Petite Lookbook: A Venture into Victorian

Ruffled top tucked into slim pencil skirt = standard work fare for me year-round. It's pretty much foolproof for those just starting to build a work wardrobe. Back in January I posted the same outfit recipe here, and it almost pains me how plain I was (outfit and face alike!). Thank you blogger friends for providing fashion/beauty inspirations and critique over the year. My style has surely taken a turn for the better after reading blogs and reading all your comments.

Although the jist of this ensemble hasn't changed, I've been trying to spruce it up with simple accessories. Add monochromatic tights and pumps to stay warm (and elongate the legs). If you're always a black tights on black pumps girl...try gray on gray or olive on brown for a change. Feminize the look with some bold costume jewelry. Having almost never worn jewelry last year, I make a huge effort now to wear at least one piece every day.
Top: Ann Taylor ruffle blouse XSP - similar here
Skirt: Theory Joanie Tweed Skirt sz 00 - similar here and here  
Heels: Ann Taylor Perfect Pumps sz 5   
Gray tights:  H&M Divided 40 den
Cameo bracelet: Topshop (from bf's London trip)
Chain Necklace: LOFT    

This blouse fits surprisingly small for an XSP, especially for silk. I did spend a hefty $25 to get the sleeve cuffs brought up (see pre-alterations photos here), but my pet peeve are ill-fitting sleeves so I always shell out for the alterations.

I have to say I probably won't buy LOFT necklaces again. After just one wear this final sale chain necklace oxidized and had that terrible metal smell (this happened to all my F21 necklaces so I never buy those anymore either). It left a rash on my neck so into the trash it goes...

Readers - what are your go-to ensembles for work?


  1. i love the hint of victorian and the bracelet especially. either nick is impressive with his photography or your apt has the best lighting ever (probably the former). we're all still learning, learning xD

  2. Ohh you look amazing! Everytime I see your work clothes I wish I was back in an office just to wear cute clothes. HAHA! You are so classy! I wish that ruffled blouse was still available! :) I love your outfits! I look forward to all your blog posts. :) I'm glad we can keep in touch through twitter! :)

  3. I love how your style has evolved! : ) Great job with the accessories. I really like it!! You look so beautiful in the first photo. : )

    Ahh you must be allergic to fake silver or something. It used to happen on my ears, but they have somehow become immune to fake jewelry. I hope that doesn't happen with some of my cheaper jewelry any time soon!

    xx The Little Dust Princess

  4. OMG, this outfit is GORGEOUS. Very nice for work!

    The alterations on that blouse were totally worth it =D

  5. i love your styleee.. even your house!! (if that's your house!) lol.. i always meant to comment on your house... hehe.. it's always so clean. =D

  6. I love this look. :) Great tips! I hate getting things altered, but I rather have my clothes fit me properly.

  7. You look gorgeous and I love that outfit! Love the victorian touch <3

  8. I've been making an effort to wear at least some kind of jewelry everyday too. It really does spruce up an outfit. I'm still too lazy to deal with makeup though, but you really are an inspiration, Jean! I love your pairing of the ruffly blouse and brooch. They go so well together.

  9. aww, it's too bad this necklace didn't work out for you!! it's totally gorgeous and i would've gladly paid to take it off your hands! :)

    the color of this blouse is simply beautiful and your tailor did a wonderful job altering the sleeves up. and i love the tweed skirt too! looks so warm yet chic!

  10. Too bad about the LOFT necklace -- I really like shopping there, so it's a shame about some of their jewelry.

    Love your blouse!

    Sidewalk Chic (formerly Sidewalk Chalk)

  11. I adore the ruffled shirt!! & I am definitely going to take your advice and find myself some good pencil skirts to start my work wardrobe! Love the gray on gray tights and shoes!

  12. I love this outfit, what I like about your pieces is that, while basic, they all fit perfectly and never go out of style. Your bf has great taste, that bracelet is gorgeous!

  13. You look soo gorgeous Jean! Your ensemble is really made interesting with those little details. That blouse fits you like a dream and judging by how impeccably the sleeves fit, I'd say the $25 was worth it.

    My go to work outfit? A pretty blouse with a high waisted skirt (like you) or high waisted trousers. I'd like to say that I choose high waisted for the style, but to be honest it's just so much easier not have to worry about the bottoms riding down when I sit :P

    Have a lovely day!

  14. I definitely need to invest in more ruffle tops! I really love the Victorian feel they have. :)

    Seeing the difference between the entry in January and this one is amazing! Here's to another great year of blogging! :)


  15. Great sophisticated look! Isn't it amazing how the pressure of putting together outfits for a discriminating audience can make you more creative and improve your critical eye? I've found that to be true for myself as well.

    Ugh, why didn't I snag that skirt when I had a chance??? I'm kinda bummed I never got that blouse too, after seeing it

  16. Thanks for the tips regarding tights & pumps! Very nice color palette for your outfit.. and the jewelry adds another level of femininity and sophistication that I LOVE. Thank goodness I have your blog as a resource for the future, when I'm finished with grad school :)

  17. Love the outfit! I agree, a nice top and a pencil skirt are a perfect go-to outfit for the office :)

  18. That's such a cute blouse, very feminine. The bracelet is cute too.

  19. Beautiful outfit! I always have trouble with sheer blouses. How do you stop them from being completely see-through? Do you always have to get a matching tank for underneath? That seems annoying (challenging to find and expensive!). Any advice would be greatly appreciated ^_^

  20. Gorgeous!!! I am in love with the whole outfit!

    I can completely relate about being new to the jewelry scene! I still have to make an effort to purchase jewelry, but I am starting to get the hang of it. :p

    Too bad about the LOFT necklace. That happened to me with a Martin + Osa neck was all green/grey! So sad, because it was such a fun, chunky piece! :(

  21. I checked your other post see what you were talking about, and I don't find you plain looking at all in January! You're gorgeous girl!

    I'm sorry you had trouble with the necklace. The bracelet is very pretty though! The outfit is perfection!

  22. That blouse is so gorgeous on you.I bet it would look great with a nice pair of pants too.

  23. The outfit is classy and gorgeous! I love that blouse... make me want to "borrow" some of my mom's clothes. hehe.

  24. Oooh lala! (though I guess it technically would be something like "brilliant!" or another English expression in the same vein)

    Ruffles definitely love you - you look great!
    The ruffles look lovely in silk - very luxurious. I discovered Ralph Lauren makes some nice ruffled blouses that can be tucked into high-waisted skirts in cotton. To be honest, silk kind of frightens me - I am intimidated by the work that I assume goes into caring for such a delicate garment!

    Oh, such a shame that the necklace zonked out on you! It is also a shame that F21 has the largest and cheapest selection of costume jewelry yet the quality is...what you pay for basically. I've just recently gotten into accessorizing this past year - it really can make an outfit pop! I love the jewelry at Macy's, JCrew, and Banana Republic Outlet for starters.

    You must show me your Yesstyle haul!!! A lot of their stuff is super cutesy and the models manage to be cute and hot at the same time...*sigh* Some of the pieces I purchased were disappointing (dang models) but I was pretty satisfied overall.

    And Jean, seriously - you have such perfect features and were never by any stretch of the imagination plain!

  25. This outfit goes into my yearly favorites of yours. The bit of Victorian in your ensemble is beautiful, and very sophisticated. Do all your colleagues dress as good as you do? You need to give us an insider glance at your workplace! :p
    I am almost embarassed to think about what I wore to work today! LOL I dressed more fashionable when I worked an hr away and had to commute on the subway! Now that i work 15 mins walking distance, I thought I'd be more thoghtful in my clothing creations, but it's bad. Okay, tonight I will plan better. An accessory a day is a good mantra :) I'm sorry to hear F21 and that LOFT necklace is no good on your skin =/

    And you were not plain. I remember that post :p I've been reading your blog for awhile and I remember thimking how amazing you looked then and how stunning you are today :)

  26. I LOVE your look -the first photo is absolutely gorgeous. My goodness it would be a great Christmas card photo -just photoshop your hubby/family in?! Just kidding.

    That's horrible what happened to your necklace. I can't stand the awful smell when that happens.

  27. I walked passed the Ann Taylor Loft today and went in since they had a surprise 40% off everything sale! Saw the XXSP and I totally thought of you! Hmm.. not good news about their necklace! I bought one recently but have only worn it once (ties in the back with a ribbon). I bought a metal ring there today - hope it doesn't get funky. You look amazing by the way - your hair and skin just look beaming!

    xx Vivian @

  28. Gorgeous pictures! That first one is out of a magazine - like for an editorial feature on YOU! =)

  29. The blouse looks beautiful on you! This outfit is simple but it's so office chic. I like your tip about changing up the colour of my tights and shoes! I should try to do that more often.

  30. You've always looked gorgeous silly! I have always envied how classy and flawless you look in your photos. Ruffle blouse and pencil skirt - classic combo, which I wear to work a lot as well, only I usually put a cardigan on top and flats since I have a bit of a walk to work.

  31. if you paint your costume jewelry with a coat of clear nail polish... they wont tarnish or get that funky metal smell! love your blog!

  32. Kim, that's a cool rec! I'm going to have to remember that.

    Jean, your pictures are gorgeous - you look absolutely stunning in everything you wear, but this outfit looks so put together and polished. I especially love the baby blue on you - not a color we see you wear often :) Every time you put on office/business type clothes, it almost makes me wish that my office warrants for that kind of wardrobe!! The bracelet is so beautiful.

    I don't have a go-to wardrobe for work since we're pretty much casual wear here in Cali. There are guys at my work that wear sports shorts, a t-shirt, a hat and their sneakers everyday. That's the extreme "casual". The women (all ... 8 of us?) tend to wear jeans and a t-shirt/hoodie (sometimes a shirt or polo) with sneakers. LOL. I've been trying to dress nicer now, thanks to your wonderful blog. I actually feel like I have a handle on what clothes might look good on me. Before, I'd be t-shirt/jeans gal too :)

  33. Ruffled top in pencil skirt is one of my favorite looks. And you definitely have the body for it. You look exquisite!

  34. reallyyyyyy lovely style!:)) and great blog!!so i've started to follow u!;) if u want u can check my blog...kisses

  35. I love the ruffle blouse..hmm, now I want to make one, and I think I have a pattern that will work.

    I recently started wearing different color tights with matched shoes after a decade of only wearing nude hose, and it really makes a huge difference. I also am trying to incorporate more jewelry and accessories. My goal is to add either a piece of jewelry or a scarf every day to my outfit. One thing I can say about buying jewelry used at Savers, the cost per item is worth it (less than $5) and you get the benefit of someone else already discovering if it is going to oxidize.

    My Go To outfit is usually some sort of skirt, blouse, and cardigan. I have been on a mission to not wear the exact same combination of things twice, which actually makes getting dressed every day more of an adventure.

  36. If the things you're wearing were still available in stores, I'd definitely buy everything! Love the outfit, especially the skirt. I'm also trying to accessorize more too, but it's hard to find things I like at prices I like! Definitely isn't helping to hear how cheapie pieces are smellin' funky and giving you a rash :\

  37. Oh I love this pictures, pretty ^_^ Simply elegant, chic,romantic and super feminine.

  38. i love how blogging can do that to you, make you better!! i have the same blouse, i don't remember if the sleeves were too long, regardless, i love the blouse! your outfits are always an inspiration to me! i love this one :) i don't do gray on gray...i shall do that as soon as i have the guts to wear something other than pants in 20 degree weather...i've already brought out my dennis basso faux fur coats!

  39. I'm loving all the pictures!! I love your work style since it's classic and chic at the same time.
    I hate when cheap jewelry oxidizes as well. Especially rings when they oxidize on my finger and have that funky smell. >.<

    I love your style!! <3

  40. The outfit is so elegant! And I love bracelet. Did it fit you without modifications? Wearing more jewelry is definitely one of my fashion New Year's resolutions.

    On an unrelated note, I've been shopping for the perfect wool coat but I think I'm suffering from that "tiny fit syndrome" you mentioned in one of your early posts. If you review that J Crew coat can you offer any tips on finding the balance between fitted but still allowing for clothes underneath (lol)?

  41. jean-- you look so pretty! i love your outfit from head to toe. the blouse is so pretty and i love the skirt with it. everything fits so well.

  42. @Kim: Clear nail polish fixes a lot of things, huh? That was a great suggestion. I'm going to follow through and see if it works on my f21 necklaces.

    I'm trying to get into accessories as well; I know they complete an outfit. I'm just so lazy so I pop on my pearl studs and call it a day. womp.

  43. Your outfit looks so classic and chic! I think you did great with the accessories, it jazzes it up plus your photos really shows off how wonderful everything works together.

    I have trouble with a lot of cheap necklaces and earrings too. They don't last very long or I don't wear them for extended periods of time. But you get what you pay for. =)

  44. go to ensemble for me...pencil skirt and pumps indefinitely.
    but now that im starting to build up my work wardrobe i need a ruffles shirt like this..thank you for the tip!!:)

    I am pushing 5'2 and about 105 lbs, but I have size 7.5/8 feet?! you are so little with size 5 shoe...gorgeous!!!

    Visit if you like to keep up with daily fashion on the runway and learn how you can get the alternative affordable look in your closet! : )

  45. OOoh I love the bracelet you're wearing in this outfit :)

  46. a simple outfit, yet you make it look amazing!

  47. Haha my go-to work outfit is basically identical to yours. Ruffle top, pencil skirt, heels, and some nice costume jewelry and I'm out the door! I love seeing how your style has evolved- still very classic but a tad more accessorized and put together. Very pretty blouse btw!

  48. I love this look! It's still chic and pretty but it is more interesting and unique than your first outfit(although I liked that too!). The blouse is beautiful and I love it with the skirt and how you paired it with the jewelry. Overall it's a great look for work. I don't work(I'm only 15!) but I could see myself wearing something like this if I did work.
    P.S. I have been reading your blog since last year and I wanted to let you know how much I love it! I really appreciate how you give a lot of tips on how to be fashionable when you're petite(I'm petite too). I also love all of you clothes and the way you put everything together and how your pieces are within my price range(for the most part). A little less than a month ago, I started my own fashion blog for teens. It's called fashionforteens after all! I was inspired by you. I love fashion and beauty products and magazines etc. and really wanted to share my ideas with everyone else. I know you are probably really busy but I would really appreciate it if you could check out my blog(it's linked at the top). Thank you so much,

    Sorry for writing such a long comment!

  49. I love cameo jewelry and the entire ensemble! It's just so classy and elegant :) Sorry to hear about the LOFT jewelry - where do you happen to store it? I used to keep all my necklaces hanging in the bathroom for easy visibility when getting dressed and they all got tarnished from the excess moisture (but it did get clean with some toothpaste!).

    My go-to work outfit is usually a pair of trousers with a cardigan and a top underneath with some kind of popped out detail (ruffles, bows, etc.).

  50. I love love this outfit on you. You look absolutely beautiful as always. My go to work outfit is quite similar to yours: pencil skirt, ruffles top with cardigan and black pumps. I love the bracelet you're wearing. Nick definitely has good taste :)

  51. jean! you look great!! i love the backdrop at your 'rents' house. sigh, i wish alterations weren't always needed. and i would say the foray into accesorizing is working. :)

  52. You look flawless! The ruffled shirt with skirt ensemble works well on you. Ruffles can sometimes be overwhelming but these are just right. I love the idea of wearing an accessory a day too. I too often forget to wear any jewelry, sometimes even forgetting my wedding ring!

    You also have to tell us what camera and setting your bf is using on these photos. They look really professional!

  53. You look so pretty...that is such a great work look! Too bad about the LOFT necklace...I've actually had pretty good luck with my pieces from there

  54. Hi Jean, you look beautiful. I'm lazy so I usually wear cardigan or sweater plus pants and flats to work. I need to push myself a little so that I go out of my comfort zone and wear something different.

  55. Thank you thank you everyone for your kind messages! For the record I live in a tiny little undecorated apartment in Boston...these photos were snapped at my parents home, but I'm sure they appreciate the home compliments lol.

    @The Little Dust Princess I think it must be nickel in least cheap rings are OK. The skin on fingers are tough ; )

    @Cee I was in your boat, Cee. Makeup takes so much time, especially if no one at work or wherever you're going will appreciate the effort lol. You should try your hands just at the basics...find a good concealer, foundation, and eyeliner : ) I love exploring it now only fear is going overboard and I've asked my bf to keep me in check if I'm looking like a tranny with pounds of makeup on...

    @kileen I'd never ask you to pay for such a thing! I wouldn't feel right passing off something that is so poor quality to you : )

    @Elle Lol, he was beaming with self pride when I read him your comment.

    @herwaisechoice You look lovely in all your high waisted garments. For me it's too painful to sit down after a big lunch!

    @Alterations Needed My eyes are always peeled...the skirt for you, the jacket for Jen...the tweed suit Theory has out this season is so ugly! It's matronly and long...bring back the Gratian!!

    @Karen Good luck and enjoy your remaining years in school! Building up your work wardrobe after graduating is quite fun : )

    @Danielle Try looking for nude or cream colored tanks at places like H&M, F21, Gap, etc. They will go under sheer blouses of any color! My favorite under tanks are these tubular seamless tanks from Theory. I have two, one from the Theory outlet and one from Saks off 5th for about $25...they are one size fits all and are really great as undertanks and smooth out lumps.

  56. @Michelle Oh I am glad now I didnt buy any of their necklaces during their final days of neck sounds bad!!

    @Stephanie Lol! Thanks Stephanie...but a little makeup makes a heck of a difference on anyone.

    @Irene As long as you wear an undershirt for silk I think it's actually pretty easy to care for! Thankfully even though F21's necklaces are irritating on the skin, their earrings and rings seem to be decent (aside from stones falling out and all that). They still have the best and cheapest selection of costume jewelry. And ah, I totally agree with you the YesStyle models make all the items look so good...but you gotta know they can't all look like that on "real people" !

    @Rainy Days and Lattes Oh Jen, you are such a sweetheart! I am inspired to dress better because I actually work with a team of good looking and fashion savvy colleagues. I could be invisible compared to them, lol! Don't feel embarrassed in any way...everyone goes to work in what they are comfortable in.

    @kali lol I will have to suggest xmas card photos with the family lined up prom style on the stairs.

    @Kim Wonderful tip! That's probably more tedious for longer or chunkier pieces (this necklace has three strands interwoven with ribbon) but I will be sure to remember that in the future. Thanks so much for sharing!!

    @grace Grace, thank you so much for your kind words. And I give you huge props for putting effort into your attire if everyone at work dresses so casual. I would not be able to do it..! By the way I love baby blue as well...I long for the "old" Ann Taylor from last year when things were cuter and cheaper. I had some favorites from that season.

  57. @littlenashua Savers has been WONDERFUL ever since you recommended it....I am still drooling over the pearl costume necklace you found for $4. And you're completely right, a quick glance at all the costume jewelry for sale at Savers and you can easily tell which ones are good quality. Please sew the blouse! I love all your creations.

    @PetiteXXS I know...I guess we will just have to stick to pearls which are semi affordable and shouldn't cause irritation!

    @Janine aka J-Ezzy @ *La Dolce Vita* Do you commute to work or drive? Shouldn't be too awful if you can drive and just run from the car to the office building : )

    @R Hello hello...yes the bracelet is elastic so it does "fit" however the cameo is heavy and often falls to the bottom. I kept your question in mind when filming my coat review! Sadly i still suffer from "TFS" lol. If you are ever wondering whether something is too tight or too large from you, maybe post a pic in the AlterationsNeeded forum and us petites can help you decide!

    @SewPetiteGal I keep it on a rack...and no joke it was probably only two days and it already left a rash...sigh! At least LOFT is great for clothes, will just have to be more careful about their final sale jewelry.

    @PetiteLittleGirlHahaha Nick thanks you for your compliment! And you can't go wrong with your go to work outfit...especially now since you have your bargain AT perfect black pumps.

    @Petite Mom Hi petite mom! The camera is just a Pentax (lower end DSLR) and the settings are manual...he's been self learning ever since I started blogging and I am very thankful!

    @Kandice Hi Kandice...pushing yourself out of the norm is fun, but sometimes there is just no need. If you're super comfortable in cardi and pants and flats, why change it up? : )

  58. i unfortunately take the metro and do at least 30 minutes of walking (in one day) add 30 more minutes if i don't bring lunch and dc sidewalks are not pretty, haha. heels are a no no when commuting, i keep them under my desk. i wish i could drive to work but parking is too expensive and traffic is too loco, makes my head spin thinking of it. i miss working by my house :( about being a debbie downer, sheesh... sorry!!


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