Dress me up in your love
March 5, 2008 12:35 PM   Subscribe

What do the hip creative girls wear to work?

I may soon be taking on a project in a creative role in Manhattan. And... help me, I have no idea what to wear into the office every day! I haven't had a Manhattan job in eons, all of my suits are out of style, don't fit me, and are anyway a little too... well... bland for this kind of thing anyhow. This is definitely not a suit-and-tie kind of gig.

If this project is going to happen, I need to build a new wardrobe. Then again, I'm a little poor right now and can't afford an all-out shopping spree to Nordstrom, so I need to invest wisely.

I watch What Not to Wear and I've gleaned from it a vague idea of how to put together an outfit... but I don't really know what basic pieces I need, or where to buy them. I don't know how to get from one or two outfits to dressed well every day. Help, help!

I'm a 33-year-old writer in video games and new media marketing. I want to look put together, but still a little edgy; not like somebody's mom, you know? That said, I do have two little kids, so dry-clean-only and navel-baring are both right out. I'm average height but short-waisted so I love petite sizing; hippy and busty with a well-defined waist. If I were trying to be a model I'd need to lose about twenty pounds but for a normal human being I'm OK. :) Though all of these empire-waisted tops, they make me look pregnant, and I will be glad when they are gone.

So where do I go, and what do I buy there?
posted by Andrhia to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
I'd recommend a fitted 3/4 sleeve blazer, tshirt underneath, dark slimfitting jeans, or wide leg jeans if you want to balance out the hips.

To make it funkier, wear cool heels or a fun thin scarf.

Go to Uniqlo and Zara for the blazer and pants.
posted by rmless at 12:40 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thrift stores, swap meets, freebies from dumpsters, Salvation Army, yard sales - then mix and match. Black tops, cool looking scarves as headbands, around the neck, as a shawl or as a tie around your waist and or bag. Skirts, leggings, good shoes - a must. And if it's off the Payless shelf you've got to mod them in someway rendering them unrecognizable from their original source. Silver jewelery, a good piece here or there for accents, nothing glitzy - that takes away from the coolness. Shades outside - smart girl lenses for indoors. Black rims, red or silver. Never, ever, ever do anything with rhinestones. Makeup - on the clear bare minimum side. Absolutely no perfume. Maybe a dab of essential oil. Nothing too heavy. Handbag can be anything on the mellow/funky side. Personally I go for backpacks and cloth sack like bags that I make myself. Main thing is get in touch with what you love, what looks good on you, the color and style that really suits you then blend it out with some ergo/urban/organic/dramatic flair and you should be fine. Good luck.
posted by watercarrier at 12:45 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

i think the boots with cropped pants thing is kind of funky still.
posted by chickaboo at 12:48 PM on March 5, 2008

Boot-cut trouser jeans in a dark rinse are a hippy girl's best friend.
posted by thisjax at 1:00 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

First of all, as someone who only hours ago was rejected yet again for another dipshit data-entry higher ed Midwestern job, can I say fucking hoorah that you have such a cool opportunity in a place on the coast. SEO copywriting is about as creative as things get out here. So far the creative writing degree is taking me about as far as my busted-up Buick.
However, though I may be without your sort of career options, I am a funky and fashionable dresser and I would love to live vicariously through you for a moment and pretend I'm dressing for your job that I can't get.
How do you feel about bright-ass eyeshadows? Depending on your skin tone, a shimmery yellow or matte chartreuse.
Infact, I would recommend bright colors in general. Try your old suit pants or jackets with a bold current top. I think people are afraid of color.
How do you feel about dresses? Based on your description of your body, I think a mid-calf dress with flared skirt, sweetheart neckline, and tapered waist would be very flattering on you.
Accessories are probably your best bet in easily (and cheaply) funkifying your wardrobe. Bangles are so great, though admittedly I end up taking them off once at the office (to promote an ergonomical workstation, ofcourse!) And big earrings. Elaborate tiered ones, or plastic ones that look like toys!
During an encounter with Manhattan last October, I was flabergasted by how many young women were wearing tall boots, I'm talking Nancy Sinatra boots. Mostly black or brown, some gray, with an unbelievable stilletto heel. I think a kitten-heeled pair in a color that doesn't match the street would stand out.
Best of luck with your potential Manhattan project.
posted by thebellafonte at 1:07 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

T-shirts and fitted blazers are great together with jeans, khakis, or other comfy pants. Funky skirts, asymmetrical can be a bonus, with boots and/or crazy colored tights. Nice/fun sweaters are a good bet for not-too-casual, not-too-dressy. Layers are fun and easy to throw together. Scarves are great. Simple jewelry, including a watch.

If you're looking to buy just a few things, make sure everything is mix-and-match-able. Blacks, greys, and neutral colors make for good staples, and you can always liven things up with a pair of red shoes or a bright scarf or green cuffs or whatever floats your boat. Even if your outfit is a on the boring side, great shoes and accessories can make all the difference. If you like button-down shirts (they're fun with a sweater vest and laid-back slacks), spring for some no-iron ones (like the ones from Lands End, my new favorite item ever). No-iron items are your best friend.

Where do you usually shop? I tend to get staples at staid places like the Gap, TJ Maxx, J. Crew, and H&M, but I also check thrift and consignment stores for odd little finds. Go to your usual stores, or look around online for items that suit you. Experiment a bit.
posted by bassjump at 1:07 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I recommend the sartorialist for inspiration. Here are a few that I think might work: this, this , maybe this, which looks waaay child friendly to me but might not be professional enough. Mixing patterns is au courant. Have fun with it!
posted by cocoagirl at 1:18 PM on March 5, 2008

Read Pattern Recognition by William Gibson, and wear what Cayce Pollard wears (maybe someone with the book handy can excerpt?).
posted by gsteff at 1:23 PM on March 5, 2008

I would recommend 3-5 core pieces in black (a shell/tank/a-line dress, a skirt--short or long or both--, pants, short sleeved shirt, turtleneck shirt) in a washable three-season fabric. You can get these kinds of things at staid conservative places like J.Jill's wearever collection, Nordstrom's Misook collection (frequently available at the Rack). Then you add the funk and youthfulness with jackets, scarves, jewelry, cardigans (personally, I like ones with rhinestone buttons), shoes and you just rotate the core pieces with the various accent pieces. Mix it up with outfits that use the core pieces at all (say, a wrap dress from BCBG, or a pair of velvet jeans). Building a work wardrobe around 5 basic pieces sounds really dull, but it's not, if you think of the base as just a base. It makes laundry, getting dressed while you're half-asleep, and keeping your closet tidy so much easier, too.

Bluefly.com is an excellent source for fun accent pieces for your wardrobe at really great prices for the quality.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:32 PM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Also - you need a good hair style and color. That's essential.
posted by watercarrier at 1:33 PM on March 5, 2008

H&M has really cute, trendy clothes for cheap.
posted by easy_being_green at 1:49 PM on March 5, 2008

Seconding H&M. You can't go wrong.

Also, fun jewelry is always good. It adds edge to the most plain of clothing. I would suggest surfing around etsy.com for creative, arty, interesting jewelry/scarves/bags etc.

I wear a LOT of grey/black, mixed with bright colored shoes, tights, or jewelry.

Also - consider a slightly arty hairstyle. It ups the "edgy" level of any outfit, even if you are wearing just slacks and a black sweater.
posted by Windigo at 2:13 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

many of the ladies who post in wardrobe remix have a kindy edgy style, and many of them post outfits they wear to work. I find it pretty useful for inspiration, myself. Here are some photos in the pool tagged with office.

Search etsy for funky, handmade accessories. I've bought quite a few really unique items there on the cheap.
posted by nuclear_soup at 4:03 PM on March 5, 2008

My little sister is a trendy estate agent who hates spending money on the uniform. Thirding that you can't go wrong with H&M or Zara. Look at it as your invetment in a boiler suit you can use a thousand times.
posted by dmt at 5:11 PM on March 5, 2008

Since you're a fan of "What Not To Wear", I suggest you look at the book written by the show's hosts: Dress Your Best: The Complete Guide to Finding the Style That's Right for Your Body. It's neat since they have 15 different female body types (and 8 male) described and recommendations for each. It's a fun read too.
posted by rdhatt at 5:11 PM on March 5, 2008

american apparel and gap are great for basics; h&m, uniqlo, zara are your best bets for other pieces that won't break the bank. vintage shopping sucks in nyc because the prices are high and the hipsters/college/high school students will have picked through the racks before you and taken most everything decent anyway. i live in manhattan, am in the same age/size range as you and also work as a creative (i work from home primarily but try to dress well for both business meetings and fun with friends), and i love helping other women shop—i do it all the time for friends that visit the city—so if you'd like some in-person help, drop me an email and i'd be more than happy to go on an expedition with you!
posted by lia at 8:19 PM on March 5, 2008

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