Reader Kristen dropped me an e-mail with this request:
I work in an INCREDIBLY professional environment. Typical workwear is a pants suit or separates with fun jewelry and shoes. Over the holidays, we don’t have to dress quite as extreme, so I had fun wearing different sweaters/pants combos that would normally be reserved for Fridays only. I would love some ideas on how to jazz up a pants suit or work separates.
I am not a suit-wearer myself, so I had to really use my imagination for this one. Then again, Kristen knew that, so I’m hoping she was simply seeking a fresh perspective! Many of things you can do to spice up your work-wear will totally clash with the clean, classic vibe of a pantsuit. But I dreamt up a few simple tricks that might add a bit of panache without getting too casual, and hope you eternally creative folks can throw in a few more suggestions.
- Scarves: SO many ways to incorporate a colorful patterned scarf into a suit! Tuck it into the breast pocket and just let it peek out. Wear it like an ascot, tucked inside the collar of your button-down. Drape it over one shoulder and secure with a brooch.
- Unusual blouses: Even if you’re not a fan of the ruffled confections that J.Crew offers, you can still spice up a suit with a gorgeous blouse. Go for rich colors, sumptuous textures, and subtle embellishments. Silks, muted jewel tones, contrast stitching, unusual cuffs … any fun details that will show through. (Thanks to reader Patti for this idea! We chatted back and forth about spicing up her look and, in the end, she realized that changing up her blouse options would help a ton.)
- Brooches: Add a little sparkle to your lapel. If you can, do two or three smallish brooches at a time. Pierced post earrings can also serve as tiny, conservative brooches if you don’t have any on hand.
- Bright shoes: Suits in vibrant colors can sometimes look dated, but adding a pair of red patent pumps or teal suede booties to a neutral suit gives the whole look a bit of pizazz. If you go this route, try to pick up the shoe color elsewhere in the ensemble – scarf, earrings, necklace, or from the colors and patterns in your shirt.
- Statement necklaces: A giant, dazzling, chunky necklace that just barely peeks out from the neckline of your oxford could be fantastic. Layered chains, colorful stones, bibs. Check Dana LeBlanc for pieces that are big and bright and bold, but not TOO over-the-top.
- Styling changes: Cuff shirt sleeves over blazer sleeves and push them up – then add some bracelets. Pop the collar of your blazer or shirt. You could even try something funky like a silk pocket square in the blazer pocket!
What else would you all suggest for making a pantsuit less conservative? When you wear one, how to you let your personal style shine through? Any of these suggestions that would never fly in your pantsuit-wearing workplace?