An internet friend, “J,” wrote with a career emergency plea!
HELP! I am deeply in need of the sage advice of you and your fabulous readers. After a year of unemployment and temping following graduate school, I just found a great job in my field, and I have next week free to go shopping. Fantastic, yes? But I haven’t set foot in a store that wasn’t Goodwill or Marshall’s in the past year, I was overseas for two years before that, and (not that shopping for flattering clothes has ever been particularly easy) I no longer know where I’ll stand a good chance of fairly readily finding clothes I like at a reasonable price (I’ll spend for something great, but I’m not trying to blow my entire first paycheck in advance, so items in the $50-75 range are where I’m trying to aim).
I also will be working in
Washington, DCand I’m not entirely sure how much I need step up my expectations of what is appropriate work wear. I’m in a largish non-profit organization, so it’s not corporate/government suit-the-whole-suit-and-nothing-but-the-suit style, but I have very little in my wardrobe right now that I’m confident is appropriate, to say nothing of superfantastic.
As for what I know works for me: I’m tallish (5’9”), carry more weight around my middle, but have a bit of waist definition. Pants are very difficult – if I buy them to fit my hips and thighs I can barely breathe, if I purchase pants that allow me to partake in oxygen, they bag around my hips and thighs. I love skirts – A-line and circle skirts hemmed at or below the knee do the best job of balancing out my broad shoulders and not-insubstantial bust (38D last time I was fitted, and yes, a new fitting and new bras are definitely on my list). I like strong colors – most shades of blue suit me well, I just love red, and black is my major neutral – and I’m learning not to be shy of prints. I do not play well with 99% of bows, ruffles, and frills – “cute” and “sweet” don’t sit well on me, which makes it challenging to avoid looking staid.
Here’s where we enter the realm of miracle working: my below-navel pooch and love handles are the spots I want most to disguise, so any bottoms in clingy fabrics are right out since shirts long enough to mask that area make my torso look miles long, and I am just not the kind of woman who can wear a foundation garment all day. I also have a very strong preference for fabrics that are mostly natural fibers. My pants and skirts are generally sized 14-16, my shirts,16-18.
If you or your readers could offer me some suggestions on the essential pieces in a versatile-yet-fabulous working wardrobe that’s not a budget-buster, and what stores and/or brands are good bets (internet is not the best option at this point, unfortunately, given the tight time frame) for acquiring enough of them not to be underdressed in my first week of work, I would be deeply grateful!
Francesca says: Get thee straight to Talbots Woman and walk immediately to the sale rack!
They have conservative-but-feminine clothing, some of which may have flowery prints but none have lace or frills, at least none that Francesca has ever seen.
DC does not have a Talbots Woman store, but you can find them in Chevy Chase and N. Bethesda.
There is also a Saks Fifth Avenue on Wisconsin Street in DC; call them at 202-363-2059 to find out whether they have a “Salon Z” or other plus-size section, and if so whether they have a sales rack. Even on sale the clothes may be out of your budget, but you are having a wardrobe emergency and may need to bite a bullet or two.
Finally, there are locations of Avenue stores within driving distance of you in both Maryland and Virginia (go to www.avenue.com and click on “store locator” at the bottom). Avenue is known for their casual clothes, but they also sell some very nice tops that could work for you if your office does not require suits, and the price is right. Here is a page showing some outfits that might work in a “business casual” environment, depending on how much it is a no-suit-required place.
Now, for some general advice:
Francesca, too, has the major love handles and it is not easy to hide them. She recommends:
a) Spring sweaters which you can close up top and allow to hang open and loose starting from just below the breasts. If you can buy a matching shell it will do wonders.
b) Princess seams, as always — but these only go so far to hide the love handles.
Ultimately the best thing to do is stand up tall and remember that no one cares that you have love handles as much as you do! They are too busy caring about their OWN love handles! (or poochie tummy, or lumpy-squishy arms, or tiny boobs, or ugly feet, or bad hair, or crooked teeth, or whatever — all the things you never noticed about them because you are too busy worrying about your love handles!)
Congratulations on the new job, and happy shopping!