A lot of my clients are professional women, many who need to wear suits, or at least suited looks, everyday. When working with clients who don’t have to wear suits these women often tell me how much easier it would be to get dressed if they had to wear them. In their minds, throwing a top under a jacket and running out the door is so easy. While these women do have a point, looking stylish in a suit isn’t as easy as they think it is. Wearing a suit is one thing, looking stylish in one is a whole different story. In today’s wear-to-work post, I am going to give my tips on how to look stylish in a suit. Even if you don’t wear one everyday, at some point every working women will have to, even if it is just to interview.
How to Look Stylish in a Suit
Before I get into some outfits, here some key points that should be considered.
- First, tailoring makes a huge difference. I can probably count on one hand the amount of times a client hasn’t needed a suit tailored before she wears it, and I have been in business for 12 years. Even the smallest of alternations, like a tiny hem on the sleeves, skirt or jacket can make a huge difference. Suits are investments, spend a little extra money to make sure they look good. Even the cheapest of suits can look expensive when they are tailored well.
- Dry clean your entire suit together each and every time, even if you don’t wear both pieces all the time. Dry cleaning all the pieces of your suits together is crucial in keeping the color and look of the them consistent. Let’s say you have a pair of pants that you often wear alone without the jacket. If you dry clean those pants more often, in time, the pants and jacket won’t match any longer.
- Speaking of dry cleaning, don’t do it too often. Dry cleaning isn’t great for clothes and should be done as sparingly as possible. You can wear a suit multiple times before you have to drop it off to be cleaned. One tip that I suggest is keeping a steamer in your home (this is the one I use) to release some of the natural creases created in your suits from wear and to freshen them up.
- Dry clean first, then tailor. Admittedly, I don’t always follow this rule with my clients. If a client buys a suit and needs just a few alternations we will have the in-house seamstress at the store come in and do the alternations. However, it can happen that a suit will shrink a bit during its first dry cleaning and you may notice that the hems of your pants have shortened a bit. This is why some people believe in dry cleaning and then doing alterations like hems to guarantee the length stays right.
- Unlined pants are more expensive to construct than lined ones. I bet you didn’t know this fact. It actually costs a manufacturer or designer more money to make a pair of pants without lining than with. I always chuckle when a client tells me how the pants she is wearing are so luxurious because they are lined. Here’s the truth: when pants are unlined it costs more money, labor-wise, to cleanly finish all the seams versus just dropping a cheap acetate lining into the pants. Additionally, pants that can be unlined and comfortable are typically in top quality fabrics that won’t itch on the skin unless you have an allergy. Now, does this mean that you shouldn’t wear lined pants? No, not at all. Some women feel more comfortable in them and many designers just line their pants because of the preconceived notion that they are more expensive. However, don’t discount a gorgeous pair of pants because they aren’t lined. They’re actually well made.
How to style a suit so it isn’t boring
Now that you have some tips on purchasing, tailoring and caring for your suits so they always look good, here are three suited outfits to show you how to make them look stylish. These are really important things to consider because, let’s face it, suits are just suits. Few of them are all that exciting and you need to go the extra mile to make them look more than just okay. Whenever I style clients in suits the finishing touches and accessories are always the most important step. Below you’ll see why.
I like this suit from Reiss because it takes a basic navy suit to the next level with the tone-on-tone plaid. It can still act like a solid navy suit but looks a little more interesting. Suits typically come in neutral shades, like this navy one, which means that any colors can be paired with it. In this outfit, I wanted to keep it soft and also wanted to show the strength of pink when styled right. I used this blush sleeveless blouse from Banana Republic under the jacket and added this beaded necklace from Max & Chloe that picks up the tone of the top. Lastly, I finished this suited look with taupe heels from Vince Camuto.
Now, imagine this suit was styled with the pink top and none of the finishing components, and was, instead, styled with navy shoes and a string of pearls. The suit would still look fine, but would be lacking something to make it really stand out while still being appropriate. Also, taupe shoes, beige ones and shades of nude make a huge difference in making a suit look more refined.
Pinstripe suits, like this jacket and skirt from J. Crew, are so classic and so versatile. Treat pinstripes like solid suits and have fun with what you wear with them. In fact, when putting this outfit together I thought about using a printed top. It would really feminize the more serious stripe. Instead, I chose this Diane Von Furstenberg top in bright cobalt. To make the outfit more exciting, I added these colorful earrings from Kate Spade which allowed me introduce more colors while also picking up the blue in the top. Colorful jewelry can be so crucial when styling suits because they not only make the outfits look better but they can also tie together additional colors to the outfits. With the red in the earrings, I added these pumps from Ted Baker.
Take the accessories away and style this suit and top with a pair of black pumps and without jewelry. Can you see how these minor accessory tweaks make all the difference?
Not all suited looks have to be suits. In fact, if suits aren’t required at your job on a daily basis, creating suited looks with skirts, dresses and pants and separate jackets can be a great alternative. However, it is important to keep in mind that, in order to successfully do this, you can’t force pieces to look like a suit. Make sure the jacket can stand on its own and looks more like a topper.
You may recognize this jacket from Boden which I used in this post on how to style casual blazers. I love when pieces can go from work-to-weekend so I wanted to use in this post. In this outfit I used the jacket over this basic black dress from Karen Millen. I’m sure you have a basic black dress in your closet. If you are looking to do more with it, try popping a blazer over it. If you are already doing that, take the next step, accessorize. Even though there are a lot of different colors in this outfit, they still harmonize. I did that by starting with the blazer and figuring out what colors would work well with it. I chose these shoes because yellow is and easy accent color that works well with other ones. Lastly, I added the blue bracelet from Bloomingdales for small hint of a final color. With all this color going on, I chose this gold multilayered necklace from Stella & Dot.
Now what if you wore the blazer with the jacket, didn’t accessorize and just wore black shoes? Fine, but not incredible. It’s all in the finishing.
Suits can be boring or they can be exciting. How you accessorize them will make all the difference.
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These are wonderful tips, Bridgette. However, I have been frustrated because I’ve been trying to find a dark brown suit for ages with no success ( I am a soft autumn and dark brown is my best neutral). I have now decided to give up and buy a different color. Which neutral color would be most versatile and work best in lieu of dark brown? Almost all of my tops, scarves, and necklaces are in soft autumn colors. Thank you.
What about a warm grey? Probably hard to find, but khaki? I don’t know it you’d want to go warm beige (it’s a bit light for a standard basic suit, I think).
Thank you, Eleanorjane.
I am glad Elenorjane reminded me to answer this. Dark brown suits can be hard to find and you definitely won’t find them this time of year. I think warm grey is a great alternative, as is olive or camel. But why not a shade like navy or even a cooler grey? They are so neutral that you should be able to wear our autumnal colored pieces with them.
Thank you, Bridgette.
I’ve fallen in love with all things Reiss and Boden since I started reading your blog! Managed to score a few things from the sale at Reiss recently. 🙂 I find myself now eyeing the orange Boden blazer. Do you think this style would fit someone who is petite and curvy?
Oh yes, I LOVE Reiss! I use a lot of their stuff because they are two of the few companies that use product shots. If a piece is on a model I can’t use it in an outfit, which can get terribly frustrating!!
Yes, I think that blazer is perfect for petite woman because it is cropped. Shorter blazers are better. Plus it has shape! Would love to see it on you if you buy it!
Yay! I’m going to wait for my next trip out to the UK then. I have never shopped at Boden and do not know my size. And I do not want to guess. I’m a UK8 at Reiss, UK10 at Coast and UK12 at Karen Millen?? I’ve given up on the retail industry ever standardizing sizing! Will be sure to post a picture when I get it.