather goods are a good option for navy (why make things harder for ourselves). There was so much wisdom here.

    1. YES! I was thinking the same thing. Though I did think that an amethyst bag could be fun and not so loud as to be unserious.
      I would have a hard time with no skirts above the knee. I'm short and long skirts just make me look frumpy. Not saying micro-minis, but just above the knee is the best length on me.

    2. I like my skirts on the longer side (I'm also short but have decided that frump is part of who I am. I will always look more like a dwarf than an elf and will never be willowy). But yeah, skirts just above the knee seem perfectly fine too.

      And no one should have to wear heels. I've only recently discovered I can handle heels if they're wedges with the whole shoe having a contact with the ground, but traditional pumps just make me unbalanced. I do not look graceful when I'm falling all over!

      - Kaci

  3. Oh ,I do appreciate this combination, amethyst and emerald are two of my favourite colours! Just saying those words out loud evoke a sense of restraint and elegance, and I am very happy to see how this wardrobe is progressing. Thank you.

  4. Janice,
    This is a great core professional wardrobe , indicated by the required skirt length. Old fashioned ? Perhaps, but I think that standards of what is appropriate attire for a given function has gotten lost in a culture of excessive casualness. My husband and I dressed nicely for my birthday dinner at a lovely old inn this week, nothing fancy, but business casual in feeling. When I looked at the other diners, I saw the ubiquitous blue jeans and sneakers. Nothing distressed , but certainly not special either. While I understand that this might be all that they can afford, though I seriously doubt that, I find it disappointing that my husband and I are becoming the oddities by dressing for the location and occasion. It detracted from my sense of celebration of being in a special place, even if only momentarily. Old fashioned, yes, I suppose I am, but I come from an era of having to " dress " just to go downtown when I was a kid. We were to wear a dress, or a skirt and nice blouse, and some of the grownup ladies even wore gloves and hats. Sigh. Some things have not changed for the better.
    Earrings are a part of my everyday appearance, whether at home or out and about. Like not wearing lipstick, I feel naked without them !

    1. I totally agree with you Shrebee about dress codes as I was born in the early 60s, so remember my grandparents dressing in hats and gloves when leaving the house. In a recent trip to Venice, our hotel restaurant was situated outside near the canal and I always like to dress up for dinner; something smart casual in a floaty fabric with pretty shoes and accessories. Similarly, my husband always wears a smart shirt, trousers and nice shoes. So you can imagine our horror when other diners came in with scruffy shorts and t-shirts which they had been wearing all day in sweltering heat! It completely killed the atmosphere and we were made to feel overdressed as we were in the minority. I guess in the current climate businesses cannot afford to turn away custom so therefore relax any formal dress codes that they once had, pity.... Sharon U.K.

  5. "Were you surprised to hear that this dress code prohibited skirts above the knee, sleeveless tops, and any sort of cleavage? I wasn't, but I think some people might consider this very old-fashioned..."

    Definitely old-fashioned in my world. I don't like cleavage on myself but don't care what other people wear. Sleeveless tops are nice in the summer, and being able to wear them would reduce the need for AC, thus helping reduce carbon emissions.

    But I also want a world where people can dress entirely for self-expression and not at all for professionalism. As long as one's clothes are clean, not torn, and don't have writing on them (because policing what writing is and is not okay would be a huge pain), and are appropriate in a practical sense to the activity (as in safe, comfortable, and unlikely to be destroyed), I don't think it should matter what people wear. I would be perfectly happy in a world where one person is in jeans and a t-shirt, the other is in a full suit with skirt and heels, and neither person has a problem with the other's clothing.

    We're a ways from that now, but more and more places are becoming okay with visible tattoos, wild hair colors, and multiple piercings - which I think is great even though I have none of those!

    Of course, people can set whatever dress code they want for social occasions, and I would be a good guest and do my best to follow that dress code. But for making a living or going about one's daily business, I'm all about maximum freedom!

    - Kaci

    1. I agree that a mixed environment can be a good thing. I used to work in a large open plan office where one half of the staff were suited and booted (Corporate Finance & Governance)and the other half quite frankly looked like they were off to the beach. This worked amazingly well for many years, but as the business end of the company changed leadership the culture changed too and traditional values of 'business attire' were introduced. I left at that point as it was all getting a bit dictatorial for my liking, so I don't know how it all turned out in the end, but while it lasted it was great fun.

  6. Thanks for the comment about black shoes with navy. I was just wondering about that very question. Not that we need "permission" to wear something, but "validation" is always nice. :)

  7. What lovely choices and colors, thank you for a great wardrobe!! This would also work nicely with black or charcoal as the neutral, if one doesn't wear navy.
    As for the dress code, I don't mind it. I've never been one for policing - or even caring much - what others wear, but I find it hard to take someone at a work place seriously if they are wearing baggy shorts, a graphic tee, and flip flops (an ubiquitous outfit in Austin).

  8. This is a beautiful wardrobe that I would happily wear to work. It is a bit dressier than is expected in my small law firm, but this is what I would wear down a notch on most days. Besides from showing that you care about your personal appearance, there is no arguing that you will be treated better when dressed better regardless whether you are at Wal-Mart, an airport or a doctor's office. Don't know whether that is fair or not, but you send a signal - unconsciously or not - the way you present yourself.

  9. In professional settings, I often wear oxfords, brogues, or wingtips as my flat shoe in place of ballet style (in black or in brown leather). With skirts, stockings or tights are customary, but many women rock the ankle-sock and men's shoe look with skirts.

    I appreciate work places without dress codes, and encourage my employees to dress as they feel their best. One might wear power-dresses with heels, another might show up in athleisure wear...the variety makes a happier, more interesting work force, I think, and clients get a sense of the personality behind the professional. There are workplaces that require more conformity, perhaps, but clean and authentic to the person wearing it are the most important elements. (just my two cents)

  10. Hi Vivienne, I'm wondering if you could put together a capsule for a different type of work environment...I am a psychologist who runs a counseling program, supervises others, and provides one-on-one therapy services. I need to look professional but don't need as much of a corporate look as this capsule provides...any suggestions as to how to create a professional yet personal and warm wardrobe?

    Thank you for any suggestions! Andrea

  11. I'll say it right out: I'm THRILLED there are a few places left with a modest dress code. It's terribly refreshing not to have cleavage in my face when I'm at the bank or the attorney's office or wherever.

  12. In a way I can kind of imagine that kind of dress code making sense in a situation where you are interacting with customers and want to draw attention to the product and let the staff become rather tasteful backdrops. There are situations where overly casual dress or showing a lot of skin can be distracting. That being said, my favorite skirt length to wear is knee or top of knee length. - nancyo

    1. Good point! In our work environment, the interactions between the client and the professional ARE the product...but in other workplaces, the "product" (legal or accounting advice, help desk work, sales, etc) might be distracted from by employees wearing very personal choices.

      Your suggestion that some workplaces require "tasteful backdrops" for their purposes seems spot on. I had not thought of that. For those kinds of positions, one's personal life would be a more effective place to really express themselves sartorially, and thus keep it subtle and conforming at work. Hmm. Fashion, modesty, and personal expression are complicated topics with no right answers for all people at all times.

      Some days, I honestly long for the super simplicity of Star Trek style uniforms for everyone: good for all weather and all activities, and generally unisex boot. : )

  13. Those people who consider it old-fashioned (and don't follow them) look very unprofessional no matter what they say to excuse themselves, but that is their choice.

    Stylewise, I love this wardrobe, only exception being heels (I don't wear them and I don't like the look). This clothes look more like what I aspire to have, I would love to see more of it. I have only trouble with suits during the winter, I don't know how to wear them AND the coat above.

  14. wowww. So detailed here. I like this simple styles.