Wednesday, July 1, 2009

WASP Up Your Work Clothes - On A, Dare I Say, Budget?

One of the wonderful people who read this blog, to whom I am so grateful, wrote me and asked how she could "WASP up" her wardrobe for a new job as a consultant. On a moderate budget. Below is my suggestion for a jeans-friendly office.

If you needed to up the formality a bit, change the jeans to black wool pants and wear a white, black, or french blue shirt.

The overall principles are as follows:
  • Shoes and bag have to be the best you can possibly afford. It is OK if you carry the same bag and wear essentially the same shoes every day, as long as they are good. Good means minimal logo-ing, top quality leather, and clean design. Marc Jacobs, Kate Spade, and Prada all offer these kinds of bags. My reader found the shoes in the Polyvore above herself - not a name brand but a great instance of low heels, black, and a wee hint of fashion in the toe ornament.
  • Jewelry should be simple, and look like you inherited it from your grandmother. Or grandfather. Diamond studs, gold posts, pearls, vintage men's watches. Good fakes are OK. 30 years ago that might not have been have been true, but even we can change with the times. Thank you Barbara Bush. And Michelle O.
  • Clothing should be classic, in the High WASP traditional colors of navy, khaki, black, gray, and white. Not to say you can't wear other colors, but these are absolutely safe. Choose pieces when you can instantly identify their category , i.e. a trench, trousers, t-shirt, vs. asymmetrical jacketish thingie and tunicky shirtish thingie and cropped capriish thingies. Classic clothing items can now be bought at low-cost retailers without sacrificing impact.
  • Makeup should be simple but present. Skin care is critical - you want to look neat and clean at all times. Hair should be shiny or glossy or braided. Somehow managed but not tormented.
If you are thinking, "This doesn't sound like that much fun!", you are probably right. It's not about fun. It's about looking as though you subscribe to the High WASP Code of Conduct, as though you are serious and to be taken seriously, as though you will follow through on your job responsibilities and probably respect authority as you do so.

If you are thinking, "This would not work in my office!", you are also probably right. This isn't the answer for how to dress at work. It's the answer for how to "WASP up" your work wardrobe. For some lines of work, this is appropriate. Corporate work. Financial work. Work where you have to spend your time with a lot of men. For some lines of work, it's not appropriate. I imagine a graphic designer could only show up dressed like this if she was going for ironic, i.e. "High WASP" (quote unquote), vs. simply High WASP. And she'd probably want to wear mauve Bensimons or something to make the point. But in that world, I'm pretty close to clueless.

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35 Comments:

Anonymous Maya said...

Love your advise. As a matter of fact your composition is very much my style, although I'm not the corporate or 9 to 5 type.

July 2, 2009 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger Kristen said...

Love this. I wear those colors quite often, though I do throw in pastels every now and then. I think I definitely ascribe to the jewelry policy -- every day I wear my wedding rings, a watch, a simple silver bracelet, a simple silver necklace, and pearl studs. I adore pearls. I almost never wear anything dangly, even for going out.

What about types of fabrics? Cotton, linen, wool for the most part?

July 2, 2009 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Princess Freckles said...

At the library where I work, the classic stlye works. Thank God! Its all I own!

July 2, 2009 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger Dani @ Weddings Fresh said...

you have to have a well made trench. it's just what every girl needs :) happy 4th, lady LPC!

July 2, 2009 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger Little Bow Prep said...

Lovely post!

I like the trench :)

July 2, 2009 at 3:57 PM  
Blogger class-factotum said...

"Classic clothing items can now be bought at low-cost retailers without sacrificing impact."

Also check consignment stores, thrift shops, esp. Junior League thrift, and eBay for used high-quality clothes. I saw some Ferragamo shoes (samples! never worn!) at the Humane Society thrift store for $50. I considered cutting off the sides of my feet and stuffing the toes to convert my 8.5 mediums to fit the 10AAAs.

Well-made clothes and shoes will last, so buying used, if you can get over the ick factor (and how is it any different from pulling something out of your sister's closet, really?), is a great way to get nice stuff at a nice price.

July 2, 2009 at 5:29 PM  
Blogger The Cape House said...

I love that trench. I just bought that water bottle and have been very pleased so far. I always find my navy skirt works great on days where I need (or want) to say WASP.

July 2, 2009 at 5:56 PM  
Blogger Beth Dunn said...

I'm all about the shoes. The rest can be the basics. Have a good day! xoxo

July 3, 2009 at 5:34 AM  
Anonymous Maureen at IslandRoar said...

This is good solid advice. Even if one's daily environment doesn't require it, I keep impressing on my kids; there are some things you should just know.
thanks.

July 3, 2009 at 6:17 AM  
Blogger Vodka Mom said...

now THAT was great!!

I'm off to scour my jewelry box for grandma's trinkets....

July 3, 2009 at 6:58 AM  
Blogger Hannah said...

Oh the wee jacket. I love. Now someone has to tell those of us who dress like Lisa Birnbach how to look like normal people.

July 3, 2009 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

Hmm. The De-WASPing of a wardrobe, in other words. I believe I will have to ask my cool stylish sister in Berkeley. BTW, have you seen what Ms. Birnbach herself looks like nowadays? http://janefonda.com/tag/lisa-birnbach/.

July 3, 2009 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger inkOBSESSIONdesigns said...

I love, love, love this! I so agree with minimal logo-ing. The obvious logos make me crazy!!

July 3, 2009 at 8:47 PM  
Blogger LPC said...

Fabrics - we used to say "no polyester" with a shudder. But the chemistry of clothing has gotten so advanced that at this point it should just FEEL like natural fabric even if it isn't. Should NOT make you sweat more than usual. As for used clothing, I agree it's a great habit to get into. I myself can't get past the ick factor, but that's just me and a certain princess and the pea problem.

July 4, 2009 at 8:43 AM  
Blogger Her Preppiness said...

Love that advice.

July 4, 2009 at 5:43 PM  
Blogger EliandMe said...

I followed your advice, I WASPed up for an interview, and I felt ... fantastic. Grown up, confident, and dare I say it, sexy (in a sort of understated, classy way obviously). Thank you x

July 5, 2009 at 2:02 PM  
Blogger LPC said...

Yay for Eli's mama! Power is sexy. Men have known it for centuries. You made my night.

July 5, 2009 at 5:06 PM  
Blogger Duchesse said...

Brooks Brothers have outlet stores stuffed with this kind of clothing, good quality. Buy a few pieces off season for 40-60% off, and you are set.

September 11, 2009 at 7:07 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

I agree, Duchesse. In fact I bought my daughter a Brooks Brothers shirt, on sale, for her starting work wardrobe.

September 11, 2009 at 7:56 AM  
Anonymous Erin@TheLocalsLoveIt said...

This is very useful for me. I do work at an ad agency (AE not graphic designer). I prefer a pretty classic looke (kahki pants, white t-shirt) but find it hard to "dress up" and still feel comfortable.

October 26, 2009 at 1:11 PM  
Anonymous how to bowling said...

I'm so interesting about shoes and bags, you talk about the kins of bags of Marc Jacobs and Prada I love all of the, they are so classy and fashion like Wasp Up, congratulations for the good clothes!

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