Makeover: Dress for success

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The final professional outfits from Reitmans picked for, from left, Anita Murray, Becky Garceau and Meghan Hurley. (Photo: Wayne Cuddington)

When Citizen editor Becky Garceau told her daughter that she was getting a makeover at work, the latter was mortified. “Sam felt sorry for me because she thought that I had been ambushed at work like the television show What Not to Wear,” Garceau laughs. “She was OK once I told her I had volunteered.”

Reitmans, Canada’s largest women’s retail chain with more than 200 stores, contacted the Citizen with an offer to dress three journalists in the newsroom. The store is currently in the midst of rebranding, updating its logo and website and sprucing up its fashion image. Contacting reporters to get the word out about its new feminine, contemporary styles and colours is a terrific public relations move, but also a win for the lucky three who were keen to get some fashion pointers.

Reitmans has always been synonymous with inexpensive, comfortable, no-fuss clothing for women from petite to plus size. A quick visit to Reitmans or a glance at its current advertising campaign and one will notice coloured denims, leggings, flattering cardigans and chic office and cocktail attire.

This fall the store teamed up with Canadian designer Martin Lim to offer a collection of 10 holiday dresses featuring Lim’s sophisticated style, including colour blocking and influences from the 1920s and 1960s.

Reitmans’ merchandise manager Brigitte Martin, who is based in Montreal, says the chain is changing how it buys its collections based on the desires of clients who are looking for trendier clothing.

Martin came to town recently to meet with our three winners — Homes editor Anita Murray, crime reporter Meghan Hurley, and Garceau, newsroom production manager — at the store’s outlet in Bayshore Shopping Centre. While she is all for comfortable clothing, Martin laments the fact that women are heading to work in outfits that are a little too relaxed.

“When did casual Friday become casual Monday to Thursday? This raises a lot of questions such as whether comfort, which is many women’s fashion priority, has become a fashion rut?” says Martin.

Reitmans’ public relations manager Nathalie Lesage says how you dress at work can impact what others think about you. “What’s your reality and work environment? Wearing flip flops to work looks sloppy. Fit is very important. If your clothing is too tight, you may lose the respect of your colleagues and may influence how others feel about you. This is particularly important for the younger generation.”

With all this in mind, Martin created three different looks for each woman to try on. They also received makeup and hair touch-ups by Ottawa makeup artist Ariana Assadi. While Garceau, Hurley and Murray sent Martin photographs and a detailed email outlining their preferences in advance, Martin decided to start fresh.

Here is what she did:

Becky Garceau

production manager, 50

Personal style: “I’m a creature of comfort when it comes to fashion. Jeans (boot-cut generally), short cowboy boots, a simple shirt and jacket are my usual winter office wear. I don’t deal with the public in person so I’m not required to ‘dress up’ for the office (for which I’m thankful).”

Garceau prefers solids over prints, jewel-tone and neutral shades, simple loose lines over fussy ruffles and necklines that aren’t too low or wide. She doesn’t wear white or yellow, rarely dons a skirt or dress unless it’s summer and won’t wear heels higher than two inches.

What is your ideal look? “My ideal would be to find pants, tops and jackets that create a more ‘pulled-together’ look. I’m interested in exploring some new looks, but am not sure what would suit me. I’ve just turned 50 and layering my tops is a must now as hot flashes hit at the most inconvenient times.

Tidbit: I like bright colours in tops (except for yellow) and have brown shoulder-length straight hair and blue eyes with fair skin tone. I prefer the feel of cotton over a more slippery fabric and like to have some ‘give’ in my pants as I’m constantly in and out of my chair during the work day.

Reitmans take: “The essential work shirt has always been a key component of the work wardrobe, but it has been replaced by the soft shirt,” explains Martin. “It’s a great look in the right print, paired with a straight-leg black career pant. The black pant continues to be the foundation of a work wardrobe, but this leg shape is updated and works well with the longer-length top.”

What she’s wearing:

Black and pattern soft statement blouse with back slit detail and silver buttons, $40

Slim leg comfort fit pant in black, $40

Meghan Hurley

crime reporter, 29

Personal style: “I like simple lines, nothing too flashy or revealing. I like blues, greys and dark colours. I would also like red as an accent colour.”

What is your ideal look? “I want a professional and stylish look for someone my age. I wouldn’t mind a nice fitted black suit jacket/blazer as the main piece, with a colourful top to wear underneath and either a pencil skirt or pants to go with it.”

Tidbit: “I love adding accessories to my outfits. A necklace can really brighten up an otherwise dull outfit. A belt can be worn to add shape to a baggy shirt.”

Reitmans take: “Wearing a dress to work is one of the easiest solutions to the what to wear to work question. It means only having to make one decision. This dress has stretch for all-day comfort, some faux leather trim for an update and the classic cardigan, a natural cover up, which offers a pop of colour.”

What she’s wearing:

Pleather trim knit shift dress, $56

Skinny reversible belt, $16

Royal blue cardigan with gold buttons, $36

Anita Murray

Homes editor, 46

Personal style: “I shy away from clothes that are too frilly, flowing or have wild patterns. I gravitate toward solid, strong colours mostly, and tend to wear too much black. I’m also uncomfortable in clothes that are very revealing. I would prefer to keep it professional.”

What is your ideal look? “I’ve lost a lot of weight (45 pounds to be exact!) in the last year so I’m emerging from a time when my clothing was really an afterthought and meant to hide my body. I’m now at the point where I actually wouldn’t mind being more stylish and making the most of my figure. I’d like to start building a wardrobe of clothes that fit properly and are versatile, easily mixing and matching for several outfits without looking like I’m wearing the same thing over and over again and can be worn for work or fun. I’d also like to dress as young as I can, but still in keeping with my age.”

Tidbit: “I do tend to be lazy when it comes to clothes and comfort is key. I rarely wear skirts and dresses in the winter because I don’t like nylons or tights if I can avoid them.”

Reitmans take: “One of the other great pieces to have in a work wardrobe is a stretch skirt that’s easy to pair with multiple tops for versatility. This one has a contrast colour panel in a neutral shade and is paired with a novelty top, which has a peplum waist detail for femininity.”

What she’s wearing:

Colour block skirt, $36

Peplum top with mesh insert, $36

Necklace with white and black beading, $12

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