READERS NOTE: before I jump back in....OMG....I'm here.  I know.  I keep disappearing for prolonged periods. I'm sorry. Its a combination of work, my health, and August being...well....August.  Hopefully as fall approaches (my absolute favorite fashion month - bar-none) I will be re-motivated to post much, much more frequently.  But in the meantime, I apologize profusely.  Now, moving on from self-flagellation...unless you're into that sort of thing...this post IS about leather after all.
Hello TCFKAG! I have followed you on Corporette and have a question for you. I am seriously loving leather pencil skirts for fall, but am overwhelmed by the options. I was wondering if you had any suggestions. I'm looking for black leather, or vegan leather, knee length and pencil skirt. I can't decide if it should be all leather, or with leather accents, or what. I work in a business casual environment, but it's not exactly a creative place and I wear mostly traditional things. This would be a bit of a fashion risk for me, so it has to look super professional! Just leather :) I'm a 4-6 or size 27, I'd like to spend under $200. Thank you!
Wow!  Are you the REAL Blair Waldorf.  You can tell me, I'll never tell.  ;-) xoxo.  Anyway, I'm totally with you on the leather pencil skirt train - I like them, I think they look cool and just a touch edgy, but....then....the little birdie on my shoulder that annoyingly reminds me that I'm a *grown-up* with a *grown-up* job rears its ugly head and I wonder.  Should I REALLY be trying to make leather pencil skirts work for the office? My concerns are really two-fold.  On the one hand, I don't want to look like I am a young professional who can't tell which "fashion" trends ARE appropriate for the office and which aren't (like, I don't care if you wear your formal shorts with heels to as many dates as you want...still don't think they belong in the office.)  Plus, from a practical standpoint, I can't help but think that these things are going to be a bitch to clean.  So as you can imagine, I've been giving it some thought.  In my struggles, I think I've come up with a couple of general rules of thumb (at least for myself)
  •  If the skirt is black, I think the leather should only be accents, since to me black leather is by its very nature a bit more "tough" even in pencil skirt form,
  • If the skirt is another color, it can be all leather - possibly - but it needs to be otherwise very, very traditionally styled, 
  • Only one piece of leather accented wear per day.  At no point should you look like you're dressed up as Biker Lawyer Barbie for the day.
  • And finally, do *not* spend too much money on leather workwear.  I think its going to become a dated trend quite quickly for most of us and....frankly....I think the cost-prohibitive nature of cleaning them is going to make them impractical pretty quickly.
So with those general guidelines in mind....ON TO THE PICKS.
Worthington Leather Pencil Skirt at JCP ($98.99 - a straightforward black pencil skirt - though the picture looks brown to me.  I like it though because, rather than being too tight or too shiny, the seams and zipper dress it down enough for me to make me think that it would be more work appropriate than many others I saw.  One note, based on the info on the website, it does appear to be real leather.*)
Vince Camuto Faux Leather Trim Striped Pencil Skirt at Nordstroms ($89 - this skirt falls on the less is more side of the leather camp - but I think the stripes give it some interest as well. It also comes in red and black.  I like how the side and waist piping in leather gives just that bit of edge that the less adventurous might be looking for.  Paired with either a simple black button down or perhaps a very light, silk deep burgundy button down, I think this would look amazing for fall.  Plus emerald and darker greens are SO in this season.  But for work, PLEASE do not pair it with high heeled gladiator sandals...just for me okay ladies. :-P)
Exact Stretch Studded Trim Pencil Skirt at The Limited ($69.95 - so this skirt obviously takes the idea of leather trim and one ups it by adding studding.  I'm not sure how I feel about it other than....intrigued. For a skirt that involves STUDDED LEATHER, its surprisingly lady-like.  And the price is right - even if you only wear it on nights out.  I don't know - might be worth a look see.  Again - everything else would have to be very primly styled - perhaps a gray shell with a black blazer?)
Riverside Colorblocked Pencil Skirt from Ann Taylor ($109 - I have to say - I really LOVE the color of this skirt, this darker merlot is right on trend and would work beautifully to mix with the other on-trend seasonal jewel tones (like eggplant and teal.)  I also think the color-blocked side panels serve a practical purpose here - leather can be constricting, but with these side panels you can be allowed greater freedom of movement.  And I think the merlot color gives this an overall more refined look.  Its definitely one of my favorite for the "full" leather effect out there.)  Leather Waist Pencil Skirt from Neiman Marcus Last Call ($69.00 - most sizes still available.  This is a Labor's Day Sale.  Okay - I think this is the PERFECT execution of leather in a work skirt - the contrasting color of the leather adds interest and brings attention to it but it remains classy. Plus mixing brown and black is fashion forward without being too aggressive or "weird."  You won't scare any of the older employees at your office, but the younger employees will think you're cool.  And I like the cut of this skirt for people who don't look good in traditional pencil skirts.  A real consideration for people looking for leather accents!!  Its even available in  most sizes.)
Bailey 44 'She Walk in Beauty' Faux Leather Pencil Skirt at Nordstroms ($196 - so this is at the very top of your price range, which is a bit steep for something that is likely a trendy item - but I *do* love me some navy.  Again, much like with the AT skirt above, the side panels would allow for movement but here there is no colorblocking, which I know some would prefer.  On the other hand, I actually like the seam on the front of the AT skirt above.  I think the differences add up to a taste preference more than anything ... as well as a $100 price difference of course.)
Classiques Entier Leather Trim Jacquard Pencil Skirt at Nordstroms ($178 - so, if I had to guess, I would guess that you are going to be seeing SO much jacquard this season that you may get royally sick of it.  But I really like this version with leather trim at the hips and pockets.  Another example of just a little leather rather than a lot, but jacquard will never go entirely out of style - so I think this skirt might have real staying power, meaning that the price tag might actually be worth it.  And Classiques Entier is a fairly decent quality line.  Try pairing with a dark emerald green to be so on trend you might explode.)
ASOS CURVE Exclusive leather pencil skirt with jersey trim at ASOS ($89.44 - so sorry Blair, this one isn't for you, but I wanted to highlight this for my readers who shop in the women's section.  ASOS CURVE has a few cool looking leather skirts right now, but I like this one as a potential work skirt - the color is more neutral than black and if you perhaps go a size up (to avoid too much cling - don't no one want cling at work) I think it could look great.  Plus, again, the jersey trip would allow for movement.  A nice option!  P.S. The skirt also comes in black if you're into that sort of thing.)
*FINAL EDITOR'S NOTE: I haven't specifically addressed it in this post, but the plus side to your budget is that essentially all of these options are faux leather - so your concerns about vegan options are likely moot.  In any case where the leather was not faux, I would have noted it.

So dear readers (if I have any left after my prolonged absences) - would you wear these skirts to work?  What do you think about leather in the workplace.  What does your WORKPLACE think about leather in the workplace.  Or am I just really uncool and is leather totally okay.  Its okay, you can call me a fuddy-duddy, I go to bed 9:30 most nights.  I have embraced my fuddy-duddiness in all its glory.  LEAVE NOTES.  SEND MESSAGES.  I'm happy to be back and need motivation to stay back!  :-)
I begin this post with a confession - I hate shopping for pants.  They are rarely short enough for me (and the petite options frequently are sold out or not as diverse in choices) and so I have to either get them tailored or destroy the hems.  And since I'm a lazy person ... I frequently destroy the hems.  So I find that I wear skirts more often than not. It is also hard to give good solid pants advice to others, since what pants you like are so very much controlled by body shape and height and general preferences.  But, given all that, I'm going to recommend a bunch of pants below that I either (a) own or (b) I know others like a great deal - in case you are looking for some pants.  Most will be work pants, but I'm going to throw some more casual pants in there for fun.  Most will also be fairly traditional, full length cuts - but I will include some cropped and ankle-pants in their, because I know other people like them (they make me feel even more stunted in my growth than usual.)  So here we go.
Lafayette 148 New York Menswear Trousers in navy from Nordstroms ($228 - expensive - but they have some of the best reviews I've ever seen on pants.)
Basketweave Pants at Brooks Brothers ($298 - definitely an investment piece but they look beautiful, the color is wonderful, they are a wool, silk, and linen blend, and they are fully lined.  Only problem is no true pockets.)
Rosel Tailor Straight Leg Pant by Theory ($268 - some don't agree with pants this skinny for work so know your office - comes as a full suit.  Can't speak to fit since Theory is always too lean and too tall for me - but for tall readers, I know it can be great.)
Martin Fit Straight Leg Trousers in yellow at Banana Republic ($79.50 - much like AT, I have found the quality of BR has gone down a bit in recent years, but these trousers look elegant and nicely designed and come in a variety of great colors for those interested in non black, gray, navy, etc. pants.)
Halogen 'Taylor' Curvy Fit Pants at Nordstroms ($79 - I love Halogen's Curvy Fit pants, both jeans and trousers, though some readers on Corporette mentioned that the fabric on these was changed recently to be less sturdy - somewhat like the skirt - so they may not be as fabulous as they once were.)
Curvy Fit Polished Sateen Bootcut Pants in navy at Talbots ($89.50 - available in Misses, Petites, Women's, and Women's Petites.  Also available in six colors.  Like with many of the chains, Talbots quality can be spotty, but I find their trousers generally reliable.)
Signature Glen Plaid Pant at Ann Taylor ($69.99 - gets good reviews - though AT quality is of course a worry.)
Slim Cropped Pants in cobalt at Gap ($39.99 - pictured pants available in limited sizes, other colors available in more - comes in regular height and tall.)
Mossimo Women's Skinny Premium Skinny Jean ($27.99 - available in assorted washes and in long, short, and regular.  I have these in black and for someone who doesn't *do* skinny jeans - these are amazing.  Not too tight to be uncomfortable or unforgiving, but tight enough to fit under knee high boots or look cute with flats.  And the price is right.)
Hard Tail Voile Pants from Nordstroms ($98 - a bit pricey for casual pants - but they do look pretty comfy.)
Jag Jeans 'Pearl' Trouser Jeans from Nordstroms ($89 - plus sized pictured - come in a both plus and misses - I own two pairs of the stretch Jag's and they are super comfy and sturdy, but they do also come in a button and zip model.)
Red Fleece Collection Seersucker Pants from Brooks Brothers ($129 - maybe more for weekends than work, know your office.)

Okay!  So pants. We all need them - or at least something to wear on our bottom halves.  But why must they be such a bother?  Hope this post helps a bit and spurs you in the right direction.  Happy shopping and may the odds be ever in your favor.
I don't normally do this, but this dress is so cute I thought I'd post it here.  It is an Inc Plus Size Sleeveless Cowl-Neck Printed Dress and its on great sale for $39.99.  The color looks really great (though the one review says it may be more green than it appears) and the cut looks flattering.  Basically it looks fun.  There are actually a bunch of cute plus size dresses on sale at Macy's right now, here are a few more below.
INC Cap Sleeve Printed Faux Wrap Dress at Macy's ($39.99)
INC Short-sleeve printed faux-wrap dress ($39.99 - both of these would be nice for O shapes)
NY Collection Sleeveless pleated dress with belt ($39.99 - several colors)

Anyway - I thought these were cute and in case people were looking for more dresses that were work or summer even appropriate I wanted to alert you to the sale.  Happy shopping everyone! 
One for inspiration post and then back to answering a couple of questions (so if you have submitted a question...stick around!)  So the inspiration here is this Amber Sun 'Megan' Print Blazer at Nordstroms ($89).  I love this one.  I like the two buttons (can be really hard to find right now) and that its fitted without being completely shrunken.  It also has full-length sleeves on a light weight summer blazer, which is hard to find.  Finally, I love that a blazer in a bright color has a pattern, but that the pattern isn't too bold.  Instead the pattern serves to temper the yellow slightly without making the blazer such an aggressive statement piece that it would be difficult to style.  I think this would look lovely with gray, navy, tan or beige, white, eggplant, berry, or teal.  Best part - I think it could be paired with a nice pencil skirt and blouse for work or jeans and a t-shirt or over a sundress for weekends. So its super versatile.

So now that I've spoken with such obvious rapturous glee about an item - lets look for a few other similar items shall we?  I'll look for a variety of colors, cuts, styles, and sizes here to fit a variety of people and tastes.  Hope you see something you like. I do think that a fun, colored blazer can add a metaphorical smile to your wardrobe this time of year.
Tonal Knit Blazer at Anthropologie ($49.95 - not entirely sold on this for work but its super cute and comes in blue.)
Vince Camuto Rumpled Blazer in cherry at Nordstroms ($169 - I wouldn't normally recommend something called a "rumpled" blazer - especially not for $169 and made of polyester - but for my longer waisted readers I like this option.  Has two buttons and actually looks like its made to work for taller, longer waisted people.  I'd still wait for it to go on sale though.)
Alice + Olivia Elyse Cambray Blazer at ShopBop ($290.40 - a more formal take on chambray than the shirt - expensive yes, but the close up pictures show some beautiful tailoring.  The sleeves are full length.)
Blenheim Blazer in Driftwood Doves at Boden ($49-78.40 - I own this and its cute, the cotton is nice for summer but still substantial.  But one tip, order at least a size down, it runs large.)
DKNY Jeans Shawl Collar Blazer w/ Ruched Three-Quarter Sleeve in Mango Satin at 6pm ($64.99 - the shawl collar and single button make this a nice option for larger busted women, plus this hits lower at the hip, possibly nice for an apple, "O" shaped woman - attention Reader A.)
Voyager Jacket at Pendleton ($151-$158 - note - available in all sizes up to 24W - sorry, best picture available)
Cotton Tweed Cardigan Jacket at Ann Taylor ($148 - a great option for those who prefer sweaters to jackets).
Fine Touch Boucle Jacket at Coldwater Creek ($99 - available in plus sizes)
Elie Tahari Monroe Tweed Jacket at Bergdorf Goodman ($248 for the jacket - I surprisingly like the zipper front and notched neckline - adds interest without being *too* weird.  I might even like the full suit - especially if pink looks really good on you, also I think there's a darker teal version if you're interested.)

Okay!  I hope you like those options.  So I'm sick this weekend (actually in hospital) - so that may mean that either there will be A LOT of new posts or not many new posts depending on how bored I am and how good I feel.  Anyone else found some good summer blazers out there?  Put them in the comments!
Reader A wrote in:

Hi! Love your comments on Corporette and was going to post there but why not just go directly to the expert?! I am a plus-size apple shape. I wear right around a 14W-16W. I am completely uninspired but am interested in finding some affordable work options. I work in a business not-casual-but-not-a-suit-everyday kind of office. I often wear cardigans with blouses and skirts or slacks. As for style, I'm probably more Talbots than Coldwater Creek, more button down than loose and flowy. Do separates look better on apple shapes than dresses? What should I avoid? Any advice you can give or specific recommendations of affordable clothing would be very appreciated. Thank you, TCFKAG!

So this is a very timely question, since we were talking about body shape, natural waist definition, and generally dressing for your shape today or yesterday at Corporette.  So I'm excited to address your question.  So - my absolute favorite website out there for "how to dress your body shape" is Inside Out Style - she has addressed TONS of body shape issues way better than I can (probably) and in far greater detail.  Seriously, check it out everyone.  Reader A, if I had to guess, I would bet that you are what Imogen calls an "O Shape" - someone who carries their weight through their mid-section.  Rather than recreate the wheel - I am going to copy and paste her suggestions for O-shapes here:

How to dress your O shape body (see also this page):
  • You will find tops that drape past your body really make a difference.  Anything that clings won’t flatter.
  • If you feel you need to put a horizontal line on your body, make sure it’s in the empire position (just underneath your bust) rather than at your waist.  If the fabric is at all stiff make sure there are no gathers under the bust as you will get asked about when the baby is due.
  • Layering is your friend, a dark top underneath a lighter (than the top) jacket or cardigan will help make your stomach disappear.
  • Use that column of colour to create the longest vertical line you can.
  • Create focal points around your face, rather than through your mid-section
  • Keep patterns dense, but larger scale.
  • Ruching is your friend.  Ruching in a top can help to hide a myriad of secrets.
  • Tunics can work really well with skinny jeans on your body shape, especially if you have great legs.  Tuck your skinny jeans into knee high boots to balance your upper body.
  • Patterns (especially when dense and low negative space) can help to keep the eye moving and not draw attention to your body.
  • Look for fabrics that don’t have too much bulk, but also those that skim, without clinging, too much lycra in a garment won’t be flattering.
  • Single breasted jackets are best for you.  A wider collar can help draw attention up and out.
  • Avoid cropped jackets, you will find jackets that fall no shorter than the hip bone flatter most.  3/4 length can really work.
  • Jackets are great for hiding lumps and bumps, make sure the fabric is not to stiff, that they are fitted, but not too tight.
  • You may find that straighter shaped skirts work well for you, falling from your hips and creating a longer line.  Trumpet skirts that flare from the knee can also work.
  • Avoid skirts with gathering at the waist, tiered skirts and stiff a-line skirts
  • Dresses with a knot just under the bust are a great shape for you.
  • Alternatively, try a faux wrap dress that doesn’t have any seaming or ties around the waist
  • Darker denims, softer denims with some stretch will work better for you than light and stiff denims.
  • Avoid too much distressing on denim, keep it simple and clean looking.
  • Have your pants hemmed as long as possible to create the longest, leanest line.
  • Trouser shape jeans are great, bootcuts also work.
  • Want to wear a belt? Check out these tips.
The keys seem to be shirts and dresses that drape nicely across the middle but cinch at the empire waist.  Trousers that are straight legged will be best.  Avoid bringing attention to the stomach area (AMEN SISTAH).  Jackets, structured sweaters, and other items that create structure over the draped shirts.  Working with these parameters, here are some ideas - both in the separates world and the dress world (I might even throw in a couple trousers.)
Suzi Chin for Maggy Boutique Jersey Faux Wrap Dress at Nordstroms ($188) - I know its pricey, but I think this could become a real wardrobe stable.  See this awesome version in polka dot too!
Gingham wrap shirt at Talbots ($79.50 - available in other colors) - I think it would look nice under a suit jacket.
JM Collection Sleeveless Sheath ($46.99 - several colors) - belted at the empire waist, I think it would work.
Maggy London London Times Short Sleeved Textured Sheath Dress ($98 - only in 14W) - I really like that this hits right at the empire waist, has sleeves, and creates a shape without being too clingy.  Plus this color could be lovely for spring/summer.
Sejour Ela Pencil Skirt at Nordstroms ($68) - meets the "straight skirt" recommended by Imogen.
Charter Club Short Sleeve Cross Front Top ($24.99 - lots of colors) - nice shape - good under jackets.
Adrianna Papell Jersey Fit and Flare Dress at Nordstroms ($93.80) - I like the color and the way it brings attention up to the bodice.  Plus the color is pretty.
Signature Wide Leg Linen Trouser at Talbot ($109) - nice straight leg and no pockets emphasizing the middle areas.
Evans Single Button Blazer at Nordstroms ($69.50) - just in case you need a black blazer, I like this basic one.
So!  I hope this inspires you and gives you some ideas.  Write back in and let me know if you like any of these.  And definitely check out Inside Out Style's blog - she has amazing advice.  Have fun revamping your wardrobe...I know you will.  :-)
Mamabear asks:

Hi TCFKAG, love you xoxo I am invited to a wedding in a hot climate over Memorial Day weekend. I'd like to wear a dress, but the candidates are all sleeveless and I don't care to expose my upper arms (combo of flab and keratosis pillaris.) I am looking for a very lightweight half- or 3/4-sleeve cardigan/shrug/topper that reads summer to wear over a sleeveless dress. This dress (which I already own) is the main contender: Eileen Fisher Plus Size U-neck Calf Length Dress.  But I am not seeing anything at EF that I would like to wear as the topper. Any suggestions?
First of all, Mamabear - I love you SO much.  I'm happy that you asked this question because I'm happy to know that you grace this blog with your glorious presence.  So - for those readers following along at home, this is the dress that Mamabear is considering purchasing to wear to the wedding.  I think its very pretty and gives a nice, laid-back sort of vibe.  So I will try to suggest some shrugs and cardigans that fit the same vibe.  (Mamabear - I'm assuming that you aren't interested in wraps.  But I'm going to suggest a couple at the end just in case that's an option you want to consider.)
Calvin Klein Plus-Sized Raglan Sleeved Open Front Shrug at Lord & Taylor ($59.62 - says its pink, but it looks orange, either way the color is lovely and I like the cut and it would really flatter the navy dress.)
Vince Camuto Lace Cardigan at Nordstroms ($99 - not sure if it will fit and its a bit pricy but its lovely and reusable for work or other events so wanted to share it.)
Festive Beaded Shrug at Coldwater Creek ($69.99 available up to size 16)
Scully Honey Creek Sheer Drape Shrug from Zappos ($45 - not crazy about the tie front - but I like its lightness.)
Linen-blend drape cardigan from J. Jill ($69 - available in a variety of colors and definitely reusable.)
Investments II Floral-Print Crepe-Front Cardigan ($59 - I don't know, wanted to let you see a pattern as an idea.)

Okay - hope these ideas help!  If anybody ends up buying one of me a favor and click on the link here to buy them why don't you?  :-)  That would be awesome!  Ha.