Author Topic: Business wear for women  (Read 11301 times)

SpendyMcSpend

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 320
Business wear for women
« on: April 17, 2014, 08:19:35 PM »
I work in NYC.  The competition to look good for both dating and work is very stiff.  I am looking to advance my career in private equity at the same time as find a meaningful relationship.  Whenever I shop at cheaper stores such as TJMAXX I end up looking frumpy and/or cheap.  I am terrible at putting outfits together so I do best when I buy for example a navy fitted dress and heels at Brooks Brothers.  You can absolutely tell the difference in quality and people notice your shoe quality and outfits in my business.  I don't know what to do because I work 60-70 hours a week and don't have time to learn to put cheaper outfits together.  I want to retire early also but want to meet a good husband and have kids also.  I'm 30.  Help!

Janie

  • Guest
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2014, 03:52:45 AM »
You might want to check out this website http://into-mind.com/

chasesfish

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3202
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Texas
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2014, 04:41:35 AM »
Move from NYC?

In all serious, I do understand your challenge.  I'm not a female, but also in finance and until recently worked in a top 10 city in the US.  What I ended up finding out was there's really just a threshold you need to meet to not have your clothes detract from your talent.  That ended up being ~ $250 each suits on sale from the mid level chain stores, Costco shirts and ties (which I've only found Brooks Brothers to be slightly higher quality than), and high quality shoes.

Females actually have it a little easier on suit costs, then they get nailed on everything.

I'm really, really frugal, but I eventually had to accept that I may X amount of money and for the ability to earn that, I have to spend 1-2% of my salary on my costume for work.   The dollars I spend on that stuff still kill me and are boarderline getting me banned from this board, but I've never spent more than 2% of my pay in a given year.   Going really cheap on clothes just wasn't worth limiting the upper level of my income by $50,000-$75,000 per year.

Rural

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4841
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2014, 04:55:40 AM »
I don't think I've ever told anyone to spend more here before, but in finance in NYC, you really do just have to. What you need to do is be sure you budget for it and that you don't spend more than you have to or more than you can afford, but you do have to have high-quality business wear. Build a wardrobe of classics.


I do think suits are a better value than dresses because you can wear them more than one way.

NeverWasACornflakeGirl

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 231
    • Mommy Won't Work
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2014, 05:18:45 AM »

Gray Matter

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3643
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2014, 05:19:14 AM »
What I ended up finding out was there's really just a threshold you need to meet to not have your clothes detract from your talent. 

I agree with this 100%.  I work in an image-conscious industry and have been shocked at the amount of money my colleagues will drop during a lunch-time shopping spree.  Hundreds of dollars on silly little shoes they can barely walk in, thousands on jackets or sweater sets or purses.  Honestly, it seems kind of immoral to me (though my own spending is not above reproach).

When I first started working here, I wore cheap clothes, and then I felt self-conscious and I'm sure I came across as less confident than I really am.  Over time, I have slowly upgraded my wardrobe just to that threshhold chasefish talks about.  I  have far fewer outfits than most of my colleagues (who rarely repeat one in a month), I'm not afraid of second-hand stores, and I get items tailored (fit is so important!).  I will never be known as a snazzy dresser, but nor do I stand out in a bad way.  Plus, people have come to know my work and respect it, and they also know my values and respect those.  You can easily get by on a clothing budget that is 5% of what many of those women spend in a year and still look the part.

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4547
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2014, 05:22:30 AM »
And you may not need as LARGE a wardrobe as you've been maintaining. French women supposedly wear the same few really nice pieces over and over again with different accessories.

greaper007

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1129
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2014, 06:42:15 AM »
Brooks Brothers makes really classic stuff (sometimes to a fault).   Their clothes should last you 3-5 years easy without looking outdated, even in NYC.    So, if you own 4 suits at $400-$500 a piece that's only $400 a year on suits.     Throw in another $400 on 2 or 3 pairs of shoes and maybe $500 on other wardrobe pieces and you're really not paying that much for clothes.

I'm going to assume that you're making north of 100k in your field.    So if you have to spend an extra $1000 a year on nicer clothes to make an extra 20-30k, that's a really decent investment.   I'd just buy a few of the nice things and suck it up as a professional cost.

I also find that trying to buy things at thrift stores or TJ Maxx, unless you're really into fashion and can spot a deal, has diminishing returns.   Go small for wardrobe size and big for quality.

MissStache

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 710
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Washington, DC
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2014, 06:58:32 AM »
There's also a thread here that might help:  http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/ask-a-mustachian/starting-a-capsule-wardrobe-ladies-what-brands-should-i-buy/

Kudos to Cornflake girl who posted the link to the Capsule Thread I started.  There are some awesome tips in there about brands, buying for your body, etc.  It's awesome

Caoineag

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 533
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Denver
    • My Journal
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2014, 07:15:03 AM »
The key is mixing and matching. The suits need to be high quality, the top you wear underneath or the accessories, not so much. I am not at your level but I am a trial paralegal which means some of my wardrobe should look appropriate for court. Fit definitely matters. I have been complimented by both clients and attorneys on my court wear so I know it is high quality enough, but I also keep the expensive pieces to a minimum. I have a red top that lays perfectly under a suit that everyone raves about, it cost $5...

I pay attention to fabric, cut and steadfastness of color. If it looks cheap, its a false economy to buy it. I still have some misses occasionally but as long as you try to balance quality with expense, you should do fine. The big problem is if you hate shopping (I do), its much harder to find good cheap pieces. Thrift stores require frequent shopping to get good pieces (I have an office manager who shops every Saturday, her clothing budget is much cheaper than mine). I have a couple of stores I can rely on for clothing and so shop them a couple times a year.

If you are buying high quality shoes, get them resoled. I need new heels on my high heels every couple months if I am wearing them frequently but resoling is much cheaper than replacing shoes.

Honestly though 1-2% of your budget sounds just fine. We all have work related expenses that we must contend with and, while you can minimize them, some will remain until you retire.

lhamo

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9835
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2014, 07:48:52 AM »
I've had good luck with Loft and Banana Republic, though I don't have to dress up every day, so that helps make my more businessy clothes last longer. 

I just heard a little blurb on Marketplace about how the company that runs H&M is about to launch a new store targeting slightly older, more affluent women.  I think NYC is one of the first stores they plan to open.  Might be worth checking out.  I think it is called COS.

Try consignment stores, especially on the UES.  YOu might be able to find very good quality stuff for reasonable prices there.  Kind of depends on size, though.  I am short and chunky, so finding stuff that fits properly through second-hand sources can be challenging.

You might also try working with a personal shopper at one of the big department stores.  You don't HAVE to buy what they show you, and it might help you get  a sense of what labels/styles work best for you.  You could try to add one or two foundational pieces every year to build up a good basic, classic wardrobe.  I have basically started buying mostly black, grey and white so that I can maximize different combinations. 

MrsPete

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3519
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2014, 08:01:30 AM »
And you may not need as LARGE a wardrobe as you've been maintaining. French women supposedly wear the same few really nice pieces over and over again with different accessories.
I was going to say the same thing.  Focus on buying a few really, really  nice pieces -- and spend the necessary money on them.  Then add in an inexpensive printed blouse or scarf in the latest color trend.  Admittedly, I don't have the same pressure to dress nicely in my job, but I only own three pair of work pants -- I have a wide variety of blouses and sweaters that match them so they don't look all the same. 

A couple other tips:

- Don't hesitate to have something altered if it doesn't fit you well.  My top and my bottom aren't, um, equivalent (?), so I often need things altered.  While I can hem a pair of pants just fine, I'm out of my element with altering a waistband -- so I pay someone to do that.

- Never spend heavily on something that isn't "classic".  For example, a good pair of black shoes that are comfortable to walk in and will match pretty much anything is a good investment -- even if they're expensive.  In contrast, a pair of coral-pink sandals that match only one dress are a poor investment, even if they're only $12 at Payless. 

CommonCents

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2386
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2014, 08:45:13 AM »
I am not a fashion conscious person but I started reading one blog (www.extrapetite.com) and learned a simple trick:
1. Put together a basic outfit (top & bottom)
2. Layer it (e.g. add a scarf, a jacket, a collared shirt under another, etc)
3. Accessorize (e.g. belt, jewelry, pop of shoes, bag)

I used to always stop at 1, now I'm trying to add on 2 & 3.  Usually, I only end up doing either 2 or 3, but I've started getting some compliments so I think it is working.  That plus a capsule wardrobe can really help.  It's shaken me out of my winter rut of: outfit = black pants plus top.

This may help add visual interest to your outfits without actually buying anything else.  I also second a personal shopper until you learn what works for you.  I buy at Ann Taylor on sale (and just now checking out White House Black Market) but it sounds like you might need a level above that.  I have a few Brooks Brothers suits, but I actually don't like them and never wear them and they don't seem to work for me (fit maybe?  Or just too severe perhaps).

creativenikki

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 13
  • Age: 2014
  • Location: Chicago, IL
    • KW Collection
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #13 on: April 18, 2014, 09:32:46 AM »
I don't know how tough it is for you to get to these, but Clothes Mentor is a great chain for higher end used women's clothing:
http://www.clothesmentor.com/store/state_shop.php?abcode=NY

You can find designer purses that look brand new for less than they cost at TJ Maxx, for example. I find the store particularly good for shoes and purses but they have tons of clothes as well.  I'm also in finance and I'm partial to the clothes at White House Black Market for how they fit me and you can definitely find them at the Clothes Mentors here in Chicago.

Personally, I am fine with waiting to buy clothes when they are on sale and I'll buy used clothes, but I'm not about to start buying $12 sweaters from Kohl's just to save money because I will not look as good, I won't feel as confident, and it will negatively impact my career.  It sucks, but that's just how finance is in my expereince.  I have to look the part and I want to get as much money out of this place as quickly as I can so I can stop working...

mlipps

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1086
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #14 on: April 18, 2014, 03:23:55 PM »
Oooh White House Black Market, creativenikki? You're speaking my language. WHBM also has some pretty frequent clearances & I love the quality of their clothes.

Weedy Acres

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 280
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #15 on: April 18, 2014, 06:23:02 PM »
When I worked in the suited world, I guerilla shopped twice a year: late January and late July.  All the suits would be on sale at the mid-level department stores.  I'd get $300 suits for $100.

renaite

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 40
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Buffalo, NY
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #16 on: April 18, 2014, 07:00:17 PM »
You'll see this on the capsule wardrobe thread, but I like it so much I wanted to make sure to post it here too in case.

http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/search/label/capsule%20wardrobe

I've donated or sold for consignment about 60% of my clothing in the last 8 months and it's incredible. And now I get complimented on my style for the first time ever, plus it is really easy to get dressed in the morning because everything matches and goes great together. I definitely recommend trying one of these!

chasesfish

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3202
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Texas
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #17 on: April 19, 2014, 05:40:45 AM »
I thought my comments were going to get skewered about spending $1000-$1500 on clothes in a year if the job requires it.  There are just some jobs in finance where it isn't optional.  Its the same with certain types of law professions.

Its been a good investment for me, I've tripled my pay in eight years.

RetiredAt63

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 11404
  • Location: Eastern Ontario, Canada
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #18 on: April 19, 2014, 07:00:43 AM »
Also, although the specifics are a bit outdated, John T. Malloy's New Women's Dress for Success book gives good advice on which things should have money spent on them, and which things can be less.  He also gives good advice on how to identify quality.

NewStachian

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 218
  • Age: 36
  • Location: DC
    • VarsityFinances
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #19 on: April 19, 2014, 07:36:52 AM »
The root cause of your problem is you don't have the innate sense of fashion when it comes to constructing outfits. Very few do which is why most just buy expensive things. I know you're busy, but try to seek out some of your friends whose clothes you admire, and not just because they're pricey. You probably already know the ones who can reuse, accessorize, and tap into lower quality stuff and still look great. Pick their brain and ask for their help.

There's a lot of emphasis on this site on spending as little as possible, but as many have pointed out here, image is important in NYC, so you will have to spend more... but, the potential revenue upside is huge, so as long as you're still meeting your personal savings goals, there's nothing wrong with spending more on clothes. You're also not buying for convenience or luxury... you're buying because you're in a super-competitive work environment where labeling yourself as an outsider will get you nowhere fast.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2014, 07:43:33 AM by NewStachian »

socaso

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 540
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #20 on: April 19, 2014, 10:53:39 AM »
I agree with the comment about needing a friend's help. If you have a friend whose style you like then she would be the ideal person to ask for help. Otherwise I think a stylist would be a good investment for you. A good stylist should be able to come to your home, look through what you have and tell you what is working, what needs altering, and what you need to buy. Treat the whole thing as a learning experience. Once you have learned what quality clothes look like and how clothes should fit your body then shopping should be easier for you. Just make sure you take the time to interview a few people so you feel comfortable that you have a stylist who understands what your goals are.

payitoff

  • Guest
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #21 on: April 20, 2014, 10:58:24 AM »
When I was in the hotel industry,  I used to buy my suits at Nordstrom Rack, check out Jcrew factory website and last call neiman marcus, they are all up to 70% off retail price

Mr. Frugalwoods

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 296
  • Location: Greater Boston Area
    • Frugalwoods
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #22 on: April 20, 2014, 04:29:23 PM »
My wife has a career where it is important to look professional and reasonably on trend.  Her best discovery was a consignment store in a really wealthy suburb of Boston.

The women's business clothes there are amazing!  Great condition and easily 80% off retail.  Being a second hand shop, they are also open to haggling for an even steeper discount.

My wife wrote up her full set of tips but really it's all about finding a good second hand selection of business clothes.  Quality new clothes are really expensive and cheap new stuff falls apart.

I'd also humbly add that having me (frugal husband) accompany any thrifting trip is also a key to our success.  Another set of eyes allows you to fly through trying things on.  Sometimes I feel like a Roman emperor:  "Thumbs Up!"  "Thumbs Down!"  "Thumbs why-did-we-think-that-was-worth-trying-on!"

sheepgetlambs

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 43
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #23 on: April 20, 2014, 07:58:20 PM »
I shop at a second-hand store that has one area for high-end clothes. I doubt you'll find that in your area but, seriously, have you looked online to find second hand clothes in brands and sizes that fit you? Some women go up and down in weight a lot and others just love to buy new clothes. Be mustachian and take advantage of that. Start looking for the high quality stuff that's used. You should be able to find things half price or a little more and then have them professionally cleaned. You'll still be money ahead.

Katnina

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 163
  • Age: 38
  • Location: NYC
  • 33 & happily retired!
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #24 on: April 20, 2014, 10:46:23 PM »
Meadow, check out Housing Works thrift shops all over the city, and also look at the thrift shops and consignment stores on the upper east side (MSK thrift shop, Arthritis Foundation thrift shop, etc).  The consignment stores are more expensive than the thrift stores, but that's because you don't have to spend time searching for good stuff-the selection has already been curated. 
Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads Trading are good places to get trendy stuff that is good for dates (not very much professional stuff, but lots of cute shoes & bags).  Second Time Around is also a good option for handbags. 

Dresses are great because they make getting dressed in the morning easy-you just need a dress and a sweater or jacket and you are good to go.  It's better to spend a bit more money on stuff that fits really well and that you feel good in, as opposed to something that was cheap but doesn't make you feel like you are at your best.  I worked at a large investment bank for 3 years, and then at a hedge fund for 5.5 years.  Most of my clothes & bags came from thrift stores, consignment stores, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls.   You can do it! 

My best score was 3 pairs of Ferragamo boots at a consignment store on the upper east side for $200 for all 3.  I bought those boots 8 years ago & took great care of them while I had them.  Then, I passed them to my sister and they are still in great condition (I don't wear leather anymore & also spend every day in yoga pants & sneakers, and she has to dress up for work every day).

I agree that (while it seems silly to many), a great bag and a few pairs of great shoes,  help pull outfits together nicely.  If you are meeting with clients or superiors, you have to play the game & dress the part-that's just how it works in the finance industry.   
You can find great bags & shoes in really good condition at the consignment stores on the upper east side.  They are still expensive, but they are up to 75% off retail. And if you take good care of your shoes and bags, they will last you a very long time.  Find a good shoe repair place, and get your shoes resoled when needed. 

CommonCents

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2386
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #25 on: April 21, 2014, 03:57:18 PM »
My wife has a career where it is important to look professional and reasonably on trend.  Her best discovery was a consignment store in a really wealthy suburb of Boston.

Will you share the suburb/store?  Curious if it is near me.

StarryC

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 283
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #26 on: April 21, 2014, 05:20:11 PM »
I'd set a budget (high, maybe the $1,000 range) and call Nordstrom/ Macy's / Brooks Brothers or wherever you think is appropriate and ask to set up a personal shopping appointment.  Be assertive, tell them what your workplace is like, and tell them if you hate/ dislike things.  Fall might be a better time.  By fall, I mean late July/ Early August, because that is when the most office appropriate clothes are out.  This should be free.  3-4 hours on one day, then pick up the altered clothes a week later.  While there, pay attention to what they bring you as to fabric content, shape and size, and brand.   Then, if you do like things, you can shop on your own, online, later.

I'm not in NY, but I think, depending on your personality/ workplace, that 4 suits might be about right.  Especially if you have dress + skirt +  pants + jacket.  Probably 2 navy blues, 1 grey (dark), 1 black (but, you could probably change those based on your coloring and office).  That is 3 outfits per suit.

Then tops: Personally, I'd go with 9 tops per season (because the dresses are tops too).  I might be formulaic too- 5 tops for navy, 4 tops for grey/ black.  For this season and summer, I really like the Ravello top from Boden.  (cap sleeve, pleated neck, washable cotton/silk) They are kind of expensive, but by being washable, work appropriate, and easy to wear, I think it's worth it.




Mr. Frugalwoods

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 296
  • Location: Greater Boston Area
    • Frugalwoods
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #27 on: April 21, 2014, 05:55:13 PM »
My wife has a career where it is important to look professional and reasonably on trend.  Her best discovery was a consignment store in a really wealthy suburb of Boston.

Will you share the suburb/store?  Curious if it is near me.

http://www.revolvebelmont.com is the one I was referring to.  It's in downtown Belmont, just down the block from the craft beer cellar :-)

iris lily

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3334
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #28 on: April 21, 2014, 10:47:47 PM »
This is fascinating to me, I've never had to dress like this.

About jewelry: what's that expectation like in the financial world? On one of the Wedding boards where rings are often discussed, several posters repeatedly make the point that flashy engagement rings in the world of Big Law are frowned upon. Partners usually have understated diamond rings or simple bands.

frugalmom

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 89
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #29 on: April 22, 2014, 01:08:03 AM »
OP-In a former life I lived in your world.  I lived on the Upper East Side.

The most important thing is foundation garments.  Get professionally fitted (not at Victoria Secret) by multiple persons bring suits, sweaters, etc  Once you have a great foundation you can get a bit more margin of error on clothes and also you can learn your best styles.  Most women do not wear the correct bra.  You maybe between sizes.  This is worth getting correct.  A few bras costing $100 can be a good investment (learn how to properly launder).  If you need anything readjusted on the bottom get the right shape wear.  If you are still young enough that that is not a concern make certain no panty lines, ever! Buy the right fabric, go commando, wear a high cut g, no matter the route you choose no panty lines.  Also never underestimate the ability to use TASTEFUL lingerie under a suit to soften the look.  Hanro makes some wonderful tops.

Buy multiple pairs of stockings and wash them by hand.  If you are between sizes, go up.  Don't expect the nylons to make up for any shape wear issues.  Yes I know stockings are sort of optional at the moment.  Personally I would never attend a business meeting with bare legs (but I am admittedly quite pale, and not in that pretty English Rose way). YMMV

Brooks brothers is ok, but frequently over priced for the "look" and the quality is just ok for the price. I thought their shoes sucked. Also they cut multiple patterns at the same time.  This means one suit that is an 8 may have up to a one inch variation on another identical 8.  If you buy them often, make certain you try on each item before you leave the store. 

For women's suits, please note the list may be out of date:

Lord & Taylor (department store) including their house brand which is both inexpensive and single pattern cuts more in the bespoke tradition.  They do this because they have a loyal following and people don't want to have to relearn their size each season.

Nordstroms house brand

VonMaur (midwest) will tailor for free too.  They also have free shipping.  I made "phone friends" with a sales girl in Iowa and had her call me anytime any high end clothes were 75% off or more in my size.  I had a lot of really good solid colored lined wool Pendleton pants (not so popular now) that others were paying $250+ and I picked up for less than $50. I also got tons of camisoles and shirts to go under suits. They used to have much better suiting. I just looked at the site it is lacking.

Donna Karen (only full tailored)

Armani

Burberry-especially accessories (nothing like a cheap plain but well made suit, and a $175 shirt with a hint of nova check)

Escada (looks best on very tall very thin, I have too much torso and not enough leg but I do appreciate the suiting they make)

St. John (sometimes- too much knit and you look like a rich old lady)

Calvin Klein (sometimes they are great other seasons a complete fail)

Ralph Lauren (another hit or miss)

Talbots- basic, classic

The other thing you have to do is think outside the box.  A lot of the brands mentioned above have also ventured into the world of plus size.  So let's say you are a size 8 and you find a blazer you love that fit's like a glove.  You'd like a skirt to match but the store is sold out.  Walk on down to the plus size department and look for pants from the same fabric run.  You can then take the pants to a good seamstress and likely get 2 skirts made to match.  If the blazer was a good deal, it is worth it and nice to have 2 skirts.  There isn't much "style" in most lined suit skirts, but having different lengths, slits, or small details to the 2nd make it seem like you have 2 full suits. Also if you bloat, it's nice to have options that week so you could have the skirt tailored more generously. 

Another psychological trick of shopping.  Every woman will try and remain in the "regular" sized section or petite.  Often the first size sold of an item is an XL; however the X that is sitting in the plus sized section will remain and go to deep discount clearance, because women don't want to go to the "dark side".  Depending on your cut with some basic alterations these 90% off gems can be a good source of fabric. 

Once I had my basic suiting established 8 blue, black, or grey suits.  I then moved on to more "interesting" shirts. By changing necklines I could create new looks.  You may look at J. Peterman for tops.  AVOID the broomstick skirts, but you may find some tops that when paired with a simple skirt will make some nice summer looks. 

The other thing I will say is a stylish woman in NYC may not be your best source for help.  I got the best most honest fashion advise from gay men.  They were more honest to point out flaws, and which trends were a help to my flaws.  With women it always seemed more like a competition.  I knew if I was in Bloomingdales or Barney's with a man in the woman's department, he wasn't going to lie and tell me something looked poorly on me so he could buy it the next day.  You may need to find an older man who remembers when everyone wore a suit to work everyday.  Another option is a hair stylist. 

I also standardizes somethings in my life.  For example I only wear black shoes; many styles all black.  This made it easier to invest in the best quality shoes and handbags/briefcase.  I only wear real jewelry-less trendy.  I have some jewelry that is vintage and others timeless.  I know what I can wear with a plain black dress and get a compliment.  I also know that when I am done with it the jewelry still has value; don't worry I bought with good discounts.  The only other jewelry I wear is made my glass manufacturers: lalique, baccarat, orrefors, kosta boca, daum.  These have much lower entry prices for big splashes of color and it gave me a talking point with a billionaire; as if I was wearing art.  Since I didn't really have much in common to discuss from my personal life and this added a personal element.  After a while clients noticed I wore simple styles of clothes with jewelry and they often gave me gifts.  Harry Winston and Van Cleef and Arpels would not be in my drawer if a client had not gifted them to me.  Those will also be sold once I am certain my working life is complete (currently a SAHM).

There is also no shame in looking to the media and finding people who's style you'd like to emulate. Diane Keaton only wears black/white.  I don't think I have ever seen a picture of her where her clothes did not look great.  As I age, I find that type of simplification to be appealing.  Quality clothes, just less variations.  Your likely much younger than me so she may not be the best example for you, you'll have to find your own. 

Also as others have said the cast offs from the high net worth set are a good place to look.  If you can't find anything in NYC take LIRR for a ride and see if you can find any good consignment/thrift stores out that direction.  The summer wardrobes are often thinned there before returning to the city.  Winter wardrobes left in either upstate or in Connecticut.   If nothing else LI and CT are the land of cheap mani's and pedi's.

Best of luck

CommonCents

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2386
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #30 on: April 22, 2014, 07:55:26 AM »
This is fascinating to me, I've never had to dress like this.

About jewelry: what's that expectation like in the financial world? On one of the Wedding boards where rings are often discussed, several posters repeatedly make the point that flashy engagement rings in the world of Big Law are frowned upon. Partners usually have understated diamond rings or simple bands.

I'm honestly not sure this matters much anymore.  I worked in biglaw and while the oldest female partners had discrete rings, the mid to newer partners ranged, some with fairly large ones.  That said, I did notice in general that partners had more discrete rings than associates, which is ironic.  However, partners often had a statement piece or two (that was not wedding related, e.g. a necklace).

CommonCents

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2386
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #31 on: April 22, 2014, 07:56:06 AM »
My wife has a career where it is important to look professional and reasonably on trend.  Her best discovery was a consignment store in a really wealthy suburb of Boston.

Will you share the suburb/store?  Curious if it is near me.

http://www.revolvebelmont.com is the one I was referring to.  It's in downtown Belmont, just down the block from the craft beer cellar :-)

Thanks!  Looks like they have a branch out my way.  I'll have to check it out.

StarryC

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 283
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #32 on: April 22, 2014, 02:06:39 PM »
On the ring issue, I think it has to do with communicating something gender related: A large ring stands for a rich husband.  Women with rich husbands don't "have to" work in big law, they don't need the money and they might not be sufficiently golden handcuffed to the job.  That might not be the message you want to send if you are in fact hand cuffed to the job or interested in expressing your commitment to job over husband.   

Of course, to a mustachian, that small ring might really mean a commitment to life over the handcuffs, but they don't have to know that!

kite

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 596
Re: Business wear for women
« Reply #33 on: May 02, 2014, 05:28:46 PM »
This is fascinating to me, I've never had to dress like this.

About jewelry: what's that expectation like in the financial world? On one of the Wedding boards where rings are often discussed, several posters repeatedly make the point that flashy engagement rings in the world of Big Law are frowned upon. Partners usually have understated diamond rings or simple bands.

I see some really big rings on the trading floor.   Also, some very expensive shoes.   The thing about the rings is that they don't last.  It's almost a prelude to an exit. The ring,  no matter how big, isn't as visible from all directions.  Red soles are another matter.