Dec 232010

The number one search term cluster leading googlers to this site is indicated by the title above.  And the number one choice of most American women for the evening holiday party is the LBD, aka Little Boring Dress.  So I challenged myself to produce a list of color alternatives.  If I were Great, Grand Fashionplate, the gathering would look like a Christmas tree; each woman would be an ornament.

Color possibilities:

  • white
  • metallic
  • one of many reds
  • purple
  • midnight blue
  • forest green
  • teal
  • royal blue
  • cobalt

On a scale of one to ten, identify your preference: blending in or standing out? 

If your preference is strongly “blending in” AND you look good in black, by all means wear it.  PLEASE — no cleavage and no thighs!  Oh, and strapless only works if it stays solidly in place.

Click on picture for more info about any of the dresses pictured. The first one is only plus size. Most of them are on sale!

Btw, the hero caught me building this post and offered to buy the paisley one for me for Christmas.  🙂

Dec 222010

Recently I was checking my referral stats, something I haven’t done in well over a year, and noticed a rather surprising cluster of search terms – having to do with Sarah Palin, and specifically her legs.  Riddle me this:  what do googlers expect to find here when they click on over from that search?

(Since I get the majority of my news from internet and radio, I confess I had not noticed the resemblance between Christine O’Donnell and Sarah Palin.  Nor do I make much of it.  IMO, they are both sporting a look which works for their physicality, their personality, and their politicality.  lol)

I confess, I have wondered who Sarah Palin’s stylist was and what her wardrobe philosophy might be.  So I looked it up.

Forbes published an article last December, which included the following advice from stylist Lisa Kline:

Edit Your Closet

The first thing Kline does is go through a new client’s existing wardrobe to see what’s worth keeping. “I look for quality rather than quantity,” she says. Get rid of “anything that looks worn–anything with pulls or pilling,” Kline says. Dump poor-quality pieces, too. Hang on to good basics, such as tops in solid colors or simple prints, cashmere sweaters and “fine suiting, even if it’s not in style right now,” Kline says. “You can fix it with tailoring.”

Of even greater interest is the NYTimes article which explains, from the stylist’s point of view, how the “wardrobegate” incident unfolded.  Please, before you leave any politically-charged comments here, read the article.  Then consider the following question:

How prepared could you be in three days to look respectable in the national spotlight?

“The campaign advisers realized the kids, everybody, needed to be dressed,” Ms. Kline said. “This was a family that was about to stand before the world, and they just came with their everyday-life clothes.”

With less than 24 hours before the Palins’ national debut on the tarmac, it was decided that the luxury retailer Neiman Marcus, which has a store in Minneapolis, offered the best available selection for the circumstances. Arrangements were made for a private early-morning trip.

Neiman Marcus opened for Ms. Kline and her assistant at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, she said, and the two split up and spent a rushed 90 minutes or so gathering what they needed. Ms. Palin and her family were not there; nor was anyone from the campaign. Instead, the two stylists relied on a couple of salesclerks and a store manager.
“There was no conversation. There was no chitchat. It was just, ‘We need two pairs of pants in size yadada,’ ”

The previous year’s NYtimes article included comments by stylist-to-the-stars Leslie Fremar indicating that the fee charged for stylist and other services, including tailoring and an assistant, was not out of line.

“At first glance, it seems high,” Ms. Fremar said. “I think most people don’t realize what it costs for an independent contractor to do these services. They think it’s just clothes.”

Hopefully, this gives Sarah Palin stalkers something to look at. No pictures though.

Nov 092010

For your amusement, and no other reason, I offer this small polemic essay, which I was required earlier in the quarter to write.   I enjoyed it, and hoped you might too!  Find this post and others on modesty at The Modesty Blog Carnival at Is This Modest.  🙂

Pardon Me, Your Underwear is Showing

Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but shouldn’t anyone who can hold a job also be able to tell the difference between a skirt and a slip? A blouse and a bra? Trousers and tights? How is it that women today attain professional status without being able to distinguish between workwear and underwear? Like the proverbial emperor, they have been hoodwinked by enterprising clothiers; nevertheless, their colleagues see their nakedness.

That women enjoy men’s ignorance is demonstrated by their indifference. If a male co-worker declared her “cami” not a shirt, today’s professional woman might respond condescendingly that it is the style these days. Or perhaps she’d just smile, pat him on the head, and ignore the comment altogether.

Seemingly some basics of interpersonal communication are being overlooked in many offices. Clothing conveys a message. Many men, and not a few women, do not speak What Not to Wear. Professional women wearing underwear as business clothing run the very real risk of being misunderstood.

Guys, why not just be honest? Walk right up to that colleague and say, “Excuse me, did you know you forgot your shirt?”

Ladies, at least have the decency to be embarrassed when you realize you’re not wearing any clothes.

Sep 102010

Consider the wisdom expressed by my friend Kyle, a substitute teacher studying for her Masters:

Much as I would like to dress as a hippie, I dress respectable when I am teaching. I am amazed at how many teachers sport jeans and sweatshirts(sometimes principals). It is too hard to get respect as it is and I feel it is my duty to provide as much of a positive role model as possible. On the brighter side, in one of my classes someone brought up that she always wears colorful clothing to interest students. I thought that was interesting. It explains why sometimes I see teacher dressing like they live in Hawaii.

from facebook comments on my post about Chase Bank’s dress code. Clearly, it makes a different with what age group you are working, but she makes a good point about establishing respect.

The Cliff-notes on achieving an authoritative ensemble:

  • avoid leisure elements
  • adopt an upper layer:  blazer, cardigan, tailored vest
  • choose high authority color combos:  high contrast (such as navy/white), neutrals (gray, taupe, ivory, and so on), or monochromatic (but probably not a playful color, like orange)
  • use serious, coordinated accessories.  Save the fun stuff for after your authority is well-established

Establishing yourself in a new setting offers a great opportunity to match your visual impression to your unique personality.  My rule of thumb has been to dress scrupulously in my own unique idiom for the first three weeks of any new commitment.  After that I loosen up.  🙂

Jun 302010

There is a Chase branch in our neighborhood Fred Meyer.  As I have never been a WaMu customer, this does not cause any particular emotional reaction for me.  I have noticed, recently, what they wear.

You see, Chase, as many of you may already be aware, has a strict dress code.  And in my mind, that’s a good thing.  Does anyone else remember the days when bank tellers dressed professionally?  Over the past several years, I have been increasingly appalled by the varieties of lingerie and other leisurewear showing up in banks.  Honestly, though, the workers themselves can hardly be blamed; they just don’t know better.  But Chase is teaching them.

For one, Chase employees are required to wear Chase logo clothing available through their apparel program.  And then, they are provided with guidelines on how to do so professionally:

  • shirts must be buttoned up.
  • no visible undergarments, with the one preppy exception:  the white crew-neck tee.  (Actually, they also allow a tee or turtleneck in the same color as the shirt also.)
  • shirts have to fit!
  • the employee may wear any color trouser or skirt as long as it is black.  Cut, fit, and styling must be simple and professional.
  • and more.

Based on their job, Chase employees fall into one of two “Apparel Categories”: classic (business casual) and professional (formal business).

When I spot one of these people in the Fred Meyer parking lot, they catch my eye – for a good reason.  They look put together.  Ironically, their shirts are the same color as the Fred Meyer polo worn by the cashiers; since I am acquainted with a number of the cashiers, I notice the color first.  But then I notice the fit.  In a tailored shirt constructed to fit the feminine figure and black trousers, it’s little wonder the young ladies look, well, business casual.  And the young men?  Chase blue shirt, black sweater vest and trousers.

Tellers working for other banks would do well to take notice and put together their own “classic” look.  More importantly, companies wishing to inspire client confidence would do well to consider the impact the appearance of their employees has on their corporate image.

( faqs for the Chase Apparel program, accessed June 30, 2010.  no affiliation.  also: chase_dressguidelines.doc.)

Jan 082010

When Duchesse mentioned cashmere sweaters + wool trousers as her winter go-to formula (a formula I love!), the concept lodged in my mind, in the vicinity of a collection of thoughts about architects, engineers, and other technical professionals.  Professions Mella DP describes as follows:

That often means having to demonstrate credibility in the executive conference room and on the plant floor on the same day. Dressing in a way that works for both situations is tricky. It’s easier for the guys – most men can wear chinos and a polo shirt and and sturdy shoes and look decent and functional (if a little dull). Most women in a similar outfit would look like an Applebees hostess.

But most women dressed in a cashmere sweater and wool trousers would look conventional and context-appropriate, Mella DP’s words, my opinion.  (Hey, I realize not everyone can wear wool.  I figure if you’re reading this, you’re smart enough to figure out a wool alternative that works for you.  If that’s something you’d like to discuss, we certainly can.)  Perhaps it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, any ensemble worn in a business context should be decipherable by both men and women.  Much of what is popular for women is simply not understood by the men they work with.

Since we haven’t had any illustrations around here for a long time:

iconiconiconiconiconicon(Ugh!  Now I remember why we haven’t had illustrations for so long!  This took me all afternoon!) 

Dec 012009

Lately I’ve been reading, researching, and meditating on alot of detail concerning appearance and perception.  I admit it, alot of these thoughts initiate from comments to me; comments that show that they are unable to see my interior reality.  (Perhaps this feeling that nobody gets me is indicative of a mid-life crisis? lol)

At any rate, while there is alot of information here on the blog already, there is still TONS I haven’t figured out.  But I’m feeling ambitious, so I’m delving into researching the connection between certain visual elements and specific perceptions.  Leave a comment if you have a clue.  And I thought I’d begin with something relevant to career women, because I love them too!

Credibility: attitude toward a source of communication held at a particular time by a message receiver. It consists primarily of expertise, trustworthiness, and good will.  (Dynamics of Persuasion)

Another source put it slightly differently:   Expertise, Trustworthiness, Similarity, and Physical Attractiveness (I suppose the author of a textbook may find physical attractiveness to be too loaded a topic to address it).

Bernie Burson, Image Consultant, in her sidebar on Psychological Dressing, says:

When you receive your personal color palette, you learn that wearing your eye-related color makes you appear sincere and honest and wearing skin tones makes you seem friendly and approachable.

So, if credibility is a three-legged stool consisting of expertise, trustworthiness, and good will; wearing my recommended simple color palette (based on your own coloring) will get you two legs (and physical attractiveness as a bonus).  Not enough.  Establishing expertise, I suspect, is done through visual cues specific to the industry.  Even if the industry is raising children. 

What are the visual cues to expertise in your field?

Jul 102009

Mom wondered what we’d tell Sarah Palin about the length of her skirts.

Did anyone watch the resignation speech? We couldn’t find a good picture; Mom, I think, thinks her skirt was much too short; I think, at minimum, her ensemble offended the golden mean proportion, looking boxy (as explained by Imogen at this link).


What would you like to tell Palin about the length of her skirts?  Which of the four shown here do you like best?

I’ll leave my answer in the comment section.

Mar 032009

My mom requested that I update this post, listing y’alls comments next to each outfit.  This may take awhile … 

Because this is a conversation, I like to let you know what I’m thinking.  And right now I’m still thinking about personas and perceptions, so I thought it would be fun to do another fashion lab like last week’s, only this time concerning office attire.

Here’s what I was thinking we’d do.  For each look presented, please tell us

if you saw this person in your office (or your husband’s, mother’s, or whomever’s office), for what purpose would you think she was there?

He hee.  This should be fun! (If you want to specify what kind of office, feel free.)

  1. icon
    In a word:  unambitious.
    Is there because she thinks it her duty to contribute to her family’s income, Newly hired perky Midwesterner working in an entry-level job in an accounting division, underpaid catalog model secretly yearning to wear something better in the next shoot, applicant for an accounting job, “I’m not conventionally ambitious – never after your corner office but liks to look ‘nice’”, 30+ individual contributor, who doesn’t particularly care to get ahead, Administrative assistant, probably a temp.

  2. icon
    iconOverall impression:  productive, persuasive, and professional.
    A producer (as in, a professional who does whatever work her business casual industry does), Mid-level sales representative who often has to take clients out for lunch and a round of golf, also an underpaid catalog model secretly yearning to wear something better on the next shoot , the only female in a sales presentation team, “I’m friendly and have an ‘open door’ policy”, Friendly manager-level or director-level professional, works in marketing.

  3. iconicon
    Impression: Fashionable, but possibly immature.
    Intern, Fashion magazine intern, (yet another) underpaid catalog model secretly yearning to wear something better in the next shoot, counselor, (what she means to communicate by this outfit is) “I’m modern and fashion conscious, but trying to get ahead at work”, Sales/marketing/communications – not taken seriously and doesn’t know why, someone whose outfit just needs a minor tweak or two to make it more appropriate for the office.

  4. icon
    iconOverall impression given by this outfit:  creative and necessarily functional (or funky?)
    Single or divorced woman in her 50s who works because she has to, Works on a movie set or shoots street photography, delivering requested media material, “I’m creative and funky and you need to appreciate this”, Physician with administrative duties, someone working in a creative industry.  This is one look, in my opinion, which could easily be misunderstood, although that is less likely in black.

  5. icon
    iconSomehow this outfit manages to convey upscale leisure
    Top boss’s stay at home wife who stopped by for lunch or whatever; Country club administrative person, receptionist or similar job; daughter of co-worker, coming for $; “I’m doing this to fill in time, I don’t need money (we have so much already)”; Art director / creative director; another person whose outfit just needs a minor tweak or two to make it more appropriate for the office or yet another underpaid catalog model. This could be an effective look for a business casual office.

  6. icon
    iconNever, ever wear something which could be mistaken for pajamas to the office (with the possible exception of the case where appropriate office attire is scrubs)
    In the office because they haven’t figure out how to make her retire, Model on shoot for a mattress/sleep-number ad, canvasing for social cause, “I hate suits and dressing up for work”, Boss’s wife (SAHM) meeting him for lunch, Confused telecommuter, since these are clearly pajamas. There’s a fine line between a casual matched set and sleepwear.

  7. icon
    iconNot advisable.
  8. If, in your understanding, this outfit constitutes real clothes, you might think the wearer in the office for something like: Fund-raising for the arts, PR agency designer or architect (has to work late several times a week), some other worker in a creative-type industry, a dental hygienist, or bringing pizza. On the other hand, this outfit has huge potential to not be understood AT ALL, as evidenced by the statement, “I slept at my boyfriends last night, my life is wild!” and my sister’s total inability to imagine who would wear that.

  9. icon
    iconNot respected (or respectable)
    Receptionist, or perhaps low-level marketing assistant, Sales person in an auto showroom, counselor headed out for date night, “Hold onto your husband at the office christmas party”, Marketing manager on her way out for a hot date, someone in a creative industry who isn’t necessarily communicating her value through her appearance. Or another underpaid catalog model secretly (embarrassed and) yearning to wear something better for the next shoot. This look is for nightlife.

  10. icon
    iconImpression: inexperienced and boring (not your best look if you’re serious about your career).
    Is there to get the boring job done in the most proficient way possible, Technical sales representative with significant bargaining power, counseling or psychology intern, “Not sure why I don’t get promoted, even though I dress really well, people don’t take me seriously”, boring director level or wanna be, Interviewing for entry-level professional position, since nobody with an actual income should be caught dead in such a cheap looking suit.

  11. icon
    iconArtistic, stylish, and powerful

    Fashion consultant brought in to train the office how to dress business casual; owns her business, maybe a caterer or an event organizer; happy, but underpaid catalog model, secretly hoping to be able to keep the outfit (okay, I made that up); secretary/receptionist in a counseling office; “I want to be a curator at a gallery”; Fashion executive, another professional whose outfit just needs a minor tweak or two to make it perfect.

  12. All outfits from, simply because their system is easy for me to use.

Jan 312009

green-dress-scarf-boots.JPG LBD = Little Boring Dress

I know we’re a bit behind, but Spokane was closed to a winter weather emergency on the date my hero’s office had scheduled their holiday party.  Although the venue changed from the Country Club to Barrister Winery, and the time from just before Christmas, my outfit remained the same:

  • dark green satiny shirt dress
  • brown suede boots
  • skinny brown belt
  • enormous gold/purple paisley scarf

What can I say? Sunset magazine says, in an article this month mentioning Barrister Winery (which is a big room with brick walls, wood floors, and exposed beams), Spokane’s dress code is LBD for the symphony and fleece and boots everywhere else. *chuckle* Sad, but true. This outfit combines the idioms.

I never gave my outfit a second thought for the entire evening, including not being too hot or too cold.  🙂

What’s your favorite LBD alternative?