A Sartorial Minefield: What To Wear To The Office
January 27, 2008
Every woman who has worked in an office has run into the types. The female boss who hasn't retired her 80s power suits and their overwhelming shoulder pads. The woman who makes her own dresses and resembles an escapee from a frilly Amish community. The questionably female co-worker who looks as if she shops in the men's section of Brooks Brothers and may be in the preliminary stages of a sex change. And, of course, the famously inappropriate slut-about-the-copying-machine who exposes so much leg and push-up bra that you wonder if she's secretly paid in tips.
As women rise to power and gain increased presence in the workplace, the clothing choices that they make become more defining and therefore more important. Women are forced to walk a tight-rope between dressing feminine enough to give their male counterparts comfort and yet masculine enough to be taken seriously in a boy's club atmosphere. Take, for example, the Presidential elections. How many jokes have you heard about Hillary Clinton's pant-suits? And how many critics have made snide remarks about her in regards to masculinity? How exactly would you dress if you were Hillary Clinton? Is there a right answer?
According to the Wall Street Journal, there are "unwritten rules" about alpha-females' attire. Their "appearance at work should be attractive but not alluring, feminine but not girly, strong but not severe." Most female execs were loathe to talk about their sartorial choices for fear of being accused of frivolity. In fact, they avoided the term fashion at all. However, St. John and knits seem to be a favorite of working women, the first lady, and Mrs. Clinton. But we would like to present some workable alternatives.
Bloomingdale's skirt suit mixes modern touches (the grommets and mandarin collar) with a classic pencil skirt ($109) and flattering cinched empire jacket ($199). The high cut of the jacket emphasizes the smallest area of the body while the deeper V-neck of the jacket balances out hips to create a well proportioned silhouette.
Bernard Zin's wide leg pants ($395) and mandarin collar jacket ($995) are clean, polished, and sophisticated. Fitting for any age, the simplicity of this suiting makes it perfect for any office setting.
According to Vogue, a sheath dress is fashionable office attire. Pair this David Meister ($268) with a tweed crop jacket for more conservative offices.
The boat neck and slightly flared skirt of this St. John Suit (jacket $1025, skirt $405) are very Audrey Hepburn meets Working Girl. Add some oversized pearl earrings and spectator pumps, and you'll easily be the most graceful boss to ever fire someone.