All Things Fashion DC | Fashion Intelligence: Tips for Dressing Smart in the Power Capital
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Fashion Intelligence: Tips for Dressing Smart in the Power Capital

Olivia P - Source_StellaPictures

25 Jul Fashion Intelligence: Tips for Dressing Smart in the Power Capital

Following our series of posts this week focused on dressing stylishly in DC, we launch our latest column “Fashion Intelligence.” FI by Susan Stipanovich for ATFDC will explore the ins-and-outs of dressing in D.C. 

by ATFDC Contributor Susan Stipanovich

Dressing to kill in Washington is never an easy task.  Even if you have an unlimited budget you still need to dress for the unbearable D.C. heat, your commute, the sub-zero temperatures in your office, the list goes on!  For women working in government or corporate offices, you need to look as if you’re one tough cookie when it comes to the negotiating table but a real woman underneath, very efficient yet worldly and sophisticated.  For this, you will undoubtedly need a fantastic suit.  But not just any suit of course, one that fits you absolutely perfectly, is beautifully cut, has some curves so that you look feminine and, for the sake of your own self-esteem, also has an air of authority.

In an interview with the Washington Post, retail consultant Susan Rolontz of the Tobe Report noted, “To look professional and be taken seriously, you need to wear a jacket.”  She goes on to explain, “A suit can be sexy and feminine, but both characteristics are inexorably linked to its power. A dress can exude confidence. But fundamentally, it’s an expression of femininity.”  Thusly, the selection of this garment requires a bit of time and thought.

Not to fear though, there are many retailers whose mission it is to help you look fantastic at the office.  Stores such as H&M, Zara, Ann Taylor, Macys, and J.Crew offer great suiting selections that, with a bit of tailoring, will have you looking every bit the high-powered executive.  Fit is key, so be prepared to have a few alterations done since boutiques and department stores alike don’t often cut suits- particularly jackets- on too much of a bias simply so you can have the garments tailored easily.  (If you’re looking for a great tailor, try Georgetown Valet at 1100 13th St NW; 202-289-7779).  When looking to save a bit of cash, try to find a suit that is a neutral color that can be worn in any season.  This versatility will save you money season after season with only a few trips to the dry cleaner.

A great suit should be able to take you from the conference room to dinner with ease.  Especially good for this is a skirt suit, which is great in the heat and, paired with the right top or blouse, can easily make a great ensemble for cocktails at happy hour or dinner.   A perfectly fitted Oxford blouse never goes out of style and is a great way to show off any figure.  Washington D.C. local Rochelle Behrens has created a fantastic blouse with dual-button technology that prevents gaping at the bust (beloved by Oprah herself).  Find her wonderful blouses at  If you’re looking to add a bit more femininity, you also might try a camisole with some beading that will serve you during the day and well into the evening.

With key role model for good dressing in politics First Lady Michelle Obama, there is plenty inspiration to be found within the District.  Women’s increasingly important role in politics and business can easily pave the way to the end of the ill-fitting pantsuit and the rise of women who can successfully embrace their femininity and still command a boardroom.

For additional tips, check out fellow ATFDC Contributor Emily Cirillo’s article Dress to Impress: Professional Wear for Women of a “Certain Age”


photo courtesy of Stella Pictures

Susan Stipanovich is a stylist and writer who lives and works in Washington D.C. She researches counter terrorism methods and international security sector reform in Africa and the Middle East by day as a Department of Defense associate and spends her free time curating a fashionable lifestyle through her blog Hepburn Loves Givenchy.