Author Topic: Mustachian Suits  (Read 6870 times)

Frugalteacher

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Mustachian Suits
« on: June 02, 2013, 04:18:42 PM »
Hey,
      My girlfriend is a Law School student, and we're on a pretty tight budget. This summer she got an awesome internship, but she needs to wear a suit every day. It's been tough to find women's suits that are professional and affordable. Can any mustachians out there give us some tips for where to get nice, professional, and affordable women suits?

Thanks

mustachecat

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2013, 04:31:31 PM »
Consignment shops generally have higher-quality clothing than your run-of-the-mill thrift shops, so definitely check those out. Where I live, there are some very fancy thrift stores, though, kept in good stock by ladies who lunch. Also: dry cleaners! They'll often sell off stuff that people don't pick up. I've gotten some nice pencil skirts and cashmere that way.

aj_yooper

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2013, 04:38:12 PM »
Consignment shops are a great idea!  The best ones are in the affluent cities or neighborhoods.  A friend of ours gets designer clothing for under $10 per in Naples, Florida.

lithy

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2013, 05:02:53 PM »
From a male perspective, understanding that I would think but have no personal experience as to whether or not this would work for ladies...  A good compromise seems to be to thrift or consignment store shop for something and then have it tailored to fit.  You will still save a boatload over new and the end result will fit better than off the rack clothes anyway.

hoodedfalcon

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2013, 06:38:34 PM »
I've been in that boat and I feel your pain. What helped me stretch my suits a little further is to buy a skirt, pant, and jacket from the same collection. If she sticks with black/grey/blue (typical lawyer colors anyway), no one will notice. I found some good suits at TJMaxx. I didn't have much luck with consignment shops, mostly because of where I live. This may be anti-mustachian, but I found that if you timed the sales at The Limited/Express you could get a pretty decent suit for not a ton of money. I am still wearing suits I purchased 7 years ago, so I guess that is something? Also, dry cleaning is over-rated. I maybe had my suits cleaned twice a year at most.

Good luck!

pbkmaine

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2013, 06:59:54 PM »
Does she really need to wear a matched suit? She should buy one suit, then wait and see what's going on at the law firm. Pay special attention to what the senior women are wearing. In NYC, I see lots of dresses, skirts and pants with coordinating blazers. I buy most of my clothes at thrift shops, but I have not had good luck with suits. Those I buy at the Brooks Brothers or Ann Taylor outlets when there is a sale. If you do not have pets, black is a very good choice for NYC. To repeat what others have said, some combination of dress, skirt, pants and blazer from the same collection can go a long way. Bright jewelry and scarves can mix it up. Make sure shoes are comfortable but stylish (trickier than you think) and beware of open toes! Conservative firms frown upon them. In some firms, you are still required to wear hose. I am not kidding. 

oldtoyota

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2013, 07:15:07 PM »
Lots of good advice!

I used to shop at this chain a long time ago:
http://www.timeout.com/newyork/shopping/annie-sez

FlorenceMcGillicutty

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2013, 08:21:56 PM »
Does she really need to wear a matched suit? She should buy one suit, then wait and see what's going on at the law firm. Pay special attention to what the senior women are wearing. In NYC, I see lots of dresses, skirts and pants with coordinating blazers. I buy most of my clothes at thrift shops, but I have not had good luck with suits. Those I buy at the Brooks Brothers or Ann Taylor outlets when there is a sale. If you do not have pets, black is a very good choice for NYC. To repeat what others have said, some combination of dress, skirt, pants and blazer from the same collection can go a long way. Bright jewelry and scarves can mix it up. Make sure shoes are comfortable but stylish (trickier than you think) and beware of open toes! Conservative firms frown upon them. In some firms, you are still required to wear hose. I am not kidding.

Ah yes. I've never worked in a firm, but I've had to wear hose at a couple of conservative jobs. It's pretty awesome when it's 100 outside, humid, and you're wearing hose.

As far as affordable suits, I've found that some of it depends on body type. I've also had trouble finding suits 2nd hand because it's hard to find a modern cut (sans 80s shoulder pads) that matches and that is in your size on both the top and the bottom. My advice would be to scour a few stores and try the suits on. Then, scour ebay or other sites for good deals. I was able to get some great suits early on like this. If she has to wear a suit and jacket every single day, all she really needs is two full suits with both pants and skirts. I'd go gray and navy. The corporate uniform :).

olivia

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2013, 09:55:51 PM »
Sign up for Banana Republic and Ann Taylor emails.  They constantly have 30-40% off sales, and they make a lot of good suits that are reasonably priced and don't look cheap.  Ditto the others on the blazer, skirt, pant combo.  Does she need to wear button up shirts or can she wear shells/short sleeved dressy tops?  If she doesn't need to wear button ups I'm sure she could get nice silk or similar shells or shirts from thrift shops and consignment shops.  Or just check out sales at the major dressy retailers-Ann Taylor, Loft, Banana Republic, even Talbots has nice tops, particularly if she needs to err on the conservative side.   

jamccain

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2013, 10:43:49 PM »
I have to wear a suit three times a week....I have one suit.  I wear it every single day.  The only thing that changes are the shirts and ties (occasionally different shoes and belt).  Nobody has ever said a word to me about it. 

About three years ago I wore the same pair of slacks and shoes (different polo or button up) EVERY single day (M-F) for eight months.  On the six month anniversary I told three people, who I encountered and spoke with every one of those days, what I had done and none of the three even realized it. 

Girls are obviously different than boys, but you need less clothes than you can imagine.  You think everyone is looking at you and noticing...largely, they aren't.  The cheapest clothes will always be the ones you don't buy. 

ScubaAZ

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2013, 11:56:57 PM »
Does she really need to wear a matched suit? She should buy one suit, then wait and see what's going on at the law firm. Pay special attention to what the senior women are wearing. In NYC, I see lots of dresses, skirts and pants with coordinating blazers. I buy most of my clothes at thrift shops, but I have not had good luck with suits. Those I buy at the Brooks Brothers or Ann Taylor outlets when there is a sale. If you do not have pets, black is a very good choice for NYC. To repeat what others have said, some combination of dress, skirt, pants and blazer from the same collection can go a long way. Bright jewelry and scarves can mix it up. Make sure shoes are comfortable but stylish (trickier than you think) and beware of open toes! Conservative firms frown upon them. In some firms, you are still required to wear hose. I am not kidding. 

Do you know what size she wears?  I have some suits from pre-law school that I don't wear anymore waiting to go to the thrift store (some have been worn maybe 10 times total).  I'd be happy to send them to you all instead if she can use them.  I think most are around a size 12, but I can double check if you're interested.

For general information, she probably will get something that explains the office dress code.  If I were her (as a new lawyer that summered in two different offices), I would call either HR or a female lawyer contact for the summer program (if there is one, or even a female lawyer she interviewed with or has met at a social engagement).  Ask what the dress code is, it probably will be either "business formal," which is suits all the time, or the dreaded "business casual".  Business casual is hard for women because that can mean anything from a pencil skirt and button down (so with a jacket would almost be a suit), to much more casual pieces like cardigans and the like.  She should have at least one suit, because lawyers like to take summer associates to court, and she'll have to wear a suit.  She should also wear this the first day, even if they say the dress code is business casual.  She will be meeting a lot of new people, many of whom will expect a summer to show up in a suit at least the first day.  I second the idea of buying a jacket/skirt/pants set that she can mix and match to create more outfits.  Shells and tops can be found cheaply.  A decent pair of heels and modest jewelry, and she will be all set.

I did a pretty non-mustachian Nordstrom purchase for my initial law firm wardrobe once I had my offer from the firm.  I felt it was important to start out with actual wool suits vs polyester, etc.  I don't know that is the case, but I had many midlevel associates ask me what year I was, assuming I had lateraled from another firm rather than right out of law school.  I think dress played a big role in that.  For my summer associate suits (try 115 degrees in a suit :), I picked up several on clearance at Dillards and Macys, as well as at Filene's Basement (in DC, but I would bet they have them in NYC).  One has to be careful with department store "cheap" suits because they can look very cheap.  Look for classic lines, not a lot of details (zippers, etc.).  Buttons are often a tell-tale sign of a cheap suit, but can easily be replaced with nicer buttons from a sewing or craft store.

Consignment stores or thrift stores are a great option if she has tons of time to stop in and try stuff on.  She probably could tell the sales clerk what she is looking for and they will call her if something comes in. 

pom

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2013, 02:50:34 AM »
When I started my career one of my female collegue worked weekends at Ann Taylor so she could get the employee discount.

I think it was a great deal for her at the time; she probably made almost as much from the discount as from the salary.

EK

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2013, 06:41:29 AM »
You can find new and like new J. Crew and Ann Taylor suits on eBay for great prices all the time.  It it doesn't fit, "return" it by selling it for what you paid (or even a little bit more if you can!).  Consignment/ thrift can work too. If you have to buy new, H & M has very reasonably priced suits.

She probably only needs a couple suits... NO ONE is going to notice if you're wearing the same classic black pants or skirt every day.  Just get a weeks worth of tops.  I assure you, no one pays that close attention to what other people wear, and if they do, they're not going to care.

pbkmaine

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2013, 08:44:06 AM »
Good advice on tops. Silk shells are fairly easy to find at thrift shops, as are cotton knit tops. For buttoned shirts, be careful not to show gaps.  I have a curvy figure and always have to pin butttoned shirts in strategic areas.  Test tops for two things: make sure bra straps and (sorry, I have to say this) nipples do not show. A reliable opaque skin-colored bra with elastic straps is a woman's best friend in corporate America. Also, if going sleeveless, underarms must be shaved. I know this sounds obvious, but if one is in a hurry in the morning, sometimes things get overlooked.  People will not notice a lot of wardrobe repeats, but they will notice this. 

As far as a general "look" goes, preppy is always safe.  Wherever you buy, look at the J. Crew, Ann Taylor and Brooks Brothers websites to see how they put looks together.  If you are near NYC now, try the Woodbury Commons Outlets. They have very good sales on professional clothing at outlets like Brooks Brothers, Ann Taylor, J. Crew and others. 

Dee18

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2013, 08:53:18 AM »
I second the TJMaxx rec. Recently bought a great gray Calvin Klein $400 suit for $89. I also often just buy jackets that will look good with a black skirt or pants (washable!).  Most recently I've paired them with a Michael Kors knee length pencil skirt, $19 T TJMaxx.  consignment shopping for business clothes has not been worth it for me--the prices are the same as TJMaxx, and I only like to buy washable things second hand.  I also have some professional looking dresses from TJM.  I only buy washable dresses, as dry cleaning adds up quickly for ladies clothing.  I think the keys to looking professional are: hair neat and off the face, shoes closed toes low heels, all clothes clean and wrinkle free, no cleavage showing, and good posture.  It is fine to wear the same clothes every week. It's a uniform.

hoodedfalcon

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #15 on: June 03, 2013, 09:39:14 AM »
I'd like to second pbkmaine's comments on pinning shirts in strategic areas. I always pin when wearing a button down shirt. In part because my first job out of law school had me in court and at the jail on a regular basis. You don't want an inmate to see your bra, but you also don't want a judge to see it either, or even the hint of it. I often found myself searching for pins in the morning while I was getting dressed, but then I realized if I just took the pin and attached it to the hem before laundering, every shirt had a pin when I was ready to put it on. Problem solved!

StarryC

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #16 on: June 03, 2013, 10:33:12 AM »
To my first lawyer job I wore a JC Penny suit.  It was washable, came with pants, skirt, and jacket, and plain Jane Navy Blue.  Penny's doesn't look especially low quality.  Also, I have found several on Overstock.com and Smart Bargains and that worked.   You are still looking at $100-$150 a suit.  I think you need at least 4 as a woman.  Men can wear the same 3, but I think people pay more attention to women's suits.  Outside of New York, fewer people wear black, so I'd suggest 2 greys, a navy, and a black.  You can wear black shoes with all three.   Ross and TJ Maxx are also good, but you have to be lucky.  They have a lot more suits in fall and winter than spring and summer.

Once you work somewhere for a while, people don't notice what you wear.  But as a summer associate you meet new people all the time and it is a months long interview.  They want to know if you "fit in" and fit the culture (which is not mustachian).  If you come off looking cheap or "lower class" people will notice.  I also did a Nordstrom spree and spent about $600 on 2 suits so I had two I knew fit in to the firm.  Then, I had two that were less expensive.  It's not that someone will bring it up, "she wears cheap suits,"  It's that they'll think she seems "young" and "inexperienced" and "not confident" and they will not want to take her to client meetings as much, etc.

GlobalStache

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2013, 12:49:28 PM »
Please pass along to your girlfriend...

I was a summer associate 3 times (2x with same firm, 1x with different firm) and I've worked at a big firm in the US and a different big firm in Europe (also spent time at a stellar firm in Africa...great experience).  I guess I've been around that block a time or two!  (I've since quit - really hated THAT rat race, but I digress - the point of another chain).

What worked for me, as a summer and as an associate and beyond (you do plan to continue in the profession, right??), is to think maximum use, low (not necessarily lowest) cost.  Consider what dress shoes (recommend no peep toes, what plain heels do you have?) you already have and go from there.  Do these go best with a grey suit, navy suit, black suit?  I always recommend two suit sets (jacket with pants and skirt) in two basic colors - no crazy prints/patterns, as you also want to wear them for 10 years out.  DO NOT buy suits where the style of the jacket must stay on - those are church clothes and not office clothes.  You want to be able to wear different shirts underneath to dress the combo up or down - you probably have enough interesting shirts already to get by here.  With lawyer desk jobs, women - like men - take the jackets off and throw them on for lunch or when meeting clients or partners.  With that said, I got by A LOT using my skirts and pants and pairing with sweater sets or dress shirt and vest or sweater and scarf (brought jacket in bag, in case needed).  So the two suits, with shirts and shoes already owned, will do it -- for two summers AND for start of first job.  Besides, you must have a few nice skirts and pants already that can fill in between while the suits are getting dry cleaned.  AND if you pick the right suits with totally versatile jackets, you can wear the jackets with your already owned clothes, too (black jacket with grey pants and vice versa is also a classic combo, although not the dressiest).  And why not a jacket with jeans after the summer is over for a special date night??

I never paid high price for my suits, but was always scoping for finds.  I looked at random places and always found something.  One suit I found for super cheap at an outlet mall and the inside lining is now in tatters, but it sooooooo classic and looks so good that I will never get rid of it!  Anyways, the tips on consignment + tailoring are pretty good...but it might be difficult to find the super classic suit combos there - who would ever buy those and get rid of those?  Not ladies who lunch.  Try an outlet mall or even suck it up and go to Macys and shell out.  Once you have the basics purchased, THEN you can go scavaging for add-ons.

Never go too cheap in an upscale law firm environment - partners, managing associates and clients can smell it a mile away.  On the other hand, I never wore anything very expensive and also didn't suffer.  (Never paid more than $100/150 for any suit combo...and no accessory more than $80, and that includes quality, attractive shoes.)  Yet I did see a few snafus over the years...like skirt too short, v-neck too deep and so on.  Law firmers love gossip - don't be the source unless it's about a promotion or bonus or new client!

If you go for a classic, clean look, you'll never go wrong...and ultimately save money and time in the long run!  Good luck!

GlobalStache

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #18 on: June 04, 2013, 12:57:27 PM »
Oh, meant to add...I a.l.w.a.y.s wore pantyhose over the years at my law jobs.  Hated it.  All the other women wore them, too.  And they hated it.  She should be ready to wear them if that's what they do at her firm.  I always found the best deals on pantyhose at TJmax, but not sure they sell them there anymore!  If she has to use them, get a mesh bag (like for bras) for washing and she can probably get by on 6 pairs all summer (one pair a day, wash on weekends + one extra and some nail polish in the desk at work).

netskyblue

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Re: Mustachian Suits
« Reply #19 on: June 04, 2013, 01:12:20 PM »
You can get deeply discounted suits at places like the Limited if you buy off-season.  When they get in their new season's merchandise, last season's stuff is marked waaay down and put on the clearance rack.  I'm always cold, so have no trouble wearing a "winter" suit in our freezing air conditioned office.