Tuesday, August 31, 2010

So tell me why you want this job...

The Rundown:
Old Navy pants - 2008 - $20 (similar)
Old Navy blazer - 2008 - $40 (similar)
BR Outlet blouse - 2009 - $6 (similar)
Vintage belt - 2010 - $8 (similar)
Enzo Angiolini heels - 2007 - $70 (similar)
Pearls - 2007 - gift

What worked:
This is an example of a classic business outfit. We have been interviewing candidates for a position in our department, so I felt it was appropriate to suit it up today, although after seeing everyone else in less dressy clothes, I think I'll tone it down for the rest of the interviews.  There's an old adage that says "dress for the job you want, not the job you have," but another saying that says never dress better than your boss.  Sometimes it's hard to find a balance, and there can be some trial and error.  While being overdressed is definitely better than being underdressed, take the cues around you and use them to inform your wardrobe decisions in the future.

What didn't:
I felt a little CSI: Miami in this one...light suit, bright shirt. I can just hear The Who screaming in the background now.  I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bag thing.  The pants and jacket are actually suit separates meant to go together, but they show up slightly different colors in the photo...not sure why.  Other than that, it is hard to go wrong with a suit.

What types of cues have you read from your office and how have you adjusted your workwear accordingly?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Make Believe Monday | Gray skirt

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that gray has been a multi-season staple for a while now. While I do have a pair of gray pants (which I'll bust out on the blog once I stop busting out of them in real life), one thing I am clearly lacking is a gray skirt.  Knowing me, I'll lean toward a pencil shape, but there are a lot of options out there if you're otherwise inclined.

Let's jump right into what the web has to offer on this topic. This first one is very similar to my black pencil skirt (including the same brand...hmmm), just in gray! I know I'd just love to pair it with a classic button up and bright belt.

This high-waist beauty embodies the classic pencil skirt in a modern and professional color.

I love the waist detail on this, although it is on the pricey side. No belt needed for this statement skirt.

I love the waistband and pleats on this almost deconstructed-looking skirt.  Click through to check out the exposed zipper on the back.

And for those who like a little movement to their skirts, this flouncy number has got it.

Here's an example of how I'd style the Limited skirt above:
Gray Pencil Skirt

Gray Pencil Skirt by thenewprofessional featuring black blouse

What's your favorite way to wear gray?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Executive Summary | Links for your weekend | 08.27.10

[A sign outside my local Kaiser. Good advice.]

Howdy doody folks, welcome to the end of the week yet again! Has this week been simultaneously slow and fast for you? It's just been crazy over here and like a whirlwind except for when Friday won't come fast enough.  Lately I've been more and more grateful for weekends when they come, but my weekends are starting to fill up fast.  I spent most of my summer with nothing (literally, nothing) planned on weekends, but in September alone I'm going on three trips (two personal, one work), and the weekends in between are pretty full, too.  There goes my summer!

And here are my reads:
  • I love style shows...my favorites are How Do I Look and What Not To Wear. Stacy London of WNTW  has a new venture...a website with stylists for hire.  The Washington Post covers it here. Wouldn't it be fun to have Stacy London herself impart her style knowledge onto you? I love her classy sheath dresses and pumps.
  • Kyla from Blue Collar Catwalk stopped by Distinctly Desiree this week to talk about mixing prints...if only I had more prints to mix!
  • Sal at Already Pretty is my go-to gal for some motivation and feel-good. My all-time fave (so far, that is) is her repost this week of an old post of hers (you follow?) about real women. I am a real woman, and you are, too, regardless of what society or others may tell you (well, unless you are a man, then you are a real man).
  • When you're job hunting a good cover letter can go a long way (a good resume with a bad cover letter? Sketchy).  Check out these tips to help you avoid writing a bad cover letter.
  • Think your training experiences have been bad? Check out this gem from the 80s. 
  • My birthday is next month, and Jeanna over at Third Floor Closet has hooked us all up with a list of birthday deals from around the web (and in the real world). 
  • Where do you go for cupcakes in your town? Cupcakes Take the Cake rounds up a list of all the cupcake bakeries in the country. I'm taking this list on the road...anyone want to join me?
  • And check out this amazing pencil graphite art...these are seriously pencil-tip sized!  My favorite are the chain links. Just amazing.

What were your favorite reads this week?

Links à la Mode

I made it onto this week's Independent Fashion Bloggers Links a la Mode!  Check out this week's links below (have no fear: my regular weekend links will still appear this afternoon).

links a la mode

Looking Forward to Looking Back for Fall

Edited by: Ann of Holier than Now
Every season begins with looking back: the designers revisit trends of yore, and we fling open our oversized Tupperware bins and dig through the back of our closets to see just what it was we wore this time last year. Despite the thrill of new trends, most of us probably feel that the first Fall shopping we should do is in our own closet (View from 5 ft. 2 and Your Saving Style inspire on this front). Next step: after considering your bank account, and perhaps the pros and cons of fast fashion (see: Consumerism Killed My Soul), a visit to your local thrift store or flea market for vintage finds might replace that mall excursion you were imagining. With a wealth of inspiration from the blogosphere, there's never been a better time to invest in - or just be inspired by - style from the past.

Links à la Mode: August 26th

Thursday, August 26, 2010


The Rundown:
Sweater (found at Ross) - 2010 - $12 (similar here)
Old Navy tank (underneath) - 2008 - hand-me-down (similar here)
Patent Belt - stolen off an old suit that I gave away (similar here)
Pearls - wedding gift
Old Navy pants - 2006 - $6 (sort of similar here; summer is not the season to shop for tweed pants)
Nine West peep-toe pumps - 2009 - $25 (at Ross) (similar here)

Ok, so maybe I'm cheating--this outfit was from last Wednesday, before the sun decided to vacation in Sacramento. Yesterday's outfit was pretty cute, if I do say so myself, but I was in no shape after work to be taking a photo (yes, on the hottest day of the year--108 I think?--I decided it would be a good idea to walk over a mile at lunch to the farmer's market for lunch). But no worries, I plan on reprising that outfit eventually and posting it. Ok, back to post now...

What worked:
This is a great work outfit for fall or spring weather, when it's not quite hot, but not quite jacket weather.  These are one of my favorite pairs of pants...they're thick and lined so it lays very nicely, and the color and texture add instant interest. Perfect for pairing with some solid basics.  This open-draped sweater is super-light (I don't think I can really even call it a sweater...it's more like light t-shirt material), and definitely comfy.  Usually I like it open, but I'm liking it belted, too (especially with the wide-leg pants).

What didn't:
This pose sucks. But I think the outfit is awesome. I know I usually find something to nitpick about, but for once, I'm sitting back and calling this one a winner.

What is your favorite I-know-I-look-awesome outfit?  I know you have one. :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Don't know? Don't fret

We've all had that moment of panic. Our boss (or other superior figure) turns to us in a meeting and asks, "Can you take care of that?" And since you've heard that saying "no" is not a good thing to do at work, you either nod robotically or say "Sure!" and freak out later.  Oh, you haven't? Well, you should try it sometime.

As the second hire in my department (it was only my boss for years before I and another employee were hired on at the same time), a lot had to be done just to get our department in order. Procedures and style guides needed to be established, and other departments were eager to take advantage of this new communications team (rather than one communications person).  Requests ranged from making an interactive form (hellloooo Adobe Acrobat) to editing and formatting 40-page grants to writing from scratch a style guide and standards manual for the entire organization (we're mainly AP but with a bit of CMS thrown in...love their Q&A section!).  My previous work experience? Magazine writing and editing. Oh, and traffic impact analysis (cars, not websites) and piano teaching.

Getting asked to do something you have no idea how to do can be a great opportunity for you to not only grow your own skill set but establish yourself as the go-to expert in your company for that need (we're trying to be indispensable, remember?).  Here are some tips for using what you don't know to increase what you do.
  • First off, get a handle on the scope of the project. This will narrow down your area of focus and help you deliver a result that fits the bill.
  • Strategize your method of attack. This includes deciding where you will start on the project, any background research needed, and points in the project where approvals or check ins may be needed.
  • If the task being asked of you is something your supervisor or a coworker has experience in, don't be afraid to ask them to double check your strategy to see if you're going in the right direction. This is an opportunity not only to make sure you aren't wasting time going in the wrong direction, but if you are on track, it shows that you have good intuition for the task at hand, even if you may not have experience. I'd recommend doing this sparingly--for example, the first time on a type of project or one that is extremely large and complicated compared to what you're used--making this too much of a habit can backfire and make you look insecure or forgetful.
  • Google is your friend. I wish I could post a sign outside my cubicle that says, "Have a question? Have you Google-d it, first? Proceed."  While this is most common among those folks that have less online research experience, I will admit I sometimes forget this advice myself and look like goof. 
  • Ask for clarification when needed.  Barking up the wrong tree can be a waste of valuable time.
  • Take look at your project afterward. What did you learn? A new software program or business method? Don't forget to add it to your resume.
  • Where else can you apply your new-found knowledge?  Put it to work for you by offering to do it again the next time (if you liked doing it) or training others how to do it (if you didn't).  If it's a novel approach to a project or you saw great results, consider submitting it as a presentation at a conference or an article to a trade publication.  In other words, share!

Where do you turn when you don't know something at work? How have you turned challenges into new skills or opportunities?

Beating the heat

The Rundown:
Max Studio wrap dress - 2008 - gift from my mom (similar here and here)
Enzo Angiolini peep-toes - 2007 - $70ish (similar here)
DIY necklace - 2010 - cheap (sort of similar here)

What worked:
I rarely wear this dress because it's really flimsy and I don't really wear prints all that often.  But breezy and flimsy is exactly what I needed today, when the thermometer hit 106 here in town.  This wrap dress (really, it's like a giant robe that wraps around) is great for showing off a waist I barely knew I had and I think the length--right below the knee--accentuates the calves so well. Why are most of my skirts above the knee? I don't know, but after today I'm on the lookout (err...will be on the lookout in March) for more right-below-the-knee skirts.

What didn't:
Even though I was nearly sweating in my apartment by 7:30 this morning, the office was still freezing. I would have added on a brown blazer to biz this up a bit and fight the chill.  And for some offices this look may be too casual altogether.

This necklace is something I picked up back in March, right after I started my shopping diet. Well, I picked up the pieces from a bead store. It's a big bone "bead" (there are holes at the top and bottom of the shape), and I looped a leather cord around it.  Tada! I also got extra leather cord in black and brown so I could switch it up. I can't remember how much it was, but it was really cheap for three necklaces (I got an extra bead to make a bracelet, but couldn't find it this morning).

On another fun note, I took the plunge and ordered the Moleskine weekly notebook today! I got it in black softcover, and the 18-month version so I can start using it right away and it will last me through December 2011.  It was $10.95 at Border's, plus a rebate through Ebates (not an Ebates member? Click here for a referral).

Do you go a little more casual for bad-weather (super-hot or super-cold) days? Does it fly in your office?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Readers: you asked for more detail pics in the survey so here they are! It was just me and my camera today, but next time I'll try to get more detail shots of the outfit on me.

The Rundown:
Ann Taylor Outlet top - 2007 - $14 (similar here)
Vintage belt - 2010 - $12 (similar here)
Ann Taylor Loft skirt - 2010 - $13 (similar here)
Target shoes - 2010 - $6 (available here)
Ring (Claire's or the Icing) - (similar here)
Random ball chain necklaces - (similar here)

What worked:
I loved the colors of today's outfit...the bright orange and creams, and the light grays. It was expected to get to 99 degrees today, and although I never checked, I'd be surprised if it didn't actually reach that high. Tomorrow is supposed to be 103 degrees.  Eesh. These shoes are my latest find (remember, the diet doesn't include shoes, undergarments, and accessories)...they were only $6 on clearance at the store! They're still full price online, but maybe your Target has them on sale, too.  They're real suede, so it's definitely a bargain.

What didn't:
Looking back at the first photo, my top half looks like something is missing.  A larger necklace maybe? A watch? I wore a cardigan most of the day but my apartment was 83 degrees when I got home so I couldn't bear putting it back on for pics. So maybe it didn't look so bad during the day.

So I'm torn on these bangs. I just trimmed them a couple of millimeters on Friday and they're still in my eyes like crazy! I've been brushing them to the side, but will probably try another trim before I decide to grow them out completely.

Gals with bangs - how often do you trim your bangs? Gals without - how often do you do hair maintenance?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Make Believe Monday | Personal planner/organizer

With work, outside commitments, and a social life (at a minimum), it's easy to loose track of what your daily activities are. I keep a Google calendar, which syncs to my phone (and which I never check except to add stuff every once in a while), and an Outlook calendar on my work computer (for work mtgs and vacations only). I also have a wall calendar in my cubicle for big dates to remember, and a whiteboard calendar at home.  It is a lot to keep track of, and a lot of times things end up on one calendar, but not another, or I end up having to write things down 12 times (it feels like that, at least). And don't even get me started on the number of to-do lists I keep at any given time.

What I wish I had was a reasonably portable personal planner/organizer to jot notes, to-dos, and keep a master calendar. I've always had a penchant for planning and organization, ever since I was a kid with no appointments or to-dos (except for practice piano and ride my bike).

Growing up, I stared longingly and in awe at my dad's Franklin Covey organizer. It was a beautiful mahogany leather, zipped up all around, and had notes on each page...appointments, to-dos, and meeting notes, all in his neat handwriting.  I loved that he kept photos of me, my brother, and my mom in the front of his binder, and he carried it around with him everywhere.  He had the system down (the actual Franklin Covey personal productivity system, with its check marks, bullets, and arrows).

I was a sophomore in college when I finally got my first Franklin Covey organizer.  A good friend, who had listened to me wax on and on and on at length about the merits of the Franklin Covey, gave me a gift card to the store for Christmas, and I remember picking out my binder...it was black leather, compact in size, and zipped all the way around, just like my dad's. I chose the generic Franklin Covey daily filler pack for my first year, to get my feel for the system. It was glorious. I put pictures of my family and friends in the front, and set to work filling the pages with colorful notes and appointments. I marked the day that my now-husband asked me out, the day of our first date, the day he asked me to be his girlfriend, and the day we had our first kiss (in that order...I made him wait).

I stopped using it when I went to graduate school (my calendar consisted solely of school, internship, and homework), but I still have the pages from those first three years, kept neatly in Franklin Covey's archiving binders. Here's the proof:

After graduate school, I graduated up to a classic-size Franklin Covey, and my dad gave me one of his old binders to use (::swoon::). It was filled with wedding-planning activities and social gatherings with friends, but it was so large it was quickly relegated to my desk at home, where I rarely spent time, and it sat largely unused.  These past few years, I've tried those purse-friendly, plastic encased monthly planners you can get anywhere (my mom's method), but a month is such a wide view that I didn't find it useful.

After years of this trial and error, I think I've settled on a good medium and now wish for a weekly organizer.  It allows just enough detail, and my to-do lists often encompass one week. Plus, it is more likely than a daily calendar to fit in my purse and keep with me all the time.  I found some nice options on the web...now to pick just one!

I love how compact this one is (only 2.5" x 4.5") and how the blank spaces give more freedom than lines for notetaking, but like many traditional weekly planners, there's not much space for a weekly to-do list.

The Franklin Covey perspective calendar has a little less space for the daily appointments and more space for to-dos, which is perfect for me.

I've always loved Bob's Your Uncle's Eight Days a Week planner, and I like this mini version, too! It keeps things nice and loose with it's a.m., p.m., and evening designations (instead of set hours), and the Someday... section is perfect for a weekly to-do list.

Moleskine is a classic that I read about often...who knew they had this cool weekly planner - notebook hybrid? Um...perfection?

Since many of these notebooks go by calendar year, I have until January to decide, but so far the Moleskine is the definite Frontrunner.

How do you keep your appointments and to-dos organized? Do you keep a planner or do it digitally?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Executive Summary | Links for your weekend | 08.20.10

My french fry addiction, out in the open. These are from In n Out.  I pity the fool that doesn't have live near one.  YUM.

Happy Friday folks!  I am super-excited for my weekend...I'm heading out to Berkeley to spend two days with A, who has been one of my closest friends since kindergarten.  We were both "new" kids in kindergarten (she transferred from a private school nearby, and I had just moved to California from Dallas, TX).  For years A, her sister, and I always got called each others names, especially when people were looking at the backs of our heads.  We went to the same school all the way through college.  And 22 years later, here we are, all grown up. So excited.

While I'm off having fun, please enjoy these links.
  • This is the first year in nearly 10 that I haven't moved (across town, across the state, or across the country).  But we'll probably move next year.  When I do, I'll definitely be following KT's tips on packing.
  • Have you ever bought an item online only to see the price has dropped the next day?  Lifehacker calculates the best days of the week to purchase clothing online.
  • While I generally think guys have an easier (but boring-er) time dressing for work, there are some that could use a few tips. Check out this article on how to dress like a post-collegiate male.
  • How fun would it be to have giant cupcake-shaped containers holding stuff around your office? Fun.  And I think it'd make me hungry all the time.
  • If you asked 12 people what the biggest at-work faux pas was, you'd get 12 different answers.  But the ones in this article are pretty bad. Yahoo Hot Jobs talks about bad habits at work.
  • After a few packed days at work this week, my Thursday was feeling blah, and then I read Chris Brogan's article on tightening up (no, not the glutes).  I think I'm going to keep this handy for days when I feel uninspired or smug.
  • I've probably been asked at least 3 times in the last week to see Eat, Pray, Love. It's not that I don't think it will be good, it's just I think the premise sounds better as a book, and I haven't had time to get it and read it.  Bitch magazine takes a look at "priv-lit," a category in which EPL definitely falls.  While I don't believe there is anything wrong with enjoying the finer things in life and treating yourself when you want to and can, this article questions whether the proliferation of priv-lit and other like media are giving a false sense that personal enrichment and well-being can be had for a price.  Agree or disagree, it's an interesting read.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Where to Wear | Casual work outing

Summertime is perfect for picnics; our organization has one every year at the park down the street.  It's held on a Friday, so that we can dress more casually, and there are often activities that involve physical movement (a few years back we had an Olympics, the same week that The Office did. The year before I started, it was Survivor-themed, just like The Office.  Both times the picnic happened right before the TV show).  The Casual Friday dress code is even more relaxed for that one day of the year, with shorts, sandals, and tees on the acceptable list.

But what if the dress code isn't relaxed at all for a social outing? What if it's not on a Casual Friday?  Even when allowed, you should be aware that casual for the office does not mean random weekend wear. Steer clear of torn jeans, skimpy tanks, and rubber flip flops.

For our office picnic this year I wore a ruffled plaid short-sleeve button-up, cuffed skinny jeans, and my flat black sandals.  It was perfect for the barbecue and sitting at a picnic table (and I helped set up...helloooo social committee).

There is still a good month's worth of summer left, so here are some ideas on what to wear for more casual work outings.

I love this look so much I'd wear it anyday, not just for work.

I featured this striped dress last month, and I still love it (have I mentioned it's only $13?).  Here are two ways to style it: tough and girly.
Where to Wear | Casual Office Outing 2Fashion Trends & Styles - Polyvore

Where to Wear | Casual Office Outing 2 by thenewprofessional featuring GAP dresses

Does your office have an annual picnic or other casual outing? What's the dress code like for that occasion?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Underneath it all

A good foundation is key to a good end result. I'm not talking makeup today (although I guess it could apply), or construction (again, also true here), but I'm talking clothes and fit. 

My good friend and faithful reader T brought this up a while ago when she asked "Can you do a post on VPL?  Oy."  Or something along those lines.  And as someone for whom fit is often an issue, this topic is near to my heart.

Visible Panty Lines and their cousins Visible Bra Lines (VBL), Visible Bra Straps (VBS), and Visible Undergarments In General (VUIG), can take an outfit from fab to fugly.

So how do you lay a good foundation?  Well-constructed, well-fitting, and (for bottoms) lined clothes definitely help.  If you're stuffed into too-tight clothes your undergarments will show more often than not.  If the fabric is too thin or too clingy, everything underneath will show.  Here are some tips to minimize the dreaded acronyms...add your own tips in the comments!

If you're anything like me, any underwear with elastic openings will cause visible lumps and bumps (I may be slim, but I am soft).  Even the ones that say "seamless."  Lacey undies can create a not-so-smooth surface that makes their presence known.  So I go with these.  The edges laser-cut (or whatever you call it) instead of elastic, so no squeezing! Make sure you get the right size, though, because the lack of elastic sometimes results in rolling of the edges (resulting in visible lines).  They're a little pricey, but I've yet to find a cheaper brand that produces something similar (have you?). You could also go thong or G-string iff you so choose.  When I'm wearing an unlined skirt, I add a slip.

I hate bra shopping, and I don't know anyone who actually enjoys it.  Finding the right fit is the key to combatting VBL.  It should sit flat to your chest in between your girls, not ride up in back, and not create bulges across your back or under your arm.  The cups should not gape, nor should your goods spill over. If frippleage is a problem, the cup should be lined enough so that you won't show through when you're cold.  Oh, and let's try to avoid a line where the cup ends and your skin begins, okay?  It feels like way too much to ask.

While I haven't found the all around "perfect" bra yet, I have learned a few things along the way. Look for smooth fabrics and fewer seams.  The cup should thin out toward the edges so there is no visible bump.  Steer clear of lace and other embellishments (for some bras at least...I have no problem with having a few fun bras lying around that I won't be wearing to work).  I like these because of their smooth and seamless construction (although if you are naturally blessed in the bosom, you might not want to go with a push-up).

As for VBS, this is more of a clothing-fit issue.  Get yourself some wider straps or a convertible bra with more options.  Or sew in a secret bra strap holder (instructional video here).

I've heard it said that slips are a little old-fashioned, but I believe they were so popular because, hey, they work!  A lot of office skirts are already lined, and do not need a slip, but for the girl on a budget, you can't always cross an otherwise great item off the list because it's missing a lining, so I have quite a few unlined pieces in my closet (most of my pants, some of my skirts, and a lot of my dresses).  I recommend having at least one full slip for dresses and one half slip (or pettipant/pettileg) for skirts.  Admittedly, finding the shorts things are much harder (I've had mine since high school and have no idea where I found them). Things to look for: lace may cause bumps, make sure the neckline is slightly lower than your lowest cut work dress, and consider the shape of the skirt.  An a-line slip stuffed into a pencil skirt is going to cause bumps.

Valuable not only for their modesty-retaining capability when paired with low-cut shirts, wearing a cami under a button-up top can help reduce gaping between the buttons (I was going to take pics to demonstrate but I don't think I want to post that on the Internet. Let's just say, by stretching the fabric across the chest, the button-up shirt then has a smooth surface to lie against).  Look for a cami that doesn't have bulky seams or straps, or one that has wider straps so they don't dig.  Lacey camis, while cute in some looks, may cause bumps if worn as an undershirt. A thin stretchy fabric will be wearable in summer, too. 

At the very least, you should own one of each of the above in skin tone and in black.  That should cover your bases.  If you have to choose one, choose skin toned (ok, so that's the very least).  I was emotionally scarred by a white-bra-under-gray-dress-in-flash-photo incident in high school that drilled that into my head indefinitely.  I hope you don't have to suffer through any similar experiences.

I really don't have anything against lace (I mean, it is sooo popular in lingerie for a reason), but the truth is, lace isn't smooth.  Save it for days when you're wearing jeans and looser clothes.

What are your foundational secrets? 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Teal + grey + black = major like

The Rundown
Banana Republic shirt - 2009 - $20 (similar)
Vintage belt - 2010 - $12 (similar)
Limited skirt - 2009 - $20 (similar here and here)
Target flats - 2010 - $17 (available here)
Anne Klein watch - 2009 - $55 (available here)
Grouse and Badger typewriter key ring - 2010 - $5 (available here)

What worked
I don't think I've worn a skirt without a belt in quite a while...and I don't really have a problem with that at all.  I really like the colors in this outfit (the teal and the gray), and I have to say it was super comfortable.

What didn't
While I don't dislike the nude flats with this outfit, I think a pair of killer heels would have really boosted it.  Also, it sort of looks too much like it was comfortable (very loose, maybe too loose?).  I think next time I'd also tweak it by adding a cardigan and then belting over it (I actually wore one open over this outfit all day -- it is freezing in our office! -- but it was way hot after I got out of work).  This outfit is also primed and ready for a statement necklace...I meant to add a regular one this morning but completely forgot.

Speaking of freezing, our office has been worse than normal lately. This is especially weird because our building claims to be Energy Star rated and they're currently pursuing LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.  Blasting the a/c in the summer so that your employees feel the need to turn on space heaters is definitely not energy efficient.  Letting your employees continue freezing in the winter by not turning on any heaters is sort of energy efficient.  Single-pane windows that let in the breeze (seriously) are not energy efficient.  Letting the handicap-accessible door openers to the bathrooms break and not fixing them for a month may save a tiny bit of electricity, but is so so so inconsiderate (seeing that there are two women who work full-time on my floor in wheelchairs).

What does your workplace to do be "green"?  Are they succeeding?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Make Believe Monday | Statement necklace

When it comes to accessories, I nearly always fall into the minimalist camp.  My normal gear includes only my wedding rings and a pair of silver ball stud earrings. When I do pick an accessory, it's usually a ring or watch, or my standby ballchain necklace.

That said, I also enjoy being really flashy. I love my crazy flower ring and my big black one, as well as some fun earrings now and then, but my necklace selection is woefully inadequate for this task, leaving me to one or two standbys, which I've become pretty sick of.  So I'm adding to my list a statement necklace (or two or three or four...heck as many as I can get my hands on).

Statement necklaces are a great way to add punch and polish to a basic outfit.  Let one peek out from the collar of a work blouse, or add one over a basic shift dress for some neckline bling.  You can dress these pieces up or down, and use them on weekends and Casual Fridays, too.  Here are some of my favorites:

I love the subtle sparkle of this necklace....usually I'd stay away from so much shine, but the classic shape of this necklace would be great under a suit.

These beads add vibrant color, and I love how hefty this two-strander is.

Have I mentioned before how much I love metal and studs?  Not in a while. I majorly want this necklace.

Pearls are a great office standby...and when they look this good, the more pearls the better.

I love the color and abstract shape of this beauty...I would pair this with my gray shift dress for some much-needed pop!

I'm often a little bummed that I like Forever 21's jewelry online, but can never find it in stores.  I'm a little iffy on their quality, so that's why I like to see things in person before I buy.  But I'm thinking I need a trip back there soon.

Do you have a go-to statement necklace to spice up your work basics? Where do you go to find affordable jewelry that won't fall apart or turn your skin green?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Executive Summary | Links for your weekend | 08.13.10

So I didn't take any photos of my week (that's just a fact), but since this week was my anniversary and this is a fashion blog, here is a pic of my wedding dress. No, I was not running away from the wedding before it started...I was running away from the venue's planner who wanted to start the reception early after starting the ceremony late. I was wearing four-inch heels with a slight platform up front.

But I digress...here are a few of my favorite links from this week.
  • It's one thing to find the right item while shopping, but Sally Bjornsen, founder of The Great American Apparel Diet, shares her tips on taking care of your clothes once you have them.
  • You may not have control over your desk set-up at work, but if you have a home office (or a work office), check out UnPluggd's pros and cons of different desk layouts.
  • Think your coworkers are great? Reader's Digest has some tips on being a better coworker so you can show them who's awesomer (yes, I said awesomer).
  • What do food labels mean anyway? Well, not so much food, but chocolate (you know, the important stuff).  Serious Eats demystifies the chocolate label.
Some more eye candy and a tip for a budget wedding: check out your local grocery store bakery and see if the baker has experience with wedding cakes. The Albertson's near my venue had a baker with over 13 years of experience doing weddings, and we got our cake for a steal!  They used fresh fruit from the produce section, and three years later people are still raving about our cake.

Pretend Friday

The Rundown:
Gap blazer - 2005 - $40 (similar)
Kohl's blouse - 2007 - $13 (similar)
Gap belt - 2010 - $10 (similar)
Ann Taylor skirt - 2006 - $7 (similar)
Calvin Klein Shoes from Off Broadway - 2007 - $70 (similar)
Anne Klein watch - 2009 - $55 (available here)

What worked:
Don't hate me, but I'm one of those lucky people that, on days with no meetings, is actually allowed to wear denim to work (tastefully and dressed up, that is).  Even if you can't wear denim on Thursdays (like I did with this outfit), this could work if your office allows denim on Casual Fridays.  I cuffed up my sleeves (a la earlier this week) and I think I just breathed new life into this blazer. I've always liked it (everyone should consider getting a standby black blazer), but this new way of wearing it just opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

What didn't:
This skirt fits funny. I bought it years ago even though it was two sizes too big (at the time) just because it was such a good deal (seriously, right?!?). Have no fear, I expanded to fill those two sizes, but it still doesn't quite fall right.  It's not as bad when the shirt is tucked in and the skirt belted, but it is just super-thick and bulky at the waist. Today it looked okay because the blazer sort of hid the waistline on the sides.  I also wish I would have worn a bolder necklace and bracelet to add some interest up top (I have on a small ball chain necklace, my standby).

Apologies for being MIA lately...this week has been insane. K and I had our three-year anniversary this Wednesday. We like to keep it low-key...eat steak until we're silly, no presents. That's the suckiest part about being married...for anniversaries and Valentine's Day, you're out twice the money. We only do birthdays and Christmas (I think? I can't remember), which isn't to say we never treat ourselves or each other to stuff, but we don't like to keep it restricted to a holiday schedule.  In addition, we hosted a farewell party for some friends tonight and are attending another farewell party for a coworker tomorrow night (which I just finished baking cupcakes for), we're in charge of our church small group's girls/guys Saturday morning get-togethers (me, the gals, and him, the guys), and a college friend is coming into town this weekend. Needless to say I'm pretty tired and haven't been on the computer (outside of work) for a while.  And it's late so I'm keeping this "short."

And if you haven't yet, please take the reader survey. This is the last time I'm asking...it ends tonight.

How has your week been? What is the first thing to fall by the wayside for you in a busy week?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Meeting magic

Meetings are probably one of the most mundane parts of an office work environment. Whether your office is meeting-happy or meeting-averse, we've all been in way too many meetings with no clear objective and no clear result. While it's one thing to sit in a boring meeting as a participant, if you're leading a meeting you have more control and can really make the meeting work for you.

Okay, so there is no actual magic formula for making your meeting fun and productive.  Or at least none that I know of. If you have a magic formula, please let me know in the comments.  But hey, every little bit helps, right?  Here are some tips from my (pretty limited) experience planning and leading meetings.

Before the meeting
  • Look at how much you have to cover and set aside an appropriate amount of time for the meeting.  Be mindful of this time allotment when planning your agenda.
  • Pick a setting that is appropriate. If you have a lot to cover in a short amount of time, a lunch meeting at a restaurant may not be the best venue. If you need to get the creative juices flowing, get out of the office or to a new space, which will help people get out of "boring meeting" mode.
  • Plan your agenda and send it out to all participants at least one day in advance (when possible).  
  • Be specific and active in your agenda items.  For example, "Discuss and pick conference giveaway" or "Assign stories for fall issue" so that it is clear what the result of the discussion should be.
  • Note in the agenda who should be leading each item, if it's not always going to be you. (This is where the day-before thing comes in handy...they'll have a heads up that you expect an update rather than feeling bombarded.)
  • Chunk your items topically, so that you can pause after each section for questions and ideas relevant to that section. 
During the meeting
  • Dispelling distractions. While they can't be avoided completely (and the joke or laugh here or there is perfectly fine and may help keep the mood light), if a conversation is getting away from you, squelch it. If it is related but seems to be going nowhere, find out what the actual action participants are expecting from their discussion (if it's nothing, then ask nicely to get back on track). If an action or decision can be identified, direct the conversation toward that. If it is a relevant discussion but out of place in the agenda, you can either take a detour in your agenda (easiest if you're in between sections anyway) or politely ask to save those comments until you reach that point in the agenda.
  • Decide on actions and assign responsible parties to each.
  • When appropriate, don't be afraid to table a large topic for another time. Likewise, if there is a decision that only requires one or two people (out of a larger meeting group), don't force everyone to listen to your discussion; save it for another time with just those involved.
  • Be respectful of time. If the meeting is going great and gaining momentum, and the participants don't seem to mind, your meeting may go over, but if people have places to be, don't be offended or bummed if they scatter when the hour hits. Play it by ear and make sure to hit your must-have items/decisions before they go.
After the meeting
  • Summarize the results of the meeting discussion, paying attention to the next steps that have to be taken and noting in your summary who is responsible for that task.
  • If a follow-up meeting will be taking place, it is useful to summarize what steps should be completed by then and whether any new items will be presented at the follow-up. 
For some more tips for productive meetings, check out this presentation.  When all else fails, I bring food to make sure people show up.  Homemade baked goods are always a hit.

How do you prepare for and follow-up after meetings for the best effect?  Any magic formulas?

The Rundown:
J.Crew outlet top - 2009 - $20 (similar)
MNG by Mango skirt - 2007 - $14 (similar)
Nina shoes from Ross - 2009 - $16 (available here; another low-heel pointy-toe, tannish pump here)
Vintage belt - 2010 - $12 (similar)

What worked:
This is a pretty classic work outfit. This top is the striped shirt I lamented not including in my 30, but now that I'm done, and the weather is blissfully in the 80s, it is back out in full force. Even though it's long-sleeved, I really like the sleeves better rolled up. I don't know what it is about button-up shirts that makes me want to roll the sleeves up. It just looks so crisp that way.  I questioned the brown belt with black skirt

What didn't:
I think this outfit would have worked better with some classic black pumps, my red pumps, or my black peep-toes.  While I love these heels (and they're comfortable as all get-out), I feel like they're competing with the belt.  Next time I'd also add a chunky silver watch (the battery in mine has been dead for about 2 years now...yes, I procrastinate).

I had a crazy-anxious moment today after work. First off, my late-afternoon meeting ran over a good hour and a half (photo contest judging cannot be rushed; luckily we were all having fun), so I didn't get home until almost 7, which is prime dinner hour in my downtown neighborhood. I circled around until I found a spot and started parallel parking.  Now, mind you, I parallel park probably 4 times a day (both at work and at home), so am generally pretty good at it (read: I can get in between two cars, while hitting the curb only 50% of the time).  Today, no such luck. I hear a light crunch as I bump the car behind me. Right in front of a restaurant with outside seating. I feel my heart jump into my throat and my heart start racing. I peek at the car and see no visible damage, but the people at the tables are staring. I do the walk of shame back to my apartment, freak out for a little, write a note, grab a camera, and head back out.

The note said: "Bumped your license plate while backing my car in -- sorry! I took a pic of the area, but if you want to exchange insurance info, please give me a call. Again, so sorry!" with my name and home phone number.  I snap a few discrete shots of my bumper and their license area (just in case they did call), tuck the note under the windshield wiper, and hurry back to my apartment. Honestly, the guilt of the people watching was a huge motivator, especially because there was really no mark at all.  But hey, sometimes you just need that little push, right?

Have you ever done a bump and run? I'm not talking serious damage here, but maybe just for your conscience?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A wrinkle in time

The Rundown:
Mom's blazer - from the '70s or 80s (similar here and here)
The Limited top - 2009 - $12? (similar)
Old Navy bootcut pants - 2008 - $20 (similar)
Blake Scott pumps from Off Broadway - 2010 - $40 (similar here and here; probably still in stores)
Anne Klein watch - 2009 - $55 (available here)

What worked:
Loved this blazer for work. Two of my coworkers (who remembered back in the day when this style was all the rage) cuffed my sleeves for me, and I think I really like it this way. I also really like the teal and the red in the same outfit...for some reason, they both feel like neutrals to me (at least this deep red), and really let the blazer stand out today.

What didn't work:
I think I should have cuffed up the sleeves just one more time...uncuffed it was bracelet length, two cuffs may have made it near-elbow length. But this is a little awkward in between. Also, I have to remember to really press out the hem of these pants next time (I recently let out the hem since the pants shrunk and didn't accommodate heels anymore).

I'm pretty bad with the whole wrinkles thing. Granted, these photos are taken after a day of sitting at the office and 20-minute-per-way commute.  I tried spray starch this last time (in a spray bottle, not one of those aerosol cans; was supposed to be all natural, too), and its been a bit better than starchless, but not consistent enough to make me a believer. Still on the lookout for a good solution.

Do you starch when you iron? What are your tips on staying wrinkle free?

p.s. Trying out a new format and some new info (similar items on the web) based on the your feedback from my reader survey! If you haven't filled it out already, please do...you have until this Friday.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Make Believe Monday | Shirtdress

The classic shirtdress, while a casual staple, can also be professionalized for the office. Which is why I'm adding it to my wish list.

Some tips on wearing a shirtdress in the office.
  • Wear a slip. Or a cami + half-slip.  Even a well-fitting shirtdress--one that won't gape between buttons--runs the risk of some gape-age, especially as you walk around all day.
  • Watch the length. Yes, it might be only an inch above the knee, but how many inches until the first button?  I don't know if there is an actual rule for this, so just go with your gut feeling.
  • Fabric can be magic. If there is one aspect of a shirtdress that can really set a casual one apart from a professional one, it's the fabric. Pick one that won't have any showthrough, or a thicker weave for durability. 
  • Details, details. Tab sleeves, belts, and take your pick of sleeve lengths and skirt styles. The options are endless. 
Here are some of my picks from around the web.

I love the slimness and length of this short-sleeve dress.

This three-quarter sleeve beauty has a nice high waist and some volume in the skirt to accentuate the cinched waist.

I love the patch pockets on this dress, and the sleeves look long enough to roll into whatever length you want.

And of course, what better for a casual Friday than a shirtdress in denim. Love the sweet tie-waist and full skirt here, too.

Now that I think about it, I might need more than one of these on my wish list.

Here's an example of how a basic khaki shirtdress gets office ready. (Just checked out Polyvore for the first time this weekend and I feel a new obsession coming on...creating sets!)

Are you a shirtdress in the office gal, or do you reserve it for more casual days?