Safe or Smokin': Banker at the bar

I met my friend Alice, a banker, for dinner at a hip rooftop hotel lounge. We enjoyed a pitcher of margaritas and ate dinner immersed in conversation. Only as we were leaving (at a terribly respectable hour) did Alice look around and comment, "We are the oldest people here." What made her feel old was not our ages, 51 and 61 respectively, but how she was dressed.

She had come directly from work, and wore an elegant gold suit, couture-made from silk her DH brought from a trip to Asia. The cut is very similar to this Tahari suit, lifted by the lustrous silk. It was formal and safe- not for a bank, but for the bar.

Underneath, she wore a bitter chocolate jewel-necked top and a jaw-dropping gold and topaz necklace that one day I will photograph to show you. Stockings and pointy French pumps. This is executive, haute-business attire; she was ready for the boardroom, but not the bar.

What Alice noticed when she clocked the 30-something crowd before departing was the short skirt or dress length, the long, loose hair, the bare legs and sandals that spelled jeunesse doreé. She felt much more 'proper' and older than everyone else. As I looked at her, I realized she could have de-businessed her look with a few quick moves.

For Smokin', Substitute

To look more relaxed, a bit mussed and not-too-co-ordinated outfit helps.

If leaving a full-on business setting, peel off the hose and change to a pair of sandals. Shown, Stewart Weitzman "Thrill" sandal, $238 from Zappos.

Swap a blouse for one of those non-basic tees like J. Crew sell and lose the jacket. Shown, J. Crew cotton ruffled scoopneck tee, $39.50.

A linen scarf or shawl takes the suit down another notch, and comes in handy as the night cools. Shown, Epice striped cotton and silk scarf from Goldyn, $174.

Jewelry is an easy way to shift from corporate drag to lounge-ready, and besides, this is an excuse to pick up a few fun pieces.

Remove work jewelry and add oversized beads, or change your earrings to funkier dangles. (Shown, Anthropologie Hanging Lantern Hoops, $110.)

Alice says she's tired of getting up every morning and putting it together, but she does a superb job of executive dressing, and at her level, it's the required uniform.

And back to business

The day before we met, I was invited to a corporate meeting, and was suddenly wrenched in the other direction

I had to scramble to devise some semblance of Alice's chic. Astonished at how quickly I had lost the touch, I ended up wearing this jacket, a black soft-pleated skirt, and a cream Boss scoop-neck knit top.

This apparently passed muster, but I felt like an imposter, hermetically sealed into my clothes.
I thought, if I get hired for this project, I have to buy some more business clothes, oh no!

Do you have to hop between worlds? How do you do it?


Most of my clothes are a bit more creative, but I have one suit that has some detailing that takes it away from being overly corporate, but still fits in. Fortunatly I don't have to do corporate too often, but I can cobble something together when needed.
Susan B said…
Our office has devolved into Business Casual (which means pretty much anything goes) so wearing strict corporate drag would look horribly out of place, even on executives. I'm able to get by with trousers, a long or short sleeve tee, a cardigan, and often a scarf (which pushes the dressy envelope). NO ONE seems to wear hose anymore, though tights with a skirt in the winter are seen.

Even in our NY corporate headquarters, the dress code has come down a notch or four, so trousers/jacket (which may or may not be a suit) and a tee work just fine. There seems to be an atmosphere today where it's almost as bad to be overdressed at work as underdressed, at least in our industry. It's been probably a decade since I've been in a situation that calls for full-on corporate dress.
Anjela's Day said…
Absolutely right!
Nothing spells age more so than heavy jewlery! (Sorry I own a silver jewelry store) But people either wearing pieces that signify money or age can BE aging- Also too many competing shades can give a look of complication.
I love wearing simple clothes and don't really have to change wardrobes from work to play as I own my business and set the tone.

I usually(pre weight) wear the plain pencil thin skirts with a lovely Anne Fontaine or other shirt-Using a belt too.... Sometimes (in winter I will wear ankle boots with a heel) and in summer plain pumps. (or barefoot when no one is about)I switch between greys and winter whites and taupes or black and change the tops to cashmere cardigans with either the shirt in white or blue cotton or the pants, which I seldom wear in beige or black.
In summer I have simple cotton or linen dresses classic striaght button which I use a belt with (as I am losing weight now) I also use white skirts with a simple white chemise and a ecru or white cardigan. If I am going anywhere afterwards I pop in some capris and a suitable pair of leather flats or leather flip flops.I accessorize with a pair of cute sunglasses and my diamond earrings. I think because of being in a place of work where everything is shining and sending out so much light that it feels right to be subdued for me. Plus I don't care for wearing too much of anything. My sister wears her watch. A diamond and some thin gold bracelets. A necklace and two rings and earrings.For me that would make me insane.
materfamilias said…
I suspect some of the young, casually-dressed women were looking at your friend and admiring her very polished look, dreaming about the day they had a job that demanded dressing up!

My big wardrobe-straddling challenge comes from moving back and forth between rustic vacation-like island and downtown city -- I'm inevitably caught without the pair of shoes I need because I've left them in the other home OR I'm fielding comments from neighbours about how "dressed up" I look. And I know exactly how to change my look to suit -- just pop on a pair of Healy Hanson boots and an old Gore-Tex jacket!
Vildy said…
Thought your suggestion for your friend were genius.

My son likes to attend an annual family dinner for hemophilia, held in a hotel. Lots of reps from pharmaceutical companies are there, plus some medical people. I found that on two separate occasions when I wore a jacket, once over a pretty street length column dress and once over pants, it was assumed that I was a pharmaceutical rep and not a parent and the other time someone from another event offered me a job after chatting with me. So I think the jacket, off or on, is a major deciding factor. Even a nice jean jacket doesn't work as well to make an outfit casual - as seen on the young things - as thin drape/scarf front cardis I have.
Thin, lightweight tops are very young. Thin, Marc Jacobs style overcoats that don't look as though they could possibly keep you warm are very young.

To fit in with a younger crowd I wear jeans (I think pants are aging on an aging woman), dangling earrings or a bold jewelry piece that is more scuptural than monied.
The other key item is that I've given in and switched to heels.
spacegeek said…
Okay so I'm 40. Maybe I don't belong on this blog, but I'll tell you that I love that I'm now able to "rock" large statement pieces of jewelry rather than feeling too old for my clothes/jewelry! I work in a field that doesn't dress at all, but I still love to look polished and put together. I hop between my work world and my home-mommy world. I have two totally different wardrobes at this point--my kids are still in the sticky fingers stage, and I need washables for home! My silks, suedes and linens don't work at all for home. Maybe someday I'll be able to bring the two worlds closer.
Unknown said…
@Angela's Day, I think your simplicity of choice is the key to living a life with style that can be seamless. Consistency of a pared down elegance can really be translated into any setting - without making one appear too done or too casual. Your post today reminds me of conversations on a minimal closet that works for so many settings. I would be interested in hearing more of how you carry out your "light touch". Speaking of carrying, the heavy, large "it bag" also seems out of place and over age in many situations. I am curious as to what simple solution Angela might have come up with to tote and carry what she needs at different times.
Anonymous said…
I wish I could have seen her outfit. It sounds fabulous, and it is such a shame that someone as beautifully dressed as she was might feel pressured to dress her look down to fit in with a lot of less beautifully attired folk.
Duchesse said…
Anjala: Ah, I envy and admire that simplicity. I attempt it but get my head turned by more decorated pieces, like those Indian shawls.

Vildy: Love your choice of words: "fitting in"- b/c to me that's what it is, not trying to "be" them, yet not looking out of it either. You got a job offer after a conversation- wow!

spacegeek: You are warmly welcome here, and rock that jewelry!

Pseu: It's so rare now that people stand out in full corporate drag- at least in my city. What a change in 25 years.

Imogen: Got rid of all my matching suits so I'm cobbling too.

materfamilias: You are a woman of tact; I would eventually respond to the neighbours "I AM??? But I just took off my tiara.""

Jacqueline: Anjela has fantastic natural style, among other wonderful qualities.

Anjela: OK, so now we want to scoop on your bags!
Duchesse said…
Anonymous: They were not "less beautifully attired", just different level of formality. Lots of high end casual wear in a very upscale establishment. Next time, camera comes along!
mette said…
Luckily I get to commute between my two worlds usually without removing my coat ( due to the climate ), so all I have to do, is to change my coat, shoes and grab one of my favorite YSL bags, when duty calls!
Yes, "jeunesse dorée" implies expensive fashions, usually with a studied casual look.

But I'm really posting just to add my birthday greetings for la Duchesse and am glad she had so much fun with her friend. Hoping the upcoming supper with les fistons will be just as enjoyable.

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