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Business owner talks winter-appropriate business attire

By Jasmine Maki
Grand Forks Herald

Overdoing it is the biggest mistake people make with winter work attire, said Rachael Hammar­back, owner of the R.H. Standard clothing store in Grand Forks, N.D.

While the temperatures may be below freezing, that doesn’t mean bulky layers, sweatshirts and winter coats are acceptable in the workplace, Hammarback said. Regardless of the weather, employers expect their workers to look professional.

Hammarback said with business jackets, scarves, tights and booties, women can create a work-appropriate look that will keep them warm through cold winter days at the office.

Everyday office wear

For a typical day at work, Hammarback suggested a weighty legging or a long-sleeve dress with a jacket.

She styled her sister-in-law, Jodi Green, in a black legging and a gray blazer. She finished the look with a brown boot and a warm olive green scarf.

Green, a first-grade teacher at Century Elementary School in Grand Forks, said she typically wears dress slacks and sweaters to work, but leggings would be a nice change.

Hammarback noted that not all leggings are appropriate for the workplace. She said thick structured leggings like the ones from BCBG work because they are weighty.

“It has a zipper and a button. It absolutely alleviates [any worries],” she said, adding that it’s important that a legging still holds one together like a typical pant. Inexpensive cotton and elastic leggings are OK for lounging at home, but they’re not appropriate for the workplace, Hammar­back said.

“People mistake leggings and tights sometimes,” she said. “Tights are not pants.”

When Hammarback asked Green if she’d be able to wear these leggings in the classroom, Green said, “Absolutely, yes.”

But leggings aren’t for everyone.

For her friend, Amy Enget, who prefers dresses to pants, Hammarback chose a striped long-sleeve dress by BCBG. Pairing the dress with a denim jacket and knee-high boots, she created a winter-appropriate everyday look for the office. For extra warmth, Hammarback said “a navy blue opaque tight would be really cute with this,” or a high smart-wool sock.

As an executive at Midcontinent Communications, Enget said the look would be perfect for a shoot with clients.

“If I have a commercial shoot, I need to be in something a little bit more casual, so I’m able to assist,” she said. “I dress for my day, and I dress based on the people that I see.”

High-profile day

Whether it’s for a meeting with clients, a visit from the CEO or a year-end presentation, there are days when one needs to step it up a bit in the style department. For these occasions, Hammarback suggested a more high-profile look.

She styled Enget in a blue paneled dress and a black blazer. She finished the look with a statement necklace, a patterned tight and a black bootie.

“She’s doing a bootie with a heel, but you could do the same outfit with a boot or a wedge,” Hammarback said. “The heel height is to your discretion.”

She said Enget is comfortable walking around in a heel, so that’s typically what she chooses. On the other hand, a lower heel or flats are generally more appealing to Green, who spends most of the day on her feet.

Hammarback said the look would be perfect for client meetings or parent-teacher conferences for Green.

“It’s a little more high profile,” she said. “Because the dress, the textures, the color … it’s like an updated power suit, if you will.”

Another high profile option is weighty leggings paired with a structured jacket.

Hammarback styled Green’s leggings with a bold winter-white jacket. She finished the look with a low bootie.

“This is lovely,” she said. “This to me is how you make a legging look sophisticated. She would probably wear this for conferences or a school board meeting.”

Again, Hammarback stressed that one has to be careful when styling leggings for the workplace; without the jacket, the overall look would be too skintight.


When it comes to accessories, Hammarback said most don’t change with the weather. A weighty necklace works well throughout the entire year.

“Heavy pieces of necklace and collars are very in right now,” she said.

Like jewelry, scarves are also trendy year-round. But the weight and fabric change with the seasons. For winter, Hammar­back suggested a cashmere, wool or pashmina scarf that will add extra warmth and texture.

Other accessories like tights and boots are obviously specific to the colder months. Hammarback said a black or gray tight with some kind of pattern is great for the office.

“And I’m not talking about nylons. Let’s get way out of the ’80s,” she said. “No one wants to wear nylons.”

As far as shoes, Hammarback said boots and booties are a great finish to work attire.

Be smart and practical with your accessories and jackets. If one’s meeting is down the street, it’s OK to arrive bundled up in a winter coat, hat and mittens, she said.

Hammarback said it all comes down to practicality and one’s personal style.

“Wear what you’re comfortable with,” she said.

But don’t overdo it.


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