Workplace Topics

August 17, 2007

These outfits work


Special to The Seattle Times

Certainly, clever career gal, you know better than to waltz into the office in a tank top. Unless, of course, you're a yoga instructor. Or a lingerie model.

Otherwise, though, you probably put a bit more thought into meshing your wardrobe with your workplace.

And you should. First impressions are vital on the job – and style consultants say they are based way more on how we look than on what we say or do. Even in Seattle, where casual Friday is practically a permanent condition, our "visual presentation" reflects our level of competence, our skills – basically, who we are. And while we know you're all that and a stack of spreadsheets besides, we think your work-mates should, too.

So we've tracked down three local women who dress both appropriately and stylishly on the job – in conservative, business-casual and artsy/funky work environments. And we've asked two local style consultants, Kim Crumpler of Uniquely Savvy and Jenn Louras of Styl Consulting, to comment on their outfits. Bottom line: These women are dressed for success.

Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times

Sandi Tampa, Realtor

WORKPLACE STYLE: CONSERVATIVE

On the job: Sandi Tampa, 34, Realtor, Winderemere Real Estate/Bellevue South.

Tampa has to be ready to meet (and impress) clients at any time. A professional appearance is "huge," she says, because she's dealing with people's biggest investments, in a competitive business.

What she's wearing: Alfani Essentials suit, in polyester, wool and Lycra, from Macy's, about $150-$200, as she recalls; Ann Taylor shell, Ann Taylor Loft, about $20; Rampage shoes, from DSW, about $40; necklace and earrings from Ann Taylor and The Limited, about $25.

About her outfit: Tampa says brown works better on her than black, and she also likes the bold accessories, the trendy touch of the metallic heels – and the message the entire outfit sends: "People think I'm younger, which communicates inexperience; I try to look experienced through my clothes, but I don't want to look too stuffy."

Stylists' comments: "Overly dressing up is too much, and underdressing shows that you may not care that much. Sandi has dressed exactly in the middle, which is a very good place to be," says Louras. "The colors she picked are excellent – not too bright and not too boring. The pieces work together because she picked an earth-tone suit and added subtle pieces to spice it up. (Also, with a Lycra suit), she can be at her desk, in a car, showing a house or staging a house, and the clothing will remain in its original shape."

Adds Crumpler: "Knowing that blue communicates a calm and peaceful mood is a bonus when dealing with a potentially stressful real-estate transaction. The bronze metallic shoes and bold accessories not only add fun elements to pull the look together, but also communicate that Sandi is 'current' in her conservative traditional style."

Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times

Ana Popp, legal clerk

WORKPLACE STYLE: BUSINESS CASUAL

On the job: Ana Popp, 25, legal clerk, law firm of Stanislaw Ashbaugh, Seattle.

Ana wears a suit to court, but day to day, she says, law firms aren't as formal as you might think – especially in Seattle.

What she's wearing: Uluru Patty sleeveless dress, $165; Rag & Bone Petal Coat jacket, $348; Viv & Ingrid teardrop double-hoop earrings, $83; all from Sway and Cake. Miu Miu peep-toe patent wedges, $385 from Nordstrom.

About her outfit: As the youngest member of the legal team, Popp strives for a "toned-down fashionable" look that's "a little above the level you might expect of a legal clerk.... I want to inspire confidence in clients."

Stylists' comments: "Ana looks clean, classic and elegant," Crumpler says. "Jackets and blazers are truly the work horses in any wardrobe – they offer the perfect layer to create a more finished look."

Adds Louras: "This outfit works together and certainly can work for her law-firm environment – I was expecting to see clothing that was a little more conservative and formal! The buttons, patent-leather shoes and the hem details on the dress are very fashion-forward. The jacket is very much a casual color. I think the only aspect about her outfit that is conservative is the color."

WORKPLACE STYLE: ARTSY/FUNKY PROFESSIONAL

Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times

Olivia Taguinod, production coordinator

On the job: Olivia Taguinod, 36, production coordinator, contract worker through Woods & Associates, placed at a Seattle nonprofit foundation.

Taguinod works in visual communications, a distinctly creative department within a diverse, high-tech foundation. "We're all very individual. Everyone is very clean-cut and polished," she says, "but not in an uptight way."

What she's wearing: Kenneth Cole silk dress, $150; Calvin Klein suede boots, $200 on eBay; Tibetan necklace, $10, from a U-District street fair; blue shrug by an Argentinean designer, $45, purchased in Barcelona; Kenneth Cole earrings, $35, from Macy's.

About her outfit: "I like to think of myself as a chameleon and dress to suit my mood," Taguinod says. "I think this one is a little futuristic in a rustic way because of the materials, so it's like Mad Max with a feminine touch, but that's not necessarily how I feel in it. It's a creative and conversational sort of ensemble. I wouldn't wear this outfit if I didn't feel like engaging with people."

Stylists' comments: "Olivia's outfit is perfect for her work environment; she exudes creativity and funkiness," says Crumpler. "She 'owns' her style, embracing color, texture and art to beautifully create her artistic look."

"Being in a creative environment, the door is open for all varieties of clothing," adds Louras. "This outfit works for Olivia because she is very alternative and expressive. Each piece has a story in itself. Even though the colors are all over the spectrum, she has stayed with neutral and warm colors that do not fight each other, which is why it works."

Sandy Dunham is a desk editor at The Seattle Times; she can be reached at sdunham@seattletimes.com. Ken Lambert is a Seattle Times staff photographer.

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1 Comments

Linda Martinez on August 24, 2007 3:10 PM | Reply

I think the styles you posted work for the younger professional woman. I would like to see some trends lean towards middle age woman as well. Shoe comfort is a big issue at any age but can be a very serious issue for older women. How can we be fashion forward without sacrificing comfort? At the end of a long workday we older women tend to look a bit rough and it would be nice to keep that energy glow from start to finish.

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