One of the wonderful people who read this blog, to whom I am so grateful, wrote me and asked how she could “WASP up” her wardrobe for a new job as a consultant. On a moderate budget. Below is my suggestion for a jeans-friendly office.
If you needed to up the formality a bit, change the jeans to black wool pants and wear a white, black, or french blue shirt.
The overall principles are as follows:
- Shoes and bag have to be the best you can possibly afford. It is OK if you carry the same bag and wear essentially the same shoes every day, as long as they are good. Good means minimal logo-ing, top quality leather, and clean design. Marc Jacobs, Kate Spade, and Prada all offer these kinds of bags. My reader found the shoes in the Polyvore above herself – not a name brand but a great instance of low heels, black, and a wee hint of fashion in the toe ornament.
- Jewelry should be simple, and look like you inherited it from your grandmother. Or grandfather. Diamond studs, gold posts, pearls, vintage men’s watches. Good fakes are OK. 30 years ago that might not have been have been true, but even we can change with the times. Thank you Barbara Bush. And Michelle O.
- Clothing should be classic, in the High WASP traditional colors of navy, khaki, black, gray, and white. Not to say you can’t wear other colors, but these are absolutely safe. Choose pieces when you can instantly identify their category , i.e. a trench, trousers, t-shirt, vs. asymmetrical jacketish thingie and tunicky shirtish thingie and cropped capriish thingies. Classic clothing items can now be bought at low-cost retailers without sacrificing impact.
- Makeup should be simple but present. Skin care is critical – you want to look neat and clean at all times. Hair should be shiny or glossy or braided. Somehow managed but not tormented.
If you are thinking, “This doesn’t sound like that much fun!” you are probably right. It’s not about fun. It’s about looking as though you subscribe to the High WASP Code of Conduct, as though you are serious and to be taken seriously, as though you will follow through on your job responsibilities and probably respect authority as you do so.
If you are thinking, “This would not work in my office!” you are also probably right. This isn’t the answer for how to dress at work. It’s the answer for how to “WASP up” your work wardrobe.
For some lines of work, WASPery is appropriate. Corporate work. Financial work. Work where you have to spend your time with a lot of men. For others, it’s not. I imagine a graphic designer could only show up dressed like this if she was going for ironic, i.e. “High WASP” (quote unquote), vs. simply High WASP. And she’d probably want to wear mauve Bensimons or something to make the point. But in that world, I’m pretty close to clueless.