It is easy for men. Women, on the other hand, face a much trickier challenge. While it is obvious what the female urban lawyer should wear, and obvious what a storekeeper should wear, the middle ground proves to be more elusive. One false move and you can find yourself looking like a walking billboard for the local mall, or conversely, age yourself by twenty years.
Here are a couple paths to the sea.
- Take your preppy basics and replace them with finer weave versions. For example; Instead of a pair of twill khakis, look for the more finely woven poplin khaki pants, perhaps with cuffs, or a pair of side zip slim leg pants. Instead of an oxford shirt, again, look to the poplin or pinpoint weave. Replace your cotton cable crewneck with a cashmere crewneck or cardigan. Windbreakers or anoraks can be replaced with a Burberry Trench Coat or a Women's Barbour Quilted Jacket. And instead of Topsiders, reach for the Eliza B. Allez! Ballet Flats, Cole-Haan Driving Mocs or Snaffle Bit loafers (Cole-Haan or Gucci). Replace your Vera Bradley or canvas bags from L.L. Bean or Vineyard Vines with a Barbour Cotton Canvas Tarras or Waxed Cotton Bag, a CK Bradley Tote, or a Brooks Brothers Leather Shopper Tote in Navy. See A Great Ralph Lauren Coat.
- Take the more subdued colors from the preppy pallette: navy, gray, khaki, and white for example.
- Stick with the solids. Stay away from patterns, with the exception of great striped shirts or the occasional scarf.
- The first stop should be Ralph Lauren.
- There are many business women, while they would never turn to Lands' End for anything else, swear by their white No Iron Pinpoint Cotton Shirts for work and buy stacks of them. Lands' End also has a good stable of serviceable Cashmere basics, Fine Gauge Sweaters, Side Zip Slim Leg Pants, as well as plain white tees.
- The best trousers might be found at Brooks Brothers. While this is an obvious store for traditional business wear, they have Dress Trousers in Gaberdine that would look good in Dune or Latte. These are offered in four fits, as well as wool options for cooler weather. The Plain Front Non-Iron Chinos in Khaki or Stone might just be dressy enough for some as well. Their shirts are also worth a look, but the sweaters are not.
- Cole-Haan can be a great source for classic flats, but like with so many companies today, women must wade through a great number of very trendy, and sometimes hideous, options.
- If one is looking for a great tweed Hacking Jacket for Fall, this is one area where Orvis does a good job for women.
Jewelry, as always, should be minimal. And so should make-up - lipstick and spot concealer and you are done.