Help me figure out what to wear to be business casual!
February 28, 2010 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Please help a 19 year old female dress business casual.

So I'm in school right now and I have to give a presentation in a few weeks and the professor instructed us to basically dress business casual.

I honestly have very little idea what constitutes this, and even less idea of how to achieve it.

My biggest issue is shoes.
I have rather big feet for a girl (size 10 woman's) and I don't think they look good in flats where most of the top of the foot is exposed. Maybe I've just been wearing the wrong socks with them when I try them on? I honestly don't know.

I'm not good in stiletto-esque heels, but a flat-bottomed high heel is workable for me.

Most of the shoes I've seen that don't completely expose my giant feet and don't have terribly uncomfortable heels are SUPER ugly.

So basically I want a good looking comfortable shoe that makes my giant feet not look monstrous and that is versatile enough that I can wear it whenever I need to dress professionally or business casual or whatever for the next few years or however long a very infrequently used shoe should last.

I think I know what is appropriate for pants. I don't really do skirts much. Black pants are okay, but are there other styles of pants that are business casual?

I have no idea what a business casual shirt is for a female however. I really need someone to give me a few examples or something. I've tried looking online a bit but those are all examples of.. well.. older people.

If it helps with recommendations, as I said my shoe is size ten, and I am 5'4" and about 140 pounds. Most of my weight is on the lower half of my body but I also have a kinda big bone structure.

Thank you!
posted by tweedle to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (37 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Khakis or slacks or a skirt made out of similar material (not denim), polo shirt or button-down or a nice sweater, some kind of shoes that aren't sneakers.

I would say that some sort of oxford would give you a semi-dressy shoe while still being a lace-up. I'm not especially concerned about attractive shoes usually but I've always worn my Docs to work and nobody's ever blinked, but there are less clunky-looking shoes that would certainly fit.

Your professor most likely just wants to make sure you all look tidy and not distractingly overdressed or unkempt.
posted by gracedissolved at 1:20 PM on February 28, 2010

For shoes, what about something like these?

For pants, khakis are always good, even if they're not always flattering (no pleats! trust me on this one . . .). For shirts, try polos or button-downs with subtle patterns (not plaid) or even turtle necks. Sweaters work, too. Any of these can be paired with a cardigan or a structured jacket.

You probably won't find a ton of examples of business casual wear for younger people because there aren't a lot of younger people in positions where they're required to wear it. The key is to wear things that aren't too loud, that are neat and not totally worn out, and that don't show too much skin. As much as I sometimes hate What Not to Wear, it's a good show to watch for somewhat stylish (well, as stylish as you can get with this stuff) business casual wear.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:23 PM on February 28, 2010

Regarding shoes: where are you? Is it winter, and are you limiting yourself to shoes that could conceivably be worn outside?

I wear 9.5 D width in women's shoes, something like 8 or 8.5 in men's. In the grand scheme of things, our feet are really not monstrously large, but I feel the same way in flats. I like Easy Spirit for carrying lots of wider shoes in a reasonable range and for stocking lots of low- or mid-height heels. Something like this, maybe? If you can find them on sale, the price is right for someone who doesn't have to dress up often.
posted by tantivy at 1:27 PM on February 28, 2010

for the shoe - maybe go more towards loafers - something like this or this. if you do want to go with something that shows more of the top of the foot, start looking into trouser socks, like this or this or this (i have the argyles and they are seriously one of the more comfy trouser socks i've ever worn).

for clothes in general, this thread might help. i started dressing business casual at 17 and my suggestions made me look presentable, but not old (at least, i think so).
posted by nadawi at 1:29 PM on February 28, 2010

Browsing through Corporette should help you with an idea of business casual. In terms of tops, generally a button-down shirt, a nice sweater, a silky blouse and cardigan all can meet the definition of business casual. In terms of pants, black slacks, gray slacks, pinstripe, camel, etc can all be business casual. For pants, it's more about the fit and the material than the color, although generally you want to keep it neutral.

Here's a post on button-down shirts.

Here's an example of the type of silky blouse I'm talking about.

Here's a sweater I would wear with slacks and consider it bus. casual.

As for shoes, I'm also a size 10, but basically wear some version of Cole Haan ballet flats all the time, so I can't help you out on that front. (Except you mention socks with the flats? I never wear socks with mine, but maybe you're talking about a different kind.)
posted by wuzandfuzz at 1:29 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Boots are good. You can wear them with all kinds of outfits (pants, dresses, skirts), and they look good flat or with a chunky heel.

Black pants are the most versatile; you can also wear them on a night out with a dressy top (and those boots).

Women can get away with wearing fitted t-shirts instead of shirts, and they are MUCH easier to wear. They are much more forgiving of different women's shapes and come very cheaply in a variety of colours. Plus, again, you can wear them in non-work situations, with jeans, etc.
posted by emilyw at 1:32 PM on February 28, 2010

Pretty much everything you see here on Reitman's website is business casual. (Except for maybe the last three styles with the scoop neck t-shirts.)

As for shoes, maybe something like this. And here are some socks. This should be enough to give you some ideas and get you started.
posted by foxjacket at 1:33 PM on February 28, 2010

I'm going to use Banana Republic as an example, mainly because I have the same body type as you and I have good luck with most of their clothes.

I know you don't have as much trouble with pants, but here are some good ones if you are looking for some. Pants: Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, Type 4.

I just got this top in black and it's awesome. If you look good in one of the other colors, you could match the top with a pair of black pants. This one and this one look cute too.

If you want to go with the button-down shirt look, this or this would work. Just pick a color that works well with your skin tone.

If you want another option, pair a shell, like this one or this one from Ann Taylor Loft, with a cardigan, like this one or this one.

I don't really have that many shoe suggestions, since I have weird feet and I'm on a perpetual quest to find the pair that doesn't make my feet hurt. But: I have size 9 feet and my friend has size 11 and these shoes from Aldo look good on both of us. They took a while to break in but I can wear them during business casual events without pain.
posted by pecknpah at 1:39 PM on February 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

You shouldn't really be wearing socks with the sort of shoes you describe (ballet flats, if I have you right)--if you are, they should be thin trouser socks that look more like hose than anything else. I do wear stockings or tights with ballet flats sometimes.

Pants should be made of khaki or a similar material. Denim doesn't cut it. Make sure they're the right length (brushing the tops of your shoes) and not too tight. Any of the pants listed under hip-slung would be fine (assuming proper fit), as would the first row under curvy.

It's hard to go wrong with a good button-down shirt. Gap usually has some nice ones that aren't too expensive. Avoid both overtightness and (in this case) overlooseness--I hate having to worry if I'm flashing people when I bend over.

I (26-year-old woman) tend to shop at the Gap for stuff like this. A lot of their stuff is pretty versatile and can be dressed up or down, it's decent quality, and it's not too-too expensive.

Light, natural makeup and fairly minimal jewelry is good. The rule of thumb I've heard is one chunky piece, if that's your style.
posted by athenasbanquet at 1:43 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have size ten feet, and I wear flats all the time. Don't stress out about it, no one else thinks your feet look monstrous (although if you wear some of the giant, rubber soled black shoes people linked above... well, I wouldn't wear them, since I usually find that smaller, sleeker shoes make my feet look smaller). In my opinion (and I'm 20, for it's worth), those rubber soled Doc Marten style shoes don't look very professional, and Easy Spirit and Clark's give off a pretty strong mom vibe to me.

If you want something nice, go to a nice department store (Nordstrom or Macy's) and look around their shoes for a simple black leather flat. Expect to pay $70-$120. If you don't want to spend a lot, you can also find plain black flats at Target or random mall stores for as little as ten bucks (although they'll pretty much be made of cardboard). If you live near a Nordstrom Rack, Nordstrom's outlet-ish store, they often have a really good selection of nice shoes in larger sizes, although it can be hit or miss. It's pretty much where I get all of my shoes, though.

As for clothes, plain black or khaki pants- flat front, as straight leg as you can get (boot cut is less in style now, and definitely don't get 'flared'), and ideally made out of a nicer material- think wool, not synthetics. Banana Republic is, from what I understand, a solid place to find pants like this, although they're a little expensive for me. A simple button-up shirt, with maybe a pretty cardigan or sweater over it, and you're done. You can also wear a silky blouse with a sweater over it. J. Crew has a lot of solid basics with some flair which keeps them from looking overly momish or stuffy. Banana Republic is, again, a good place to find this stuff, if you're willing to spend a little money.
posted by MadamM at 1:50 PM on February 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Actually, just do what peknpah said. Basically buy what she linked and you'll be golden.
posted by MadamM at 1:55 PM on February 28, 2010

For the past several years, all of my favorite business casual shoes have been Campers. They're a little expensive, but they're extremely comfortable, they're versatile, and if you pick the right pair, they look professional without creating that awful "Grown in a vat in the temp agency's back room" look.

Check 'em out. (WARNING: Flash and automatic sound).
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:03 PM on February 28, 2010

You sound just like me, but I'm 21.

I stick to black pants and button up shirts. Like this or this. Those are plain, but I have a few with stripes or nice, quality patterns.

If it's cold I'll wear a nice sweater (usually just a black one) or a cardigan over it.

I have size 9 feet. I usually wear a dressy ankle boot like that. They're not very cute, but they're non-noticeable, practical, and professional enough to get the job done. Especially under pants.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:04 PM on February 28, 2010

Response by poster: This is a bit of side question that proves my fashion incompetence, but how do I figure out which colors look good with my skin tone? I mean I know super light pastels aren't so good but that's all I'm sure about. I have dark brown (not quite black but almost, maybe a few shades lighter) hair, brown eyes, and I guess light olive skin but I'm not sure about that. And to make it more confusing my face tends to be lighter and redder than the rest of my skin.
posted by tweedle at 2:07 PM on February 28, 2010

Safe women's business casual is slacks or a simple skirt with a non-sports top and non-sports/laced/flipflop shoes. This outfit would be BC, but button-down shirts only look good on a fraction of the population. You might choose a twinset or simple shell shirt and blazer instead.

If you were going out in the real work world, I'd say it would matter more, and would make a distinction between the industries in which khakis or polos are okay on women, but I think what your professor is trying to say is: make an effort. From my instructor friends, I get the impression that this has to be said or people will present in flip-flops.

Just about every woman ought to have one pair of black slacks (which you can acquire at any department store, or even Target if you're on a tight budget - just look for some fabric with some shape and swing, not chino/cargo material), one pair of simple 1" heels like these, and a twinset or blousy top like this. Department stores (Macy's, Dillard's, whatever's in your area) are a pretty good place to find something that will fit your needs for tops.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:10 PM on February 28, 2010

I work in the healthcare and educational industries in the Northeast and we are required to dress business casual. I often let college students come and do observations, so I often see what they are wearing. Business casual in my field means no jeans, no backsides showing when you bend over, no cleavage. I got a one hour lecture in grad school about what to wear, which at the time I thought ridiculous, but then I saw what my cohorts were wearing (tank tops, mini skirts, flip flops) I realized why we had the lecture. The general rule of thumb I follow is dress like the person that is your boss (or in this case, your professor). Your industry will dictate what is appropriate, so if you have a major see what others in your chosen field are wearing. But as a rule, it's always better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.

A wide leg pant might balance our your feet if you're feeling particularly self-conscious about them. I own variations on these pants from the Gap and they are comfortable and look a bit more dressy than khakis. Paired even with pointy toed kitten heels you'll look stylish and the wide leg will balance the feet. The Hip Slung option from the Gap would also work very well. I love mine.

I'd steer away from polo shirts, but that's just my opinion. To me, they are the domain of counter clerks at Best Buy. Button down shirts or blouses or even a well fitting t-shirt paired with a cardigan are good choices.

Be aware of cleavage if that's an area of concern. Test out the outfit in front of a mirror before your presentation. Bend over as if you dropped your pen. Is anything showing? Is anything pulling? Camisoles can do wonders to keep your chest and your back covered. Do not wear a thong, if there is ANY chance of it showing wear a long camisole an tuck it into your pants. (A woman doing an internship where I worked was wearing a thong that said "Dirty" on the back that clearly showed when she sat the floor with her toddler patient. The parent, watching through the one-way mirror, was not amused.)

Keep it simple. The attention should be on your message, not you. For jewelry, studs and a necklace, or hoops and no necklace. Keep your hair neat. If you think you are ready for a date, you need to rethink your choices. :)

Best of luck with your presentation! You'll do great, and you have some great advice here.
posted by absquatulate at 2:22 PM on February 28, 2010

2nding that you shouldn't be wearing socks with pretty much any sort of dressish flats besides maybe loafers.

I wouldn't worry so much about what colors look good with your skin tone. That might be overthinking it a bit, when you right now just need the basics. Just wear shirts in colors you like.

I would look for: khakis, dress slacks in brown and black, button-down shirts, cardigans, and pullovers. This is business casual, not business professional, so you don't have to be SO dressy. Check out the photos on this page.
posted by ishotjr at 2:25 PM on February 28, 2010

I agree with all of the style suggestions that pecknpah gave. Do not worry about your feet looking big/long in flats. I have size 11 feet, and I wear them all the time. If you are looking for cheaper stuff, Payless often has cute flats like these, these, and these. I love Payless shoes. I know they used to have a stigma, but they've had designers working with them and they've been making stylish and comfy stuff.

As for cloths, the Gap is always good for basics and slacks. I love their slacks. Very comfy, cute and way less expensive they Banana Republic or other stores like that. These are cute, and so are these, but there are many different styles.

Ladies are lucky, as we have wider options for shirts/blouses. You can wear pretty much anything except t-shirts on top of slacks and look appropriate (though, I'm sure you have enough common sense to know what is not okay). If I wear a cotton (not knit) henley one day I think may be a little too casual, I put on a chunky necklace and it works.

My work is "business casual" also, and people always seem stretch the dress code in different directions. I always say it's better to be a little dressier than not dressy enough.

Good luck!
posted by Lizsterr at 2:26 PM on February 28, 2010

Oxfords or ankle boots should do you just fine. Also, I suspect you're the only person who really notices how big your feet are. I'm a size 11 and it's so not an issue.
posted by medea42 at 2:28 PM on February 28, 2010

Your coloring sounds pretty close to my mother's- she wears a lot of red, plums, medium pinks and orchids, and occasionally bright or robin's egg blue.
posted by MadamM at 2:29 PM on February 28, 2010

On the color thing:

_Color Me Beautiful_ books are a pretty good starting place. They're how my mother and I figured our our s@#$ about twenty years ago.

Caveat: Apparently, Color Me Beautiful is some kind of insane sales juggernaut now, and their website speaks of "home based business" opportunities that make me feel a little icky. Still, the thinking behind the product remainsl useful, IMO, and used copies of the Color Me Beautiful books are available all over the place. The system's a bit reductivist, and it's certainly not gospel, but it'll get you at least 50% of the way to where you want to be.

And ditto what other people have said about other people probably not noticing the size of your feet: I wear a size 10 and it's never been a problem. My best friend, who's 5'1", wears the same size, and she's the queen of eye-catching footwear of every conceivable style. She wears everything from little, gold-embroidered China flats to enormous, russet-colored robot boots and she looks like a million bucks tax-free.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:35 PM on February 28, 2010

Business casual = no jeans, tshirts, sneakers, flip flops or hoodies.
Khakis or other dress pants with a fitted T, sweater, polo, or button shirt will suffice.
Shoes that are not sneakers or flip flops will be fine.

This is not an interview. Don't spend a lot of money on this.
posted by k8t at 2:41 PM on February 28, 2010

I'm exactly your size and a similar body type (bottom heavy), and my favorite business casual look is a knee length wrap dress (like this), with sheer black hose and either a low heel or a basic flat. It can be really hard to find a dress slack or skirt that accommodates a pear-shape, especially since a-line skirts have been "out" for a while so practically everything that's sufficiently formal is pencil or straight cut. A wrap dress that fits properly (not pulling at the bust or across your butt) is perfectly acceptable for business casual, and because you can cinch it as tightly or as loosely as you need at the waist, you have a little more latitude with fitting something to your bottom half.
posted by telegraph at 3:03 PM on February 28, 2010

I have size 10 feet and wear flats all the time, but almost never with socks (unless it's ridiculously cold outside). I wear them with knee-high nude pantyhose so my feet don't sweat and stick to the shoes in an awkward way. I've had some success with cheap flats like these from Kohl's, but bought most of my flats at DSW. You can start with something relatively low-key/neutral like these or these and branch out from there over time.

I'm 22 and had to rapidly increase my nice clothes wardrobe when I began student teaching this semester. I have a couple pairs of slacks in black, brown, and gray that I rotate out with different tops. Yesterday I wore a white cami under a blue cardigan like this one with a dark pant with just a little pinstripe like these pants. I like button-down shirts like this one with a cami underneath, but you'll need to make sure it fits with your body type.

I'd recommend browsing around some stores with a friend. My go-to stores these days are The Limited, Ann Taylor Loft, Maurice's (their dressy section is hit or miss, but they have adorable jewelry), and sometimes Express if you can screen out all the slutty party stuff. Bring your school ID card and ask if they give discounts; I know The Limited does 15% off for students and some of the other stores may do that as well.
posted by lilac girl at 3:10 PM on February 28, 2010

It took some searching, but I found my favorite pair of flats online here. They're low-key, have a little bit of a heel, are fairly well-cushioned, and they're cheap! They've held up pretty well in the year or so I've owned them.
posted by lilac girl at 3:29 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

J. Crew gives a 15% student discount, as well, if you bring your student ID.
posted by pecknpah at 3:32 PM on February 28, 2010

One additional note: get pants that button or zip up. No spandex or yoga/workout pants with elastic waists. (I have had students confused about this.)

Although k8t is right that you don't need to spend a lot of money (since styles will change by the time you're out of school, probably), nevertheless it makes sense to have one or two outfits in your wardrobe that you can use for occasions like this. If money were no issue, I would recommend getting:
- one pair of khakis or other non-jean pants for the slightly lower-end events,
- one pair of black slacks for the slightly higher-end events,
- a businesslike shirt (for example: button-up, white or light background maybe with vertical stripes, cotton/lycra mix),
- a blouse (a little dressier/less businessy, for example: a floral pattern and a v-neck that doesn't show cleavage, and made of silk or other flowy fabric), and
- a cardigan sweater that can go over either the shirt or the blouse (navy blue, black, tan are usually safe versatile choices).

You can wear the khakis and button-up shirt for class presentation, the black slacks and blouse for dinner with an invited speaker, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:37 PM on February 28, 2010

One guideline I've noticed with business casual is that there seems to be a sort of unwritten rule that either your top or bottom should be "professional," but not both. Although, of course, the "casual" element should always be clean and presentable.

So, for instance, you might wear fitted, dark-wash jeans with a blazer/nice top combo. Or you could wear a nice sweater set (sweater sets are like the secret key to office business casual as they are comfortable but look really nice, but don't buy cheap ones from Target or Old Navy if you want to wear them professionally more than a few times) with a skirt or nice (non-denim, non-cotton) dress slacks. If you wear the blazer with the slacks, it starts to look more like a suit, and jeans with a sweater set looks pretty casual. It's the mix and match element that makes business casual look business casual.

One other thing - a few nice pieces of jewelry can really class up a business casual outfit and make it interesting.
posted by lunasol at 3:39 PM on February 28, 2010

Definitely don't spend a lot of money on this. You probably have everything that you need in your wardrobe, as long as you have khakis or dress pants, a button-down shirt OR a fitted solid-color tee and a decent sweater, or a dress that isn't super-fancy and hits around the knee.

Some tips on clothing styles for when you actually need to build a work wardrobe: Women with a pear shape almost always look good in A-line skirts. Some women with a pear shape can actually rock a pencil skirt, but if you have curves, a pencil skirt frequently walks the fine line between appropriate for work vs. too "sexy" for work -- it's stupid, but our culture is such that you need to be very wary about the possibility of being seen as drawing attention to your body at work.

As telegraph said, it can be tricky for women with curvier hips to find appropriate dress clothes for business. (However -- some retailers offer different fits of pants. Typically the pants that look best on a pear shape will be called something like "curvy fit." When you find ones that fit you, buy as many as you can afford because retailers have a horrible habit of changing their fits as soon as you need new pants.) You want your pants to skim your butt/hip/thigh area, not stretch across it. Another option is to buy pants or skirts that fit well through the hips and thighs but are too big in the waist, then have them taken in at the waist.

If you wear a button-down shirt, make sure it fits appropriately (no gapping or pulling between the buttons). If you have problems finding buttondowns that fit well across the bust, putting a cami under it works fine for business casual.

Shoes: You're about my height, so it's not inconceivable that you might want to look taller (I like to look taller than I am). A low- to mid-heel is totally acceptable for business casual, and makes the wearer look longer and leaner in the legs. Flats are totally OK too, though. For ANY shoe with an open top (pumps, ballet flats, Mary Janes, T-strap shoes, etc.), do NOT wear regular socks. It just looks wrong. Opaque tights look cute with open-top shoes, and trouser socks are sometimes acceptable. I usually either go barefoot, or if it's cold or I think my feet might sweat, I wear socks that are especially designed to leave the top of your foot bare. You can find them at shoe stores or at Target.

If I had to dress business casual tomorrow, I would wear one of the following options:
1) Cardigan + fitted tee + khaki or black pants + ballet flats
2) Buttondown shirt + cami (for modesty purposes) + dress pants + low-heeled shoes
3) Cardigan + dress (knee-length to just above knee, no minidresses or maxi-length dresses -- minis are obviously not professional, and IMO long dresses tend to look either too casual or too dressy) + tights + flats, boots or mid-heeled shoes (use your judgement: you don't want to be wearing go-go boots, Doc Martens, or stilettos, but you can definitely look businesslike in boots that hit below the knee or in reasonable heels).

Business casual is just shorthand for clothing that isn't too dressy or overly casual, isn't too tight or displaying inappropriate levels of flesh, and doesn't have any distracting elements about it. It's for when you have a job that doesn't require a dress-suit level of formality, but you still want to look presentable and have the focus be on your ideas rather than your sense of style or your physical endowments. My rule of thumb is that, if I would be embarrassed to go to Sunday Mass with my grandmother in a given outfit and/or I would feel weird wearing said outfit while shopping for groceries, it probably is not business casual.

As for color stuff, don't stress about it now, but Sal of Already Pretty has a pretty good back catalog of blog posts about how to use color when dressing yourself.

Have fun and good luck w/your presentation :)

P.S. Most of my clothing is purchased from:
- J. Crew (15% student and teacher discount)
- Ann Taylor and/or Ann Taylor Loft
- LL Bean (has recently updated their fit to not be as boxy/soccer mom-ish, and is great for buying basic staples like cardigans)
- Express/H&M/Limited (I mostly buy fitted T's and camis for layering here, because I look like a sluttish hoyden in most of their other clothing because my boobs are too big for it)
- Target (T-shirts for layering)
- Off-price stores (TJ Maxx, Marshall's, Gabriel Brothers, Ross, thrift stores, etc.... you have to sift through loads of garbage but you occasionally strike gold.)
posted by kataclysm at 3:57 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

On the color thing:

_Color Me Beautiful_ books are a pretty good starting place. They're how my mother and I figured our our s@#$ about twenty years ago.

Caveat: Apparently, Color Me Beautiful is some kind of insane sales juggernaut now, and their website speaks of "home based business" opportunities that make me feel a little icky.

Carole Jackson sold her rights to the makeup line and kept her books. Her website is clearly an attempt at rebuilding her original brand. The site a very basic color test. I think the "juggernaut" is for the stuff Jackson sold the rights to.

Still, the thinking behind the product remainsl useful, IMO, and used copies of the Color Me Beautiful books are available all over the place. The system's a bit reductivist, and it's certainly not gospel, but it'll get you at least 50% of the way to where you want to be.

This system helped me immensely 25 years ago when I lost 80 pounds and had no idea of what to do. I'll admit it - I buy only "my" colors, but I consistently get compliments, know what to buy and not buy, and others ask me to help them with this stuff. At my fave consignment shop yesterday, I told a friend I have no black pants. She replied, "isn't that illegal?" ;-0 I'm trying to prepare ahead and assemble stuff for what will be a very traditional and formal funeral, so I'm delving into black - even worn near my face.

Figure out what colors you look and feel best in, and then you can use the books to find the related colors. You sound like a "winter" or an "autumn." But that's without seeing you.

Anyway, it works. I'm unaffiliated with either or It sounds really sappy, but it changed things for me.

tl;dr: Wear a bright color top and a standout jewelry piece if you have one. Dangly earrings shouldn't be too large.
posted by jgirl at 4:16 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I tried on this skirt yesterday. I thought it was both funky but also professional. Things like this are stylish, comfortable, but still good for office.
posted by FlyByDay at 4:36 PM on February 28, 2010

Regarding what MadamM said about pant cuts: if you're bottom-heavy, it's best to forget about trying to wear a trendy cut. For instance, kataclysm talked about "curvy fit" pants; all the ones available at the Gap have flared legs. Most straight-leg pants won't flatter your figure if you're pear-shaped; if you're shopping online, the keywords to look for in the description are "easy" or "loose through hip and thigh".

A wide-leg (not flared or boot-cut) would fit well, too, as long as you're not overly conscious about the tops of your thighs. If you end up wearing wide-leg pants, try to pair them with heels rather than flats for a dressier look.
posted by thisjax at 4:47 PM on February 28, 2010

Work on your presentation. Say something intelligent in clear language. I am not looking at your shoes.
posted by ovvl at 5:55 PM on February 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have size 10 feet too.

I recently found a great brand-- Softspots. They have wide widths, and large sizes, and the shoes are really, really comfortable. This is the pair I recently bought.

If you wear brown tones a lot, check these out.

If you like gray, these would be good.

I found my pair at DSW. You might see if you can find a pair to try on and see if they're as comfortable for you as they were for me, but if not... there's always Zappo's.

My two favorite pairs of trousers came from Target. They're gray. this is one. I can't find the other on their website. A nice pair of gray trousers will take you far.
posted by eleyna at 7:30 PM on February 28, 2010

I'm 20 and recently ran into this same problem in what to wear to work (and having size 10 feet). The problem is that everyone's definition of business casual is different- my bosses' definition of business casual is more jeans-and-a-nice-top than what I'm accustomed to.

I would wear black pants, a nice top and flats. It's a look you have to get used to, but I don't know anyone that would say flats aren't business casual, even when worn with pants. No socks (unless they're the socks that are made for flats that don't show in the shoe). I don't know what to tell you about the top- I generally go for solid shirts or really bold prints in slinky-ish fabrics. But there's a difference between slinky and shiny- shiny/sparkly are more club wear. Jewel tones usually look good on everyone, as well. Do you have a friend that you could take shopping with you? Also, I hatehatehate khaki pants and do not know a single person my age that would wear them as business casual- I think even "nice" khakis are too casual for business casual, and I definitely wouldn't wear them for a presentation. And I only say black pants because it's a lot harder to match a top to gray pants than black pants.
posted by kro at 9:10 PM on February 28, 2010

w/r/t the shoe question, if you're having trouble finding something to flatter your size, try it's more for giants like myself (i wear a fourteen. helllooooo circus) but they have a nice selection in size ten as well. just make sure to measure your feet as all the brands aren't sized the same. i can't recommend the site enough, really.
posted by clipperton at 1:33 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

These are adorable. The heel is low, so they'll be easy to walk in, but they're shaped well enough so the shoe doesn't look clunky. Also, they're open enough to be dressy, but I think the design will cover most of your foot, so they don't look so big. The shoes come in different sizes and widths, so you'll get a great fit. They'll be great with a skirt, dress, or slacks. They're Clarks, so they'll last a long time, and are almost guaranteed to be comfortable. I'd suggest looking through their site more, they have an entire business casual section. A friend of mine who is a doctor has some similar to these, and swears by them . And if you're not in the USA, Clarks has other websites based in other questions.

As for dress casual, I'd recommend cotton. Cotton is your friend. It can be dressy in cut, but casual in fabric. Like this cotton skirt. And pair it with this tucked-in cotton shirt, and you're good to go.
posted by shesaysgo at 10:33 PM on March 4, 2010

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