Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Advice I Am Hesitant to Share On Buying Suits - Particularly, St. John

I know wearing suits is uncool and all that nowadays, but in law, at least, we have to wear suits at times.  To court, to depositions, to meet clients, etc.  Suits give the air of being professional and good at what you do and whatnot.  So, at least in law -- as in other professions, I'm sure -- suits are somewhat of a necessity.

I don't wear suits to work every day, mainly because I'm lucky enough to work in a firm full of men who don't get what is appropriate female attire.  (They all get stuck with suits and ties every day, while I get to be a bit more creative.)  I always wear a jacket or blazer, but I mix up the suits with skirts/blazers or dresses/blazers or just short sleeved dresses when it's really hot out.  I never wear anything sleeveless at work, I always wear close toed heels, and I never, ever show up at work without pantyhose.  (I know, GASP, right?  But to me, it is totally unprofessional to show up at work or court or a deposition with bare legs, yet I see it all the time.  To me it looks cheap.  But, whatever, to each their own.  I do my thing, other people can do theirs.  But really, a formal suit without hose?  Bizarre looking.)  While I may wear knee high boots and tights with a skirt suit to my office in the winter, I wouldn't dream of doing it to appear in court, and the same goes for more creative suit colors.  (I have suits in all colors of the rainbow, which I'll wear in to the office or for deps, but never to court.  Court is black, gray, brown, or navy.  That's it.)

Suits are expensive.  You're generally talking at least $200-300, if not more.  For most people starting out in any profession, that's a lot of money for an outfit you can wear one day a week.  For women, it's worse.  While men can interchange the tie and shirt and wear the same suit all week long, women do not have that luxury.  Women need at least five suits to interchange throughout the week, if they need to wear suits five days a week.  This is a problem, right?  How in the heck do you pay for and find the suits you need when you are a new college grad or newly entered into a field where you have to wear a suit every day quickly and cheaply?  Obviously you can go to places like Marshall's or TJ Maxx and maybe find some stuff, but I am about to impart on you the best place to go.


Seriously.  And here is my secret:  I have about 20 St. John suits.  This was the brand that Angelina Jolie promoted for awhile, and their suits retail for around $1500-2000 each.  Tres Expensive.  Do you think I paid retail for them?  Of course not!  I paid $300 or less for each.  (This was over the course of about six years.)  And I bought them all, used, on eBay.  Yes, I know, everyone thinks St. John is for old women.  Well, it isn't.  Have you tried on one of their suits?  Let me tell you, I don't look like an old woman in one of them!  They are, quite honestly, the most fabulous suits ever.  They don't wrinkle and they look great all day long.  They are really sharp on.  It's a shame they don't look so good on the hangers.  Because they are knit, they show off your curves and cling to your body.  And I can't even begin to describe how many compliments I have gotten from random people on the street on my used St. John suits that I wear with pride.

Used clothes, yuck, is what you are thinking!  For regular clothes, maybe.  But for suits?  How often do most people wear suits?  For interviewing?  Once a week?  Who cares if someone has worn it?  When you get it in the mail, you take it straight to the dry cleaners, and when you get it back it looks like new.  (For the St. Johns, make sure your drycleaner knows to cover the buttons with foil.  The buttons really make the suits and if they get ruined, you are hosed.)  Who cares who wore it before then?  I don't.  All I know is that I got me a $2000 suit for $300!

So, if you want an expensive suit for cheaper, hit eBay.  (However, do not think you will get a recent Chanel suit for anything less than like $1000.  Be realistic.)  I'm focusing on St. John suits, because they are not faked (there is a lot of faked stuff on eBay).   At least from my experience St. John is not faked since it is not targeted by the youth audience. Also St. John suits are made in the USA, in southern California, so buy them with pride, even if used.  Here are my tips for buying St. John suits on eBay:

1.  Know your size.  Go to a retail store and try on some St. John suits to figure out your size.  Get the santana knit suits.  They stretch.  You can also measure any suits, skirts, or jackets you have to figure out what measurements you need and go from there.  Most good sellers on eBay will provide all measurements.  Don't forget about sleeve length!  Like, I can wear a St. John skirt in a 6, but their 6 jackets are too short in the sleeves for me; I need an 8.  You can also block up or down a size in St. John.  Like, the size 6 jacket that is too short in the sleeves for me I can make the sleeves longer, but it is an extra step.  You have to take it in to a recommended drycleaner or someone else recommended by St John to get it done.  It's just an extra step.  But if you find the suit of your dreams that's a tad small or big for a good price, it is worth it, and it doesn't cost much to block up or down.

2.  Beware of buying separates.  You can, at times buy a St. John skirt in black and a St. John jacket in black and have them both match.  But occasionally, the blacks will not match exactly, which is what you need for a suit.  You are better off buying the full suit, sold together.  Sometimes sellers will break the pieces up in an attempt to make more money.  I suggest you avoid these sellers, because to get what you want you have to win multiple auctions, which makes it more difficult for you to establish your final bidding price.  When it is all together, it is much easier to decide what you want to pay for the suit, rather than winning the skirt and absolutely having to win the jacket because it matches, no matter what some crazy third person might be bidding. 

3.   Beware of dated designs and colors.  Be aware of what is in style for suits now.  There are a ton of outdated St. John suits on eBay for cheap.  Don't get overexcited because it is St. John for $100.  Look at it and determine if it is what you will wear and what you can wear to work.

That's about it -- size, dated, outfits.  But you can get tons of other branded suits on eBay also for super cheap.  If you find a suit brand that fits you well, hit eBay.  I'm telling you, used suits are not like regular used clothes.  No one wears suits until they are worn out.  I've gotten a ton of great J. Crew, Banana Republic, and Ann Taylor suits off eBay for like $50 each.  You really just have to know either your size or measurements of a suit (or jacket//pants/skirt) that fits you how you like and you are golden to buy online.  I actually almost prefer eBay these days since the sellers almost always provide the measurements, so I can tell if it will fit me or not.  None of the major retailers do that at this point, so sometimes I'm left guessing on what size I need.

At any rate, I'm offering this advice, but please don't bid against me.  I think I need another black St. John suit.


  1. Great tips! I've been wanting a sleek black pantsuit for ages but hate the quality at stores like The Limited that are in my $200-300 price range. Will definitely give a higher end brand a chance on eBay.

    It's definitely a buyers' market on eBay right now. I'm taking full advantage of it.

  2. I just receives my 2 used St. JOhn (thanks ebay)suits in the mail and -wow!- they are classy. I Totally agree with your opinions on open toed shoes and no-panty hose. Though I am a new, young lawyer, I cannot imagine showing my toes or bare legs at work!

  3. What terrific advice about St. John's suits. I've long eyed them, but wondered if they were worth the money. This may be a good way to experiment without the high price tag. Thanks!!

  4. What terrific advice about St. John's suits. I've long eyed them, but wondered if they were worth the money. This may be a good way to experiment without the high price tag. Thanks!!