Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Getting Down to Business in Pencil Skirts, Shirts, and Heels

Sorry I've been away for a while! Work took over my life for a few weeks and left me little time for anything fun. But now I'm back and have lots to share. So let's get down to business - business fashion, that is.

I decided to overhaul my work wardrobe a bit. My new additions? Pencil skirts, button-down dress shirts, a sexy "power suit", new belts, a couple of bags, and some lovely new heels. Yes, you can say that I went a bit overboard. But somehow, I prefer to see it as an investment in my career (and therefore feel far less guilty). My husband did not quite agree and has now banned me from J.Crew and eBay, including blocking these sites from my computer... But back to the topic at hand.

Here are some of my new acquisitions:


And here are some of my older work essentials that I mixed them up with:


My hubby was working late one night, so I decided to use the time productively to put on a little fashion show with my new work clothes. I created several outfits to see how many I could mix and match with a few basic pieces. I apologize in advance for the poor photo quality - these were taken at night in front of a (dusty) mirror without a flash.

What do you think? Please comment on your likes, dislikes, and favorites in the photos that follow.

I love love love the Joley Tortoise Peep Toes! They are not only incredibly adorable, but they are also unbelievably comfortable! The patent leather is so soft and flexible (unlike many patent leathers from other brands), and though I attempted to injure it several times (accidentally) with the sharp point of my heel, it never scratched. I have the same good fortune with my Cate Patent Slingbacks (also shown) which are simply indestructible.

At first I wasn't sure if I could justify shelling out full price for yet another animal print-reminiscent pattern, having already acquired last year's Serengetti, the previous year's spotted cat calf-hair print, and this past fall's ocelot/snow leopard varieties (not to mention the zebra bangle, . But as soon as I saw the tortoise pattern on the Joleys, I fell in love instantly and wanted to wear them at once. There is definitely a difference in color shades between these and last year's Serengetti heels. The tortoise pattern has more yellow-orange pops, which makes them fun to pair with so much of the orange and yellow in my wardrobe. But I think they would also spice up a tan, chocolate, and black ensemble.

I liked the Joley Peep Toes so much in Tortoise, I ordered another pair in Ash, the medium gray color. They are a currently waitlisted in my size, but I should be receiving them in a couple of weeks. I hope they are just as comfy and tough as the Tortoise patent leather ones!

I was pleasantly surprised too at the luxuriousness of the Cotton-silk Poplin Perfect Shirt, which I also got in a beautiful print (see in later set). It's sheer and dressy looking, sort of like wearing silk shantung, but without all the weight. The fabric is very lightweight but not see-through, and it has enough sheen for interest but not so much that I felt like I was a glowing jack-o-lantern.

The Bronzed Twig color in the Double Serge was also a gamble. I finally jumped on the bandwagon and bought 2 Double Serge Cotton Pencil Skirts. I was hesitating between sizing up or going with my normal size, and I opted to size up to a 2P as I had for the Double Serge Wool Pencil Skirt from last fall. I counted on the fit being slimmer, and since I need to feel comfy and be able to tuck in a shirt, I wanted to have a little belly space rather than not be able to eat in the skirt. I was glad I did. With the hefty material of this cotton, I was glad to have a little breathing room.

I wasn't sure if it would come out like a mustard yellow or more of a camel - or even closer to an olive. So I took a chance and got it anyway, since I was already getting 2 dark neutral pencil skirts. I definitely liked it when it came out of the box, but I had a lot of trouble at first figuring out what tops to wear with it. I experimented with a few possibilities, including an old Persimmon dress shirt. I also liked the Serengetti belt with Cate Patent Slingback Heels in Twig (first outfit on left). What do you think - is this skirt a keeper?

Finally, I ordered the Cherry Blossom Necklace in Shadow as kind of an afterthought after having such huge success with the Deep Rose one. I thought it might be a nice deep gray accent with brighter colors. I was completely wrong about the Shadow color - it turned out to be a smoky topaz color instead. However, this proved to be even more auspicious because I was able to pair it with orange and persimmon plus my tigereye bracelet. I ended up putting it into quite a few outfits, and it looked really elegant but interesting.




Like the solid version, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the Cotton-silk Paisley Perfect Shirt in Soft Azalea. I had originally seen this print in stores and thought it was gorgeous, but I had only found a need for the shorts. However, when I was looking to expand my button-down dress short collection with new colors, I decided to give this a shot. I had mentioned in my last post that I didn't want to buy this shirt when I first saw it because I didn't need anything competing with my beloved Frances Ruffle Blouse in Cherry Blossom from last spring. But once I saw this shirt live next to my other wardrobe pieces, I realized that it had entirely different applications than the Cherry Blossom pattern.

I was also surprised at how much I liked this pattern with the Bronzed Twig pencil skirt. It was almost as if the two were meant to be worn together. The paisley pattern channels a warmer, more tropical vibe, but the sheer silky texture of the cotton-silk keeps it refined. It would be perfect under a beige/camel suit as well as on its own with neutrals. I also found that the Cherry Blossom Necklace in Shadow was a good contrast with this pattern but didn't compete with it. What do you think?




I had been desperately seeking a navy pencil skirt. Navy is my black, so I can't get enough of it in my wardrobe. Though I had an old chalk-stripe pencil skirt, it was pretty tight in a OP and I always winced at the thought of wearing it for long periods of time. I had also been looking for something to pair with my Slim Stretch Shirt in Rhubarb (other than jeans) that I had bought a while back. I wanted to look fresh yet sophisticated but avoid wearing it with black.

Now, I had already acquired the Stretch Sateen Pencil Skirt in Navy, but I wasn't satisfied at making it my primary navy dress skirt. Although it was super-stretchy and thus exceptionally comfortable to wear all day, the sateen attracted an awful lot of lint wherever it went. The other issue was the inability to wear it with a belt. While I loved the button tab detail on the front-sides, the buttons stuck and made it impossible to wrap a belt over the waistband. For some reason, I feel naked without a belt when tucking in a shirt. So I went on the hunt for another navy pencil skirt.

I mulled over several options before ordering the Summer Linen Pencil Skirt in Navy. I was hesitant to order this one because it was on final sale and I had never tried it in the store. The sizing was my biggest issue, since I had not found many pencil skirts from recent seasons (other than the double serge ones) to fit true to size. I found myself swimming in a 0 in such skirts as the Watercolor Pencil Skirt and the adorable cotton pencil skirt with a bow (don't remember the name) which was made of the same material as the Double Serge Cotton skirts but didn't fit the same. But after investigating exact hemlines and surveying a few people about fits, I took a chance on the Summer Linen Pencil Skirt in a 0.

It fit perfectly! Not too tight, but no unwanted gapping either (see left and right outfits above). It felt pretty nice on - not as heavy as the Double Serge Cotton. I liked the very subtle linen weave but figured it would still be easy to mix with a navy jacket of a different material if I wanted to wear it as part of a skirt suit. I also liked that the fit was more like a pencil skirt should be - longer and slimmer.

In addition to the linen skirt, I ordered the Double Serge Cotton Pencil Skirt in Dark Slate thinking it might be a nice alternative to black and navy. I also wanted to test the skirt with some other piece that weren't getting enough love. I wanted to see how it would work with not only rhubarb but mint and light aqua elements in my closet. Like the Bronzed Twig skirt, I sized up in the Dark Slate to a 2P and felt fine in it. The one thing that bugged me about the Double Serge Pencil Skirts in cotton and wool was that they looked shorter on my in the petite fit. Granted, that's why people order petite, but I thought that maybe it was hemmed a little too low for how I had wanted it to fit and wondered it maybe I should have opted for a regular 0. What do you think - is the fit of the Double Serge Cotton Pencil Skirt good on me compared to the Summer Linen Pencil Skirt (see middle outfit above)?

The Classic Leather Belt in Stone - another afterthought - turned out to be quite a versatile piece. The Stone color is a medium neutral gray. I had also ordered the Skinny Leather Belt in Metallic Silver, since I couldn't stop wearing the Metallic Gold one, and I needed something to pull together cooler shades and silver-toned accessories. But as soon as I put on the Classic Leather Belt in Stone, I realized that it was even more versatile than the Skinny Leather Belt in Metallic Silver. For one, it could be work with both silver and gold accessories (which I hadn't really planned on needing with a gray belt). But the other genius of this color was that it paired well with gray-patterned shoes and a gray Kate Spade work tote that I already owned but was having trouble bringing into my ensembles. The Stone leather belt looked fresh on anything I tried with it and was the ideal accessory for pulling together my gray bag and shoes.

Next up: The The Double Serge Cotton Pencil Skirt in Dark Slate, the Summer Linen Pencil Skirt in Navy, and the Classic Leather Belt in Stone go to work with a turquoise button-down shirt and a sage-charcoal-mint-olive color scheme.


I bought this silk sleeveless top from Ann Taylor some years back but it hadn't gotten much use. I was about to give it away when, this past spring, it found new life next to Ecru and light aqua pieces that I had picked up. I was quite happy to see that this top paired nicely with the Dark Slate skirt too. And, I found a new use for my charcoal beaded flower-clasp necklace that I had picked up in the winter at the J.Crew outlet (middle outfit) - it was a great accent with the Dark Slate pencil skirt.

I was also delighted to see how well the Stone belt picked up the gray in my favorite summer shoes - the Cinema T-Strap Sandals in Metallic Stone (left outfit). It will also go perfectly with my Joley Peep Toe Heels in Ash when I want to wear more professional but open-toed shoes.

Any thoughts on wearing the grosgrain belt - both the turquoise above (right outfit) and the red multicolored one in the previous set?

Finally, spiffing up the basic white shirt and class navy skirt combo.


I had snapped up some amazing shoe bargains over the past 6 months, including: Delman Aloha suede peep toe slingback heels in a rhubarb-tea rose (left outfit) for $15 at Marshalls, Bruno Magli slate and marine suede peep toe slingback heels for $35 at Marshalls (center outfit), and Kate Spade platinum gold leather peep toe sandal heels for $39 at TJ Maxx (right outfit). I had also collected some cute cheap jewelry pieces: Target coral-toned flower clasp necklace for $13 with Talbots pink/orange/berry cuff for $8 (left); TJ Maxx turquoise/lime/green triple-strand necklace for $29 with gold turquoise cabochon flower embellished cuff for $20. I decorated a classic white short sleeved button-down shirt and the navy Summer Linen Pencil Skirt.

Hopefully to come in the future: me in the sexy "power suit" and a new Tory Burch dress I got in May and wore to a business function a few weeks ago.

Please share your thoughts on these outfits and sorry again for the low quality! Maybe they'll be easier to see if you click on the photo to see it in full view.

Thanks!

33 comments:

cdp said...

You've overwhelmed me with your pencil skirt fashions (only b/c I don't wear pencil skirts)... so I cut to the chase and decided I have to have those tortoise joley's. I will blindly take your advice and buy those asap. If your cinema t-strap review held any merit at all - and they were right on the money - then this will too. Thanks for the IRL pics, you look adorable!

Jordyn said...

Oh my...you have just inspired me. I love all of these looks you put together and they can defintely carry you into the fall which is so great. You got some really awesome pieces and per usual you look fabulous in them:)

LPC said...

Pencil skirts are always high on my list. And my favorite is that orange shirt...

3-Penny Princess said...

cdp - I'm so glad I inspired you again to buy shoes (bad, bad me!). Yes, I can't say enough how much I adore my Cinema T-straps! I wear them everywhere in the city and they are unbbelievably comfy. They don't feel like 3-inch heels at all - I call them my dressy "running shoes" because I can literally run on bricks in them. Now, the Joley heels aren't quite that practical and sporty for city wear as I suspect they'll get stuck in some grates or cracks, but at least they feel comfortable on my feet. Let me know how yours turn out!

3-Penny Princess said...

Jordyn - thank you! You're right, I think I was also thinking ahead to fall when I styled some of these ensembles. Hopefully they will carry me for a few seasons. I am glad to have inspired you too!

3-Penny Princess said...

LPC - thank you for your opinion on the orange shirt! I liked it a lot but wasn't sure how it looked from someone else's perspective. I'll definitely keep it now and hopefully get a lot of use out of it.

GingerSnap said...

All your new purchases look fabulous! Man girl, when you go shopping you REALLY go shopping! Like you, I also find a lot of treasures at TJMaxx. They just seem to get such good stuff in there! I think my favorite thing you posted was actually that gray belt! I never thought of a gray belt as a necessity before, but man I can see why you love it!

gigiofca said...

Good luck to your husband. We also banned me last fall from Certain Websites and I accidently found my way around.

Smashing outfits. The only thing that didn't work for me was the light belt over dark pencil skirt. However, the striped belt over dark pencil skirt is cute. And the final pic - the green & blue necklace doesn't seem to compliment that top or vice versa. The necklace is too strong. You did a good job of creating a lot of versatility. Looks good! And you got great bargains.

itztru said...

What can I say (to a fellow real estate agent!) but "sold"! Loved your latest investments!

luvallthingsjcrew said...

Ooh-lala!!! YOU make Pencil skirts look amazing--these look they were made for you!
I especially love the first outfit with the shoes--perfect!

Bianca said...

I love all of the outfits! Beautiful work!

A Bigger Closet said...

Wow you've done a terrific job putting together all these terrific outfits, even jewelry and shoes. Thanks for the IRL pictures. You look fantastic in everything. :)

Slastena said...

I can only join in the applauding your impeccable sense of style and beauty! Gorgeous head to toe in each and single one of your outfits.
I also got the same flower necklace from the outlet you did- it is so pretty, isn't it? I fell in love with the translucent greenish beads and a flower adornment and was surprised how well it was made.

3-Penny Princess said...

GingerSnap - thank you! Yes, when I go, I really go overboard!:) But how awesome is TJ's and Marshalls for Cole Haan shoes? I've seen a lot of your finds as well. About the gray belt - it was a surprise to find it so useful! But now I feel like I have just the thing for a lot of outfits and I can easily grab by gray Kate Spade tote and look pulled together. Can't wait for the Ash Joleys to come off the wait list and arrive though...

3-Penny Princess said...

gigiofca - I'm intrigued by your rebel spirit: do share how you found your way around the shopping site blockage! I mean, I suppose I could drive out to my office and shop, but then my managing broker would wonder why I was all of a sudden visiting so often and, even worse, why I wasn't working while at the office. Honestly though, I've tried lots of shopping bans and this is the first one that actually worked (though I'm crying inside every day!).

Thanks also for the tips about what you thought worked in my outfits. You have a good point about the green-blue necklace. It's one of my favorites and it pulls together my new favorite clover green Kate Spade tote, but it is quite large. I test drove this outfit the other day and found it a little overwhelming on the little white shirt. I think I may try it with a longer, more open white jacket instead. Or under the navy suit jacket with the navy suit pants.

Thanks for your thoughts on the belts, too. I wasn't even sure if I could pull off the grosgrain belts on professional outits. But I've had both of these belts from Old Navy for years and am trying to get more wear out of the. Also, I've seen people from New England really getting into the collegiate preppy striped belts (and ties) mixed with dress shirts and suits, and I wonder if that will work in Virginia. Maybe I can try it and see!

3-Penny Princess said...

itztru - thanks a million! I'd love to see some of your "power" outfits, too. I am also working on some white shirt combos for your Polyvore group. As long as I can infuse some color into it of course!

3-Penny Princess said...

luvallthingsjcrew - thanks for the compliments and for giving me your opinion on the first set! Do you think the tortoise Joleys work best there, or the Cate slingbacks with the Serengetti belt? I'm so glad the first set it getting good reviews because I was really unsure about that combo. Thanks for reassuring me!

3-Penny Princess said...

Bianca and A Bigger Closet - Thank you so much for the nice words! I hope you found the IRL pictures (as poor as they are) helpful, too!

3-Penny Princess said...

Slastena - thanks for the applause *blush* and for the glowing compliments! And congrats on your necklace find too. It's it pretty? At first I hardly ever wore it, but now I'm finding new uses for it. Now, do you have the transluscent charcoal-cofee beaded version or a different one? Because I remember seeing a version that had sort of olive-green transluscent beads and maybe one more version. You're right, it is well made.

One thing I have to say is that all my J.Crew jewelry is unbelievably strong. I tend to abuse the heck out of my jewelry (and shoes, for that matter). But I find that no matter how often I drop, stretch, or bang around my J.Crew necklaces and bracelets, they stay perfectly intact. I'm constantly scraping up my large ivory enamel cuffs especially, but somehow, there's not a visible scratch on them. I have definitely developed a new respect for J.Crew jewelry this year. Not that I like paying full price, but if I can get it on sale (preferably with a discount), I know it will be a worthwhile investment.

Kristin said...

You are just too cute. All of your outfits are fantastic. Well done!

Anonymous said...

I love the light belt over the pencil skirt. Very modern!

Anonymous said...

Are you ever going to round out on your series of shopoholism? Or is it no longer a problem for you? If so, you should still share!

Christina said...

Love all the outfits you put together! super cute.

itztru said...

Looking forward to seeing some of your sets in our new white shirt/blue shirt group (w/color - of course!). I love your outfits and in my past corporate life, my closet included mainly skirts (pencil being my favorite). As for "power suits" in Vermont...I'm still chuckling! My real estate work outfits (including those for million dollar plus clients)are simple pants,jackets,shirts and sweaters (taking them up a notch of course). Of course, J.Crew plays a big role, but I wear a lot of Eileen Fisher and Talbots as well. I'm a strong believer of creating an excellent impression and you've hit the mark with the type of clients you're now focusing on - and what an eye for "finds" you have! My Polyvore sets are pretty much representative of my look (with few exceptions of trying out before I pull the trigger).

luvallthingsjcrew said...

Hi--just getting back after reading your comments...I think in #1 the best look is the Cate Slingbacks with the Serengeti Belt--that is sooo sharp--and the Serengeti Print next to the orange of the shirt just looks sooo good!
But...all the looks are nice!
I am really REALLY impressed with all the looks you put together with the pencil skirts!--10 STARS!!!

luvallthingsjcrew said...

P.S. and yes I agree that J. Crew Jewelry is MADE really well...the clasps especially are strong and easy--almost effortless to put on and off.
I think in cheaper jewelry the clasp is more difficult to manipulate!

Rosa said...

Oh, all the outfit combinations are great. I love how creative you are.
You should be a stylist!
Good investment with all the new clothes.

3-Penny Princess said...

Kristin and Christina - thank you!!

Rosa - you are so sweet to say that! How cool would my job be if I got to play with clothes all day? I'm glad you like the combos though! And I'm glad you see them from the same point of view as I do - as investments. Let's just hope I don't go overboard investing:).

3-Penny Princess said...

anon @ 10:30 - thanks for your thoughts about the light belt over the dark skirt too! I will definitely have to wear that one out and see if it looks good.

anon @ 10:33 - As you can see, I definitely have not cured my shopping addiction!:) For every 2 steps I take forward, I still take 1 step back. I don't think I've gotten better at all, except that I have paid down 2 of my other credit cards. However, the 1 step back is that - after I paid down my J.Crew card - I put most of it right back on. Maybe when I have a little bit more time and can actually stop shopping for a significant enough time, I will report back on my progress. Thanks for checking on me!

3-Penny Princess said...

itztru - it's interesting what how different the real estate industry can be in terms of acceptable fashion. My dad is a broker in Florida and his uniform is tennis/golf-chic. He probably dresses up more than most, and he wears slacks a lot. But I've seen agents down there who can get away with casual beach wear. I guess they're selling that lifestyle!

Even in Washington D.C., where formality is much more prevalent (you don't see as many people going to work in flip flops as you do in one of my favorite towns, Austin), there is a very wide variety of how real estate professionals dress. I always dressed up for clients, but then, I dress up to get a carton of milk at the store. However, I think it's the southern girl in me who feels compelled to always put my best foot forward.

Now that I'm working so much in commercial real estate, I work with other business professionals during business hours people rather than with families on weekends. I don't feel right if I'm not wearing corporate attire. I am also competing with primarily older men, as commercial real estate is still largely a male industry. Fortunately that is changing, but I do find that, since I'm female and younger, I need to dress more professionally than I did before.

I do love my new J.Crew pantsuit though and can't wait to show pictures of it! It's super-professional but still comfy. And since I've been attending a lot more after-work networking events, I've collected some nice shift dresses that can go from day to business-evening. I hope to show more of those soon too!

3-Penny Princess said...

luvallthingsjcrew - thank you for clarifying! I will definitely test drive the first outfit then. I too like the Serengetti against the orange and ochre and will see how it looks in daytime.

You're right about J.Crew jewelry clasps (and parts) being easier to work with. I do fumble a lot with some of my jewelry and worry that it will eventually snap. But I haven't had to worry about that with my J.Crew jewelry yet. I'm eager to see if anything nice will come out in the fall rollout.

Her Preppiness said...

Great stuff

Carrie said...

I love your outfits.!! Impressed with your style. Basic white shirt and class navy skirt is a great combination.