I started my first post-college job this fall, where “business professional” attire was expected daily. I’ve had summer internships before but putting together a skirt and blouse is much easier in 70-degree weather in a job you’re not really sure you want than wearing a suit jacket every day in a job where everyone is frightened of impending layoffs.
First, my body type. I am short (5’1″) and skinny (~105 lbs). I often joke I have the body type of a 12-year-old boy, which is a bigger problem in office wear than skinny chic daily wear. Also, I’m on a budget so I try to keep my clothing costs down.
So I’ve assembled a list of my favorite stores, and the styles I’ve found most successful as a smaller girl trying to look pretty and polished.
Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft – One of the few stores to offer a large petites section, I buy all my suit sets from here. The petite sections can be small in certain stores so I spend a bit more to buy jackets and pants online. I like to have matching sets so I also buy skirts here. Delivery is super fast and there are tons of sales online offers sent to customers. I occasionally buy sweaters and tops here, but think most general merchandise (even at the more affordable LOFT) is overpriced.
The Limited – I do the bulk of my work clothes shopping here. There are great sales, quite often, along with coupons. I browse every so often for new tops I can wear with my classic suits. The only downside is their sizes tend to run large; pants almost never fit me – not in the length which can be fixed with tailoring, but in the thighs and butt. I look like I’m swimming! A lot of people like to tell me tailoring is the answer to being short, but when the rest of you is smaller too, tailoring just doesn’t work.
As shown above, I prefer short-sleeved, body-hugging tops. Often pants and skirts can hide your figure and tops are a way to feel cute. I also prefer bright, warm colors like coral or yellow. I have darker skin, so I can pull off these colors. I used to shy away from them since they’re uncommon too see in the workplace but now I enjoy looking unique in a way that flatters my skin tone.
Wearing a jacket over a button-down shirt just creates wrinkles and is often uncomfortable. Another way men’s and women’s wear are created differently… Obviously, sleeveless shirts are not appropriate in a business professional environment so I always wear them with a jacket or matching cardigan.
This choice might seem odd, but if Rodarte can launch a line at Target, I figured its good enough for me. I’ve found a few great dresses and blouses here for much cheaper than at the above stores. I’ve also bought belts (essential for a skirt slightly too big) and pumps here. Their shoe selection has greatly expanded the last few years are surprisingly high quality.
Check out Michelle Obama wearing a Target dress!
My least favorite stores for office wear are Express and most department stores. I love Express normally but their tops are usually too sexy for most offices and like The Limited, their dress pants rarely fit. Department stores like Macy’s rarely make clothes to fit size 0 or 2. I’m not above browsing the juniors section to find a well fitted pair of pants but dislike the excessive buttons and pockets I usually find there.
I am so thankful patterned tights are in style this year. I have bought several pairs which allowed me to wear skirts to work well into December. My favorite store for these is Target as they are a bit cheaper, but tend to wear out faster. I’ve also bought some at Aldo, The Limited, and H&M. I recommend a pair of thick black wool and a tightly patterned brown for everyday. I also bought a pair of tiny-holed fishets, but nixed them after a male colleague called me out on them. Awkward! So choose carefully….
I hope this guide helps some people! I love scouring style blogs, but usually find them too revealing for my work environment. Happy shopping!