We Four in Egypt

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Clothing advice, please

You all are so fabulous with the advice. Here’s the current situation.

I have three professional events coming up this fall for which I need to dress, well, professionally. The first event is in Seattle in August; the second is in London in October. The third is in Egypt in November.

Do you see the problem already? I’d like one outfit, or some of the same pieces at least, to not be overwhelmingly hot in August (albeit in a coolish place), but also appropriate for London’s cool, rainy fall. And, I’d like also for this new outfit to work well enough that I could wear it to a job interview*, which, in my field, is usually a suit (for me, a black pantsuit). And I don’t really like skirts because I don’t like pantyhose or the shoes you have to wear when you wear pantyhose.

But I don’t want to buy a suit. I have one that, uh, doesn’t quit fit like it used to. I’m not really pretending it’ll fit me again by the fall… it’s just that I hate to spend a lot of money on something I won’t wear that often (I wore the other suit three times).

One solution would be fasting between now and August, in which case the current suit probably would fit, but, well, that’s problematic since I like eating a little too much (hence the original problem).

So, what should I do? Suck it up and go buy a new suit and a nice blouse and skip the jacket in August? If so, what kind of suit should I get? And from where? Ann Taylor is great, but expensive. I will have access to some nice outlets this summer (Ann Taylor and Banana Republic at least), but I don’t know if I can count on their stock.

The other problem is that I’ll probably need some new shoes to work with this outfit. I have some dressy-ish loafers (they’re nicer than they sound), but they don’t fit well. So I’ll want to get shoes dressy enough to be professional but comfortable enough for lots of walking. I’m open to shoe advice too, though shoes are an eternal problem that won’t necessarily be solved this time around.

Please, friends, share your deepest shopping thoughts.

*No job interviews are scheduled or even in the works. I’m just trying to be practical.


8 June 2008 - Posted by | shopping


  1. I’ve seen some really, really nice suits at thrift stores. It seems more than a couple people by the suits for job interviews and then outgrow them.

    Keep in mind that I work around greasy equipment and avoid expensive work clothes whenever possible.

    Comment by sackrosanct | 8 June 2008

  2. My mom got a cute suit at some outlet that I can’t remember the name of now…maybe it starts with K (Kaspar)? Anyway, that store is heavy on what I consider to be an ‘older’ style, but there are some younger pieces if you can put the time in to look.

    Can you go with the nice pants, cardigan look? I was at Ann Taylor today and got a really cute cardigan with a geometric print, 3/4 length sleeves that I think would be acceptable for a conference or an interview.

    Comment by Suchi | 8 June 2008

  3. Seattle is verrry laid back and casual. I know that this is a professional conference/meeting, but you can probably get away
    with a more casual approach.

    If you have time in Seattle before your conference/meeting, there is a place called Nordstrom Rack. It is the closeout area of
    Nordstrom’s (fancy schmancy clothing store). It can be a great place to buy womens clothes (and mens and womens shoes). Hit or miss though
    for inventory as it is the close out area. It is on, I think, 2nd ave downtown. Just ask anyone downtown where it is.

    good luck

    Comment by Jack | 9 June 2008

  4. And for a completely different idea: is Cairo a place where you can have clothes made for reasonable prices? A jacket and a couple of nicely-tailored pairs of pants, in a fabric like gabardine that moves well between seasons, could take me through several years of conference-going, particularly if you can combine them with some nifty sweaters, crisp blouses, turtlenecks, belts — lot of possibilities, depending on the season and the setting.

    Comment by Monica | 9 June 2008

  5. Are you going to be primarily at conferences? My experience is that conferences are pretty casual these days (unless you are presenting), especially in summer. In general, you can’t go wrong with black pants and a variety of tops. I would guess that London and perhaps a job interview will be the dressiest (depending on where you interview).

    Do you have any nice blazers/jackets? That way you can look dressy and be able to mix and match. Let me know what size you’re wearing these days, I’d be happy to send you some of my wool blazers that I don’t wear (I live in LA!).

    Of the things you own, can you get any of them altered to fit? Always cheaper and easier than new clothes.

    As for shoes, I think it would be worth it to spend a bit more (for me, that’s over $50) and get a nice pair of black shoes. Get a pair with a heel. They make some comfortable shoes these days. Slingbacks are good with pants or skirts (but you may want boots in London). Smaller, kittish heels are also very comfortable for walking.

    Comment by your sister | 9 June 2008

  6. Whoops! Should have been clearer: yes, I’m making three presentations this fall, one in Seattle, one in London, and one in Egypt. I’m not worried about dressing the other days for the conferences. My regular dressy-ish work clothes will be fine for that.

    It’s this summer one in Seattle that’s really throwing me off. Last week the conference in Croatia was very casual, whereas usually in my field, I wear my dressiest work clothes for conferences, to dress similarly to my peers. The good news is that my Seattle presentation is two or three days in, so I can gauge the formality before my own presentation.

    Monica, your idea is interesting. I have thought about getting stuff made here, but hadn’t thought about a suit. I do know you get can a ball gown made easily. Thanks for the idea.

    Jack, you had me laughing with your shopping suggestions, which I know were really Seattle suggestions. I do know Nordstrom Rack actually (went to the one in LA with my sister), but didn’t know there was one in Seattle. Thanks for the tip.

    One of the problems I’m having is that my clothes are getting really beat up here. I think it’s the chlorine in the water, as we don’t have a dryer and everything line dries. My nicest black dress pants are fading and just don’t look so nice. I have a great pair of wool pants that get dry cleaned so are still in good shape. They could be perfect for London.

    What do you all think about a jacket that doesn’t match the pants exactly? But coordinates? Is this dowdy or stylish or what?

    I have had a really hard time finding comfortable dressy shoes, in part because I have some arthritis in one foot (sorry, TMI) that makes it harder for me to wear slip on shoes. My toes on one foot basically won’t bend far enough. I need either the strap across my foot (a la Mary Janes) or clogs or boots or else one heel constantly pulls out of my shoe. Very bad as then my pants get stuck in the shoe, which is not a nice look.

    And all this is a great way not to think about all the packing I have to do! So please offer up more suggestions.

    Comment by Ms. Four | 9 June 2008

  7. Also, sister, thanks for offering up some clothes! And thanks also the alteration idea — I definitely had not thought of that.

    Comment by Ms. Four | 9 June 2008

  8. I would think a pair of dressy boots would fit the bill in London, and maybe Cairo and Seattle–paired with pants and a coordinating but non-matching jacket sounds very fashion-forward to me.

    If you are thinking about skirts, think about a wrap dress–very flattering to most women, and you can add accessories or accent pieces (like a cute cardigan) to dress up or down. Knee high boots or a heeled mary-jane would look cute with many wrap dresses. The ones from Boden seem very popular.

    Comment by Paige | 9 June 2008

  9. As a person who “dresses up” for work most every day I’d say that definitely you could get away with black trousers and a contrasting jacket. If you did that, I’d also recommend a contrasting texture, too. I like power red/berry color myself. Beautiful blouse underneath – and you’re looking GOOD. I like to take advantage of being a woman and being able to wear something other that blah-blah black.

    I’d check in to having all this stuff made for you. If you want to pop over to Dubai, I could hook you up with some great tailors.;) But there must be some in Cairo – just couldn’t recommend who.

    If you’re having a suit made, why not have shoes made. There are some great cobblers in Cairo that could perhaps accommodate your foot shape. I have a friend who just came back from a business trip from there with some shoes that you would swear were Chanel. I think she paid the equivalent of US$30 or $40. If you’d like me to find out the name and contact details, I will.

    Comment by Juju | 10 June 2008

  10. I love the idea of a dress, especially for the summer presentation.

    And Juju, please do get the contact information from your friend for me! Shoes custom made… wow. That’d be amazing.

    Comment by Ms. Four | 10 June 2008

  11. Clorine is not fading your line-dried clothes….it’s the sun! While line-dried clothes have a wonderful fresh aroma, the sun is a killer of colors!

    Comment by mom | 10 June 2008

  12. Mom, the only thing is that we dry our clothes in the shade! The water here has a huge amount of chlorine in it. Way more than really is considered safe. But it’s how they kill everything else in the water.

    Comment by Ms. Four | 10 June 2008

  13. I just sent the cobbler details to your gmail account. Not sure if you’re still using that.

    Comment by Juju | 11 June 2008

  14. Juju, I got it — thanks!

    Comment by Ms. Four | 11 June 2008

  15. […] a pair of pants. All fit, and one combo in particular looks good and should work really well for my fall meeting in […]

    Pingback by Adventures in shopping « We Four in Egypt | 1 July 2008

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