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How to Actually "Dress for Success," According to a Career Expert

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Working in a creative space is a blessing and a curse when it comes to getting dressed in the morning. While we rejoice at the opportunity to embrace our personal style, a lax dress code can be a bit confusing: Will my boss think I take my job less seriously if I forgo a button-down in favor of a comfy T-shirt ? Does HR really approve of jeans?

To help answer these questions and quash your worries, we sat down with career expert Lauren McGoodwin, founder and creator of Career Contessa, to learn her thoughts on how to dress for a professional environment without sacrificing your personal style. Scroll to read her advice (and feel free to treat yourself to a few new HR-approved pieces in the process).

Tell us a bit about your business.

Career Contessa is a comprehensive resource for women that provides online tools, advice, courses, and the direction they may need to navigate, enhance, or change their careers. I wanted to ensure women felt supported.

What exactly does dressing for success mean to you?

I used to reply to this by saying “Dress for the job you want,” but after interviewing plenty of great women for my podcast, The Femails, I realize that dressing for your authentic self is best. If that means a great pair of heels, great, but it might also mean sneakers with a dress. However you need to dress to show up and perform at your optimal level is how you should build your look. If that means being more comfortable and casual so you’re not shifting around at your desk all day getting distracted, opt for that.

Speaking of dressing for the job you want, not the job you have, do you think upper management notices how employees dress?

All people experience unconscious bias, so you might have a boss who associates your appearance with how much you care about work. A good way to decide how important your put-together appearance matters to your boss is by looking at how they dress for their day-to-day. It’s not a great reality, but it’s the truth. That being said, putting in extra effort should not mean changing your look. Just because your boss wears a blazer and slacks doesn’t mean you need to change your personal taste to impress them. Find a way to look polished that feels true to you. And you can make sure when you’re a boss one day to only promote/reward based on merit.

Creative offices with no dress code can feel like a bit of a gray area. Are there any pieces you believe should be avoided despite not necessarily being inappropriate?

I think “polished” and “practicality” are a good filters to run gray-area items through. For example, do flip-flops look polished? Are they practical if you need to walk around the office with clients? Probably not. Are ripped jeans polished? Not necessarily, but they may look polished as long as you pair them with the right top and shoes.

If your pieces aren’t stained, worn-through, and or impractical for your job, they pass the test. I’ve found that investing in wardrobe essentials is key. Some items I invested in that I still use all the time are flattering dark skinny jeans, leather flats, a black blazer in a less-formal material, and a “grown-up” backpack that feels practical (but a bit more exciting that a tote or briefcase).

What if your office does have a strict business dress code? Any tips for still making the style your own?

My first job had a strict business dress code, and most of the things I wore were black, white, and gray. To mix it up, I’d wear brighter jewelry, paint my nails a bold red, or wear a printed shirt under my jacket. It’s important to inject a bit of personality into your look when you can.

We love that this navy blazer is just as flattering , but a bit more exciting than your typical plain black option.

Flats are a workplace staple that transcend dress codes. Feel free to wear these with a suit or denim. 

This under-$100 dress works for fall or spring when paired with the right accessories and footwear. (We can’t believe it’s from Walmart either.)

Make your backpack feel less grade school and more CEO with a crocodile print and a chic cream hue.

Take a note from Lauren and take your ensemble up a notch with playful accessories like these zebra-print heels.

If you’re hoping to inject more style into your business dress code, we suggest finding a blazer with a print that feels elevated but not overdone. 

These basically feel like you’re wearing sweatpants but look infinitely more pulled together.

Add pearl accenting to an otherwise boring shoe, a la these mules. 

Wear around your neck, in your hair, or tied around a purse for a pop of color. 

We love the abstract style of this ring (and that it’s only $30).

Judging by our office, most editors agree that these loafers are worth the investment.

Flattering dark denim is a must-have. Dress it up with a oversize blazer, kitten heels, and a top-handle bag.

We suggest making animal print your new neutral. It’s just as versatile but infinitely more interesting. 

You can’t go wrong with a classic cashmere sweater, especially when it’s under $25.

Up Next, 8 Who What Wear Editors on the Outfits That Got Them Hired



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Fashion

I Tried on 21 Dresses From Reformation, Topshop, and Zara—These 10 Made the Cut

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If there’s one type of email I love to receive in my inbox this time of year, it’s a summer invitation. Whether it’s for a wedding, a barbecue, brunch, or bridal shower, seeing a Paperless Post pop up in my inbox never fails to excite. This is followed closely by my second favorite email: a travel confirmation from an airline. (It’s true. I get giddy at the sight of a booking reference number.) Why? Because both emails signify the start of fun summer is finally here.

It also signifies the need to get my summer wardrobe into gear. And lots of summer events call for lots of gorgeous summer dresses (or at least a small handful to see me through the season).

So this week, I went to some of my favorite retailers—Reformation, Zara, and Topshop (all known for their chic selections of dresses)—to seek out cool summer frocks that will see me through laid-back summer weekends, an upcoming Italian vacation, a wedding, an engagement party, and a bridal shower—all taking place in the next few months. I tried on a plethora of dresses (21 to be exact), but these 10 made the final cut. From floral minidresses to polka-dot slip dresses, scroll below to whet your appetite for a brand-new season of summer dressing.

An effortless white dress is high on my wish list for weekend summer getaways. I’m obsessed with this lace and linen midi dress from Reformation. Just add espadrille wedges, a straw hat, and the Italian Riviera for good measure.
This is such a fun little floral frock. The neckline and puff sleeves are super flattering and utterly charming. I do wish the hemline was one or two inches longer, but I’ll definitely be wearing these with kitten-heel sandals or chic flats once summer rolls around.
I’ll be wearing this stunner for an elegant outdoor summer wedding with black sandals and statement earrings. The fitted bodice is exquisite.
This relaxed floral slip can easily be dressed up or down with strappy sandals or flats and is the perfect option for those laid-back summer days.
My penchant for white dresses continues. I love the delicate details on this chic frock—from the deep-V neckline lined with lace to the pleated drop-waist silhouette.
Consider this your day-to-night wardrobe savior. The romantic ruffles and elegant, short puff sleeves add a charming touch to the ditsy floral-print frock.
A lightweight knit dress looks super chic for casual summer days. I’m particularly fond of the elegant neckline and longer length.
Garden-party chic! This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m head over heels for this vintage-style silhouette and bold floral print. Perfect for, oh you know, that polo match or that garden tea party, dahling.
I’ve been looking for a slip dress with a draped neckline and delicate spaghetti straps for some time, and this gorgeous silky frock fits the bill perfectly. It looks much more expensive than its price tag.
I’ve been in need of a couple of simple, easy, and relaxed knit dresses for weekends at the beach and brunching on the balcony with friends, and this soft yellow midi is the perfect not-too-precious option.

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The Best Maternity Bras to Get You Through Your Pregnancy (and After)

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If you’re a pregnant bra wearer and asking yourself if you need to buy a new one, the answer is undoubtedly yes. I am currently six months along and have swiftly transitioned from a B cup to a D cup in the blink of an eye. Breasts increase in size pretty early during pregnancy (around 6 to 8 weeks), and many will find they outgrow their bras rather quickly. The hormonal shifts, weight gain, and expanding rib cage associated with pregnancy contribute to this growth, as will mammary glands preparing to make milk later in pregnancy.

I was tempted to squeeze into my regular bras for as long as possible, but I quickly realized how uncomfortable my pre-pregnancy lacy bras were becoming, and they simply couldn’t support my heavy (and itchy) breasts. Time for an upgrade. There are a few options as you’re growing. 1) Buy a larger size of your normal pre-pregnancy bra. 2) Switch to a maternity bra. 3) If you’re somewhere in the middle of your third trimester, buy a nursing bra. Many, like me, prefer a combination of the two or three.

So how are maternity and nursing bras different from regular bras? Think of a maternity bra as an improved version of a regular bra—designed specifically for comfort as your breasts grow during pregnancy. Some features include a soft cotton lining, wider straps, extra latches on the band, etc., and they tend not to be underwired. Many regular bras offer these features too, which will work just fine during pregnancy.

Nursing bras differ in one way from maternity bras: They feature clasps on the straps that allow for easy breastfeeding access. If you buy a nursing bra to wear during pregnancy make sure there is enough room for you to grow as your breasts tend to go up another cup size or more after your baby arrives. Many of the bras available are maternity/nursing hybrids, which provide support throughout pregnancy and after.

Officially ready for a new bra? We’ve rounded up some of our favorite maternity and nursing bras that will get you through and beyond your pregnancy. And remember: If it feels tight, then it isn’t right. Find your correct size by getting measured at the lingerie department or do it yourself.

With its soft fabric and seamless design, this seamless bra is a customer favorite for during pregnancy and after.
Smooth stretchy fabric and lightly padded cups make this ultra-comfortable throughout the day and night.
Designed to move with you from pregnancy and beyond, this minimalistic bra features stretchy, nursing-friendly surplice cups.
This silky-soft, stretchy bra is supportive enough for day wear and comfortable enough to sleep in.
If you’re looking for a comfortable strapless bra throughout your pregnancy, then look no further.
Made of a cotton-modal blend, this soft and breathable bra is designed for comfort and support throughout pregnancy or after as a daily nursing bra or cozy nursing sleep bra.
Although this is technically not a maternity or nursing bra, I’ve found it extremely comfortable and supportive through my first six months of pregnancy.
A good choice when you’re exercising. This wire-free maternity/nursing bra with removable foam cups accommodates your changing figure.
Pretty and comfortable. The wide back enhances support.
You’d never be able to tell this is a nursing bra. Gorgeous lace adds romance while clips are easily unfastened for breastfeeding.
Your beautiful bralette just got an upgrade. This meets all the specific needs of a nursing mother. Plus, it’s so pretty.
Lightweight and easy to maneuver, Chantelle’s nursing bra fits best 3 weeks before your due date or later.
Your everyday bra, found. Available in black and beige, this maternity and nursing bra is designed for maximum support.
I already wear these under my casual tees for support and comfort.
Customers love this bra for its ultra-soft feeling fabric and comfort. Available in sizes S to XL.

This post was published at an earlier date and has been updated by Judith Jones.

Up next, these are the summer maternity outfits to try right now.

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Fashion

Don't Visit New York Without Stopping By These 6 Stores

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As someone who quite literally shops online for a living—and loves it—it takes a lot to get me out of my e-comfort zone and into an actual store. After all, I pride myself on being able to track down pretty much any item on the internet within seconds and have a weekly excuse to peruse all my favorite sites’ new-arrivals sections—making me pretty familiar with all that’s out there.

However, once in a while it does happen, mostly thanks to a handful of boutiques that have managed to curate such a good selection, it’s worth the trip every time. So which are the stores one simply must visit when in New York? Just keep scrolling to read about all six and (because I couldn’t help myself) do a little online shopping along the way.

Up next? The surprising new It bag I couldn’t even get my hands on.

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