Friday, August 31, 2012

Do or don't: wearing distinctive designers at a conservative office

A few months ago, I received this message from a reader:

"I would greatly appreciate your advice on whether you think it is appropriate to wear designer pieces to a conservative corporate office. I, too, love and own a few Chanels and Loubs, but I am a little hesitant to wear them to my office because they are so readily identifiable. My office consists of mostly women, and I would hate to be the target of any catty remarks." - MCL

This is a question that I've thought about many times myself. As much as I enjoy wearing certain designer pieces, the last thing I want to do is appear inappropriate or showy at work. Although I have photographed Chanel bags with work outfits on here, the truth is I do not tote them to the office (and admitted so here). At my current job, I keep mainly Ann Taylor pumps at my desk, but do sport the occasional Louboutins with other nondescript pieces.
designer_at_the_office copy
Images from these posts: left / right

The answer to MCL's question is subjective and dependent on your own office environment, as well as where you are in your career. But here are some factors that I've considered over the years:

1. How "showy" are the designer items and how do they fit with your overall look?
In my opinion, recognizable all-over logo print, large logos, and Louboutin heels with their bright red soles are showier because onlookers can't miss that it's an expensive item. The higher the associated price range (as with Chanel), the more ostentatious the item can be in the wrong setting. In a truly conservative business environment, I would avoid the aforementioned things unless you're at the top of the corporate ladder.

How you integrate designer items with your daily look also matters. I feel that if you consistently look put-together and tastefully-dressed, then designer items that complement that image will draw less attention than if the items themselves are the "centerpieces" of your outfits.

2. Is your office hierarchy flat or structured? What are your superiors' attitudes toward designer items?
In a structured office hierarchy, I would suggest being very careful to avoid looking like you're trying to upstage any superiors. This is especially important to consider with women, who may be more sensitive to such things. If your organizational structure is flatter and the atmosphere is more casual, I would feel out the environment by gauging clues on what is appropriate. For example:

- Do your superiors enjoy wearing designer items, or do they balk at the price tags as being wasteful?
- Do you and your superiors chat congenially about latest purchases or where to shop?

Working in client service, I view the client like a superior and exercise an even higher level of care/caution. I avoid showing up at a client donning any readily-identifiable high-end items, without first understanding their business environment or their personality. Needless to say, this is even more important at client meetings where sales or fee negotiations are taking place.

3. How much do other people's perceptions matter to you?
I often smile remembering an intern who showed up on his first day with an $8k watch and received a healthy dose of teasing. This reader's question mentioned catty remarks...if you care about such things, then it is safer to dress within your level. Most people in peer roles (and of course, superiors) will know the going salary rates and could be quick to form judgments if someone dresses conspicuously above others at the same level. They could speculate that someone is drowning in credit card debt or has a sugar daddy/parent, which could be far from the truth. The perceived boundaries of your level, however, could vary greatly based on office culture - in a fashion-conscious, urban workplace, wearing Louboutins could be common for junior-level employees...whereas it could easily garner gossip and raised eyebrows elsewhere.

In the end, there will always be people who wear whatever they want with confidence because they don't care about what others think. And those who've made it to the top have the luxury of doing so. For those who are not there yet, even small wardrobe choices can play a real role in workplace perceptions and possibly distract from one's professional performance.

Readers - What are your thoughts on and experiences with this topic? Do you wear "readily-identifiable" designers to work?

111 comments:

  1. Thanks for this! I'm starting at an entry level job and I often question how to dress and what is appropriate. You're definitely right about the environment with women! i think we all feel envy quite readily.

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  2. Love this post! I would have never thought of wearing designer items to work as a problem.

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  3. Really enjoyed this post. One more request: Style guide for men in the corporate environment. Mon - Thurs vs. Fridays.

    - Lloyd

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  4. I really like this post. It's something I've always had in mind subconsciously, but never actively thought about it. I definitely never wear designer brands (at least not easily identifiable ones, e.g. monogrammed) to work. If I do wear a designer brand to work, it's usually very inconspicuous, such that only people very familiar with the brand would notice.

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  5. I try to steer away from any noticeable or bold designer wear just for that same purpose. Working in an environment where all my colleagues where mainly suits, it makes it that much easier to shy away from "showing off" or trying to come off as too flashy. My everyday attire mainly consists of plain blazers and skirts. I switch it up every now and then, however, with different colors and textured undershirts. The only thing that might catch someone's eye are my out of season (from TJ Maxx)shoes or costume jewelry pieces that are clearly just for fun. :P

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  6. Thanks for such an interesting post! It's nice to read your perspective as a fashion blogger. It's fun to see the outfits you pull together, but what I enjoy most is your practicality. I sure love designer pieces but can definitely see how it could cause sensitivities amongst fellow coworkers and peers.

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  7. Well-formulated ideas on this intriguing topic. What labels I choose to wear is something I feel I consider on all occasions, even non-work related. There are certain people around whom I feel completely comfortable sporting the latest and greatest, and then there are other people around whom I am much more careful. It also depends on the focus and goals of each occasion.

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  8. I personally find obvious logos like the Louis Vuitton prints and Chanel to be tacky in almost all situations, although I respect that many women love them. I honestly think it's because they are so prevalent/often copied that I'm just visually sick of the styles. I obviously have nothing against high end brands because I love YSL and have a Muse! But I do think that over-the-top and recognizable logos are wrong for the office. They're not against the dress code and of course, everyone is different. But my female AND male coworkers and I do tend to have negative first impressions of women (or men!) who are ostentatious about money in any way, because we work in a high-value but very decorous and conservative field. Just like I wouldn't wear flashy, sparkly evening jewelry to work, I wouldn't carry a Stephen Sprouse LV bag. Being appropriate for the situation is always important, no matter if you're dressed up or down. I do think low, neutral Loubies are ok, but no strappy ones and no platforms!

    I do have one exception to my no-flashy-items rule. My grandmother had a beautiful, delicate Rolex with diamonds that was given to her by the manager of a department store for whose ad campaigns she was a model. The manager later became her husband of 40 years. :) She and I were very close and she left me the watch when she died. I adore it and have come to think of it as my good-luck charm, but it does sometimes draw comments, especially when I was younger. However, whenever someone remarked on it, I would always explain how I got it and the sentimental value it held, and then the person would drop the subject.

    My supervisor has a gorgeous black and white Goyard bag, which several of the more fashion-conscious ladies in our office are in love with. I carry my black Muse with no problems, but I would not carry the Cabas Chyc to the office. I also carry a plain leather Fendi tote but wouldn't carry a logo'ed one. One can still be classic, stylish, occasionally expensively dressed, and well put-together without making it blatantly obvious that one is wearing high-end items.

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  9. I enjoyed reading this, I personally don't like wearing clothing and bags where big brand logos are everywhere or like you said readily-identifiable but I also have nothing against people I see with them, it's just me who's not comfortable. And I can relate with what you said about even if logos and names are not showing on what you're wearing some people would still notice just because they are familiar with the item. I had an experience at work one time where someone was talking to me about sales going on at Kmart and my other co-worker immediately said, "does she look like she shops at Kmart, to you?". I didn't know at that time how and what to feel but I had to explained that, "yes I love and I do wear designer stuff but I get them on sale". Thanks for this post!

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  10. Great post, Jean. But, here's the deal. Wear what you love and enjoy doing so. Life is too darn short not to. We buy the items because we love them, and because you respect the craftsmanship and care that goes into making them. It would be a lie if I haven't once thought after reading your blog, and the other fashion blogs, how you younger ladies manage to own so many high end pieces. My conclusion is that most of you have a budget, and you make careful choices. And that's because I take the time to read the posts and watch your videos. I will say that I completely understand and have experienced the incorrect conclusions people draw based on the items you purchase.
    I work in a corporate office on a marketing team. I will first point out that we are an "older" crowd than maybe your readership is. We are married, and mothers with young kids. We typically are all dressed with LOFT, AT, BR, JCrew and follow many different fashion blogs based on our different tastes. None of us are wearing true designer clothing. However, many of us have a decent selection of designer bags from Kate Spade, Coach, LV. I do not see much Chanel at all here in Rochester, NY. If I were to break out my classic flap (which was gifted to me by my very successful artist brother when I graduated from college), I think maybe a handful of ladies would know it's a Chanel, and that it's worth a lot. But, the point of this, the ladies KNOW me. They know I am not a catty person, or a snobby person who only wants to be in the company of those with high-end goods. They know I have a love for designers and they think it's great that I have some classic pieces. So, therefore, I feel completely comfortable wearing and enjoying the items I own. Also, we are a bit more established and frankly, relaxed about such things.
    If you are not yet in that place with yourself, or your career, I can understand the need to be careful. I remember a similar experience of a male intern driving a BMW and being teased. He took it pretty well, gave it right back, and people enjoyed it. He also was a smart person, and strong contributor. This goes with the deal of looking the part.
    But, be yourself, enjoy what you have. If you really want to take the Speedy to work because it's the most efficient way to carry all you need, then DO IT and smile!! Always remember that for every person who may feel awkward around you, there are probably 10 other people who you've inspired to be stylish and own some nicer pieces. It's worth it!

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    1. Well said Mary-Irene! I totally agree with your response.

      Tammy of Walking in Pretty Shoes

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    2. Thanks, Tammy! Why buy these items if you cannot fully enjoy them? I think it's unfair to keep my things wrapped in their original packaging tucked away in the closet. They want to be worn, loved and respected :) For me, wearing my goods means going to the office. As a busy mom with a family, I'm not out and about with the girls on the town.If I don't take my things to the office, the only time I can break them out is weekends. Part of making an investment is enjoying that investment. Otherwise, your ROI is nothing!

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    3. I love your perspective on this, Mary-Irene. The dynamic you described with your team made me smile, and reminds me of my current job - a flatter office structure where the leaders make an effort to "know" those on their team outside of just work. They know me as a person, know of my blog, know that I like to dress up and buy some things pre-owned...and have made me feel progressively more comfortable being myself at work, style-wise.

      On the other hand, I've worked at places before where such is not the case. In the anecdote you shared of your intern, the fact that lighthearted teasing even occurs is a sign of open relationships that are not present at many offices. My views for the workplace are more conservative than most and err on the side of caution, but I agree with your bottom line.

      Your second comment speaks to another topic I feel strongly about... buying and "investing" in items that are practical for one's own lifestyle. I try to consider this with every splurge, but there are definitely pieces in my closet -like Chanel bags- that were purchased for evening/weekend enjoyment with no intention of ever taking them to work.

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    4. fantastic post Jean and a great comment by Mary-Irene.

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    5. Thanks for your comments, Jean and others! I am sure that the friendly open banter that I have seen happen in my particular work place is not a cookie cutter experience in other markets. I think to err on the side of being conservative is a very smart approach, and then when you feel comfortable carrying your things, then go for it. Who you are surrounded by makes a huge difference, no doubt about it. I have to say, my younger corporate experiences were much like the comment from W. Mau. I began my career as a Chemical Engineer. Surrounded by men who had absolutely no sense for fashion, nor did most of the women. I seriously took my Chanel classic flap into the office, and they probably thought I got it a Kohls because they just didn't know any better. While I was fortunate that I was not looked upon badly, I also had no one to talk fashion with :( As I've grown in my career away from engineering and into product development and marketing, I've been with more and more women, and have seen what you are speaking to. But with career growth came confidence (and age unfortunately). Anyway, great topic for discussion!!! Huge fan of your blog and your style.

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    6. Hi Mary-Irene,

      Great point! If it's practical (and fashionable), why not? I think it's important to enjoy life and enjoy the rewards you got for yourself.

      When I see designer items I like in the office, I adore them instead of being jealous or weird about it. To me, it's their life, their money, and they are quite an eye candy (I meant the designer items), so why be catty about it. =)

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    7. What a fantastic post, Jean! I just got around to reading it fully and enjoy the comments here as well. I grinned at Mary-Irene's comments about "I seriously took my Chanel classic flap into the office, and they probably thought I got it a Kohls because they just didn't know any better." That's exactly where I'm at. I take my Chanel to work as I wish because I have absolutely no concern that people would notice. I work with a bunch of fantastic engineers (mostly men) who just don't know and don't care. Plus I'm a lot older than you girls and feel more at ease doing whatever I want. This luxury comes with time. Thanks for the post and have a great weekend!

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  11. i really enjoyed reading this post. i never thought of it as a problem but i suppose in an office environment the hierarchy can be quite intense! i think the way you styled the two shoes in the pictures are fine. i would stray from wearing CL's like you until i get a feel of the propriety - i remember in college one girl was wearing her CL's on stage in a dance ... it felt weird. that's a good tip to keep in mind since i have to dress more professionally when seeing patients.

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  12. Great post! I recently started an office job and find myself over thinking the smallest of things! Most of the women I work with are very well-dressed and I feel like I need to be more fashionable. All your posts have been super helpful as I am also a very petite girl! It's a great resource because finding fitting and flattering clothes can be so frustrating sometimes! Plenty of people still ask me what grade in high school I'm going into, which is so embarrassing considering I'm turning 23 and working in a professional environment now. Did you ever have this problem?

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    1. Yes, I used to be asked my age all the time, but never do now. It could be because my face has aged, but I'd like to think it's due to me paying more attention to small things that make a difference in appearance and "presence." I wrote two old posts on this as well:

      http://www.extrapetite.com/2010/05/reader-request-how-to-look-older-in.html

      http://www.extrapetite.com/2011/02/reader-request-building-confidence.html

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    2. I guess Asians do look younger than most Westerners, more baby faced. My coworkers in Houston always thought I just graduated from high school instead of college! Haha!
      Now that I'm back in Asia, it's the other around, I do work to look my age or younger, especially since my husband is two years younger than me and he's so darn proud when people think I'm five years younger than him!

      Visit me:
      LeeAnne, Style N Season
      http://stylenseason.blogspot.com

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  13. What a thoughtful and helpful post.
    I've often considered what is appropriate for the office but in terms of the length of skirt, how much skin one shows, how casually to dress. I've never thought about maybe being too showy at work. I'm someone that buys big brand name labels or expensive purses or shoes so this has just never occurred to me. Also I work in radio production/journalism, a field that is very creative, and people dress pretty much however they like, so again, something I've never had to consider. Thanks for the food for thought.

    ~Natasha Fatah~

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  14. I think it is more in terms of appropriateness and good taste. i.e. is the skirt too short? Neckline too low. Are there labels showing from top to bottom? Is it necessary to wear an 6 inch CL? or an 6 inch nine west stilletos for that matter.

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  15. It's good to be sensitive to other people, but I have to say I agree with Mary-Irene. Personally i cannot afford Louboutins and Chanels yet, but it wouldn't bother me to see my coworkers wearing them. To each their own. If I manage to invest in a pair of Louboutin I am planning on wearing it to work, because after all work is the place that I frequent the most. I think it would be great if women were more supportive and less catty. Then again I work in IT, I always find myself having lunch with 9 guys or more. And they can't tell a target handbag from a Chanel purse really lol. I guess I'm lucky in that sense.
    But you did make a great point and I can tell that you are very sweet natured person.
    xo
    Rachelle
    http://pinksole.wordpress.com

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  16. Very interesting post; I very much appreciate hearing other women's view on this topic. I work in the finance industry where most people dress conservatively and I always felt that if I wore a designer piece to work, my associates wouldn't take me seriously... so for the first seven years of my career, I never wore anything that was too flashy or high-end to work. Now that I am at the higher end of the corporate ladder, I feel a lot more comfortable wearing designer pieces to work (i.e. my Loubies and Chanels)... but here's the FUNNY thing: for the most part, many people don't even know that my red sole heels and Chanel bags costs thousands of dollars (unless they are fashionistas themselves!). So here's MY advice: enjoy your designer pieces while you're young and able to flaunt them!! :)

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  17. Great answers, Jean! I have only 1 designer bag (LV Speedy). I agree with what you said in #1, if you always looked pulled together than the designer bag doesn't stand out. So, I tend to wear it when I'm more pulled together. But then again, I also wear it to make a casual outfit seem more pulled together ;) on weekends. Lucky for me, I work mostly with men, so even if they recognized the brand, they wouldn't feel I'm competing with their knowledge of the stock market/sports or smartphones ;). But overall, great advice! I can see that you put much thought into the answer and have also practiced your advice! Another reason to love your blog!!!!!!!!!

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  18. This is an interesting post and I enjoyed reading your thoughts on it. I think you really have to use your own judgement depending on where you work and what you do. The other day I dropped by the hospital because I wasn't feeling well and the doctor they assigned me was very young and quite prettily dressed in a way which wouldn't have made me blink on the street, but seemed very unusual in the hospital environment compared to the other employees. I didn't mind, but I think the other doctors there spoke to her as if she was much younger and not inexperienced. Perhaps she was, but I couldn't help wondering if any of their manner had to do with the way she was dressed. I suppose to a degree it has an effect on how people perceive you as capable and able, but I'd hope that in the grand scheme of things, Mary-Irene's view would the one that mattered:)

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  19. thank you for touching on this topic. very informative!

    Today on The Glitter Life: Friday Five: Vegas Edition: http://theglitterlife.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/friday-five-vegas-edition/

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  20. What an excellent and well written piece. Thanks, Jean, for sharing your thoughts. I think you are spot-on in your assessment and thank you for bringing this subject to light.

    All the best always,
    CG

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  21. What an excellent and well written piece. Thanks, Jean, for sharing your thoughts. I think you are spot-on in your assessment and thank you for bringing this subject to light.

    All the best always,
    CG

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  22. this is such a great question and something I've always wondered myself. I tend to use my expensive item only when I go out and not at work just to not be too "showy"

    http://allthingsprettyandlittle.blogspot.com/

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  23. This is great advice! I love that you are mindful of not being too showy with designer pieces. Not everyone works that way, especially in fashion blogging. I work at an office where no one knows of any designers, and I am overdressed most days anyway! I've found ways to tone down the glam but maintain my sense of personal style. Office style is a challenge no matter what, and I'm glad you addressed this side of it!

    -Erin-
    http://onetwosummer.blogspot.com/

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  24. Great post Jean, you write well!

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  25. Great post!! I'd love if you would write a dressing "handbook" with all of your tips! :)
    ~L&W
    www.thedoubletakegirls.com

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  26. Loved this post Jean. I'm a recent grad just starting out in the finance/accounting field and have similar views regarding designer accessories in the workplace. I don't know about other corporate environments but being flashy in our field is definitely frowned upon.

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    1. With that said, I have been wanting the Prada purse you recently purchased, but have held off for a while due to the reasons mentioned in your post. Do you think it would be acceptable for the workplace since it's not plastered with logos?

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    2. Hi there - Personally I think it's acceptable and I carry mine to work sometimes. The logo plate is very small and you can even turn it around to face you if you're concerned. The fact that people have complimented it having no idea what brand it is, and asked where it's from because they like the look, gives me comfort that the design is standing on it's own (versus the logo).

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  27. Great topic Jean :)

    For me my opinion is that I spent a lot of money for certain items and so I don't want to feel limited about where I wear them. I rarely wear logo items to work though and if I do carry an Hermes bag I usually use one of the more low key styles. If I am carrying a Birkin I turn it in facing me when walking into the office and then just stow it away under my desk for the day. I don't usually bring my bags out to lunch with coworkers, just grab my wallet and some sunglasses.

    I do however drive my husband's old fairly beat up car to work - for some reason I feel people judge on car more than anything (maybe because it's easier to universally price) and I don't like bringing attention to myself in that way. Plus I am a bad driver, LOL.

    Finally in my experience some people will just want to be catty or are overly curious to price your items/see how you are doing economically and they will find something no matter what. I walked into a VP's office the other day and caught them Trulia'ing another coworker's address to see how much the house was worth (you can see our addresses in our employee directory). Some people..

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  28. I totally agree with all of your points. :) I once worked in the same building as the CEO of a major bank. Therefore, the dress code there was quite fancy. I carried my Chanel and wore my Louboutins (not everyday necessarily), but I don't feel that I ever stood out. I actually felt a bit like I fit in because of what everyone else (executives and traders) wore in the building. But then again, we weren't allowed to wear denim or capri pants, if that tells you anything about their dress code. :P

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  29. As always, your blog inspire me so much and I love reading every single word you write. I finally commented today because I want to share some stories from my work based on the theme of wearing designer pieces at work. First of all my work environment is very very different from what most people have around them. I am a Chinese, female electrical engineer working in silicon valley. Males are dominating in our work place and needless to say, these males/nerds don't care much about fashion and many of them probably never heard of h&m. I don't want to surrender to looking like them because I am still a fairly girly girl, though my usual work attire is just simple jeans and knit tops. At my work environment, dressing anything nicer such as in pencil skirt or what not will draw great attention from the male coworkers and trust me you don't want those attention. :-D Anyhow, we do have one particular lady who dresses with so much confident that she doesn't care the whole building is gossiping about her work attire choices. She's not an engineer and she dresses very professionally with great sense of style and wears designer shoes platform stilettos like Prada and Dior (although she admits she doesn't own loubs). One time our group has some morale money and she suggested taking everyone out shopping and be our stylist, that's when I know how much she loathe the way people dress at work. Not surprisingly, the men grunted and responded "Cut this crap let's just go drink beer". I found that whole exchange quite amusing but I have to give her the probs for trying and I really admire her confident. Although I cannot do the same (don't like the attention and can't walk in heels) but I am still inspire by fashion and will try to sport it on weekends. Hope you enjoy the story and keep the good stuff coming!

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    1. I have a coworker just like that too! I work in the exact same environment as you. She's actually inspired me to look my best at work. I know the engineers don't care, but I love fashion so much that in the end - I care how I look. Props to your coworker!

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  30. Honestly, it's your fashion and your items...you should feel like you can wear them anywhere.
    Don't worry about what people think...and catty women will be catty with our without a designer bag...so go ahead, flaunt what you've got and wear it with pride.
    XOXO

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  31. Jean, thanks so much for answering my question in such a thoughtful post! I'm really enjoying reading all of the reader comments as well. I have been in my industry for four to five years so I'm considered a junior/mid-level associate. However, I just started at my current firm a few months ago. Based upon your advice, I think I'm going to stow my identifiable designer pieces for at least six months until my co-workers get to know me better and then I'll gradually bust out the Loubs!
    Have a great long weekend,
    MCL

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  32. such a great post! I was always wondering about this...!!
    Thanks Jean!

    withloveshmon.com

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  33. This is such a great topic. I especially agree that if your designer things complement a look, it will draw less attention others. I also work in financial environments, and thought I'd add some of my opinions too.

    (1) Don't be draped head to toe in designer logos or distinctive designer pieces. I usually limit myself to two designer pieces in an outfit if they are low key, or just one piece if it is distinctive.

    (2) Dress according to who you are trying to impress. If I were meeting clients with a $250,000 portfolio, I would carry a Coach tote because I don't want the clients to think I am overbilling them. If I were meeting a corporate investment client with a $25 million portfolio, I would carry my Chanel bag because I want to convey I can afford expensive things due to the fact that I am successful and very good at what I do.

    (3) Be confident and proud, and don’t make excuses for your purchase. Since I always save for my designer things and buy them after many months (and in the case of my first Chanel bag, after years) of consideration, I view them as achievements in my life. So I am proud when I carry my designer purses or wear my designer shoes. There was this one girl who used to say things like "I could never afford a bag costs over $1000". I would say back, "Well, I budgeted for it, and made sacrifices in other areas so as to not go into debit while still maxing out my retirement accounts." Or, if the remark sounded especially catty, I would just smile, sometimes condescendingly, and say, "I'm sorry to hear that..." and in my mind add "...and too bad you don't know how to budget."

    (4) Age helps. I received more looks when I wore expensive designer pieces in my 20s. Now, in my 30s, I guess people assume I've paid my dues and earned them.

    Last of all, I think women were cattier in my last office setting because they were younger and it was a more male-dominated environment, so the women instinctively wanted to one-up each other and impress the other gender. My current office setting is more female-dominated and older in age, and we all give compliments to each other on our outfits.

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    1. Great points! I really do think age helps...I just turned the big 30 this year and I rewarded myself with a Chanel bag and a pair of Loubies and I absolutely have NO regrets because I worked really hard in my 20's and saved every dime I could for it. I think saving for such lovely designer pieces makes you appreciate them more.

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    2. Excellent points! One thing that does come up in my 30's are those "martyr moms" who make these comments like "must be nice to splurge on yourself, since we put all our money in tuition/baseball/dance lessons for our children".

      While I don't own anything designer, I am *finally* getting to the point where I look really well put together at work. I work primarily with engineers but I deal in business development. I feel that a polished look is necessary and if I could, would add designer pieces.

      While reading your reply, I was reminded of this random movie called "Le Divorce" with Kate Hudson where she gets some fancy designer bag from a sugar daddy and wears it to death-- to the point that even he says that she isn't required to use it daily. The same with designer duds. I have much more respect when those shoes are chosen for their look, not *JUST* for the color of their soles.

      It's still sad that women can be so catty about things. I admit to falling prey to that. If I saw our intern carrying Chanel (or gasp, casually tossing it on her desk), I'd really have all sorts of thoughts of her.

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    3. Hi S.A. - My very first Chanel was purchased for my 30th birthday too! I was hesitant at first, but my wonderful husband pushed me to get it. I'm currently saving for an orange leather Hermes Kelly bag for my 40th birthday. I don't know what I want yet for my 50th and 60th birthdays, but I still have time to think and save.

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    4. "Martyr Moms"! I love that title. I think the martyr moms have made me the most insecure about just simply being put together. I don't have many designer pieces at all, and actually I don't care about them, but I do spend a lot of time, energy, and money on my appearance. I've gotten catty comments and looks from those ladies. I decided to try and cover up my annoyance/insecurities with the feeling of compassion... because it must be hard to not have a lot of energy for yourself. But at the same time, I'm grateful I do.

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  34. Very relevant post. I work in Silicon Valley which is designer bag central when women are out and about for play - but for work? I personally play it down. I am an engineer so most of my coworkers are men, and most of them don't know anything about designer bags, clothes shoes.

    However, I don't feel comfortable wearing any of my high-end designer brands. For work, I have several go to Coach purses (thanks in part to the Coach outlet) which I think send the right message. It's tasteful, appropriate, and shows I'm willing to spend on quality items that aren't overly extravagant.

    It seems small, but I'm one of the only women in my office (and one of the few young people) so I'm very conscious of how I'm perceived.


    Well, long story short - engineers don't care, but unless you're in the fashion industry, I think it's just best to play it safe. You never want your designer duds to outshine your work ethic. Leave the fancy stuff at home.

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  35. Really interesting and thoughtful post! I think that as some of us are still growing in our careers, erring on the side of conservatism is best, but as we get older and hopefully rise in the ranks, we should do what we please, as another reader said above. To be honest with you though, I think many of the people I work with (especially the men) wouldn't know a celine from a channel if you whacked them with it.

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  36. Of your three points, I worry the most about 2+3 together, how I'm perceived by my superiors. At the end of the day, they're the ones writing my paychecks and handing out promotions and bonuses. I'd like to think that such decisions would be entirely based on merit, but the cynical part of me can't help but feel that if there's only an $X amount in the bonus pool, they would subconsciously think that a person raising a family would benefit more from this money than a single person who spends it on designer items.

    You'd think that my extreme paranoia would stop me from wearing designer items to work, right? I did stop for awhile, but then a part of me wasn't happy that I didn't get to "enjoy" the items as much as I'd like (weekends are so short after all). So I found a balance that worked for me, by being careful of how I wear my items at work. The most "readily-identifiable" designer item I have is probably my Chanel flap, so I wear it flipped around with the CC lock tucked against me. That doesn't hide the distinctive quilting, but one would have to know about designers to identify it. Luckily I work in a predominantly male environment where no one cares about such things.

    Though my superiors (all male) don't care about designer bags/shoes, they sure do notice cars. I've heard on more than one occasion remarks on how this one guy is driving yet another new car. Cars are his "thing," so he sells/buys a new one every year. Another example is when a recent college graduate, a few months into working his first job, buys a mid-level luxury car (ie: Lexus, BMW), there certainly were comments made.

    I've often wondered what it would be like to work with more females. I'm sure at some point in my career I'll be able to experience that first hand. If there are catty comments, I'd like to think I can brush those aside, but I honestly don't know. I think it's also interesting to hear what everyone's take on "readily-identifiable" designer items are. My first thoughts were the same as yours, Louboutin red soles and Chanel flaps. To me, I subconsciously identified items from higher tiers, but I can also see some people saying Coach bags with the C logo as a "readily-identifiable" designer item.

    Love these posts of yours, Jean!

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    1. Definitely agree that men do the same, except with cars!

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  37. What a interesting post. I work in leading aircraft manufacturing company as an engineer, have been for about one and a half years now. I am surrounded by male engineers and very few females. Before I started by job I used to work as a part time sales person at BCBG Max. I accumulated a lot of BCBGs. At the begining of my career I wore my designer outfits but no one ever did. Just t-shirt, steel shoes, jeans and such, including the females. So to fit in I dressed down too. Now I am happy that I do. But in the weekends I still manage to glam up and have started by own blog to fulfill by fashion thirst. htt://wichifashionblog.blogspot.com

    I feel like, a smart person will realize what works for their company and their environment and will be able to make choices accordingly. Much of your corporate career does depend on your persona and how you project yourself. Therefore dressing correctly is a huge part of it. If you like your job do what is best for your career. Being smart is always in fashion.

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  38. I think that this is all in the eye of the beholder. As a teacher, people that thought that my husband was making alot of money because I wore Michael Kors and carried Coach, Dooney, and MK. It couldn't have been further from the truth as I made alot more than he did. On top of that I haven't had a credit card since 1996, and that is no joke.
    However, there was a teacher that routinely wore LV, Gucci, Fendi, Prada, and no one said a thing. Mostly because NO ONE knew how pricey they were. I knew, but...I'm into labels. Being a celebrity style fashion blogger has also given me the ability to spot these types of things.
    In the end, I say wear what you want. Don't waste time worrying about what others think because they'll talk about you whether you wear PayLess or Louboutins.

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  39. I love how well made some designer items are, but do not use anything that is obviously designer, i.e Chanel flap, Hermes Birkin because it 1) doesn't seem appropriate and 2) seems to try too hard to impress, unless I am senior management and thus in a position to do so.

    Instead I carry under the radar items - I am a watch collector and wear a $20k watch to work, but no one knows how much it costs because the brand is unknown except to watch collectors, so all people see is a nice looking watch. Ditto with my bags at work. I love how quality in well made items can be seen without the "I am carrying/wearing something that has obvious labels on it". It speaks for itself.

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  40. I work in a notoriously conservative, snobby industry and honestly, monograms are a big, big NO-NO. Unless your audience already knows you, my opinion is that you don't walk into a courtroom with an obvious logo and expect to be taken seriously. Yes, it's great to be true to yourself and not let your style be cramped by other people, but in today's competitive environment, why create an uphill battle for yourself? There's plenty of time to show off your LV on the weekends.

    If you must wear branded items to work, choose something that's not as well-known or obvious. If your coworker or superior can actually recognize the Bottega Veneta intrecciato, chances are she appreciates fashion and will be too busy admiring your bag/shoes/wallet to judge you negatively for it.

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  41. It's kind of funny to think I have kind of a reverse teasing at my office. My coworkers know that I only shop at Goodwill and Amazon since I've started working. At first they thought I shop at Neiman or Saks, and some women did make a remark, but then I told them Goodwill. Now if they see me with new shoes or blouse, they'd ask: Amazon??

    Lucky for me, there are plenty of Goodwill stores in the area with designer things. Lots of colleges around, so the students donate lots of things when school is out. I'm not talking high end designer things like Chanel lining up in the stores, but brands like AT, MaxAzria, Tahari, Splendid, Theory, etc.

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  42. I carry my Chanel sunglasses in a Coach box to work, because it's my favorite sunglasses. Since the Chanel logo is so tiny on the side, it's not showy. However, I don't want to take out my Chanel box every time I need to use my sunglasses, because everyone would notice. That's why a Coach box seems more mid-level and appropriate.

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  43. this is a great post, Jean and a very engaging and interesting discussion from all of your readers. i am kind of split. i am careful with my "big item" purchases, but after taking the plunge, i do want a lot of wear/use to justify the purchase. however, i work in a conservative office and do meet clients. so, in that, i am sensitive to how i dress on the days when i see clients. my colleagues do know that i'm really girly & enjoy designer items. but they, like me, all have their own "thing" whether it's clothing, a house, cars or whatever - we all have our vices. they're of the view that if you worked hard to get what you bought, you should enjoy it but not flaunt it. i think people will judge no matter what, and that can't be helped but there is a time and place for everything and only you can gauge when something is appropriate. thanks again for this post. xox P

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  44. Hi Jean!

    What an interesting post! It got me think about what my office is like too.

    My office is in the financial district of the country, so it's very common to see designer items around town, and it is the same in my office. From Gucci to Louis Vuitton, from Balenciaga to Prada. The most popular brands would be Coach and Michael Kors because they are on the more affordable side.

    My superiors do carry designer bags but we never really talk about them, or fashion for that matter. Anyhow, one incident that came up to my mind when I read this post is that I got called out one time that I was carry a Miu Miu bow bag. Honestly, it's not the most expensive bag or easily recognized bag, for those who are not that into fashion anyway. It just so happened that my coworker's , who is a guy, girlfriend has the exact same one but in a different colour. The conversation went like this:

    A (male coworker): My girlfriend likes this bag too.
    B (female coworker): Doesn't she has the same bag?
    A: Yes
    B: Isn't it expensive?
    A: (nodding his head)

    First of all, B carries a Prada saffiano leather tote, which is already more expensive than my Miu Miu bow bag. Plus the fact that my brother got it for me in England, which means it's a couple hundreds cheaper than in the U.S. So when she called me out, I felt a little strange. That didn't stop me from carrying my bag because I already got it, might as well use it. But I don't use it every day because I don't quite like that kind of the attention.

    Back to the question: will I wear designer items to work? Yes, but not that often. I only really bring it with me to work when I got somewhere else to go after work. My bosses are male so they wouldn't mind, but half of my coworkers are female, so in order to avoid any gossips, I would try to avoid wearing/carrying the most showy/easily recognized designer items to work.

    Having said that, YSL Cabas Chyc and Christian Louboutins New Simple Pump are still on my list. We work so hard for our money, and if we can afford it and not lose a limb or kidney, then there's no harm in rewarding yourselves once in a while. And I definitely won't ban myself from wearing them when I got mine. Like Jean said, sometimes it really depends on your level on the corporate ladder. People won't be gossiping about the team lead's new Louboutins, but they'll definitely do if it was an intern who's wearing them.

    This comment is getting way too long, so I'm just gonna stop here =)

    x Rica

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  45. Love this topic and your advice, Jean! I have actually had this conversation with my in-laws! As a teacher, I do not wear any obvious name brands (exception being a pair of Burberry wedges, because I don't think anyone knows what they are) And bringing a nice purse to work would be dumb on my part, since it just gets shoved in my desk drawer once I get into my classroom. But if there is a get together after school, I will bring a higher-end purse if it matches the best. If anyone says anything, I always revert to "It was a really special gift" to lessen the "omg, what a snob!" thoughts. I do see my purses and jewelry as that, nice gifts that each hold a very special memory. When people collect and show off high-end items just to say they have them, that is tacky. And obviously I know you do not fit into that category. :)

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  46. Hey jean! I love your articles and I went by one about leather hole punchers for belts. Which puncher did you buy? I'm having a tough time deciding and hopefully you could help me. Thanks!

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    1. Hi there - mine is from Michael's craft stores. I went in and asked for their leather puncher. The ones available for sale on Amazon look very similar.

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  47. I'm always very conscious/almost paranoid about not being ostentatious. I think its the way I grew up and how my family is. For example, I don't wear my engagement ring to work (I'm a teacher) and I don't wear my diamond pendant with my diamond stud earrings (I choose one). I just feel like its too much. I almost never wear my Burberry, Tory Burch, or Stella McCartney bags simply because I feel they look too over the top. This might sound kind of crazy, but I feel like people stare/roll their eyes when they see me in designer duds. I think I might have something to do with Chinese culture and tradition of modesty. Not that I'm implying people who wear this stuff are immodest/haughty, I'm just saying this is my own complex, I guess.

    This was a great post, thanks!

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  48. This seems to be a bigger issue for women than for men (but I'm sure there are some guys who worry just the same). I was just discussing this with my boyfriend, asking him for advice about what would be appropriate and so forth for the field I'm going into. I'm glad that you discussed this here and though high end designer items are still way beyond my reach, dressing appropriately for the office is a concern that just about everyone has. Again, thanks for posting and I love all the comments from fellow readers!

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  49. Thanks for the great post that's provoking this conversation. Though I agree that the way one dresses should depend on the work culture, it's important to recognize the double standards of society will always scrutinize women, whether it is the way they dress or how their bodies are built--regardless of the context of the situation.

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  50. To me, you can wear whatever you want. As long as you're not purposely showing it off to others but just to make you beautifully confident. If a pair of Loubs gives you the boost to stand taller, smile, and feel complete when you're out or even inside the house, then wear them. Wether you're wearing a pair of $1 shorts or $100 heels, it doesn't matter. All that matters is how you feel about yourself when you're wearing these items, and if you're happy if you wear a pair of Loubs, then do so. Because someone beautiful will compliment on how put together you look and not judge you for what luxury you are wearing. It's the complete look that counts! (=

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  51. People criticize anyone who is different from them or who makes different lifestyle choices.

    Ironically, in my working-class city (i.e., most of the residents aren't upper-class), I've had more people make catty remarks about me while I was wearing my workout clothes than when I was wearing dressier clothes.

    I don't even own a designer item, but one time, a nurse made a subtle, sarcastic "joke" about me in the waiting room, saying to a male patient, "Got your European handbag?" "Yeah," he replied, sardonically; then, they laughed.

    This bothered me. First, because my purse wasn't an expensive European purse- it was only a plain, non-designer black purse that gave the appearance of being expensive (it was given to me as a gift and wasn't entirely made of leather); second, I didn't intend to offend anyone- I only wore it to the clinic because I didn't want to be mistaken for a teenager and be patronized, again. It was the only purse that I owned that made me look like an adult.

    I felt that it was unprofessional for the nurse to make a vicious remark about me, a patient.

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  52. You know I hadn't really thought about this very much until I read this post. When I see women wearing high end designer accessories at work (I work in a very conservative accounting firm) I usually admired their goodies (irrespective of which level) and admittedly thought - they must be rich or just have good taste but it never made me question their ability within the workplace or made me treat them differently. I think it's a little sad that you can't wear your loved items in fear or being judged although I appreciate the apprehension. I think if you're comfortable doing so you should and everyone should try to keep an open mind and this will hopefully shift the mindsets for future generations.

    www.tstyledme.com

    Tien xo

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  53. This is why I love my Hermes Trim II. No one notices it. This is also why I appreciate BV. However, I still do carry my Chanels and LVs. When I see others carrying high end labels, I look out of admiration. It's nice to be in the company of others who appreciate beauty.

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  54. I agree with many of the other comments on both of these points: that you should wear what you love AND you should consider others too. As much as it sucks to be judged on appearance alone, we all do it. And many people (my experience has been that with women mostly) are sensitive to the way other other people dress.

    Taking others' feelings into consideration, I tend to stay away from too many labels. I do have a few, but I tend to not purchase items with big or obvious logos.

    Also, I have found that when I'm wearing something well and that isn't necessarily expensive I get compliments and then I tell them where it came from and they're surprised! I think it helps other women realize that they can wear whatever they like, even if it's a thrift store find!

    The woman makes the clothes look good, not the other way around. :)

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  55. My everyday bag is a Farragamo nlyon black tote, it is so well made and low profile I felt comfortable not only for work but grocery shopping as welll, so I guess it really depends on bags. I found that when I go on biz travel in Asia I used my designer bags a lot more, maybe they go well with my more formal clothes. Somehow when I am in the US I tried to avoid bags with obvious logos and stay very casual and low key.

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  57. Midwestern corporate America is a little funny. I would say that many here do not recognize most high-end designer items (excluding the obvious LV monogram, CCs, GGs, etc.) and you can wear / carry YSL, Hermes, Balenciaga, Chloe and others without fear of looking too show-y. Like with most things, I veer towards the conservative and try not to call attention to myself. I carry a plain black leather Coach bag (no crazy Coach logos) and sometimes wear Burberry scarves or my little H bracelet. Coach is to be expected and no one notices the the scarves or bracelet :)

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  58. This is such a great post! That's why I love reading your blog: I always can take some advice from it! Speaking about what is appropriate or not, what do you think about using short shorts at a fiancé's family lunch?

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    1. -what do you think about using short shorts at a fiancé's family lunch?

      I just want to say that my brother's fiancé is visiting my family for a month. We're an Asian family (so is she), so we like some modesty in the way we dress. She is young, around 23, so we can deal with it when she wears short shorts. But I really wanted to smack her when she wore short shorts over a teddy to the family dinner. We didn't go out to a restaurant, but that doesn't mean she can dress like that. After dinner, she sat on my brother's lap, in front of the little nieces and nephews.

      To answer your question, cover the top part if you want to wear short shorts, just to balance it out somewhat.

      Delete
    2. I dont think that short shorts are appropriate or tasteful for anyones family lunch. Unless is a casual garden party or BBQ. And I am not Asian or Muslim - I come from a super liberal caucasian family. If someone wears them - we would not never say anything there and then - but believe me it doesn't look good.

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    3. To be safe, I would leave them at home. And that's coming from a lover of short shorts!

      Delete
  59. These are great tips and things to look out for, some I definitely agree but oh well, sometimes we just have to live life the way we want and not care about how others look at us.

    That's my take on this! :D

    Btw, would you please take some time to check out this new Bloggers Against Social Injustice network where fashion bloggers come together to make this world a better place.

    You can join in the fun by participating in events organized by the Bloggers Against Social Injustice committee & also at the same time spread the words of such good cause.

    Play your part & help those unheard voice be heard. You are just a click away! :)

    Website: http://bloggersagainstsocialinjustice.blogspot.com
    Facebook: Click here for our Facebook
    Twitter: Click here for our Twitter

    I hope to see you there! :)
    Cassandra
    backtofive.blogspot.com
    Bloggers Against Social Injustice

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  60. Dear Jean:
    I’m a relative newcomer and huge fan of your blog and love all of your entries. Your latest one is particularly thought-provoking and greatly appreciated. I have read various criticisms regarding the presence of blogs highlighting petites, several of them happening to be run by young Asian women. I myself am a somewhat petite Asian-American woman (I’m 5’2 and in my 40’s now but fortunate to appear very youthful still) who works in a very hierarchical, and until relatively recently patriarchal, professional field. As such, I have dealt for many years with learning how to earn credibility and trust from many individuals including peers as well as superior colleagues, students, trainees and patients. What I can say is that appearance clearly does matter and appearing youthful definitely is a barrier to being taken seriously. In addition, what we wear and carry are of course reflections of our taste and personality. On the other hand, we are all judged by our outward appearance until, over time, our actions and interactions with others demonstrate our true character. I do agree with Mary-Irene and others that if one is able to acquire aspirational items one should enjoy them, but depending on a person’s career path, one really does need to consider the context of his or her workplace, as one can see throughout the various comments. What I really have enjoyed about your blog is that you address this real issue that many Asians and Asian-American women have—our youthful appearance and in many cases culture of respecting authority I think can impact one’s ability to compete successfully with others. Through your blog what I have observed is your honesty, your ability to express a balanced approach to your love of fashion, that you are thoughtful about your purchases, and you are transparent about maintaining a budget. The end result is I feel that a wider audience benefits and, judging from the many comments I’ve read on this and your other posts, that many folks enjoy reading your blog as much as I do. I know you will be very successful in your career (congrats on your exam!) but hope you will continue to maintain your blog—I am hoping to look forward to checking in for a long time to come! Thanks for sharing!!

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment! I agree wholeheartedly that what we wear and carry (and how we carry ourselves) are reflections of our taste and personality - and all of that rolls up into how we're viewed in the workplace.

      Delete
  61. As a student I haven't had to worry about this but I will say that when I worked at a law office there was very much a stigma associated with wearing extremely nice items. It didn't even have to be super expensive. It made me sad because I feel like when women are successful we should celebrate that they are able to afford it.

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  62. quote" How you integrate designer items with your daily look also matters. I feel that if you consistently look put-together and tastefully-dressed, then designer items that complement that image will draw less attention than if the items themselves are the "centerpieces" of your outfits.''
    that is the most crucial and often overlooked point! Not just for a conservative office but in general life - far too many of us think that an expensive item or two will upgrade an outfit. Most of the time it just looks ostentatious and tatty if the overall look hasn't been considered. If the clothes don't fit properly, if the deportment is not there, the manners are poor and the tone of voice off - then the designer item just accentuate those bad points rather than cover them up. Whether we like it or not - what we wear sends out a message and is not always the one we think it is.

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  63. Hi Jean, thank you so much for the advice on designer clothes. I have a question regarding maxi dresses and wish to hear your opinion. I have tried on several maxi dressed in different stores but never purchased one. Honestly, I love maxi dresses but always feel awkward wearing them since thinking they makes me look shorter and more chubby. So my question is "Being classified as petite, should we wear maxi dresses? If yes, which material, specific style and stylish tips do you suggest? I am looking forward for your response. Love

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  64. Love reading your blog. Just a heads up, there is an ebay seller using your pictures of you modelling the gratian blazer to seller hers. Seller id brats409.

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    1. Thank you for the heads up! Unfortunately, so many of them do now and there is really no recourse for owners of the photos.

      Delete
  65. This post was necessary for me and I enjoyed reading it. I love my designer pieces, but I pretty much only carry a designer bag if it is more discrete. Lol my fear is more that my superiors will think they are paying me too much and cut future bonuses or other forms of pay.

    I think a lot of times women want to be able to get enough use out of their more expensive items. When you spend 4 figures on a non-necessity, you want to feel like you are getting your $ worth. What better way to get good use out of your pieces than to carry them to the workplace, since most of us have to show up there about 5 days a week? Unfortunately that's also usually the place where we receive the most judgement. *sighs* I do not live a super glam life, so I guess I'll have to keep searching for other occasions to use distinctive designer pieces. Or to be more practical...prevent myself from buying designer items. =]

    http://shortandsweetjoy.blogspot.com

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  66. Great post but where "do" you take your Chanels?

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    1. To dinner, out on the weekends, parties, etc. I use my black caviar ones at least 1-2x each week.

      Delete
  67. "I personally find obvious logos like the Louis Vuitton prints and Chanel to be tacky in almost all situations, although I respect that many women love them."

    I find logos tacky but don't respect that other women love them, although I see it might be too late once a woman reaches her teens or 20s to do much about it. Too much socialization to look pretty and rich by that point. Logos are one of the most unfortunate social signals I know. I understand that a high-quality, beautiful item is worth splurging for, but when it's $2000 for a purse, something more insidious is going on. The question in that case is why ownership of this item (often as a social signal) is more important to someone than sharing the money with others or investing in the future. There's some hard to define cutoff where it's just materialism, and I wonder what the stuff represents and what emotional void it fills.

    I'm a scientist funded by the NIH and NSF, and I work at an Ivy League university in Boston. I will buy low-end designer items (e.g., Coach, Cole Haan) if the logos are inconspicuous, the quality is high, and I know I will be getting a lot of use out of them. I'm paying extra because the items are beautiful. But imagine that, as someone funded entirely off of taxpayer money, I could buy lots and lots of LV and Hermes. It would look pretty crude, just as we consider Imelda Marcos and greedy dictators throughout history as pretty crude. (Of course, I'm not at risk of making that much!) But if you think about it, it doesn't make sense why someone in another profession should necessarily have a different set of moral standards about where his/her money goes... the presence of a double standard suggests there's something about that level of spending that's just not right, no matter who you are.

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    1. such a great topic - and judging by the number of responses -super popular. I agree with the points you made and so glad I am not alone. I am sick of badly dressed women with expensive logos on them. I live in London and if you visit Harrods or Selfridges those women are taking over. I think a designer item should stand out because of its quality not the blingy logo. (how many then really would be able to appreciate or even see the difference in quality? )

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    2. I purposefully avoid anything with a logo, but I wouldn't say that I DON'T respect women who love them. To each their own.

      I own a few designer items, most of them secondhand purchases (Hermes, Manolo Blahnik), and they do not have logos or any flashiness splashed all over them.

      The ONE designer item I own that I bought at full price was my Burberry wool trench coat because I just loved the quality, the design, the cashmere loveliness, and I knew I wouldn't be able to settle for a substitute.

      That said, I made sure it wasn't plastered with any kind of Burberry print or logo either.

      I also agree with Sophie's comment about badly dressed women thinking that they can get away with such atrocious outfits because they have an LV on their arms.

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    3. Agreed.

      The only point I don't agree with is NOT respecting women who love them. To each their own.

      I have designer items, but they're mostly secondhand. The only designer item I've purchased at full price was a Burberry winter coat that had a design that wasn't easily replicated anywhere else, including in its quality.

      I don't like logos of any kind (designer or not), and if I buy a designer item, it's for the style and quality, not that it's a designer item.

      I also agree with Sophie that badly dressed women shouldn't be given a free pass with their atrocious outfits just because of the money they splashed on them.

      If it doesn't fit, look good, or look right... it just isn't chic, no matter the pricetag.

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    4. about NOT respecting women with a logo overflow... When one is covered in logos the implication is they have no personal discernment or refined taste, but like to display their perceived wealth. Although that may not be the case nevertheless that is the message they send out. Sometimes the messages we send out are not the ones we think they are. When i see a woman walking down Bond street wearing logos, bling, furs and carrying a birkin - I do not really think 'wow what a lovely woman' and 'how lucky and wealthy she must be to afford a birkin and those furs...' I may think 'wow poor woman . No imagination, no taste, no deportment.'

      Delete
  68. I'm so glad I recently found your blog! Your posts are so well thought-out and helpful. I actually went back and read through most of your archives in past week or so.

    You mention in some old posts that you used to have a blog about how to afford luxury items. At 25, I've really only had a ~$60k job for the past year (before that I lived abroad and did programs like AmeriCorps) and I've had so much trouble trying to figure out what's "reasonable" in terms of spending. I've read books like "Living the Savvy Life", but I'd love to get more feedback from you since you seem to be very responsible and organized about your finances when it comes to spending.

    I recently found a Mulberry bag ($1200!) I'm absolutely coveting, but on $3400 take-home income, it just doesn't seem to make sense. Think you can do a post about how to rationalize these purchases? Any advice/counsel is welcome!

    Again, I LOVE your blog- so inspirational!

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    1. I suggest you should save up first and then buy the bag when you've met your goal. You should never start saving up after the purchase... It's like buying one size smaller jeans and then try to lose your weight. It will work some cases but in most cases it won't work.

      Try to spend on the necesserities only though it'd be sometimes hard to make difference between what you really want and what you really need. If you really want that bag then you should focus your lust solely on it.

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    2. Hi there! This is a very subjective matter and I can only speak to how I decide personally what is "reasonable" and what can be rationalized. There really is no hard cutoff on what % of take-home salary should "reasonably" be spent on items you covet, rather it depends on your lifestyle, other spending, financial needs, and bigger savings goals (ie. homebuying, school, retirement, wedding...whatever it is). I would suggest not spending the money on coveted wardrobe items unless you are at a point financially where doing so would not affect any of your spending needs and savings goals. I know a lot of young professionals start out and save early-earned income towards designer goods, luxury cars, or other treats, but my advice is to think about bigger savings goals first and make sure a reasonable amount is being contributed to those first.

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    3. great Advice - you are the voice of reason. x

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  69. I agree with Mary Irene, wear what you want as long as it's classy and appropriate to your work environment. Life IS too short to worry about what others think; there is no way you can please everyone so please yourself instead. Also, people have no idea what you spent on any given item...you could be a really savvy shopper who score bargains on eBay or second hand shops. It also depends on how you carry yourself or your reputation at work...if you're one to brag or wear/carry luxury brand items with an air of superiority, then catty-ness will be inevitable. But if you're known to genuinely love fashion, it'll show through and those who truly know you will admire and perhaps be inspired instead of envy you.

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  70. To me it's not about the designer but really whether a trademark colour/style or logo is very visible. A black Chanel skirt with Prada pumps is fine because they're very subtle compared to, say, Louboutins or even a PS1. And stay away from large logos of any kind because, well, it's tacky.

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  71. Great post and topic, Jean! Brings up some things to consider before breaking out those expensive items. Thanks for the insight!

    A Little Piece of Fashion and Beauty

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  72. I'm of two minds on this: certainly, I don't think it's tactful or wise or good for your career to wear ostentatiously expensive things to work, but I also think that work is a LOT of your time and there's no point in spending money on clothes/accessories if you're not going to wear them. I would probably wear virtually anything I own that was office-appropriate to the office, but the expensive things I own are also not logo-print or otherwise easily identifiable, just really well made. And my offices have all been in very male-dominated fields, and the fact is that most men aren't going to be able to tell regardless.

    Important fashion question, definitely!

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  73. Heh. I have a different version of the same problem.. When your office can be in the middle of the woods, inside a dam, or in a lab you can't really wear nice clothes. Even my office is very casual. I probably dress the nicest in our section, and I seriously wear jeans and a sweater or maybe a belted knit dress & ballet flats. I own a blazer, but have never felt like I'm in a situation formal enough to wear it... Being young, small, and female means I have to wear my grubbiest jeans, my oldest pair of steel toed boots and rock the side braid and hard hat in order to be taken seriously in the field.

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  74. The highest-end piece I own is a Coach handbag, lol, and I don't have the money or desire to wear designer clothes/accessories, though I do think they're beautiful, and love your blog! This post reminded me of a (sort of) funny story: I am a junior-level employee in my early 20s, been at my current place of work a couple years. A few months ago, my car (an economy Dodge) was totalled in an accident and I "upgraded" to a mid-size Kia. When my then-boss asked me what my new car was, she replied kind of snottily, "Oh that must be a real downgrade from the Beamer you're used to." I was like, "what??? What's a Beamer?" Well, apparently my boss had seen someone who looked "exactly like me" driving a BMW around our business area. I wonder now if my supposedly driving a really nice car is part of the reason she seemed to dislike me quite a lot.

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  75. Hi, I forgot to comment that the only item where people display logos in my company with no shame is prescription glasses :)

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  76. I love this post and just want to share some experience regarding owning designer items and where to wear them. I'm a student in my late 20s and my very first designer item was a 3.5k YSL watch with diamonds which I bought when I first entered college. I loved the unique design and wore it everyday. I also loved how no one really knew its true value and just say "nice watch" when they did take notice. I got more comments/questions when I wore MK watch which was only a fraction of the YSL watch so I totally agree that if you don't want to draw attention to the item then wear something that less popular. I also loved the comments about martyr mom. My mom was a martyr mom so she never bought any designer item. So now I buy them for her and encourage her to wear them. Unfortunately she works in a place where people would definitely view it negatively so she rarely get a chance to wear nice designer item. Also I want to thank Jean for inspiring me to purchase a Chanel flap bag. I absolutely love it. Fortunately for me I'm in a field where I can wear whatever designer items I like.

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  77. Very true! But to tell you the truth, not many people in my office know about designer brands. I'm sure you know that here in Asia, many many people carry fakes without even knowing they're fakes, they're just so norm here. I have several branded purses, but very rarely carry them for work, prefering to tote them to a 'safer' place like high end malls. Not because I'm afraid what people would say, but I'm afraid where I'll end up going to lunch. If I go woth my boss and his other general managers (who happen to be all male), I'd be safe. But if I go with my girls and subordinate, I might end up eating at a place with no AC and not-so-clean chairs where I don't want to put my Hermes. I mean, I'm not so rich yet I can just throw away a ruined expensive bag and buy a new one!

    I even notice that my director refuse to drive any of his sports cars to the office for the same reason, he just go for somehting conservative like a Mercedez. I guess it's the same rule for me. On the flip side, one time I met a vendor's owner, a lady in her 40s carrying a real Hermes, she just took one look at my LV-inspired bag, and rolls her eyes! And I was the one who made the decision whether or not the company would purchase her USD 3 million goods. Hahaha!

    And yeah, the higher you are in the hierarchy, the more freedom you have, outfits and fashion included. I really love this kind of posts where it's just just fashion pictures, Jean. ^_^

    Visit me:
    LeeAnne, Style N Season
    http://stylenseason.blogspot.com

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    Replies
    1. Oops, I mean, where it's NOT just fashion pics.

      Visit me:
      LeeAnne, Style N Season
      http://stylenseason.blogspot.com

      Delete
  78. Honestly I never thought about this. I have a Coach bag that is basically my go-to handbag and I use it for almost everything. After reading this article I think I should go out and buy a no name brand bag so I won't "stand out" as much .

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  79. I would usually wear designer bag to work if the logo is discrete...meaning there's no logo in front or back of the bag. I always try to wear classic shoes to work as not to show people off. As long as the tag is hidden that's all it matters for me


    http://mybeautyobssession.blogspot.ca/

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