Building a Business Casual Wardrobe...The Basics!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Greetings Divas! And welcome to June 2014! Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to speak to a variety of different women at different stages of their professional lives. While these women vary in age, profession, and experience, there was one concern I noticed that each of these women had in common: their wardrobe! For the new professionals, there are concerns as to how they should dress for an interview, which items of clothing they should purchase immediately when they start a new job, and how they should dress during different work-related social outings. For the professionals that have been working in their professions for a few years, one of their concerns was how to elevate their current wardrobe and accessories.

In having these conversations, I realized that there are many corporations that are moving towards a business casual work-wear model. But what does that mean? In speaking with these women, I also realized that different folks have different definitions of the term "business casual." As a result, there are several schools of thought as to which items of clothing are appropriate in a business casual work environment. Now I'm no expert, but I do have an all knew that already! In speaking with the new professionals, I highlighted 10 basic items that they should start with when building a business casual wardrobe....and here they are!

1. Black Dress Pants - Nothing is more basic than a pair of black dress pants, which is the number one staple in a business casual wardrobe. Black pants will pair well with cardigans, blouses, and blazers. Eventually you should have several pairs of black dress pants in different styles, but one pair will suffice for the new wardrobe builder! To start, choose a classic, straight legged pair that fits comfortably. Try to go for pants made of light wool material, as this is the most versatile for the different seasons.

2. Navy Dress Pants - Another great staple to add variety to your business causal wardrobe! Navy dress pants will pair well with cardigans, blouses, and blazers, just like black pants. Similarly, select a pair that fits comfortably, and that is made of light wool material.

3. Gray Dress Pants - Variety, variety, variety! Again, these pair well with other wardrobe staples.

4. Cardigans (3) and Tanks (3) - I truly believe that cardigans and tanks are a necessity in any business casual wardrobe. Paired together, they create a neat and stylish effect. And with all of the different varieties of cardigans and tanks on the market, you are sure to find some that fit your personal style. My suggestion is to start with at least 3 cardigans and 3 tanks. While I am a fan of variety, my suggestion for your first set of cardigans is to choose solid colors that pair well with your other staple can add some other funky varieties later! As for the tanks, they should pair well with your cardigans. I suggest selecting 3 that would go well with any of the cardigans; this allows you to mix and match.

5. Black or Gray Dress SkirtWhether it is a pencil cut or an A-line, be sure to select a skirt that is knee length and made of light wool material. The best type would be one that you can pair with your cardigans, blouses, and blazers. To start, pick either a black or a gray skirt.

6. Black or Navy Dress - Another great addition to any business casual wardrobe! Score yourself one in black or navy, and be sure that it fits your form without being too tight. Also be sure to select a style/cut that is ideal for your body type. I'm a big fan of sheath dresses, but A-line dresses work as well!

7. Blouses (4) - Every basic business casual wardrobe should have several blouse options. It is important to have blouses in a business casual work environment because you are not required to wear a suit, but you still need to dress neatly. Blouses are versatile, and can be worn with dress pants and skirts. I suggest starting off with 4 blouses in varying colors and styles; however, one of your blouses should be a button-down, white shirt with a collar.

8. Blazer - A blazer is a great item that can serve several purposes. Blazers can be worn with dresses, skirts, and pants, and can also accompany a cardigan if paired properly. For those who are building their business casual wardrobe, I suggest either a black or tan blazer...these would give you greater pairing options. Be sure to choose a blazer that is versatile and that fits comfortably.

9. Black Belt - A black belt will pretty much go with every outfit you concoct from this list. But it has to be a nice one. Leather is the optimal option...with black or silver hardware. No belts with bling please! 

10. Black PumpsBlack pumps are the go-to shoe for the business casual wardrobe, as they often match well with basic business casual attire. You should score a pair that is high-quality and comfortable. Your pumps should be closed toe, and should have a 2 to 4 inch heel.

Now that we have discussed basic items, I want you all to note the items that I did not include on this list. In my humble opinion, business casual does not include denim, leggings, mini skirts, or shorts. These items may work in an environment where casual clothing is acceptable, but they are not appropriate in a business casual setting. In addition, you should avoid sneakers, flip flops, and strappy sandals.

So there you have it! What are some of your business casual staples? What would you add to this list?

Healthy Snacking Delivered Straight to the Office...Thanks Graze!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Quick story (I promise!)....a couple of weeks ago, a friend/colleague introduced me to a new way of snacking in the office. She was walking around the office with a box full of snacks. I was intrigued...a box full of snacks! Who doesn't  love snacks?! When I asked her what she was eating, she told me it was a Graze box. We were heading into a meeting, so I didn't bother to ask for more details. A little later in the day, I walked back into my office and saw that she had left a little "coupon" for the Graze box on my keyboard. She also sent me a link to the Graze website. I had no clue what I was about to get myself into, but I went to the website anyway...snacks were involved! And once I checked out, I was all in!

If you are as excited about snacks as I am, you are probably begging me to tell you about this Graze box. Graze is a service that delivers fresh boxes of healthy snacks to your home or office on a periodic basis. Each box contains 4 snacks (there are over 90 options), and is composed of healthy foods, including nut and seed mixes, dried fruits, crackers, dips and dippers, and other natural snacks. How do you get your box? You go to and create an account. During the registration process, you input the address to which you want your Graze boxes delivered, and the frequency of your deliveries (i.e. weekly, every two weeks, once per month, etc.). You can even go through the catalog of snacks and select whether you want to try it, like it, love it, or trash it. Once your account is created, you can log on to see which snacks are on their way to you. You can also see and rate the snacks in the boxes you already received. My first Graze box was delivered to my office last week. Check it out!

Each Graze box costs $6, and is billed to the credit card you place on file during registration. I used my friend/colleague's code when I signed up, and ended up getting my 1st and 5th box for free...yay for me! And, you can modify your delivery preferences or cancel your subscription at any time. 

So, why am I sharing this information with my fellow Divas and Gents? For one, many of us professionals who spend a lot of time in the office are more likely to snack throughout the day. Why not snack on something healthy? After all, beach weather is right around the corner...cakes, cookies, and chips are not conducive to the Summer body you spent all Winter creating. Each Graze box boasts a number of healthy benefits, each of which are noted on each package and represented by appropriate symbols. Each snack is also perfectly-portioned, so there's no post over-indulging guilt...there's no time for that!

Overall, I am super impressed with the concept of the Graze box. I enjoyed my snacks over the course of a week, and not once did I feel bad about what I was consuming. I can't wait to get my next box!

If anything I've written in this post is of interest to you, do yourself a favor and head over to Get your healthy snacking on!  

Side note: Just so you all know, I was not compensated in any way by the wonderful owners of Graze. I am simply a humble attorney looking for healthy and tasty snacks to get me through my busy day...without adding extra inches to my dig?!

Think...Then React!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Just a little something I thought about today as I watched someone put his proverbial foot in his proverbial mouth...all because he reacted without fully thinking about the consequences of his words. In a world where the Internet and social media glorifies the concept of instant gratification, we as professionals should exercise caution when reacting to unexpected situations. The worst thing we can do is make rash, uncalculated decisions that could have dire and unfavorable consequences (both personally and professionally). In sum, think before reacting...I'm just saying!

Woman Vs. Woman: Are Women Sabotaging Each Other When Climbing the Corporate Ladder?

Monday, April 21, 2014

So....I was watching an episode of Cutthroat Kitchen last week, and it reminded me of a topic that I blogged about a couple of years ago. Some of you may be wondering what Cutthroat Kitchen has to do with anything that I tend to discuss on the Martini Chronicles. Let me explain...

Cutthroat Kitchen is a show that comes on the Food Network. Each show begins with four chefs who are given $25,000 a piece. There are three cooking rounds, and 1 chef is eliminated at the conclusion of each round. The last chef standing is the winner. What's the catch? Each round, the chef's are assigned a dish to recreate in their own way. Before and/or during each round, the host holds several auctions with items that the chefs can bid on using their share of the $25,000. But these are not just any items...these are items that the winner of the auction can assign to another chef (or deprive another chef of) to make that chef's cooking experience miserable. Essentially, the auction items are meant to sabotage the opponent. 

Cut to last week when I was watching an episode of Cutthroat Kitchen with two male chefs and two female chefs. Almost immediately, one of the female chefs started to insult the other female chef. During the auction phase of the very first round, she purchased two "sabotage" items, and directed them both towards the other female chef. The two male chefs were sitting pretty with no real sabotages or obstacles because the two female chefs were competing so heavily against each other. Turns out that the sabotaging female chef was the first to be eliminated; I guess her plan to take out the other female contestant failed. 

This episode of Cutthroat Kitchen prompted me to revisit a few topics that I have spoken about on several occasions over the course of my career: Why are women more competitive against other women than they are against men? Is there room at the top for more than one woman? Why are some women less than enthusiastic to mentor another woman? All of these questions ran through my mind as I watched Cutthroat Kitchen.

So, let's talk about it! Let's not worry about ruffling a few feathers...we’re all grown, and mature, and capable of spirited conversation. So let's get into it!

Do you think that women who have achieved a high level of success are adequately mentoring more junior women in their professions?

After speaking with several friends and fellow Professional Divas in various fields, the overall sentiment seemed to be that highly successful women are not eager to mentor up-and-coming women in their professions for fear of being "dethroned" or "surpassed." My Diva friends seem to think that the women at their respective places of employment keep all of their jewels of success and advancement to themselves. They don’t make themselves available to teach, and they have a “get to the top on your own like I did and stop asking for a hand out” type of attitude. I even heard one story where a less senior woman sought the advice of a seasoned female attorney regarding how to take a deposition, only to be scolded with a “didn’t you learn that in law school!” Not as direct as the sabotages on Cutthroat Kitchen, but this scenario presents a different problem. Some women may not be actively or directly sabotaging another woman, but is the lack of mentoring just as bad? So now here’s my other question:

Are seasoned women in your respective professions threatened by the new Diva on the block?

Before you answer this question, take a look at the relationships among the senior and junior men in your workplace. They seem to always be helping each other out. The senior men are willing to take a protégé under their wings, and show him the ropes. I have never heard a man exclaim that he will not mentor another man because he fears that the student will surpass the master. Now, I'm not saying that this doesn't happen...I just haven't heard it in my experience. Why is this concept so taboo for women? Well, I have an opinion that I shared a few years back...somebody's going to be upset, but it is MY opinion...and here it is:

I think that accomplished women are of the mindset that they have fought extremely hard to achieve success in their respective field, often without the guidance and support that had been afforded their male counterparts. I think that these circumstances may create a feeling of isolation, and a little bit of resentment. In turn, the new Diva at the office bears the brunt of this resentment when she seeks to form a mentoring relationship with an accomplished female co-worker. It is also my opinion that this type of neck-biting is common, yet unnecessary.

Why are women more competitive against other women than they are against men? Is there room at the top for more than one?

I think there is! If there were not enough room, then why are there so many men coexisting together at the top? Sharing the success and wealth? And guess who is not up there with them in larger numbers? Women! Do you see my point? In the case of the Cutthroat Kitchen episode, the sabotaging chef never envisioned that her and the other female chef could be the last chef's standing at the end. And then they could bang it out against each other for the top spot. Nope...her goal was to take out the female competition first. It's almost as if she assumed that the other female chef was not worthy of competing against her. Like she didn't "belong" in the competition. All because she had the nerve to walk into the competition as a woman. Look, I get is business, and as women we typically have to claw and fight our way to the top...I know I have. But sharing a bit of wisdom with a junior female colleague can only enhance the pool of women in high-level positions. The act of being immediately threatened because the junior colleague is a woman is kind of whack...again, just my opinion! 

I know there are going to be quite a few people who disagree with me, and I’m okay with that! In fact, I would love to get the opinions of others on this issue. Just so you all know where I stand, if I were one of the two female chefs on this particular episode of Cutthroat Kitchen, I would have looked at all three of the other contestants equally and try to take them all out...I would care less of sex! My goal would be to bring them all down!

In conclusion, let me leave you with a quick thought: Women lose credibility in a discussion regarding the lack of high-ranking women in any profession if we proactively divorce ourselves from mentoring each other and if we routinely sabotage one another.  

And on that note, I step off of my proverbial soapbox. What do you think? Are you actively mentoring the women in your respective profession? Are you, or have you been, the recipient of effective and meaningful mentoring? 

I'm Not Bossy. I'm the Boss.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


What say you Divas?

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