Wardrobe advice bleg

[Warning: I’m going to talk about clothes for this entire post. If you’re looking for serious intellectual content, you may want to look elsewhere.]

I just won a small academic award from the iSchool. The prospect of a minor financial windfall, combined with the prospect of an “economic stimulus check” from the feds, has gotten me thinking about upgrading my wardrobe. Of course, one of the nice things about being a librarian is that one generally gets to work in places that don’t hew to a strict dress code; all the same, though, one does want to defy the cardigan-wearing, ultra-dowdy, bun-haired librarian stereotypes. Or at least I do. And if all goes well with this job search (touching wood as I type, which is a bit awkward), I’ll be starting at a new workplace in the fall, and that seems as good an occasion as any to reassess my clothes closet.

Trouble is, I suffer from Don’t Like What Anybody Sells Syndrome. A lot of women’s clothes in my usual price range seem chintzy and badly made, and even when I contemplate laying out extra money, I never seem to have any luck. Whenever I go out looking for a specific thing, it always turns out that Madison Avenue has decreed that what I want is out of style. (Example: last year, when I wanted just a plain white button-down shirt, I couldn’t find anything that didn’t have ruffles all over it. Or pleats. Or puffs. Or bows.) And don’t even get me started on shoes.

So, Reader: where does one go to find professional-looking but not stuffy women’s attire, without breaking the bank on bespoke tailoring or designer labels? I like black (goes with everything!), with the occasional colorful shirt, and I like my clothes to look reasonably fitted. I prefer pants to skirts, and I think there ought to be a law against pants without pockets. Ann Taylor is all right, up to a point, but their clothes often strike me as a bit boring and more corporate-looking than I’d like. Any advice, people of the internets?

4 Responses to “Wardrobe advice bleg”

  1. Jane Dark says:

    Congrats on the award! I’m still thinking about the clothes. I feel about the same way about Ann Taylor.
    Two possibilities — the I.N.C. line from Macy’s, and also Spiegel. The latter has plenty of boring/corporate stuff, but they also have good lines and sometimes, good, bright prints.

  2. Patricia says:

    Cool news about the award–congratulations!
    I *so* relate to what you’re saying about clothes. Here are my “go-to” places, in no particular order:
    Ann Taylor Loft (not sure if you’re including this Ann Taylor store in your comments, but . . . ): http://www.anntaylorloft.com/home.jsp. I found a wonderful 3/4-sleeve, black ponte-knit jacket/blazer on sale around interview time. It’s worth actually shopping in their stores, too, as the online version doesn’t have everything that the physical store carries.
    Eddie Bauer – Business Casual section (this place had great sales around the time I had to go on interviews): http://www.eddiebauer.com/EB/Women/Business-Casual-Casual/index.cat?viewAll=y
    H & M: fairly inexpensive clothes of wide-ranging styles–from casual to professional–but generally not mail-order (there’s probably one in Philly somewhere)
    Sears: for their “Apostrophe” label
    J Jill: for their pants, mostly, but they also have reasonably priced, professional-looking tops/shirts that look great under blazers. They have pretty good sales, too (which is about the only time I ever buy from there).
    Macy’s: since you’re in a big city, Macy’s there should have a large, diverse selection of women’s clothing. (I say this because in C-U, our Macy’s–in my humble opinion–plain sucks; yet Macy’s in other cities I’ve been, such as NYC, White Plains, New Haven, and even Las Vegas, offer far better, more fashionable selections.)

  3. Amanda says:

    Hmm, it looks like Spiegel just opened a store at my nearby Ginormous Mega-Mall. I think this may call for a trip out there.
    We have H&Ms here, too — and I’ve found some decent pieces there, though some of them seem to fall apart a bit more readily than I’d like. I’ll have to go looking for J.Jill.

  4. Anna says:

    You might want to try Boden. They have some cute tops and jackets that could funkify something that looks more officey.