Digital Dynamos: Kat Griffin, Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Corporette

March 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Corporette, the brainchild of today’s Digital Dynamo Kat Griffin, is a truly useful web resource for women in the corporate world who want to infuse an appropriate amount of fashion into their professional wardrobes. The site offers dressing guidelines, shopping ideas, thoughts on workplace etiquette and more.  As lines have been blurred in terms of whether a  a suit jacket can be substituted with a sweater set or if yoga pants can pass as work wear, Corporette has continually offered friendly opinions and advice on how to look chic and respectable all at once.

Kat, Corporette’s founder, publisher and editor-in-chief , is an attorney and a journalist by trade, who attended Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and Georgetown Law School. Between college and law school, she worked for magazines like Family Circle, Time and Sportswear International, and post-law school, for the prestigious law firm Cahill Gordon and Reindel. In May 2008, Kat began writing Corporette. Her own bio best describes why and how she set out to do so:

She had to learn fashion truths the hard way: by showing up to her conservative Wall Street office in outfits that seemed perfectly fashionable and normal when she left the house, only to realize upon arrival to the office that they were either horribly frumpy or incredibly inappropriate. She cursed the magazine editors who told her that work-appropriate wear consisted of mini-skirts and gladiator sandals, and wondered why no one wrote about beautiful suits. In May 2008, she finally decided to take matters into her own hands and start Corporette.

Corporette has received acclaim from sources like the American Bar Association, who named the site one of the “Top 100 Blawgs” for three years in a row, Forbes, who named Corporette one of the Top 100 Websites for Women, The New York Times, The ABA Journal, The National Law JournalAbove the Law, Jezebel, Glamour Magazine, the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog, the Wall Street Journal’s “The Juggle” blog, Law.com’s Careerist Blog, The Huffington Post, and more.

Kat, who currently works as an attorney at a media-related nonprofit, was kind enough to answer a few questions about fashion in the workplace for Truth Plus.

TP:  Can you talk a bit about how you started the site and feeling frustrated by ‘the magazine editors who told you that work-appropriate wear consisted of mini-skirts and gladiator sandals?’ Why is realistic work wear missing from mainstream fashion media and how are you setting out to change that/add to the dialogue?

KG: Now that I’ve been blogging about fashion for nearly 3 years, I think I get it — you can’t just run editorials of the same simple, classic shapes in muted colors like black and gray.  You want something new and interesting, both to pique your readers’ interest as well as to keep things challenging for the editor.  When the simple, classic shapes that working women need to wear — the pencil skirt, the sheath dress, the button-down — DO appear in fashion spreads, they’re highly editorialized — shorter, tighter, longer, bigger — and barely recognizable as anything that serious women would wear to work. Even my readers yell sometimes that I’m choosing items that are too trendy or too colorful.  (And truth be told, if a skirt comes in 6 colors, I’m likely to feature a picture showing one of the colorful skirts, even though personally I almost always buy the black — I think it looks better on the screen and adds more variety.)

To back things up, though, when I started the site I had no idea about any of that — I just knew that the stuff magazines were telling me to wear to work (at that time, things like miniskirt shift dresses and gladiator sandals) were things that I simply could not wear to my conservative office on Wall Street.  No one around me dressed that way, and certainly my female bosses didn’t dress that way.  Add to that the fact that in my line of work — a BigLaw litigator — I had next to NO time for myself, and I was expected to be at the office during the time when most stores were open, so it was so much harder to figure out what to wear. It just really seemed that someone needed to start a dialogue, and so I started the blog.

TP: What are are the current rules of dressing in a corporate setting (at least generally)?

KG: The big one is:  Do not dress in a way that will distract from what you are saying.  You want people to remember your words and your actions, and not think “Wow, that was a low-cut shirt,” or “did she realize how tight that skirt was?”  It calls your judgment into question.  And if you wear anything too fashionable — harem pants or jumpsuits or things like that — people will also question your dedication to the job — it suggests you’re buying clothes and dressing more for your after-hours life than you are for your working life.

TP: How do you decide which fashion items are right for Corporette?

KG: Prime considerations are things like whether the item is available online (I really try not to post items that are nearly sold out or not yet available for purchase), what the price of the item is (I try to keep a mix, and the morning “TPS reports” have a set price range I’m looking for for each day), and then questions like — is it flattering — is there anything about it that’s too distracting (too sexy, too eyebrow-raising, too inappropriate) — can it be worn in multiple ways — is it a good staple or an interesting piece (hopefully it’s one or the other!) — and finally, would I wear it to work in a conservative office.

TP: What is today’s best choice for an interview outfit?

KG: It varies based on industry, of course, but for a conservative office — law, banking — the answer is almost always going to be “suit.”  In fact, a skirt suit in a muted color — dark gray, navy, black.  I just did a roundup of suit advice that readers seem to like — The Corporette Guide to Basic Women’s Suiting. http://corporette.com/shop/shopping-guides/guide-to-basic-womens-suiting/

TP: Is there a point in a corporate woman’s career that she can begin to experiment a bit more with fashion?

KG: To an extent, yes — it really depends how wildly you want to experiment.  Experimenting with color, or shape, or fit — those are things you can do fairly early on in your career.  Wearing a blouse in one of the hot colors of the season (right now it seems to be  honeysuckle blush or even orange) when the men around you are all wearing blue button-downs = okay.  Wearing an outfit that makes you look in costume (or an outfit that varies widely from what the rest of the office is wearing) = proceed with caution.  A lot of career experts will talk about a “bank of credibility” that you need to create — when you have that, people trust you, know you’re diligent and hard working, and are going to get the job done no matter what dress you’re wearing.  When you have that built up, you can start experimenting more widely.   But even then, there are limits — if you’re gunning for partner, I would suggest that a woman build that bank of credibility with each person who’s going to be involved in the partnership decision, which may take you years.

Another factor to consider is whether what you’re wearing is going to hurt your ability to manage people below you — if you’re the boss wearing jeans and a sequined tank top and blazer, and your subordinates are all in conservative suits, they’re going to resent you and feel like they’re working to pick up your slack so you can go out and party.

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