I've just finished another long and rather boring session of my professional agriculture seminar class about 2 hours ago. Despite my many complaints for this class (which I will not bore you with), it has forced me to confront a major issue in the workforce: immodest dress.
Here are some examples that the girls have been passing as "business professional":
Almost sheer blouses
Low cut blouses (actually, this has not been as bad of a problem, but a lot of the blouses still aren't high enough for Catholic standards)
Short skirts/dresses (skirt hems at upper THIGH at the worst)
A lot of them have been pairing these outfits with sweaters instead of good blazers or jackets, but that is a stylistic thing.
So...why am I making a big deal about it?
I mean, working a job outside the home....doesn't sound very feminine does it?
Unfortunately, it is a fact of life for a lot of single women (and now, married women too). Staying at home isn't really an option when you have over $20,000-100,000 of student loan debt breathing down your neck.
But does that mean that we need to give up our femininity? Or our modesty?
In fact, it is more important that women remain modest in a professional setting than in almost any other. Those men that you work with and those customers that you serve don't need to be distracted by your physical features. Your contribution to the workplace and service to them will do better for them in the long run. That feeling of being respected is especially important for women in the workforce, and what better way to demand respect by dressing yourself in a modest manner?
But the big question still remains......how?
A modest professional outfit consists of either 2 or 3 outer garments: a modest dress and a blazer/professional sweater or more commonly, a modest blouse, skirt and blazer/sweater. Add to that pantyhose, slips, and undershirt/camisole. Jewerly and shoes are to your own tastes, but I would recommend going with just a simple necklace and pumps or sandals.
Actually, the pieces are actually easy to find (in theory). Thrift stores, especially in the more wealthier areas of the cities, are gold mines for finding good skirts and blazers.
The main problem is actually MATCHING everything.
Most blazers or suit jackets that are sold for women are often just fine for modest wearers. Look for some curved seams in the back, and flared seams or a peplum (large curved band that's at waist level) for a more feminine look. Just don't get a super tight one. The most professional color is black, but any color is acceptable.
Modest blouses maybe a bit harder. Modest button ups can be found fairly easily and can be altered easily too. It gets even harder if you are looking for a nice professional pullover shirt. The most professional color is white, but in some cases, complementary colored blouses can also be acceptable.
Skirts can get rather interesting, depending on your style. Color matching to your blazer is a must. And I would go farther; don't match just the color, match the shade if at all possible. You'll be surprised at how many shades of black and camel that exist in the world. But like the blouses, complementary colors can also be acceptable. Stylistically, I prefer the A-line skirts, or skirts with a slight flair to them, but I've found that gored, pleated, and accordian style skirts work too. If you want a more casual look, maxis are also a good option.
Ok....off my teacher's platform. On to the examples!
This first outfit is an example of a solid skirt, solid blazer and white blouse, and the most professional outfit that I have in my closet:
As you can see, I have a black blazer, a black skirt, and a white shirt. I have paired with it a pair of low black heels.
Blazer: Bought at a small thrift store in Burlington. VT while on vacation. I think I paid only $5-8 for it, (which is a giant steal, because this thing fits me like a glove and there is hardly any wear and tear on it at all!). The brand is Fashion BugⓇ Petite.
Blouse: Hand-me-down from an older family member. It's a "standard" long-sleeved button down white blouse. The brand is Judy BondⓇ which from my understanding is not available commercially available anymore.
Skirt: Bought at a thrift store, can't remember what I paid for it. I did alter this skirt in the waist in order for it to fit. The brand is apostropheⓇ. I do sometimes switch this skirt out with another black skirt that is the same length but is A-line.
The second outfit that I have is an example of a solid blazer, a colored blouse, and a solid skirt:
(Disclaimer: In natural light, this skirt and this blazer are almost identical in shade. I didn't realize they were slightly off until I took the darn picture!)
Blazer: Hand-me-down from an older relative. Doesn't have a brand tag, but since this blazer was bought decades ago, I doubt the company still exists....(sorry guys...)
Blouse: Hand-me-down again. This blouse's brand is Liz ClaiborneⓇ. Instead of white, I chose a powder blue blouse, but I could have picked almost any color to go with this suit.
Skirt: Oh my goodness. This is embarrasing, but I have no idea. I forget if someone bought this for me or if this was a hand-me down. The brand is Century of BostonⓇ which is another vintage brand off the stores (darn!).
The third outfit that I have is an example of a solid blazer, a white blouse and a complementary skirt:
Blazer: Ok....I didn't buy this one or have it handed down to me. The truth is...I made that blazer. It's made of medium linen, lined with synthetic. I estimate the costs of the fabric and notions to be around $15-20, the pattern being a cheap vintage one that I picked up at a sale. Oh, and you know that word "peplum" I used earlier? This blazer has one. There is a solid piece of fabric that is attached with a seam that is right under the bottom button that runs the entire back of the blazer. The other blazers I have don't have that; instead the body pieces flare slightly to give that same look.
Blouse: Another blouse that was handed down to me. This one is a long-sleeved blouse with two sets of darts and a button placard that covers the buttons. The brand is Croft and BarrowⓇ Stretch.
Skirt: Another creation by me. This one is made of a light cotton, perfect for spring. Notice the robins egg blue in the skirt matches the jacket? The fabric and notions cost me between 7-10 dollars, and the pattern around $5.
The last outfit that I will showcase is an example of a sweater, a blouse and a skirt. Frankly, I'm not as big of a fan the sweater look, but it works. Stylistically, I think a cardigan is more professional than a pullover.
Sweater: Yes...the colors suck. Sorry about that, but it was the only sweater that really qualified. This is another one of those articles of clothing that mysteriously appeared in my closet without explanation. The brand name is GuessⓇ
Blouse: The same one as the last one. I have other white ones, but they have the same story. (Seriously, I haven't bought a button up blouse in forever. My relatives had whole closets of them, I'm not kidding.)
Skirt: Bought this at Goodwill this past winter! Paid around $4-6 dollars for it, though I did have to alter the waistband in order for it to fit. Brand name is Jones New York SportⓇ
Hopefully, these examples help you in finding more modest professional outfits!
As a further help, I've created a board on Pinterest. Right now, it has a lot of vintage suits, but I'm working on finding some more contemporary examples.