Suitin’ up

Great husband Carl writes in with a request for our input on professional attire for his lovely wife:

Hi Beth:

My wife is in the mix for a very awesome job opportunity at her current employer. She’s in the healthcare field.  Her entire career has been spent wearing mostly lab-appropriate clothing: lab coats, scrubs, etc.  However, this new gig is going to require a lot of public relations work and leading training sessions for healthcare professionals. She pretty much needs to build a good wardrobe of business appropriate clothing; suits is what I’m thinking. Being a Dappered reader I’ve got my suit game in high gear, with a small arsenal of well-fitting and high quality suit options for work and more casual affairs. I want to help her out cause she’s my babe, the love of my life, you know. 

Do you have any suggestions or resources?  I have no clue as to what are good and semi-affordable places for her to start the search.


*All prices shown in post are MSRP, but can drop much lower with sales.  We’re on it, Carl.  Many female first-time suit buyers head to Ann Taylor.  They feature affordable, stylish suits, plus they sell all the accessories to accompany: pumps, conservative jewelry, blouses, pantyhose.  They don’t offer tailoring, and their suits aren’t the best made or highest quality, but as a starting off place, they’re a good bet.  Plus, their website is really easy to navigate (you can shop head-to-toe suits so both pieces are matched for you), and their sales staff is generally knowledgeable and helpful.  And, they have a ton of sizes, including petite, tall, and plus.

The look above would be my first choice for your wife.  Here’s why: it’s a ponte knit.  What the hell does that mean?  Ponte knit is a wondrous material that doesn’t wrinkle, has stretch but won’t stretch out, is thick enough to smooth out any lumps and bumps in your figure, travels like a dream, and looks awesome.  It’s not a super sophisticated material, but who cares?  Especially for building confidence in your wife as she embarks on this new challenge, this suit will work all day long for her and she’ll feel great in it.  The jacket is the Ponte Ampere Jacket for $158; the skirt is the Ponte Seamed Pencil Skirt for $78.  The Ponte Flare Pant is also available for $98 and I can personally vouch for the ponte pants from AT–I have two pairs (slim and skinny).  They rock.  Other looks I love:  the Sabine Color Pinstripe Jacket and the Tweed Rhodes Jacket.

A slightly more expensive option (sales aside) would be Banana Republic.  I’ve never bought a suit from them, but I suspect the quality is good (probably better than Ann Taylor).  Downside is that they have far less options, as suiting isn’t what they’ve made their name on, in contrast to AT.  The Charcoal Lightweight Wool Blazer at left for $198 is a great jacket–little bit of stretch for comfort, and a lightweight material that your wife could get away with wearing most months of the year.  The Martin Fit Charcoal Lightweight Wool Trouser for $98 is featured at right–nice conservative color with a smart crease down the front of each leg.  Also available is the Charcoal Lightweight Wool Pencil Skirt for $89.50.  What I really think BR excels at are the great blouses to go under the blazers, like the Lindsay Ivory Silk Blouse below, left, for $79.50 and the Cowl Neck Shell below, right, for $69.50.

Other options?  Try department stores.  I took a look through Macy’s online options and they were really pitiful.  Plus, they had a lot of “trendy suits” which seems like a contradiction in terms to me.  Huge, wide leg pants (the workplace isn’t Studio 54, you don’t get to channel Cher), faux leather trim pants (see previous parentheses).  Scary.  But perhaps the brick and mortar stores are better.  You might also try Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, though these establishments are likely to be very spendy.

My advice?  Start with Ann Taylor–buy a couple suits.  Head over to Banana Republic, get a blouse or two.

212 Collection Striped Shirt $36; NineWest Noteworthy Pumps $79; Faux Pearl Studs $24

Pop over to a department store and purchase a couple inexpensive button down shirts.  Find a good sale and buy basic pumps in neutral colors like grey, brown, and black.  Stick with simple, basic jewelry like pearls (faux or real), sterling silver, and gold.  With time, your wife will figure out her favorite shops, and what she feels best wearing.

Tell your wife good luck and congrats on the new job!


6 Responses to “Suitin’ up”
  1. Amber Dillon says:

    Thanks, Beth! I don’t own any ponte knit items, but that fabric sounds almost perfect! 😉

    I also love White House Black Market for great looking suit separates, and other “business/dressed up” choices.

    • Beth says:

      Yes–WHBM is a great place for business attire. AND, they currently have a handful of ponte knit pants. Boom.

  2. DeeDee says:

    I’ve found a couple of really sharp looking blazers at J Crew. I own the schoolboy fit blazer in a dark grayish-black. Has a lined interior in a black and cream pinstripe. Also has a bit of stretch to it and the fit seems to be relatively true. I believe it cost around $150 when I bought it a couple of years ago. However, I’ve gotten plenty of wear out of it and it still looks great.

  3. Jeremy Davis says:

    You girls are KILLING it with Full Clutch! What a perfect compliment to Dappered :) And I’ll just throw my two cents in, I love WHBM’s style. So classic but accessible.