Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Elizabeth writes: "What are your tips for creating a professional image? I am specifically interested in help for women and men who happily work at home in their pajamas and panic at the thought of meeting clients because they have NO idea what to wear."

I have good news for you, E: your solution is quite simple. For people who work in an office every day (like myself), the work wardrobe is extensive, by necessity. For you, and those of your contemporaries who are lucky enough to work at home, you have it much easier. What I would suggest is getting two good base suits, of whatever style you prefer. Get one in black, the universal power suit color, and another in a fun color or style. This way you'll be able to have one safety suit and one creative suit, so you can portray either image to your clients. I'll warn you, this is going to be a pretty significant investment, but don't scrimp to save a few pennies. These suits can last you for years and years, and part of professionalism is being well-put together. As a matter of personal taste I prefer a woman in a skirt suit instead of pants, so I put up this little number from Banana Republic. Get it tailored so it fits nice, slap on a nice pair of shoes and a pretty shirt and you're ready to go. I would also suggest pantyhose - bare legs are unprofessional. Now, you'll get bored wearing the same thing all the time, so invest in some shirts that you can put under the suit to change things up a bit. Also, if you want to expand your work wardrobe instantly, get a nice pair of tailored pants that will go with that blazer, and you've instantly got a new suit.

So men, your mission is similar. The Banana also has some great men's suits, and I would again recommend a black suit for a start, and then another suit, like brown or blue, for variety. Stock up on some standard-issue button downs in a few non-offensive colors, and a couple of ties, and you've got a whole mix-n-match thing going on - you won't have to wear the exact same thing for a plethora of meetings. The key is always being able to interchange your pieces. If you have a shirt or pants that only go with one other thing, you won't wear that article very often. For people who don't want to drop hundreds on a work wardrobe, you want flexibility. The suit at right is very smart. Don't forget to tuck in your shirt, and for the love of fashion, please get a few pairs of black dress socks to wear with your good shoes. The last thing you want is to sit down for a meeting and your old, holey, white, knee-length socks are sticking out. Then it just looks like you're playing dress-up.

To complete the professional look, there are a few little extras you can add that will really seal the deal. Girls, you can wear your hair down as long as you keep it looking neat and orderly at all times. If not, you might go for a simple bun, or even a French twist. Guys, a little cologne wouldn't hurt, and the ladies can do the same. Much to my dismay, many companies are now banning perfume and the like in the workplace because there are sensitive noses that get sick when greasy Larry in accounting walks by and his cologne is stronger than a Turkish weightlifter. Larry has ruined it for many, but a subtle scent is a nice touch, if you're allowed. Also, get yourself a respectable method of carrying around your papers. A big purse is perfect for the ladies, but guys won't do this, and I don't blame them. A briefcase is nice, but an attache case is just as good and not nearly as stuffy. The bag at left is also from the Banana, and is more versatile than a regular briefcase. I would also suggest a good planner, whether it be digital or paper, because there is a rule in business that is unbreakable. No matter how good you look, smell or work, you can't represent if you're late. Then you just look like a fool.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Wish List

I've spent most of my free time over the last two weeks of my life thinking about what to get everyone else in my life. That, of course, means that I didn't have much of an idea before today what I wanted for Christmas. The good news, and let me take a moment to brag, is that my holiday shopping is finished, wrapped and tagged. It's a little sick, but now I get to focus on what I want and - gasp! - enjoy the season. And so, as requested by a dear reader, my wish list. This all feels so very Oprah...

1. A cashmere sweater from the Gap, which are selling for a decent price, I must say.
2. I've been envious of every woman I've seen wearing the necklace at left, or any of its ilk, for some time, and I want one of my own. Besides, everything is better if it comes in a Blue Box.
3. A case of Vitamin Water in each of the following flavors: Power, Energy and Defense. I've given up soda, so I've turned to the sweet, nutrient-rich, hydrating power of Vitamin Water. It's not overly sweet, however, so when I taste soda once in a blue moon, it's overpowering. It's good to wean yourself off of sugary drinks.
4. The Coach bag at right. Not only is it completely sexy, but it's perfect for travelling to London this January, with the extra pockets. Besides, you might be able to get some of the greatest knockoffs in Chinatown, but I hear they'll confiscate them in the UK. At a cool $400 I might not be carrying this on the plane...but hey, this is a wish list.
5. A nice digital camera. There's no sense in going to Europe with a second-rate camera, especially for a photo-album freak like me. I love making scrapbooks of my adventures abroad, so a good camera would really enhance my enjoyment.
6. A girly, feathery pen to use at work. I work in a stuffy office, so I have to do something to liven the place up.
7. Polo Black. This one isn't for me so much as for me to smell and my boyfriend to own. I smelled this in a magazine the other day and I had to be picked up off the floor. I mean, this stuff smells good.
8. A donation to the Association for Retarded Citizens. This is a cause particularly close to my heart, especially for the good of my little brother, who has autism.
9. Soul Calibur 3. This game looks so hot I can't handle it. I saw a demo in a store and started drooling. This looks like a good one for people like me who cut her video game teeth on Xianghua.
10. A teacup maltese. I know this one is utterly ridiculous, since my apartment doesn't allow dogs, and I already have a cat, but these dogs are so cute I don't know what to do with myself.

And of course world peace would be nice, but you can't get that at the mall. Happy Holidays to all of you!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Confessions of a recently converted Shoe Snob; Or, Why I Shall Never Again as Long as I Live Shop at Payless

I am the cheap shoes queen. I love a bargain. When I was in college I was the most frugal shopper imaginable: "Love your shoes, FCali!" I'd crow: "Thank you, I paid $7 for them!"

Well, times have changed. I'm on my feet a lot during the day and to be perfectly honest, my feet won't tolerate what they used to.

In short, I've divorced Payless and Target shoes. I've purchased several pairs of shoes at Le Target recently and they've been a disappointment. The price left me exhilarated, but the shoes themselves left me in need of a 4-hour Swedish foot massage. In short, the feet, they doth protest too much. Now this is a crying shame, because there is no way I can have as many shoes as I'd like if I'm paying upwards of $40 a pair.

However, I've decided it's worth it. There is something infinitely sensual and thrilling about expensive shoes. As with any other high-priced item, there are subtle but significant differences in the craftsmanship of expensive shoes. (By expensive, I mean over $40. I'm not yet willing pay more than about $90 unless the shoe is something really special. And by really special I mean, makes me look ten pounds thinner and gets me free drinks for the entire evening. Or whatever.) for one thing, most of them are made of leather instead of man-made ripoffs, which means that they'll stretch and conform themselves to your feet. I find that I wear a smaller size in designer shoes.

In addition, finely-crafted shoes are unbeatable for comfort. Even the raciest stiletto has arch support. That's saying something for someone like me, since finding shoes that correctly mold to my arches is something of a challenge and nothing short of an impossibility when I'm at Payless.

Let's make a comparison. Behold these hot-hot sexy spy assassin boots from Le Target, $29.99. Let's look closer, shall we? The boots are a man-made material. That means they're waterproof, a plus if you live in a cold and wet climate. However, I bought these boots. I'm here to tell you that while they look fabulous, they don't feel fabulous. They aggravate my bunion. Worst of all, they have no shock absorption whatsoever, which means that your feet tire more quickly. Those two factors combined were enough to make me willing to drop any sum of money on comfortable shoes!

Now let's examine these equally-hot boots from Bandolino,
my new BFF in the shoe industry. To counteract my ill-advised purchase at Le Target, I bought a pair of Bandolinos quite similar to the ones shown. Dear readers, I wore them all day on Saturday without so much as a trace of discomfort! They were definitely worth the $80 I spent on them. First of all, the toe isn't quite as narrow, ensuring 1) no bunion aggravation and 2) they'll stay in style long after pointy-toed shoes cease to be in vogue. The heel is thick, ensuring that the shock of walking is distributed more evenly throughout the foot instead of pounding away at one spot on the foot all day long. Last, these boots are finely made of leather, ensuring that with proper care they'll last forever.

You all have to make your own decisions about what fashion items you're willing to drop big $$ on. Me, I'm headed to DSW.