Get Professional Help

Last week I had a panel of Shopping Experts and this week: a panel of Professional Shoppers. Well, not that they shop professionally (don't we all wish), but their careers require them to dress professionally, so they've developed their skills to shop for office (or courtroom)-appropriate attire.

First, let's meet the professionals: Karen, Paloma, and Erin:
Outfit Details: Karen / Paloma / Erin

If you want to follow along with their regular wear-to-work outfit postings (and I highly recommend them if you need some inspiration in that department), Karen and Paloma blog at Nine-Thirty to Five and Erin blogs at Loop Looks.  I asked them each a few questions to establish their professional qualifications and get their general philosophy on work wardrobes.

What was your major in college and what is your current line of work?
Image: Source

Karen: I majored in English, like a good lawyer-to-be might, and minored in Italian, which was something for myself.  I am now an employment litigation defense lawyer.  I probably would use the Italian more than I use the English for law - sometimes a translation is required, but nobody ever asks about Shakespeare or Chaucer.

Paloma: I got a B.A. in Journalism, with a focus on "Electronic Media."  At the time, that meant T.V.  The internet was just barely a factor back then. Now, I am a lawyer.  A litigator, specifically. This was always something that simmered in the back of my mind as a potential career for me, but it wasn't until I graduated from college and spent three years working as a bartender/bar manager that I really felt I was READY to commit to law school.  And I'm glad I did. Journalism was a great starting point for what I do now, though. Investigation and writing are the foundations of practicing law.

Erin: My bachelor's degree is in Psychology and my master's degree is in Library Science. Currently I work at a university doing staff training and policy management.

What's your standard interview outfit?
Image: Source

Karen: It's pretty much a uniform - the standard suit.  However, I try to go as old school lawyer as possible by doing a skirt suit with a strand of pearls.  When I was in law school, they told us that back in "the day," women were required to wear navy blue or black skirt suits, past the knee, whenever they appeared in court.  Most lady lawyers would laugh at this now, and probably prefer a smart pantsuit.  For an interview situation, I do a skirt suit as a nod to our profession's tradition.  And I do not wear any of those Melrose Place type mini-skirts, however badly I want to.

Paloma: As a lawyer, this is easy. A suit, and only a suit. And only in gray/black/charcoal/navy. Underneath I would wear a Portofino blouse (or maybe a sleeveless pretty blouse) in a muted but flattering color. A fun necklace is about as fashion-y as I would risk at an interview.

Erin: For most jobs my standard is a black suit with a colorful printed shell underneath topped off with black closed-toe heels and some simple jewelry. However, if my pre-interview research showed that that company was more casual I'd wear a dress with a jacket or even some printed pants with a blazer.

Do you have any hard and fast rules for office fashion?
Images: Source / Source

Karen: No stripper heels!  The blog kinda reveals that I push my luck whenever I can.  Don't get me wrong, I love a lawyer's wardrobe, but I get bored and I like to mix it up.  Where hard and fast fashion rules go, however, there have got to be a few: no platform sandals, no halter anything, and no all-jersey outfits.  There's a lot of high end jersey cotton out there, but it often runs the risk of looking too casual for Monday through Friday.  I definitely have broken at least one of these rules on a Friday, a day where I seem to lack any kind of fashion discipline.  I do have one Friday rule, though - never show up at the office like you're about to clean out your garage.  And I have worn plimsolls to the office, but never tennis shoes.

Paloma: No stripper heels (4.5-5 inch, platform, etc... basically if you look like a fool walking in them because they are so high, you shouldn't wear them to work); skirt should never be shorter than like 2-3 inches above the knee; and I don't wear sneakers to the office, even on casual Friday (though a lot of people do this, and I don't think there's anything really wrong with it, I just don't do it.  I feel like the one time I do it is going to be the time some major last minute meeting is dropped on me.)

Erin: Your skirt or dress should be longer than your fingertips when your arms are hanging by your sides and your shirt shouldn't be so tight that I can see the back of your bra through it. Also, please avoid visible panty lines! 

Please select a few items at Express that you would wear to work and tell us how you would style them.
Image: Source

Karen's Picks:
K's Working Wishlist

1. High Waist Midi Fit and Flare SkirtPart of my retro Mary Tyler Moore working girl fantasy - midi skirts that are prim and proper, but also feminine and totally sexy.  I'm a shorty (5'2"), so to make the most of this skirt, I'd wear some closed-toe stilettos in a standout color that will give me that extra half inch.  A fitted white button-down blouse would complete the look.

2. Vertical Stripe Jacket I can see myself wearing this with a white shirt and a bright, colored pencil skirt.  Paloma and I are both huge fans of stripes, and mixing stripes with patterns and florals, but the wide stripes on this one would probably look killer with the slimmest of bold skirts.  

3. Pinstripe Columnist Ankle PantThese pants are everything!  How could you go wrong with navy pinstripes?  I would match this with a pink or kelly green shirt, or even a lacey thing like in the photo.  Because of the ankle length, it's the anti-suit suit - polished enough for court or a deposition, but also stylish and hip.

4. Crossover Cami JumpsuitI have something similar to this from Topshop - I love jumpsuits.  Throw on a blazer or a chunky grandpa cardigan, a pair of nice heels, and you're done for a normal office workday.

Paloma's Picks:
P's working wishlist

1. V Neck Zip Back SweaterA classic for work.  I would get this in a fun coral for spring and wear it with just about anything.

2. 22 Inch Houndstooth Studio Jacket: How great is this jacket? I would wear this for a meeting over a black sheath dress, or on casual Friday with a gray t-shirt, jeans, and red heels.

3. Portofino Shirt: All day, every day, every color. Best shirt ever. No, but seriously. I am slowly trying to collect these in every color.

4. High Waist Polka Dot Midi SkirtI love pencil skirts with a passion and this one is great because its professional AND fun.

Erin's Picks:

E's working wishlist

1. Houndstooth Columnist Ankle PantI love printed pants and these are perfect because the print is tiny enough not to be overwhelming. Can you imagine them with the red Portofino blouse?

2. 24 inch Sleeveless Ultimate Double Weave Jacket : You know those days when it's too hot to wear a jacket but you feel like you need one more piece to complete your outfit? This vest is perfect for that. Put it with a skirt, over a dress, or with jeans and you've got an awesome summer outfit.

3. Short Sleeve Pleated Keyhole BlouseThis top is both simple and elegant and comes in so many colors. Put it underneath the sleeveless vest and a pencil skirt or wear it by itself with jeans.

4. 22 inch cotton sateen jacketYou know what else would look awesome with those houndstooth pants? This jacket. Or put it with jeans and a white tank top for a night out.

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A big thanks to Karen, Paloma and Erin for their professional help today! I enjoyed getting to know them a little better and getting their take on office fashion. If you want a little more wear-to-work inspiration you can also check out my post here for 37 ways to style Express Editor and Columnist pants for work. 

And in other news, today I'm doing my very first guest post over at More Pieces of Me while Carylee is on vacation. I'd love to have you stop by and check it out! Thanks for reading!

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Linking up on Wednesday:
Random Wednesday / I Feel Pretty / What I Wore Wednesday  / Whatcha Wearin' Wednesday /
Beautiful You

Linking up on Thursday:



  1. Thanks for featuring these awesome power ladies!!


  2. Definatly important to have proper office attire! You featured some great items!
    xo, Lee

  3. This was helpful and scary to me at the same time!! I break so many rules and am kind of glad I have fashion freedom at work! And now I'm totally intrigued by the jumpsuit plus blazer concept. I bought a shorts jumper outfit for Jamaica. But that's Jamaica! :) BTW I'm getting my nails done as I type this. In the Charlotte airport! :) http://morepiecesofme.com

    1. Yes! I loved that choice too - surprising but it does sound like it would work quite well. I'd love to see someone execute it in real life! Type carefully so you don't mess up your nails. :)

  4. This is such a helpful post. I think we all have moments where we wonder am I pushing the envelope too far. This was definitely very helpful.

    1. Thanks Angela! I'm glad you enjoyed and found it helpful!

  5. omg the #2 in Erin's and #4 of karen's picks are amazing, I love them! Great post!

  6. I totally agree that stripper heels have no place in the office. Or flip flops. There is nothing worse than hearing that sound up and down the isles when you are trying to work. My old work place was pretty casual but you wouldn't believe what some of the girls would wear. I think it had a lot to do with their age and inexperience. I love that polka dot skirt. I sold my blue J Crew one and am looking to replace it with something fun. This may just be the one.

    1. Ugh. Hate misspellings. Should be "aisles". In my defense, I'm still on pain meds. :-)

    2. Someday Google will listen to us and give us the ability to edit our comments! Isle/aisle is nothing compared to accidentally pasting the last thing you copied, which may not be related to fashion...just sayin. I'm impressed you even caught a typo while on meds!

  7. Love the idea of wearing a blazer over a jumpsuit!! Also love the office feature, haha!

  8. Where do you get these awesome ideas for blog posts? This post makes me want to go back to work. I kinda miss looking professional.

    1. Aw, thank you Cynthia! Your comment means a lot. I get random inspiration from all over the place...magazines, message boards, watching the news. I honestly *had* to do this blog because my head was exploding with ideas and I needed to get them out somewhere!

  9. Great post! I have a question can I use a express receipt survey coupon in addition to another mailer coupon or in addition to in store promotions? I know gap and old navy let you stack welcome or survey coupons with others

    1. Usually on the survey portion of the receipt it says "may not be combined with other offers" or something to that effect, so I have always assumed I couldn't stack it with coupons. It wouldn't hurt to take it in store and ask, but unfortunately I wouldn't count on it working. :(

  10. This is such a fun idea for a post!! I love learning more about different bloggers and get insight into how other people would style within certain theme or pieces.

    xo Jackie
    Something About That

  11. ANOTHER cool post idea...I tell you what, you are such an inspiration to me...I love how you focus on building a blogging community in a fun way :). I really like these ladies' taste and will have to checkout their blogs. Take care!

  12. Thanks for the post! Nice to hear what they all had to say :)


  13. loved the feature! so cool learning more about other bloggers.

    cute & little
    Color Brigade Link-Up!

  14. Another great round of interviews. I already follow Erin. Will check out the other 2 girls. I absolutely loved all of their picks, especially the Blazers & Blouses they chose. You can't go wrong with a Black Jumpsuit either though. I seriously want all of those items, these Fashionistas chose. Heading over to read your guest post now.

    Thank you for always inspiring me Gina. =) If you ever do any of these posts with Moms (interviews), I am game. I am wearing some Express today, too. =P

    Have a Great Weekend!

  15. Such a cool feature! And great tips to keep in mind for Monday-Friday (or at least Thursday!) outfit selection. :)


  16. I'm laughing that two of them both answered No Stripper Heels! LOL! It's sad that we have to make that clear in an office, isn't it? Great post, I thoroughly enjoyed their responses!

  17. What a fun feature, loved to read what other people think and how they dress for work. Nice tips, loved the no stripper heels.


  18. I love Karen's style (and her layering of a shirt under a dress). Thanks for featuring them and letting us get a glimpse into their background; as a future lawyer, I really liked the specific tips that Karen gave us.


    Another Beautiful Thing


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I sincerely appreciate each and every one and always do my best to answer questions promptly!