Buying into the Dress Code – Without Breaking the Bank

September 30, 2006 • Magazine

Buying into the Dress Code - Without Breaking the Bank

Buying into the Dress Code - Without Breaking the Bank

Sun, 2006-10-01 00:00

Rachel Yeomans

It’s the first week of your new job. Your outfit’s all picked out. You strut in to the office standing tall in your leather platform pumps, donning your new tulip-sleeved broadcloth jacket with matching skirt. Even your camisole underneath was selected with care.

After settling in, your boss stops by and asks to have a chat with you in her office. Sauntering in behind her, you assume this is just a brief pow-wow to tie up loose ends.

She closes the door, sits down, and says, “Now, maybe this wasn’t mentioned to you throughout the interview process. But… we have a policy of classic business attire here.â€?

This attire, you discover, consists of a navy or black pant/skirt suit, a button up white collared shirt, pumps and hose. You leave the office embarrassed but also in dire trepidation. You can barely make two outfits with that dress code! And the pay check transition just won’t allow a whole new work wardrobe.

Now before you read on, yes, this exact situation actually occurred. So just in case you get surprised by the existence of the “classic business attire,� please read on.

First of all, relax and assess. Almost every woman can get by on this dress code for a week or so with the clothing she already owns. Be honest—how many pairs of black pants do you have? Pool your items and figure out what you have first, then on your next free evening, hit the shops.

To go with your already-owned black pants, look for a matching blazer made with the same fabric. It might help to bring the pants with you or wear them on your shopping excursion because many black items are made with various dyes that can accent a different color when worn, such as purple or blue.

I recommend starting by going to a department store for more options. Macy’s is good for variety and varying price points. For example, Macy’s is currently selling this Style&co one-button suit jacket. It’s made with polyester, as are most black pants, so it would be a good basic match for your slacks.

Then there’s the infamous search of the oxford. Good standards are Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft. They make nice tailored blouses in varying styles to cater to the range of fit we women bring to challenge the clothing industry. Banana Republic also has good options.

So you’ve got the basics to get you through the next few weeks. Breathe a sigh of relief and, after you cash in that first paycheck, ponder my final piece of advice: Invest. Invest in that one great suit that will get you through the rest of your dress code career, and beyond. You can flip flop the pieces, or wear them together. A good suit is one of the most versatile outfits you can find. Yes, you can splurge on the Armani. But for us budget buyers, a great place to look for good affordable suits is They have rotating sales on skirt and pant suits from esteemed designers such as Tahari by Arthur S. Levine and Sharagano Atelier, for a fraction of the selling price.

Now flash that black, and before you know it your boss will summon you to her office for fashion advice.

1. Max Studio
Tulip Sleeved Broadcloth Jacket: $248
Embroidered Lace Blouse: $128
Side Pleat Broadcloth Skirt: $118
Leather Pumps: $159

2. Macy’s
Style&co one-Button Suit Jacket: Notch collar, Flap pockets at waist, Single-button closure, Rounded hem, Decorative buttons at cuffs, Lined.
Cost: $90

3. Ann Taylor
Dobby Weave White Cotton Shirt
Textured dobby weave cotton shirt with split mandarin collar & covered buttons, Front and Back Seams to Shape, 100% cotton
Cost: $68

4. Banana Republic
Button-Down Shirt
Straight collar, 3/4 length sleeves, Single-button French cuffs, Princess seams, 98% cotton, 2% Lycra
Cost: $78

5. Tahari by Arthur S. Levine 2pc Skirt Suit
List Price: $290
Sale Price: $139.99

6. Sharagano Atelier 2pc Pantsuit with Cutaway Blazer
List Price: $380
Sale Price: $139.99

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