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Several months ago a friend asked me about jersey dresses. Jersey dresses can be great because most of them will glide over your body and hide many flaws. But this is not true of all jersey dresses. The first thing you need to do is make sure it isn’t too tight. If we can see the cellulite on your hips, your dress is too small. If we can see bulging lines across your back where your bra strap is, your dress is too small. If the hem hits your mid-calf, it is probably too long. If you like it long, remember to wear a neutral shoe to minimize the impact of the hemline hitting you at the widest part of your leg.

The reason this came up now was I was reading an on-line post about what to wear to work. The dress on the left as considered appropriate for the corner office. I have no idea who the designer is or where to buy it, but I have to disagree about it’s work appropriateness! While it is a jersey dress, the neckline is way to low for any office environment. I can see the swell of the breast. That’s beyond cleavage. Plus, a wrap dress is great while you are standing. But sit down and the wrap often gaps, showing more of the chest area than before–unless it is stitched down in that area. Even if this one were stitched, it is so low that it would gap no matter what. Showing cleavage in the workplace is not professional. Showing the swell of the breast in the work place is just wrong!


The dress on the right is also a jersey dress. This one is from Nordstrom’s. I bet you can already see how much more professional this dress is. Not only is the neckline much higher, but the color is a power color. This woman will be noticed the minute she walk in the room, but in a good way. The dress compliments her female shape without pushing it in your face. The rushing on the side helps when you have a bit of imperfections across your midsection (who doesn’t?).

I also need to mention that both of these dresses are just a bit too short for the work environment if you are striving for the corner office. I would have kept them at the knee–right across the center of the kneecap. Remember, when you sit down, the dress will likely ride up. What started out as two inches above the knee will end up to be four inches above the knee. Now we are talking bedroom rather than boardroom.

May you always look great!


Emerald, declares Pantone, is the color for Spring 2013. You may recall my post a year ago “Eyes for Emerald.” This tells you how popular this color can be. (Or maybe I’m just ahead of the trends.) Either way, emerald is a great color on most people. It is considered a cool bright color. You may recall that bright colors bring brightness to your face, which is a good thing. When you face looks bright (compared to dull) you will look more vibrant, thus looking younger.

You can pair your emerald green with any neutral color: black, white, gray, navy, beige, cream. For a pop of fun color, try these Coach pumps with a simple shirtdress (like this one from Younkers). If you work in a creative environment, you could be more bold and wear emerald green with this purple shirtdress from Banana Republic!


chadwick_colorblock_jacketdresschadwick_ruched_crossover_dressWhile emerald may be the “in” color for Spring, timeless cuts in this color will take you through many seasons. Chadwick’s ruched dress or their colorblock jacket dress are two items that will stay in your wardrobe for many years.

nordstrom_lanvin_silk_blouseIf you prefer something to pair with your current black skirt or pants, try this silk blouse from Nordstrom’s.

What will you wear emerald with this Spring?

Have you ever watched What Not To Wear and hear the poor girl say, “But I found it in the stores!” when Clinton and Kelly tell her the attire is not appropriate. Well, just because it is in the stores or you see in a catalog doesn’t mean it is appropriate or flattering.

Here are some examples:

  1. talbots_refined_collectionTalbot’s is showing work attire and this image was in their recent flyer. The black skirt length is great. The pump is work appropriate. The bright, bold color of the top is great and even the necklace is nice. But can you see what is wrong? No matter how think you are, cleavage is not appropriate for the workplace. With a wrap top, this can often be a problem. If you see a top you like with this sort of wrap neckline, try and see if it will stay closed with the neckline not as low. A little trick I use is the pin the under piece to my bra at a high enough point so no cleavage is showing. If the over piece is cut properly it will lie flat against the under piece and you will be set. I do not suggest trying to pin both pieces of fabric as it usually pulls as you move throughout the day and calls more attention to the area!
  2. chadwick_blouson_dressWhile Chadwick’s isn’t calling this a work-appropriate outfit, it is shown on a page that contains other office attire. So what’s wrong with this dress? The length is fine. The neckline is fine. The problem is the dress overwhelms her. The top is too voluminous. Even with a tied waist, this dress makes her look too top heavy. You may recall that patterns also add bulk. The bigger the pattern, the bigger the bulk. This dress is too much, whatever way you look at it!
  3. chadwick_border_printI also have to comment on Chadwick’s border print dress. You may recall I reviewed a dress a few months ago that was also a border print dress. That dress was considered “right” because it was well balanced. This dress is not balanced at all! Note all the attention goes to the bottom portion of the body. If you are top heavy, this might not be a bad thing. Another problem is the decoration that seems to top out at the abdomen. If you have flat abs, this is great. The rest of us probably don’t want anyone staring at our abdomen. And don’t get me started about where the largest print of the pattern sits!

May you always look great!

Back from vacation in Florida for a few weeks at the end of January and this cold weather is tough! The day we left Florida it was 85 degrees at 10:30 am. When we awoke in Iowa the next day, there was six inches of snow and the wind chill was below zero!

talbots_ankle_pantWhile looking through the catalogs that arrived while I was gone, I noticed Talbot’s “One Fine Day” collection. The clothing is bright, fitted and professional looking. The ankle pant worn with heels is on trend. (Don’t let your heels get higher than 3″ as it will diminish your professionalism.) While the blouse might be a bit drab for the more adventurous woman, they have plenty of other tops in bright colors to keep you feeling happy!

A word of note about ankle pants, or any other trend for that matter: be careful when you try to transfer the trend to other similar clothing items. For instance, the ankle pant is slim fitting. This allows the eye to see the length of the leg, even when it is cut off at the ankle. The look would be totally off if you tried to wear a boot cut pant at your ankle. That would say “high water” pants. (And you remember what the cool kids said about people who did that in high school!)

The other classy look Talbot’s is showing in their Spring catalog is the length of their dresses–right at the knee. This is the most universally flattering length. The Ann Taylor Loft look uses a short sheath to keep their dress looking fun. Talbot’s look takes the v-neck dress and adds a pop of hot pink in the shoe to keep their outfit looking fun. When either of these models sits down, the dress will ride up another inch or two, making the shorter skirt even shorter and, thus, less professional. This is what makes certain clothing timeless–the ability to wear it multiple ways and be appropriate for multiple age ranges.


InStyle Magazine always puts out a BIG issue every September and this year’s volume has 652 pages (I didn’t count them so I’m taking their word for it). This year Jennifer Lopez graces the cover, as she did in 2009. InStyle is fairly devoted to higher fashion or date-night clothes, but I saw several of things that caught my eye in just the first 200 pages. Some of my reflections:

Page 139 White House Black Market Color Block Pencil Skirt ($88), Silvertone Stretch Belt ($58), Ladylike Seasonless Jacket ($148). Love the color blocking and the metal belt to add a bit of edge. The length of the skirt is appropriate (not many in the magazine are). I might disagree with the height of the shoe’s heel and the length of the earrings, but love the overall look.

Page 146 Swarovski Nirvana Cuff: $200. Probably not in my price range, but it did catch my eye. Cuff bracelets are great for work when you want to add a statement without adding a lot of noise. Yes, they may make a bit of noise as the hit the desktop, but it’s usually a one-time noise. Bangles on the other hand make noise every time you move your arm. Way too distracting for the workplace.

Promotional Insert, Ann Taylor Tie Back Sweater ($58). I loved the femininity of the big bow and the hot pink color is very striking. The ad didn’t show the front, but I checked online and it is a jewel neckline. There is a touch of wool for those of you who can’t wear it, but the price is right!

Busted Report: Calvin Klein red dress (approximately page 24) advertises that it is available at Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. I checked online and didn’t find it on either site. I even went to and couldn’t find it! But if you can find something similar, it’s a great dress: a-line, mock turtleneck, buttons at the shoulder (military style is trendy now) and princes seaming.

Did anything grab your eye?

Skimming through the Chadwick’s catalog that arrived recently, I was struck by dresses. Let’s discuss their attributes:

This dress is slimming due to the vertical element in the center of the dress, drawing the eye up and down. The dark on the sides create an hour-glass shape. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a work dress that you can actually wear to work—no cleavage and the length is perfect. They paired it appropriately with sheer hose and dark shoes, but could also be worn with neutral shoes. Sheer dark hose with the dark shoes would also be acceptable. I would not wear this dress with opaque tights. It is too feminine to wear with something as heavy as tights. I would also steer clear of the boots look. Keep it simple and let the dress make you the star!

This deep purple color looks flattering on most complexions. But there is so much more about this dress that makes it great. The empire waist (sitting right under the bust line) shows off what is usually the smallest part of a woman’s body. The a-line skirt hides a rounder hip and the full skirt helps the legs look thinner. The higher neckline keeps this modest for work but the v-neck elongates the neckline, which tends to be flattering. If this is a bit too dressy for your work environment, think about this style when attending a wedding or holiday party.

This is another a-line look that hides the hip area. The tiny belt at the natural waist (compared to the empire discussed above) shows off that beautiful feminine feature, without flaunting it. Again, the higher neckline and the slightly-above-the-knee length is work appropriate. If you were to have this style of dress with a slightly longer length, it would look fabulous with a pair of boots. If wearing it with boots, I would recommend the black tights with classic black boots.

What Went Wrong

While the v-neckline is often flattering on many women, this one is too deep for an office environment. Even if your chest is small enough to not have cleavage, it suggests that you want people looking for it. Usually diagonal lines are flattering, but these drape and crisscross causing too much distraction. The legs are look cut off and the shoes look too chunky for this dress.

While the color of the top of the dress is stunning and very flattering, the draping neck is over the top. A soft cowl neckline can be very flattering, but this one drapes down to the waist area. This causes the eye to look down rather than up. You always want the attention to be drawn up to your face. Additionally, not too many women have a small enough mid section that they are willing to add that much more bulk. I’m not sure what is going on with the darker color in the center of the torso. This dress actually breaks the body into three sections. Again, every time we have a break, it adds weight.

Which dress would you wear to work? Why or why not?

I used to work for a company that tried to outlaw jeans–even on Fridays. Of course, the workforce almost caused a riot. While trying to work through the issues, they at one point thought, “Well, they can wear denim on the upper part of their body, but not denim jeans.”That caused even more confusion.

But it wasn’t really that strange. Denim jeans are much more casual than wearing, say, a denim jacket. A denim jacket (one without fraying, holes or inappropriate sayings) can pull an outfit together. It also comes in handy in the office when wearing sleeveless tops because many women don’t like to show their bare arms.

Denim jackets, even casual ones, can go to work and here are some of the ways . . .

What are your company’s rules on denim in the workplace?

Do you believe it? According to a study from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, the clothing that people wear influences their psychological processes. It is important that the clothing people worn were associated with a symbolic meaning.

This may all sound confusing, but a friend of mine recently did something like this. During the Lenten season, his goal was to refrain from swearing. In today’s world, that’s not an easy goal. He chose (without any input from me) to wear a button-down shirt, along with a tie, every day. He even wore the shirt and tie with jeans on days when he wasn’t expecting to meet with a business associate. At the end of the Lenten season, he reported that he had been successful—he had not used any swear words during the 40 day season.

Based on the study, the clothing we wear has to already have a symbolic meaning in order for the wearer to be impacted by the clothing. Thus, I believe my friend made the correct choice—a collared, button-down shirt says “fine upstanding citizen.” The tie says “I am contained.” Most people would say that fine upstanding citizens do not use profanity throughout their everyday speech. And containing ourselves means that we are careful about what we are doing.

Many people, when they feel poorly, dress in comfortable, more casual clothes. If the clothing is more casual than usual, people notice this and spend the entire day asking you if you feel alright or telling you that you look tired. This external talk reinforces the negativity you are already feeling.

When I feel poorly, I usually grab a skirt from my closet, find the colors that look the best on me and make sure that I am wearing a bright lip color. I admit, I do have to push myself to do this. But if everything in my closet already is my best color and flattering to my body, it’s not a lot of work. The skirt requires me to pay attention to the way I am sitting, my best colors help me to look healthy (even when I don’t feel it) and the bright lip color encourages people to smile at me. Usually, I receive compliments or smiles all day long and before I know it, I am feeling more positive. My throat might still hurt, but at least my psychological attitude is more positive.

What is the symbolic meaning behind the clothing you are wearing? Do you find that it has any impact on your performance or how others treat you?

Just because you are a professional doesn’t mean you have to wear black or navy every day!

Enter the shirt dress. The history of the article of clothing is that its details come from a man’s shirt. They usually don’t have a set-in waist, making them flattering on many body shapes.

There is nothing manly about this beautiful shirt dress from Nordstrom. It is a fabulous way to bring color to your wardrobe without sacrificing your professional image. The simple lines and the silk fabric give it a clean look. The top-stitched zipper and tying the belt says casual and elegant at the same time. Coming in at a price of $168 won’t break the bank.

You can find shirt dresses for less money, but they won’t be as elegant as this! Still, we all have budgets we must adhere to. Alternatives can be found at Chadwicks for $39.99; JC Penney for $40; and Dress Barn for $59.99

May you always look great!

Pat Roland, Certified Total Image Consultant

We recently discussed day dresses and following are some guidelines for keeping them professional:

  • Length: Make sure it is no shorter than 2″ above your knees. Anything shorter is distracting in the workplace, no matter what your age. When sitting or reaching for things, your skirt will become even shorter! On the other end of the spectrum, maxi dresses are not appropriate for the office because they are likely to get caught under the wheels of your office chair.
  • Neckline: Whether its a dress or a blouse, the rule is still the same–no cleavage. Make sure that cleavage isn’t showing when you are bending over, either. Practice in front of the mirror to make sure. A camisole goes a long way.
  • Sleeves: While sleeveless isn’t forbidden, it isn’t as professional as a dress with sleeves. Sleeveless dresses with a blazer allow you to remove the blazer when not meeting with clients.
  • Slips: Yes, you need a slip. Slips allow the skirting material to fall smoothly over your hips. They are a must if your skirt is lightweight because in the sunlight light-weight fabric will appear more sheer. In the colder weather, a skirt will help to keep static cling under control. Make sure the slip is approximately 2″ shorter than the skirt of the dress. Pickup a neutral color and you can feel confident it will work with just about any skirt.
  • Hosiery: If the weather is warm and you’re legs aren’t a distraction, you can go without. When in doubt, wear hosiery. A rule of thumb about when to wear hosiery or not: If you are wearing a coat, it is cold enough to wear hosiery. Nude hosiery is the most formal and professional. If you decide to wear colored stockings, they should match the color of your shoes and the hem of your skirt to elongate the leg line as much as possible. Textured hosiery can be distracting and are generally more casual (see related post from Fall 2010).

May you always look great!

Pat Roland, CTIC

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