Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Theory on Women's Wages

We've all heard that women earn less than men. On average, women earn $0.80 for every $1.00 that men earn. A quick search on the internet yields articles that discuss obvious theories: women don't negotiate salaries and wages as well as men, women take time off for motherhood, gender bias, and women often go into lower paying industries after college.

As BusinessWeek put it, a recent study by the American Association of University Women found the following:
"One year out of college, female teachers earn 89 percent of what male teachers earn. In sales jobs, women earn 77 percent of what male peers earn. Women who major in business earn, on average, just over $38,000 the first year after graduation, while men earn just over $45,000."
I don't believe that entry-level employees have much negotiating room when it comes to starting salary, and I certainly don't believe time off for motherhood plays a role so close to graduation. And, industry differences were controlled in the study I quoted above. So why is there still such a big difference in salary between men and women?

I want to propose a completely different theory of why women earn less than men: the interview suit. The better and more put together one looks at an interview, the more desirable that candidate is to the employer. The more the employer finds the candidate desirable, the more likely that employer believes other potential employers will believe that other employers will find the candidate desirable. Thus, the employer will offer the candidate more money in order to entice the candidate to work for him/her over another employer. In other words, the better you dress, the more money you will make. This holds true throughout a career. And what looks best is a well-fitting, 100% wool suit with a great dress shirt, one that is generally white, 100% cotton, collared, and button-down. In other words, the women's clothing equivalent of what men wear to interviews.

Unfortunately, it appears to me that many women tell other women they do not need to wear a suit to an interview. Let me make this clear, ladies. YOU MUST WEAR A SUIT TO YOUR INTERVIEWS. OK, I'm pretty sure I made that clear. And please stick to solid black, navy, or dark gray (charcoal). Others colors, prints, and patterns aren't professional enough for a first-time meeting.

Now, most of you are probably thinking that you DO wear suits on job interviews and most women wear suits. But I ask you, what kind of suit are you wearing? What are you wearing as a shirt or a shell? And did you get it tailored to fit you?

I bet if you look at the label on your suits, most of you have suits made of materials other than wool. And if you have a suit with wool in it, most likely the material is no more than 50% wool. If your interview suit is made of 100% wool, congratulations. You either looked really hard to buy a 100% wool suit or you stumbled into the right store at the right time.

And what shirt do you wear with that suit? Is it a button-down collared shirt? If so, is it 100% cotton? If so, is it so sheer it requires a shell that then can be seen through your shirt while you're wearing your suit? If you managed to find a 100% cotton button-down collared shirt that is not sheer, congratulations. You either looked really hard to find it or stumbled into the right store at the right time which was most likely not the same store where you bought the suit. And if it's white, too, you really hit the dress shirt jackpot.

Once you purchased the suit and obtained the shirt, did you get them tailored to fit you? Most women don't get any of their clothing tailored, so it's also likely that the vast majority of women don't get their suits tailored to them prior to a job interview. Men also know to get all their suits tailored to fit their bodies to a T. Women should do the same.

So now let's compare what an average woman would wear to a job interview and its male clothing equivalent.
  1. A woman wears a nice cardigan or shirt with a skirt. A man wears a dress shirt and pre-hemmed dress pants, maybe a tie, but no jacket.
  2. A woman wears a polyester or poly-blend suit with a shirt not made of 100% cotton. A man wears a polyester suit with a 50/50 blend dress shirt and a cheap tie.
  3. A woman wears a 100% wool suit with a 100% cotton collared button-down shirt and an appropriate necklace that ends about 2.5" - 3" below the collarbone. A man wears a 100% wool suit, a 100% cotton shirt, and a good-quality silk tie.
I ask you ladies: can the man get away with wearing anything less than the third option to an interview? No? Well, then why do women wear anything less than the third option, too?

Why? Because it's nearly impossible to find 100% wool suits for women and equally hard to find 100% cotton button-down collared shirts.

I spent several hours last Thursday night searching online for a proper interview suit for a friend. My online search provided my fodder for Sunday's blog post, but note that I recommended the featured suit for travel. I did not recommend it for interviews. (Based on my experience with the Jones New York Collection brand, I believe the white shirt featured in the post should be appropriate for interviews, however.)

The search did lead me to recommend my friend and I drive an hour to a Pendleton store. Last night I called the store to make sure they had the items we were most interested in seeing. We went this morning, and she decided to purchase their Seasonless Wool (Two-Button) Suit Jacket and 25" Seasonless Wool Madison Skirt in Charcoal Mix for her interview. The pieces of the suit are below:

Seasonless Wool Suit Jacket

Seasonless Wool Madison Skirt

But... wait! You're thinking that I broke the blog's rules about not posting untznua skirts. You're right, I did. My friend is lucky in that she wasn't requiring her skirt to be at least 27" long with no slits. If she did, she wouldn't have found an appropriate interview suit without having it custom-made. And it's not surprising given that I have never found an appropriate interview suit with a tznua skirt off-the-rack at any price point.

For those of you who are not as vertically blessed as I am, you could consider Pendleton's 26" long Seasonless Wool Lana skirt, which looks like a pencil skirt from the front (similar to the Madison skirt in the picture above), but is an inch longer and has two kick pleats in the back with no slits. This will probably be the only time I'll post something on my blog that I would not be able to wear without pulling  my skirt every time I sit, but I think this issue is serious enough to break my own rules by an inch. Pendleton's website today introduced the 30" Seasonless Wool Slim Skirt that has a long slit in the front. While we did not see this skirt in-store today, I would think that, in theory, one could get the skirt hemmed and use the leftover material to fill in the slit. Pendleton also makes a Seasonless Wool One-Button Blazer that coordinates with these skirts as well. If any of these skirts work for you, I strongly recommend any combination of this suit. And their full Seasonless Wool collection can be found here.

After our fruitful trip to Pendleton, we were feeling pretty good, so we decided to look for a white 100% cotton collared button-down dress shirt at the nearby mall. We didn't really think anything of Pendleton not having an appropriate shirt in their store. We went to seven stores: White House/Black Market, Banana Republic, Talbot's, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Nordstrom, and Nordstrom Rack. None of these stores sold a white 100% cotton collared button-down dress shirt, and I honestly don't think any had 100% cotton button-down dress shirts in any color. And, most of the options they did have were completely see-through.

So then I hit the internet after I got home. I discovered that the two most reliable retailers for white 100% cotton collared button-down dress shirts are Lands End and L.L.Bean. Because Lands End merchandise is available closer to our neighborhood, I decided to have her try the Lands End shirt first. The first location I called did not have her size, but the second did. I put it on hold under her name, she drove to the store (20 minutes each way) and told me the shirt was perfect. (While it may have been possible to locate the JNY Collection shirt in a store, it would have taken a lot of calling around that I didn't necessarily desire to do.)

To recap, it took over 9 hours of driving, shopping, and researching to find a women's suit and dress shirt that were appropriate for a job interview. We did not shop for shoes, makeup, accessories, or undergarments.

Had the Pendleton suit not worked, the only other option I could find for her was J. Crew's 1035 Jacket in Super 120s and 27" Telegraph Pencil Skirt in Super 120s (which is only available online and has a slit), both shown below.

1035 jacket in Super 120s

Telegraph pencil skirt in Super 120s

I hate to say it, but I think we were lucky to find her an appropriate outfit in only 9 hours' time. And if she required that the skirt be 100% tznua, I would have needed to recommend purchasing a custom-made suit at a big expense.

A man can walk into the men's department of almost any retailer that sells dress clothes and be guaranteed to find suits that are 100% wool, dress shirts that are 100% cotton, and a tie selection that is at least serviceable. A woman, on the other hand, has to settle for whatever suit and shirt she is lucky enough to find after hours of searching.

The bottom line is that we're all told to "dress for success." It's intuitive that the better dressed you are at an interview, the more likely you are to obtain your desired position and be paid top dollar. So why is it that women's suiting lets us down so much? Why don't designers give women the same clothing advantage they give to men? And if there's a chance that clothing affects starting salary, then why isn't this publicized more to women and why doesn't anyone do anything about it?

If you want to join in a discussion on this topic, please feel free to leave comments below or on Tznua Fashionista's Facebook page.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Michelle Obama's Inauguration Jacket

No matter where you stand politically, there's no question Michelle Obama has style. Today's morning Inaugural events have been no exception. She wore a beautiful jacket by Thom Browne with a J. Crew belt.

According to the Huffington Post, the jacket was custom-made of silk jacquard necktie fabric. Looking at it, you wonder if it's a dress or a jacket. Taking off this jacket, which is perfectly tznua on its own, to reveal a gorgeous outfit would make such a statement. I think it's absolutely stunning and I hope Thom Browne mass produces it soon. 

I wasn't able to find the belt on J. Crew's website, although it's very similar to the $250 Medallion Jeweled Sash.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Suit for Business Travel

If your job requires you to travel, you need a suit that will travel well with you. But where do you find a quality suit that's tznua and can travel? Jones New York has you covered. JNY makes washable wool/poly blend suits. In other words, suits you can throw into the washing machine and the dryer. And if they get wrinkled in your suitcase, you can always use the iron hiding in your hotel room's closet. Next time that delicious plate of fettuccine alfredo lands on your lap at dinner, you can still wear your suit to that early morning meeting the next day.

Making these suits even sweeter this weekend, Jones New York's website is offering a "Buy More, Save More" promotion through MLK Day. Save 20% on your purchase of two items, 30% on your purchase of three items, or 40% off your purchase of four or more items. New customers can get an additional $20 off a $100 purchase with code "JNYEM9". Accessing the JNY website through Ebates will give you 2.5% cash back. Standard shipping is free with a $99 minimum purchase.

Here's my four-item shopping bag for professional business travel.

My first pick is the $229.00 Washable Wool Tuxedo Jacket in black. It's sleek in a Mad Men-inspired way. I love the single button closure and the notched collar.

My second pick is the $119.00 Washable Wool Skirt in black. It's a classic a-line skirt in a material that coordinates with the jacket. It can be worn with almost anything to almost anywhere. It's timeless, sophisticated, and a great length at 29". If you prefer it to be shorter, you can bring it to your local seamstress or tailor to make it the perfect length for you!

My third pick is the $64.00 No-Iron Easy Care Boyfriend Shirt in white. As the name says, it never requires ironing and is fully machine washable and dry-able. It's 100% cotton, which is the fabric I prefer for professional button-down work shirts. And, it buttons all the way to the collar. If white's not your style, this shirt also comes in seven other colors.  It's a can't-miss for the working woman.

My fourth pick is the Fitted Diamond Button Front Shirt in Raspberry & White, on sale for $49.00. It's washable, although it may require some ironing once you reach your destination. It's an interesting print and a nice change of pace from the basic white shirt. It comes in four other colors if raspberry isn't your thing.

With the 40% discount, the total cost for all four pieces is $276.60. The coupon code brings the cost down to $256.60. In other words, for less than the regular price of the suit alone, you can purchase the suit and two shirts this weekend. With the savings you can even splurge on accessories!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

In Honor of Hockey Season

We're all big sports fans in my family. As soon as Shabbat was over, I turned on my computer to purchase Spring Training tickets for our team whose tickets went on sale this morning. Even our 2-year-old is sports obsessed.

In honor of the first night of hockey season and our 2-year-old's excitement for hockey on TV, today's post features the tznua clothing available from the National Hockey League's online shop. For those who don't know, the NHL had a lock-out for the second time in eight years because the owners and players couldn't agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. The owners and players finally came to an agreement about two weeks ago. Practices resumed soon afterward and the regular season began today. Instead of the usual 82-game regular season, hockey will have a 48-game season. And, games will be played in relatively quick succession for hockey. Because the games will be played on less rest, there will be no inter-conference games until the Stanley Cup Finals.

So, if you're a hockey fan, this is for you. While it would have been nice if the NHL ran a promotion on clothing as a nice gesture to their fans, they didn't. So, the items featured in this post have the inflated prices we've come to expect from sports teams. Some individual teams have or are running promotions at their retail stores and/or inside their stadiums. The Pittsburgh Penguins probably ran the best promotion by offering fans free food at their first four home games and 50% off team merchandise. Descriptions of promotions for a few other teams can be found on the NHL's site.

I will post pictures and links to the tznua Washington Capitals clothing because my husband's favorite team is the Capitals. If you want to see the clothing available for other teams, you can choose to shop by a different team on the NHL's site. Clothing styles generally are the same for every team, but the logos and colors may be different.

First, here's a cute 3/4-sleeve raglan tee that's $42.99. It should wash easily. Majestic Athletic clothing is generally true-to-size.

Majestic Threads Washington Capitals Ladies 3/4 Triblend Raglan T-Shirt -

Second, here's a more affordable long-sleeve shirt by Lee Sport that's $21.99. It's 100% cotton, so it should be comfortable. I would presume this shirt follows Lee's size chart.

Majestic Washington Capitals Women's Unbreakable Spirit Long Sleeve T-Shirt -

Third, here's a hooded tee by Old Time Hockey that's $44.99. The hood is great for those times you just want to momentarily go outside or run a quick errand without needing to take the time to do more than putting your hair in a ponytail to cover it. I cannot comment on how clothing from this company runs, but it's based in my home state, so it must be good.

Old Time Hockey Washington Capitals Women's Blasted Triblend Hooded Long Sleeve T-Shirt -

Finally, since hockey jerseys are long-sleeve, I'm including them here. Women's jerseys are $99.99 for a replica jersey with no name or number on the back, $124.99 for a ready-made replica jersey with a superstar's name and number on the back, or $149.99 for a customized replica jersey. Please note that you may need something underneath to cover a slither of collarbone depending on how the jersey fits you.

Reebok Washington Capitals Alex Ovechkin Women's Premier Home Jersey -

Let's hope this is an exciting hockey season and that it was worth all the wait! And may this not happen again when the new CBA expires. In other words, hockey, learn to work out your differences without resorting to lock-outs, strikes, and other forms of work stoppages! You'll sell more clothes if you do.  :)

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Tznua as Couture? Project Runway All Stars Think So

As I've mentioned on the blog before, I'm a big fan of Project Runway. There were many times this All Star Season 2 when a dress or outfit looked to be tznius for a moment (read: it had sleeves) but then either the fabric was sheer, there were cut-outs, or there was no back. Ho hum. Such is life.

But then Episode 11 brought us Couture Week. And, apparently, "couture" means dresses with lots of material, sleeves, and long skirts. Or, at least it did to Emilio and Anthony Ryan.

While I loved Anthony Ryan's dress, his sheer fabric and lack of lining made it, unfortunately, un-tznius.

However, Emilio's tznius dress was a style that many of us who have attended frum weddings are used to seeing, albeit in a fabric that cost €175 per meter. (Since it was a couture challenge, the contestants each had a €3,000 budget for materials. I'm not even going to attempt to estimate what this dress would cost to get custom-made in this fabric by your local seamstress.) But, even though I didn't swoon over his dress, it was pretty and he came in second place in the challenge to Anthony Ryan. Plus, the judges loved it, including Isaac Mizrahi. (You can watch the critique of Emilio's dress from the 24:29 - 25:56 mark of Episode 11.) And, the back of the skirt of Emilio's dress is similar to the back of the skirt of my wedding dress.

Here are the front and back pictures of Emilio's dress:

P.S. Sorry for the long break between posts. The whole pregnancy/having-a-baby/haven't-done-a-whole-lot-of-clothing-shopping-for-myself thing got in the way.