No, I don't plan on packing ripped jeans and combat boots.
April 17, 2010 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Specific examples, guidelines, do's and don'ts, etc. sought for "resort casual" wear. Details abound.

I am a 29 year old woman attending a 4-day company annual meeting at a very classy resort in the Southeast United States. I will need to dress for business meetings, dinners, casual group (physical) activities, and just hanging around time. While I have a good sense of meeting-wear, I have no reference point for "resort casual".

Difficulty: My budget is "as little money as I can possibly spend", meaning I would spend a maximum $100-200 on one or two major pieces, and less on filling out multiple outfits based around them. I am an anxious packer, so I will be tempted to pack too much, and would like to minimize this. For example, a dress that is dinner-casual when worn with a nice cardigan but meeting-appropriate under a suit jacket, is my goal. Also, I work from home, and I anticipate that my existing wardrobe contains nothing, other than shoes and perhaps a jacket, that I could appropriately wear here.

I have access to almost any chain store (or NE Philly-suburbs boutiques), and prefer brick and mortar to online shopping because of fit issues. I am going to start shopping today, but I have some time to do more over the next 10 days or so if needed. I get very anxious so I'd like to have it all done well in advance.

Examples, outfit suggestions, any advice are all welcome.
posted by bunnycup to Shopping (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can maximize your versatility with accessories. They're cheaper than whole outfits, and you can borrow them from friends or family members even if they're not your size otherwise. Pearls, if you have access to them, sound like a must; you're going to the southeast, and they work well with every outfit, right down to a swimsuit :)

I would go to Talbots/Banana Republic or similar and buy a sleeveless (linen?) sheath dress in a solid, leaning-toward-springy color. Wear on its own, wear with a cardigan for dinner, wear with a jacket for work.

Twin set sweaters will probably also work very well, both for versatility (wear together or separately) and for multiple situations. Dress up with a skirt and pearls; dress down with some nice capris (khaki or similar, plain, no drawstrings or cargo pockets) or longer shorts.

Slingback shoes can work for either business or party situations.
posted by Madamina at 9:40 AM on April 17, 2010

Dark-wash or black jeans in a classic cut (bootcut or straightleg, not skinny) can be business casual if you wear them with the appropriate top and accessories. White may also work now that it's spring.

Seconding the suggestion of a sheath dress.
posted by bettafish at 10:17 AM on April 17, 2010

Oh, I would also take a browse through the Career Wear section of YouLookFab, which talks a lot about this kind of thing.
posted by bettafish at 10:18 AM on April 17, 2010

Ooh, I love stuff like this. You can create a mini-wardrobe!

For saving money, I don't go anywhere but Marshall's or TJMaxx. Label clothes with lower prices. You can definitely get a few nice pieces to mix with what you already have. If you prefer a chain store, New York & Co. has good resortwear.

I am a terrible overpacker, and I've been working for years on creating capsule wardrobes for my ever-increasing travel to counter this natural tendency. If I were building a 4-day resortwear set, here's what I'd bring:

(1) A below-the-knee sheath dress
(2) Your business-meeting suit blazer
(3) Your business-meeting suit slacks
(4) Your business-meeting shell
(5) A tunic, made of a jersey material, length past your tush
(6) Capri-length pants, linen or cotton, lightweight
(7) A lightweight blazer with sleeves you can cuff, linen or cotton
(8) Wide-leg slacks
(9) High-quality 3/4 sleeved shirt, length at hip
(10) Button-down short-sleeved shirt
(11) Lightweight long wrap sweater
(12) Leggings if they flatter you, slim-fit slacks if not
(13) High-quality short sleeved shirt, length at hip

(A) Dressy shoes
(B) Sandals that can go from day to night (think: Clark's)
(C) Boat shoes or dressy slip-on or Mary Jane style sneakers
(D) Wide belt
(E) One long necklace that goes with everything
(F) One pair of earrings!
(G) If you're into it, a classic beachcombers hat - crushable straw or fabric

Now, to put it all together:
Meetings: (2)+(3)+(4)+(A) or (1)+(2)+(A)
Dinners: (1)+(7)+(A) or (4)+(7)+(8)+(A) or (5)+(11)+(12)+(B)
Physical activities: (6)+(9)/(13)+(C)
Hanging around time: (5)+(12) or (6)+(10)

In terms of color, I'd say stick with a palette and that will make it easier for you to decide what to get. Some good color combos that are professional but fun could be: navy/coral/offwhite, khaki/lime/white, black/turquoise/khaki, navy/pink/light-yellow. Stay in the three-color scheme and you'll have an easier time picking things out. You can stray but stay in the same color family. For example, if you already own a bunch of things on the list in khaki, and you want to go khaki/lime/white, you can expand the lime to different shades of brilliant green to vary it a bit.

Other general dressy-travel tips:
I always bring a little container of wrinkle spray. It comes in 3 oz. bottles. If your local drugstore doesn't carry it, try It's been a lifesaver for me. I fear no linen!
Pack your undies inside your shoes so they keep their shape and don't get crushed.
Bring your own bandaids and a little sewing kit. If you pop a blister, or a button, you won't be out of luck.
Bring a lint roller.
Traveling in hot weather means you'll sweat more if you're outdoors. Plan your undergarments accordingly: anything moisture-wicking will be better than rayon/acetate/etc.

Wow, that got really long really fast.
posted by juniperesque at 10:21 AM on April 17, 2010 [10 favorites]

juinperesque has some good ideas, but that's packing way too much.

For the Southeast, you won't need leggings this time of year, and I only would take a light sweater. You don't need a blazer with sleeves if you have one pantsuit or skirtsuit with a suit blazer that does double duty.

Seconding the sleeveless or short-sleeved sheath, which can be dressed up or down. Wear heels or slingbacks.

Capris/slacks and shells are fine for meetings, with slingbacks; switch to sandals for more casual activities.

Sundresses are inexpensive and can be accessorized with a light sweater or just worn with sandals for the "casual" part of the day and do double duty as bathing suit cover-ups.

So, I'd just take:

Sheath, pantsuit (jacket and slacks), a few pairs of capris, several shells and a sundress, a light sweater, a pair of slingbacks, pair of sandals and a pair of heels, and then accessories.

Then maybe a bathing suit with a coverup (or the sundress) over it, if that's appropriate for the resort.

Sunglasses are also a MUST down here if you are going to spend any time outside enjoying the lovely weather we're having (high of about 80 during the day, lows in the mid-60s at night).

Out of all that, I would spring the most money on the nice pantsuit and a good set of heels to go with it, but then again I have about ten bathing suits. You might opt to go for something flattering there.
posted by misha at 10:58 AM on April 17, 2010

P.S. I've been on--nine? ten? cruises where resort casual is the preferred dress, and generally capris, shells and sandals are a safe bet anywhere.
posted by misha at 10:59 AM on April 17, 2010

It's at a resort, but it's business. For evening events, and most conferences will have at least 1 big evening event: Many women will wear what my Mom called a cocktail dress; any length that looks good on you except full length or extremely short. Many women will wear dressy pants, maybe with snazzy sandals, and a very dressy top.

For days, which include business meetings, presentations: long shorts, or capris, or cute skirts or pants. Jeans only if they're very stylish. I wear a lot of fine-gauge cotton tops or cardigans. Nothing sleeveless or see-through. You should look like you could wear your clothes to a lunch at a good restaurant. Wear good sandals, or low-heeled casual shoes. It it might get chilly, a pashmina is a good addition. There will be conference attendees on the flight, so don't dress grubby, but be comfortable.

You have the conference schedule. Plan out every single day. Ex:
Day 1: travel, meeting with clients, cocktail party. (good likelihood of going out afterwards)
Linen capris, white tee, purple cardigan, chunky jewelry, ballet flats
Cocktail dress, dangly earrings, necklace or bracelet(s), silver sandals

Day 2: presentations, meetings, banquet (good likelihood of going out afterwards)
Cute purple/teal cotton skirt, linen short-sleeve jacket, gold cuff bracelet, ballet flats
Taupe dressy slacks, print top, black jacket, silver sandals, silver hoop earrings

Day 3: my presentation, meetings, dinner is unplanned, but will likely be with clients and boss
Taupe pants w/matching jacket, black tee, gold cuff, black low-heeled pumps.(remember the nylon shoe liners to prevent blisters)
The taupe slacks, black shiny top, lots of silver bracelets, silver dangly earrings, silver sandals

Day 4: morning presentations, volleyball w/execs, travel
purple/teal cotton skirt, purple cardigan, ballet flats, gold cuff, gold locket
khkai shorts, company logo polo shirt, sneakers, cotton sockettes
linen capris, white tee, purple cardigan, chunky jewelry, ballet flats, to travel in

Bring a bathing suit, and shorts/big tee to wear to a pool or volleyball.
sneakers, gear if you get up to run, or work out
spare tee (dressy-ish) in case of a spill.
something to sleep in.

packing should all fit in medium rollerbag. Don't hesitate to pare this down:
accessories: jewelry, scarves, etc.
cocktail dress (there will likely be an iron in the room)
sandals, pumps, sneakers
taupe pants & jacket
purple/teal skirt, linen jacket
print top, shiny black top, black tee
black jacket
6 prs underwear, bra for any top that needs a specific bra
sleep wear
sport wear
bathing suit
spare black tee
khaki shorts, company polo
plus the clothes you'll wear to travel.
Bring bandaids, safety pins, and your basic personal care products. Make a list for your work stuff, too.
Plan to have fun.
posted by theora55 at 11:41 AM on April 17, 2010

Response by poster: You all are the BEST! So far, I am probably 1/3 done. I printed out the lists people gave, and color palette suggestions was a REALLY helpful comment. I have 2 dresses on hold at Marshalls, but in the meantime I went to Talbots with the specific suggestions in mind, shared those with a really kind, helpful salesperson who helped point me in the right directions toward good fit, and dressing right for my age. I have my basics, and now am ready for the fun stuff - accessories, a new bag, dressing it up. I'm not done yet, but the hardest part is SO successfully started!!!
posted by bunnycup at 4:10 PM on April 17, 2010

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