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Polishing Your Look for the Corner Office Promotion

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Love, Frank has returned as a weekly style advice column tackling your hard-hitting fashion issues and addressing a different fashion glitch each week. Submit a query here.


Working Girl! Via Saffron Rare Threads.

Dear Frank,

I can sense that I'm on the verge of a serious promotion at work. This is exciting and nerve-wracking all at once and I want to step it up both in the office and in the style department. The problem is, I work in a creative environment where the typical power lady look would seem too severe. How can I make myself look like a boss without turning into a total narc?

Signed,
Corner Office Conundrum

Hey Corner Office,

Congratulations! You should be proud; and yes, a bit nervous too. But not about your wardrobe. That's the fun part!

That said, I do appreciate your desire to turn up the style quotient. More money, more power, more responsibility—an amped-up office uniform seems appropriate.

And it should be exactly that. It should be your uniform; just at the next level. A touch dressier; a little more luxe; you turned to ten.

You're right: If you work in fashion or advertising or publishing or media you probably don't need to go all Working Girl. Outfitting oneself in a month's worth of staid-to-severe power suiting is overkill. The look is too buttoned-up, it's aging, and it's hard to get right if you're not doing it exclusively in Chanel and Oscar de la Renta. And, it sounds like you're not an attorney or a banker, so why bother?

Further, something tells me a creative executive in a corner office will need a work wardrobe that can transition from midday meetings to after-work cocktails or dinners with clients or the occasional swanky, twinkling red carpet events.

You need polish, you need elevation, and you need to keep it a little bit fun.


Rule of thumb: The dresses Anna wears to watch tennis would be great for the office, via Zimbio.

What about some chic little black (and also not black) dresses? Look for something that will work under a blazer for lunch meetings and work without said blazer for those after work events. Something versatile, and something that shows some (but not too much) leg. I find the types of dresses Anna Wintour often gets photographed wearing at daytime events (including tennis matches) universally flattering and appealing. Of course, hers are Prada and Thakoon. But similar cinched-waist styles that are chic and work appropriate are widely available from lesser-priced brands like Kate Spade, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Theory, Tibi, Rachel Roy—the list goes on (of course, Club Monaco, J.Crew, and Banana Republic are not to be scoffed at).

Also: Consider leather. A chic leather skirt reeks of power. Look for one without the hog-and-heifer connotation by choosing something dyed oxblood or indigo or emerald instead of the classic black and pair with a classic white blouse. Similarly, a wide-leg trouser, especially one with a high waist, means business—look for windowpane checks or go subtly tuxedo with some satin piping. Pair pants with a slim ponyhair belt and a silky top or a lightweight, fitted turtleneck sweater (instead of the matching blazer which, frankly, gets a bit too close to Hillary Clinton territory).

I think accessories are also important. Nothing says I-make-more-money-than-you and/or I-can-fire-your-ass than a serious bag. What about a Céline tote? Big enough for a file or two and your probably indispensable tablet. You might also consider some statement jewelry—a little something to add edge or interest to your more innocuous office-wear. As for shoes, you're about to be big boss. If ever there was a time to commit to wearing a bit of a heel, it's now. If you find a style and a brand that works for you, that's relatively comfortable, buy it in every color (including something that might be considered a wildcard—a teal or tomato or mustard that can liven up a mostly black outfit.

Whatever you do, don't abandon whatever you've been doing. The notion is jarring and you don't want to start building a wardrobe from scratch. You're just want to turn it up a notch. Adding polish and finesse, amping up quality (your new sweaters—cashmere.), making sure the tailoring is sharp, getting chic.

Start with the cornerstones. Try replacing the anonymous raincoat with a classic Burberry trench, get a fabulous new tote or briefcase, try out a sharp new pair of glasses (optical, or sunglasses you don't take off until the coat comes off—in your very own office).

In closing: Try to avoid getting drunk on power (or on prosecco at one of those fabulous parties. No-one takes a drunk boss seriously).

Got a style question for Frank? Leave it in the comments or email one in here. Then buckle your two-toned leather Moschino belts, folks, because it's going to be ? Something.
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