Tag Archives: chic

Fashion In Business Settings

April 13, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The worst thing I saw someone wear in a professional setting was a mini skirt with a backless blouse and tattoos showing when accepting an award,” says Gretchen Twohig, a lawyer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska.

Many executives would agree. Tales of skintight leggings, flip-flops, and ripped jeans appearing in a professional office abound. Some reports blame millennials while others consider the cause to be the rise of tech startup culture, but the rules are clearly not as black and white as they were in the Mad Men era.

JP Morgan formally embraced the informal trend in 2016 when they created new guidelines that took their offices from being full of suits and ties to ones that allow “Casual pants, capri pants, business-appropriate casual shirts, and polo shirts,” among other trends.

The variety even happens within industries. Nicole Seckman Jilek, a trial attorney at Abrahams Kaslow & Cassman law firm, wears a suit and pantyhose every day. If she wants to add a personal touch to her workwear, she uses accessories, especially black high-heeled pumps.

“If I’m going to be appearing in front of a judge or a jury, I’m probably going to choose a more conservative suit in a more conservative color: black, navy blue, some sort of neutral color,” she says. “But I do have a few of what I call ‘power suits’ that are emerald green and a couple of red suits. So depending on the circumstances, sometimes those red suits can project a more confident image than an all-black suit.” 

Jilek works in a setting that requires her to speak with a variety of clients.

“If I’m going to cross-examine or depose a difficult male witness, I may not want to wear certain colors because I want to come across stronger and bolder and more confident.”

Her personal preference to wear pantyhose every day doesn’t mean she finds it unprofessional if other women don’t. Jilek considers being too casually or youthfully dressed as crossing the line in a business formal setting.

Color choice can push the boundaries of acceptable business formal attire, too.

“There are certain circumstances that are the utmost professional setting, such as a jury trial, so I stay away from wearing a lot of color [in those instances],” Jilek says.

Twohig, on the other hand, works at a business casual workplace. She often wears accessories like jewelry, or brightly colored or patterned shoes.

She deems short skirts, anything with holes, or faded jeans as inappropriate for the workplace. Even dark jeans are pushing it.

Jeans, incidentally, are on the rise again, in terms of their prevalence and their waistlines. The 2018 spring fashion trends show everything from higher-waisted jeans paired with fuchsia blazers to jeans-style pants in sequined materials.

Michael Curry, a customer service training specialist and coworker of Twohig at Blue Cross Blue Shield, is known for having a playful sense of style.

Curry’s favorite way to express his personal style is with a boldly colored watch, belt, or shoes for that pop of color. He enjoys having more fashion options in a business casual environment like dressing down his outfit with a pair of white sneakers if he wants. But Curry also loves the polished look a tie can give when he needs to be at his best.

“My go-to work outfit when I need to feel confident is a cardigan over a button-up and tie with a tie clip, fitted slacks, leather band watch, eyeglass frames, and my signature fragrance,” he says. “I feel unstoppable.”

As workwear becomes more open to interpretation, the idea of acceptable fashion in business differs for each individual, and is only going to get more complicated, as millennials, who value personal expression over formality, rise to upper management and the conversations about gender identity and equal pay continue.

“Even at my office, there’s different dress codes,” Jilek says. “I wear different things depending on what I have on my calendar that day. I have a bunch of colleagues that also don’t meet with clients. They generally only see the people that we work with. So sometimes that can also justify a different look for them, but even under those situations, I always dress like I’m going to end up having a surprise important appointment or have to run down to the courthouse.”

And there’s another factor people sometimes don’t consider when hiring younger employees —those coming right out of college may not have much of a wardrobe budget.

“Early in my career, I didn’t have a lot of clothes to wear to work or the money to buy a lot of new things all at once,” says Twohig. “Now that I’ve been working for a long time, I have built a wardrobe.”

Even though Curry thinks jewelry should be minimal at work, he views a small eyebrow piercing or lip ring as still looking professional. Jilek sees fashion trends as a major influencer of what is considered acceptable business fashion.

“Ten years ago, you probably wouldn’t have seen any double-breasted jackets or suits in a store, but, in fact, I just saw a very successful, well-dressed evening news anchor wearing a double-breasted suit last week, and she looked great,” Jilek says.

Jilek, however, keeps her attention on the fact that she works in a professional setting.

“I’ve always kind of followed the mantra: dress for the job you want not the job you have,” Jilek says. “So if you want to be perceived as strong, confident, and capable—you need to dress like it.”

Nicole Seckman Jilek

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

Nature Chic

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Thomas Grady Photography

With great bones and a sprawling backyard perfect for kids to play in, all this house was in need of was a little love and renovation to make it function as a home for the young homeowners and their growing family. With only two bedrooms on the main level, the first and biggest challenge was to reconfigure the floor plan to accommodate three bedrooms. With some creativity and a little out-of-the-box thinking, three bedrooms were fitted into the footprint of the main floor. This house has been remodeled and updated to fit the new homeowners’ lifestyle, creating a bright and lively environment which they can enjoy daily with their family.

The homeowners have young children and wanted to open up the existing, divided spaces to better function for them and their family. The kitchen and dining room are connected, creating a large, inviting space for daily living as well as entertaining large groups of friends.

The dining area, open to the kitchen, also connects to the exterior covered patio. The custom cabinetry and appliance panel fronts disguise an ice maker and pair of beverage drawers. The seamless cabinetry allows the design, as well as the homeowners’ beautiful china and glassware, to shine while providing full function. The square kitchen island stands out with the unique Currey & Company Balthazar chandelier glimmering above a distressed piece of walnut.JPeterson4_Web

Just off the kitchen is a multi-use space designed for kids and adults alike. The custom cabinetry houses toys and games within an arm’s reach. The two pairs of cabinet doors function without a toe kick, and the walnut wood floors continue through, allowing toys to be pushed in and out easily. There is also a custom desk for work and study.JPeterson8_Web

The entry has been transformed, creating a stunning and inviting entrance. The bold door color adds drama, while the detailed pattern in the marble flooring creates visual interest.JPeterson3_Web

A once useless space has been transformed into the ultimate utility room. The large windows provide great natural light, while the rest of the wall has been fully utilized to maximize storage.  The extensive marble bench provides space for sorting laundry or putting on shoes before venturing out for the day.JPeterson5_Web

This bathroom has been designed with the children in mind. There is a custom pull-out step, allowing for easy hand washing and independence by the little ones. The unique countertops are a custom creation from Milestone Inspired Composites—a beautiful and durable composite product made from recycled and reclaimed post-consumer aggregate bound with a zero-VOC epoxy resin.JPeterson2_Web

British Regency, French Chic

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“My favorite thing in life is to read a book and be cozy,” confesses Julie Kenney. So when she is designing a space in her Dundee home, she thinks, “Would I want to sit here and read a book?”

Thus, it is no surprise that one of her most-loved spots in the house is a small chair and robin’s egg “poof,” as she dubs the felted, flower ottoman, tucked by the fireplace in her living room. On cold, rainy days, a crackling fire with cup of tea and engrossing book are the tickets to contentment.20130111_bs_0634 copy

Kenney and her husband bought the Georgian brick 13 years ago. Though the architecture is purely British Regency, her interior decorating is unabashedly French chic. She mixes wood, iron, and upholstered furnishings and is drawn to crystal chandeliers and light fixtures. Silver-framed snapshots capturing family and friends are clustered on a French country side table, and works by local artists Paula Wallace and Dan Boylan hang conventionally on walls and unconventionally from molding and overlapping windows. Kenney would call it “shabby chic,” though even a cursory peek into her foyer would indicate it is more “chic” than “shabby.”20130111_bs_0640 copy

Kenney only fills her home with items she loves, though the space for which they are intended is rarely where they end up. “I buy things because I like them. Then, I find a place for them,” she reveals.

The sideboard in the entry called three other spots home before landing in its present location. But it shouldn’t get too comfortable there; Kenney has a propensity to move smaller pieces of furniture and decorative accents around. It keeps things feeling fresh in her home, she says.

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She also likes to pair investment pieces with inexpensive finds. To wit: the high-back upholstered couch facing the fireplace and the chair kitty-corner to it in the entryway. The couch was a substantial purchase. Its Old World character and metal stud trim caught her eye. But then while perusing the nooks and crannies of McMillan’s Antiques on 50th and Leavenworth (the day the Kenney family moved into the house, no less), she spied her sofa’s black sheep of a step-brother—a slightly banged-up wingback chair very nearly the same color with almost identical bronze-stud trim—and promptly purchased it for a song.

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But that is Kenney’s way. Be open to possibility. Look for fun additions in the most unlikely spots. The crystal chandelier in the dining room is a modern (albeit a good one) replica of a French antique. She made the chairs at the ends of the table her own by reupholstering hand-me-downs from a friend. The hanging light fixtures on either side of the bed in the master bedroom were cast-offs from another friend who thought them “God-awful.” Kenney didn’t. She snatched them up off her friend’s front stoop (literally) like a wide-eyed kid given free rein in a candy shop.

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Whimsy is important to Kenney. Function does not preclude fancy; utilitarian does not mean ugly. After searching for a canister set in vein, Kenney decided to store her dried goods in glass containers. Cluster them on an antique silver tray and you’ve added another layer of interest. The greenery adorning her kitchen light is last Christmas’ mantel decoration. “I use the bay leaves in soups and cooking all year,” Kenney shares.

And the miniature serving platters filled with lemons and limes? They are actually antique silver ash trays. So, yes, they come out at parties still…But to a healthier end this time around.

Small spaces are her favorite. Sometimes, it’s just a nook she has created in a larger room: her reading spot or her children’s computer space, tucked into the corner of her living room and delineated with a bookshelf “wall.”

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Sometimes, it’s an actual room. Guests, she says, gravitate to the butler’s pantry during gatherings, with its Toile paper and dimpled and dented concrete countertops. She is particular to her office space off the master bedroom. The walls are painted black and white stripes—“because I’ve always wanted a black-and-white-striped room”­—and the ceiling is papered. An oversized red, lacquered mirror which was intended for her foyer adds a dramatic pop of color to the room.

Large or small, home for Kenney is where her family gathers. “I would rather be home than anywhere else,” she contently confides.