Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Working Girl's Workout: Classy Workout Clothes for the Career Woman

Balancing a busy career and weekly exercise can be a challenge for the working woman. The solution? Fitting in a 30-minute session during your lunch hour, running a mile before work or heading straight to the gym after an office meeting. With your work life and active life coinciding, make sure you have an appropriate workout wardrobe just in case you run into the CEO or Managing Partner on your way to the gym. Here are 5 tips to make YOUR workout wardrobe office appropriate!

1. Basic Colors – stick to a more neutral and understated color palette. Even though neon and bright colors are all the rage at Nike, keep you work week fitness attire simple. Stick to basic, darker colors that won’t make you stand out like a sore thumb as you walk through the office.

Lulu Lemon Run Swiftly Top 

2. Keep it Covered – even if you are headed to a super sweaty spin class, keep the sports bra top for another day. Invest in gym clothes that are conservative and classy so you can maintain a professional appearance in the office. 
Lulu Lemon Miss Misty Pullover
3. No Sweats Allowed – when changing into your gym clothes at the office, leave the baggy sweats and ripped t-shirts at home. Make sure you have well fitting, nice looking exercise clothes that keep you looking classy and not disheveled.  

Zella T-shirt
4. Keep Hair Styled – Fitness hair does not have to be a messy bun, or stringy, sweaty ponytail. There are easy workout hairstyles that look fabulous before, during and after your sweat sessions. Some of my favorites are the ballerina bun and the French braid. You can also invest in stylish headbands to keep hair in check during the workout. 
Ballerina Bun
French Braid

5. Opt for Dry-Fit Fabric – No one wants to be seen out in public with sweat marks. Choose dry fit fabric for your workout shirts and pants instead of pure cotton to avoid embarrassing sweat marks when coming back into the office.  On that note, stay away from any light colored pants for the same reason! 
Nike Epic Dri-Fit Boatneck


Monday, August 25, 2014

What to Wear to Work: Grey Sheath Dress, White Jacket and Dark Green Tote

Dress: J. Crew | Blazer: Zara, similar here
Shoes: Corso Como | Tote: Talbots, similar here

 I'm not looking forward to giving up my long summer days for crisp fall evenings yet, but I'm hoping that slowly transitioning my wardrobe into fall might help a bit. This outfit is almost completely summer, especially with the white blazer, but I've added my dark green patent leather tote which I've always relied on as my go-to fall work bag. I'll be adding more fall pieces into my closet slowly over the next few weeks and starting to put my more obviously "summer" pieces away. Stay tuned...

Friday, August 22, 2014

What to Wear to Work: Red Jacket, Red Pumps and Black and White Skirt

Jacket: Orsay, similar here | Cami: Ann Taylor
Skirt:Prabal Gurung for Target, similar here
Shoes: L.K. Bennett, similar here | Tote: Longchamp
Bracelet: Craft market find, similar on Etsy here

One of the great things about living in Shoreditch is that I can always find a cool background for my blog pictures! This giant leaf design is just one small part of a long mural around the corner from my apartment. I love how the different shades of green really made the red in my outfit pop! Sometimes it can be risky to wear red clothing with red shoes, because the reds can clash. But in this case, I thought the difference in texture between the red patent and the red fabric set each piece apart. Plus, the print of the skirt catches the eye and keeps the two reds separate. For jewelry, I settled on pearls, but in a fun, artistic way to complement the less formal print and style of the skirt. For a bag, I've gone with my beloved and trusty Longchamp tote - there is absolutely no better bag to carry things to work. The nylon lasts a really long time, you can stuff a HUGE amount into it, and the brown flaps with the black bag means you can carry it with either color. It's been one of my go-to bags for a long time, and has taken me through college, law school and into the real world!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tips and Trends: Business Travel #4 - Five Tips for Overnight Business Trips

So, you have successfully chosen a piece of luggage, packed your business travel bag, survived the plane flight and made it to your destination. Now you have to spend at least one night, if not more, in a standard-issue business hotel. The company or client may be paying for your room and board, but how do you make sure you stay looking and feeling your best before the big meeting? Here are some tips to have a peaceful and relaxing business overnight stay:

1. Breakfast

Remember how your mother always told you that breakfast was the most important meal of the day? Well, that is definitely  true if you have to step into a major client meeting right afterwards! While some clients or customers might offer a bit of breakfast food at an early morning meeting, others will not. So, to start the morning off properly, make a plan for breakfast the night before. This is REALLY important, because you don't want to wake up in the morning, realize that the hotel hairdryer will take twice as long as your GHD hairdryer at home, end up running late, not know what to do about breakfast and then not eat at all. Think about the kind of breakfast you want to eat: carb-heavy, protein-heavy, very light, very filling etc. Then scout out the hotel and the surrounding area to find your best options. If your hotel has room service, check out the breakfast menu and see if any of the selections appeal to you. If not, find the local coffee place and see if they make breakfast sandwiches. Do NOT simply rely on the hotel's breakfast buffet - always ask at the restaurant or front desk for what that includes. If you need protein at your breakfast, you don't want to come down and find that "breakfast buffet" means nothing more than coffee and croissants. Personally, I always opt for room service, and order oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins, but made without milk, a side order of 2 breakfast sausages and hot tea (unless it is summertime, and then I'll order orange juice). Unless I've been lucky enough to be put up at the Ritz, that almost always comes in under my company's breakfast allowance for business travelers. One of my friends always finds the local coffee shop and orders some variation of a breakfast sandwich with ham, cheese, and egg, plus a small coffee and a bottle of water. Figure out what works best for you, but the most important thing is to have a plan, so you aren't reduced to eating Altoids to try and stop your tummy from grumbling throughout the meeting!

2. Hang, Wash and Iron 

The first thing to do when you get into your hotel room is the 3-step "hang, wash and iron" program, so as to ensure that your clothing for tomorrow's meeting is neat and clean. First, pull everything out of your suitcase that you will be wearing the next day and hang it up. If the room has multiple closets, I recommend hanging all your clothing together, so that you don't accidentally forget your jacket in the closet behind the door when making sure you have the suit that you hung in the closet by the bed. Second, wash anything that you wore during the day that needs to be washed. For me, that is usually pantyhose. While I always have a second pair of hose in case of a rip, I prefer to wear one pair at a time and wash them out at night. Other things that might need washing are undergarments, under-arm pads worn in suits to prevent sweating, or perhaps you spilled something on your blouse or skirt and it needs a bit of clean-up. Washing should be the second thing you do after hanging up your clothes so as to give your garments the maximum amount of time to dry. Third, pull out the iron and ironing board that are (most likely) in the closet and start getting all the wrinkles out of your jacket, skirt and/or trousers. Whether you have worn your suit on the plane or carried it in your suitcase, it will almost certainly need to be ironed. While you may not like ironing (I don't!), this is the task you should do last, because it is the least time-consuming. Once you are done with all of the above, double check to see if your shoes need a quick polish touch-up, and make sure you have set out all the pieces of your outfit where you can easily reach them.

3. Work out

Courtesy of Summer Girl Fitness

Just because you are away from home for the night doesn't mean you should allow your work-out routine to lapse. Depending on where you are traveling, some business hotels have very well-equipped workout rooms, and will sometimes even provide you with a yoga mat and an exercise ball. Some hotels now also have a fitness channel on the in-room TV, or offer fitness videos as part of their video-on-demand services. If your hotel doesn't have any of these amenities, search YouTube for quick 20-30 minute workout videos that you can easily do on the floor of your hotel room. One of my favorites is Summer Girl Fitness's 20 Minute Total Body Workout. Just be mindful of your neighbors - this is the time to do some strength training, pilates or yoga workouts that do not involve a lot of jumping or loud music in the background. You don't want to have a noise complaint made to the front desk. If you want to do pilates or yoga but don't have a mat, put a towel down on the floor instead.

4. Limit the clutter (and remember to bring it home)

 You are only going to live in this hotel room for, at most, a few nights and will spend most of the days in meetings. While you may enjoy having all the space to yourself, don't go too crazy about spreading your stuff everywhere. You will undoubtedly be traveling with important work documents, numerous tech items and a huge collection of chargers, adapters and cable. Whenever I get into a hotel room, I always have to restrain myself from scattering my belongings over every possible hard surface, but that is definitely how you lose things. Try your best to group things together: papers and documents on the desk, your jewelry, phone and bluetooth on the nightstand, all your clothes together in the same closet. Sometimes it is unavoidable, however, particularly when outlets are few and far between: while your phone can be plugged in next to your bed, your computer has to be plugged in behind the TV set in a far-off corner. In that case, use the hotel-issued notepad to jot down a quick list of what you have plugged in, and put lines next to each item to represent how many pieces it has. For example, when I plug in my computer in Germany, I would write: computer | | |. The three lines are for the computer, charging cord and European outlet adapter, all of which I need to make sure to bring home when I leave. Try to save a few minutes on the morning of checkout to do a quick sweep of the room and make sure you aren't leaving anything. Open the drawers, check quickly under the bed and scan the wall outlets.

5. Stick to your evening routine

If you don't travel for business on a regular basis, business trips can be very exciting. You get to go to a new place, meet and interact with clients and stay in a (usually pretty decent) hotel, all on your company's dime. All that excitement can sometimes go to your head and tempt you to do things like: order several desserts off of the room service menu instead of getting a regular dinner, stay up late to enjoy having a TV directly across from your bed, or decide to take a 2 hour bubble bath at midnight to reward yourself for all your hard work during the day. While all of these things are completely appropriate in other situations, you really need to feel your best when going into those business meetings the following day. Therefore, although it may be tempting to have some fun, try to stick to your normal evening routine. If you normally have a light, healthy dinner, order a salmon salad, not the steak and chocolate cake. If you normally try to get to bed by 10pm and wind down by reading a book, don't stay up until midnight watching late night TV. And unless you are in the minority of people who don't need more than 4-6 hours of sleep, don't decide to take a bath, order a second dinner or watch all of Titanic at midnight. If you want a bath, start it a bit earlier or don't stay in the tub for a full two hours. Once the clock hits your normal bedtime, call home or a friend to say goodnight to someone, curl up in bed, close your eyes, and if you have to, download a relaxation app for your phone that will play soothing sounds to lull you to sleep.

What to Wear to Work: Blue Blouse and Tote with White Skirt

Blouse: Ann Taylor, similar here | Cami: Ann Taylor, similar here
Skirt: Banana Republic, similar here
Pumps: Corso Como | Tote: Coach, similar here

Summer is starting to fade, so I want to make the most of my summer wardrobe pieces before they get replaced for the fall! The Duchess of Cambridge (aka Princess Kate) has made the nude pump and absolute fashion must-have and it's not hard to see why - nude pumps make anyone's legs look long and elegant! Plus the blue and white combo, with a touch of bright pink, give the whole outfit an easy, breezy summer flare. For now, I'm happy to pretend that there will be nothing but long days and warm nights ahead...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tips and Trends: How to Host an Office Party

Summer is still here and what better way to get to know some of your co-workers and colleagues than by hosting a summer get-together! It's true that often the heads of departments, partners or team leaders or other senior members of your department may host an official office get-together, but why not host something yourself? If you are close to members of the department leadership or senior personnel, you can definitely invite them, but if not, you can also host a get together for people around your age or seniority level and let everyone just have a fun time. My husband and I hosted an office party in July for those colleagues who we worked regularly with and were around our age.

Hosting an office event is not, however, the same as hosting a party for your friends. While you may be friends with some of your office colleagues, you may not be friends, or even really know, all of your colleagues. So, to help you get inspired, I've got a series of tips for throwing a summer party for your office.

1. Come up with a theme.   
It can be as simple as "summer barbeque", but having a theme gives you a starting point for the party. The theme generally dictates the food, the level of formality and any decorations. If you are very creative, you can also come up with games or activities that fit the theme. You can choose to have the theme very prominent, such as by putting it into the invitation or asking people to come dressed up to match it, or you can keep the theme very subtle and only use it as a planning guide for yourself. Popular, easy and appropriate office party themes are: Barbeque (take your pick between Texas or North Carolina, but this is always a good option if you want to get food catered), Summer in Paris (lots of brie and baguettes), A Day at the Races (British-themed food like tea sandwiches, and little cookies, plus mint juleps), or a German Grillfest (buy lots of bratwurst, mustard and some sauerkraut for those who want to be really authentic). For our party, we did a Swiss Independence Day celebration and served cheese fondue and bratwurst fresh off our grill.

2. Keep it simple.

You won't be able to enjoy the party if you are running around taking food out of the oven, trying to man the grill and worrying about people dropping your wedding china on the cement patio all at once. Streamline your tasks so that by the time everyone arrives, the food is completely cooked (with the exception of grilling, if you want people to have freshly-grilled food). Wherever possible, get food premade or partially pre-made, and choose simple dishes. Chopped veggies and a homemade dip is always a great appetizer option. Handmade pizza pockets that require you to fold phylo dough for three hours is probably better saved for another event where you have more help in the kitchen. At our party, we served bratwurst straight off the grill and cheese fondue that was a HUGE hit and only required us to heat up the pre-packaged cheese mixture. For dessert, everyone made their own ice cream sundaes, which only required us to purchase the ingredients and then set them out in cute serving dishes.

3. Serve a variety of drinks. 

People's drinking habits can change based on the weather, the food and how comfortable they are at an event. So while you might be sure that a certain colleague only drinks red wine, because that is what she sips every Friday during the office cocktail hour, you may find that she prefers to drink Diet Coke at parties because she doesn't like to drink in the afternoon. Or the man that always seems to knock back a couple cocktails whenever you go out for drinks after work now wants to sip on white wine because the weather is so hot. It's therefore best to have a variety of drinks, including red and white wine, bottled water and a light and dark soda (Sprite and Diet Coke are always good options).

4. Think about your guests before they arrive. If you have a party where you are inviting guests from different offices who may not know each other (such as your current office and your previous office, or your office and your spouse's office), try to identify three facts about each guest that you can use to introduce him or her to others at the party in order to start conversations. These can be as simple as where your guests grew up, what university they attended and where they now live in your city (if your city has distinct neighborhoods like NYC or London). If you know more interesting facts about your guests, such as their hobbies or weekend activities, try to make use of that knowledge. The point is to try and get conversations flowing about interesting topics so that people mix and mingle and don't end up standing in their work groups chatting about nothing but work.

5. Don't be too hard on yourself. The biggest difference between throwing a party for your colleagues and throwing a party for your friends is that some of your colleagues may not be your friends. When throwing an office party, it is very likely that some people will be invited because they are part of your team or part of your working group, but are not actually people you would consider "friends". These people, or even other office colleagues you do consider friends, may come to the party but not behave very politely, may make critical comments about your house or apartment, and may not say thank you after the party is over. Don't let it bother you too much. Even though you work with these people and should maintain positive relationships with them, you know the difference between a friend and a colleague. So don't sweat the small stuff and, if someone behaved particularly badly, consider striking them off the guestlist for any future events.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What to Wear to Work: Grey Sheath Dress, Turquoise Sweater and Kate Spade Clutch

 Dress: J. Crew | Cardigan: Gap, similar here 
Shoes: Manolo Blahnik | Clutch: Kate Spade

This classic sheath dress from J. Crew is one of my all-time favorites and is so versatile! Here I've paired it with light pink accents, including my timeless Manolo Blahnik pumps and this adorable Jane Austen inspired clutch from Kate Spade. The clutch has a quote from Jane Austen's Emma on the back and the title on the front. I think it was originally supposed to be a pencil case, but it works perfectly as a clutch. Toss it into your normal work bag to hold your blackberry and some cash for a quick coffee run in the afternoon!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What to Wear to Work: Gold Coach Tote, Red Jacket and Orange Cami

It's been INCREDIBLY hot in London over the past few weeks, so I decided I might as well match the color of my clothes to the temperature outside! This combination of orange, red and gold really only works for the hottest months of the year, but in this weather it's absolutely perfect! Plus, it gave me a great excuse to dig out one of my favorite totes that I hadn't gotten around yet to unpacking. This gold Coach bag was my go-to tote for many years, and for a day in the office when I'm not seeing clients or heading to meetings, it adds a fun pop of color while still looking professional!!

Jacket: Orsay, similar here
Cami: Ann Taylor, similar here
Suit Pants: Classique Entier for Nordstrom, similar here
Shoes: Stuart Weitzman
Tote: Coach, similar here

Friday, August 8, 2014

What to Wear to Work: Black Floral Skirt, Blue Silk Top and Red L.K. Bennett Pumps

I've already shown off this perfect shoe and clutch pairing here, but I couldn't resist wearing them again! This is the first time I've owned a straw/raffia clutch and I think it is the PERFECT accessory for summer. While I carry a normal tote bag into work, I've taken to stashing this clutch inside and popping it out on the rare days that I get to attend cocktails or some other fun after-work activity. Whenever I wear this combination, I always try to make sure the red really pops against the outfit. Here I've pulled out my Prabal Gurung for Target skirt again, but this time paired it with a blue silk top. The look isn't monochromatic, but the soft blue still really allows the red of the purse and shoes to stand out. To add another touch of red, I've thrown on a cool necklace that I picked up in Venice a few years ago. It looks like a piece of coral, but it's actually blown glass.

Blouse: Ann Taylor, similar color with long sleeves here and short sleeves here
Skirt: Prabal Gurung for Target, similar here
Pumps: L.K. Bennett Sledge style in red. The Sledge pumps no longer come in red, but the Floret do.
Clutch: Evie Straw Clutch (sold out online but available in stores in the UK and can be mailed). Matching clutch to the Floret pumps is here (on UK website only).
Necklace: artisan shop in Venice, similarly-colored necklace here

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tips and Trends: Business Travel #3 - How to Find a Business Suitcase

Business Travel Suitcases

1) Basic - American Tourister, 2) Soft-Sided Spinner - American Tourister, 3) Hard-Sided Spinner - Samsonite
4) Rolling Garment Bag - Samsonite, 5) Garment Bag + Suitcase, Tumi, 6) Luxury - Louis Vuitton

We're on topic #3 for my series on business travel (also check out #1: What to Pack and #2: How to Survive the Airplane), and today it's all about bags -- carry-on rolling bags. Just like most women, I've spent hours pouring over purses, both online and in stores, and absolutely LOVE changing my bags to match or contrast with my outfits. You don't have to devote all of the hours you spend ogling a Celine Trapeze bag to finding the perfect business carry-on suitcase, but since this bag has to get you through both airports and board rooms while looking classy and holding all of your things, you should definitely put at least a little bit of thought into the purchase. 

The six bags above each have different features that you may find useful. Thinking about how often you travel, how much you want to spend on a bag and what features you would like will help you pick out the perfect one for your lifestyle.
1) The Basic
This is an excellent basic business travel bag at a reasonable price. It only comes in black, but if you don't mind the color, or are going to use it infrequently, that may not be an issue. If you do purchase a black bag, I recommend putting a brightly-colored luggage tag on it so that you can spot it quickly. Even though it is a carry-on, it is very possible that passengers may be asked to stow all rolling bags under the plane at the last minute. This bag has three separate zippered sections, allowing you to stow your laptop and papers in the top two sections, and your clothes in the bottom. Multiple sections are extremely important in a business suitcase, because you do not want to risk your colleagues getting a glimpse of your pajamas while you are trying to pull out your laptops. The ability to keep clothing and toiletries separate from work papers is very useful. This bag is quite small, so if you tend to travel for a week at a time, I would recommend getting something a bit larger.

2) Soft-Sided Spinner
Most business travelers absolutely LOVE spinner bags. Personally, I don't like them, because I find that they tend to start rolling away the moment they are on an incline. However, I am definitely in the minority. Spinner bags are useful because they can be pushed, pulled, dragged, rolled or slid along and they will almost always move quickly and easily. The spinner wheels allow the bag to move anywhere in a 360 degree radius, as opposed to a regular rolling bag that can only move forwards or backwards. This spinner is a regular-sized cabin carry-on bag and comes in a variety of colors. The soft-sided bag allows you to do a bit of squishing to get it into the overhead compartment. 

3) Hard-Sided Spinner
This bag is more expensive than the previous two, partially because it is a Samsonite and partially because it is a hard-sided bag. The bag is made of polycarbonate, which provides more protection for your clothing, laptop and other contents. The benefit of a hard-sided bag is that the contents are less likely to get squished. The downside is that there are no outside pockets, and if the overhead bins are almost full, you will most likely have to put the bag under the plane, because you will not be able to squish and squeeze it in. However, many business travelers prefer hard-sided bags because they offer more protection, particularly when traveling with lots of electronics.

4) Rolling Garment Bag
When you do a lot of business travel that requires bringing along suits, you may find it useful to invest in a rolling garment bag, instead of a regular suitcase. A rolling garment bag typically comes equipted with a hanger and fold-out flaps that allow you to properly position your suits so as to keep them from getting wrinkled.

This picture shows the inside of the Samsonite Rolling Garment Bag. The bag comes with a hanger, and the additional pockets are arranged around the outside of the bag so as to not wrinkle the suit. There is also a flap that zips down around the suit to protect it. Since this bag is almost completely a garment bag, however, its primary drawback is the lack of space it offers for any additional contents. A bag like this is best suited to someone who plans to travel with only one pair of shoes, few toiletries and even fewer accessories, and whose primary need is to keep a suit looking clean and pressed for arrival.

5) Garment Bag + Suitcase
If you like the idea of a rolling garment bag, but want some additional room and are willing to pay a higher price, this Tumi bag is the perfect combination. As you can see from the picture below, the Tumi includes a hanger for your suit and flaps to ensure that your suit is packed so that it will not wrinkle. 
However, this suitcase also includes an additional bottom section that can be used to hold shoes, accessories and other toiletries, while the garment bag holding a suit is folded into the top section. In addition to the expansive interior, this suitcase also includes two exterior pockets and handles on the top, sides and bottom. With all these features, and the famous Tumi brand name, it's not surprising that this suitcase is rather expensive. However, if you are a frequent business traveler, you may decide that all the features make this suitcase worth it.

6) Luxury
Ah, Louis Vuitton. The it luggage for celebrities and the rich and famous. There are two markers of success in Hollywood: a Hermes purse and Louis Vuitton luggage. While dear old Louis may be slowing down on sales of its ubiquitous monogrammed purses, the popularity of its luggage shows no sign of abating. This is the carry-on you purchase when you have finally made partner at your law firm, IPO-ed your start-up, or just finished negotiating a multi-billion-dollar merger with Google. It comes with all the trimmings: a padded laptop compartment, a hanger and flap to keep your suit safe, and several exterior and interior pockets. 
It is definitely priced for the Hollywood glitterati, but when only the best will do, this is the suitcase to purchase. I would, however, recommend making sure you purchase a business or first-class seat to go with this glamorous and luxurious bag.
Readers, do you have a favorite travel bag? What do you think of my suggestions?
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