Playing The Part in DC’s Professional World
by ATFDC Contributor Dionna Humphrey
I have the luxury of working for a nonprofit, where the dress code is much more relaxed than what is expected at many companies in DC. And while I always maintain a self-imposed dress code of fabulous at work, if I had to wear suits or be much more formal in my attire I think I’d be in big trouble. When it comes to plus size fashion, the biggest gap in style these days tends to be business attire. When I’ve had to wear a suit for an interview or engagement on Capitol Hill, I have always found the task utterly daunting. Nothing fits! Most business attire is boxy, ill-fitting and downright boring. So I decided to do a bit of research for business appropriate, yet fashion-forward attire for curvy fashiontonians.
Whenever I did need a suit, the first place I always checked was Lane Bryant. Unfortunately, they closed their Columbia Heights location a while back so if you’re going to look there you’re going to have to hop on metro to Pentagon City, PG Plaza or up to the Wheaton Mall. And oddly enough, they usually have more options for business attire online—and more lengths which for shorties like me is a big help. That said, they did have a couple of pieces that could work well in a formal office. A classic button down is a must, whether you have to wear business attire or not. You can dress it up or down and wear with jeans or a suit. This button down comes in a couple of colors in addition to basic white and promises to require no ironing! I found the fit to be comfortable and flattering.
It’s important to pick the proper size with this top to avoid looking frumpy. If you don’t require a jacket to complete your look, this pencil skirt is not only professional but a little sexy and can go from the board room to happy hour effortlessly. Also, a pencil skirt is a silhouette that looks great on lots of different body types. A-line and trumpet skirts provide shapeless silhouettes which can make you look bigger than you really are. Add a chunky strand of pearls and some platform heels and you are good to go.
If it’s a full blown suit you require, head on over to Eloquii in Pentagon City or online. I’ve mentioned this before, but they’ve got a couple of different fit types for their pants and in business wear I think it’s particularly flattering. They’ve got a wide range of styles, from a slightly flared leg to an ankle crop for a business but sassy look, and jackets to match. Should I have to wear a suit I would have to go for the cropped ankle skinny (photo) in both classic and curvy fit.
For one, ankle isn’t really ankle on me for one, but for another, they are a playful twist on business attire. For second interviews, ad agency jobs, etc. you can be a bit more creative with your look, and I’d pair these with this trimmed blazer (btw they’re having a great sale on jackets and outerwear, right now!!). But you could always stick to basic black, like this blazer.
Of course, you can never go wrong with a well-fit sheath dress. With dresses, I like to play with shapes a bit more. I stopped by Macy’s in Metro Center a month or so ago and tried this Style & Co dress on, loved it but didn’t commit.
Unfortunately it’s sold out everywhere in our area so if you like, you’re going to have to go online. But what I loved about it is that it had a 50’s kind of feel to it; very young and playful, yet still professional. They’ve got sizes 14-24 online and now it’s on sale so don’t be wishy washy like I was—buy the dress! As a big fan of peplum, I would also recommend this Spense peplum sheath (photo- available in royal blue or black!). Peplum is flattering on everybody so you don’t have to be shy about a more form-fitting silhouette.
Whatever options you choose, here’s my one tip: if the fit isn’t right, spend the money to get it properly tailored. With more casual items you can get away with some things looking a bit loose. But with suits/business attire it should fit perfectly. As with all clothing if you are choosing between the larger fit or the more snug option, go bigger. You can always pull it in, letting out is a lot more difficult.
Dionna Humphrey is the owner of Body Conscious Beauty, a style consulting company serving the Washington, D.C. area. Body Conscious Beauty styles women of all sizes, including plus size beauties. For more information visit us online at www.bodyconsciousbeauty.com.