Sunday, January 08, 2006

Essential shopping advice for female MBAs

In most European countries, the toughest thing for females working in male dominated companies is not the work itself - it's finding suitable clothes for the job! When I was about to start my job and had to find something else to wear than the old jeans and woolen sweaters I had been wearing all the years before, I found out it is almost impossible to find good professional clothes for women. There seem to be hundreds of shops selling excellent ties and shirts and suits for men, while the female section (if there is any!) is usually very small and made for women over 40.

In my job, it is quite common to wear very dark suits (well, for men basically no other colour than black or dark grey or at the most dark blue is allowed, women can wear what they want, but to avoid being taken for a secretary it is also helpful to wear dark colours). It is hard enough to find suits and blouses, but if you do, they are usually badly cut or too big. Only if you start looking at expensive designer stuff things start getting acceptable, but then these are usually unaffordable. That's why I was extremely happy to discover there is a place to go. So if you have job offer or an internship pending and you need to buy some suits and shoes and blouses for your new job, all I can advise you is to hop on the plane fast and go to Madrid!

First of all, there are excellent shops for professional female clothing. Second, they are very cheap compared to other European countries. Third, sales started this weekend and will go on for another 2 months. Your next chance to catch cheap and excellent clothes will be the summer sales in August, so even if you can't get on the plane now you should read on...

The perfect shopping district in Madrid is the barrio de Salamanca, where you'll find all the typical brands like Massimo Dutti, Zara etc., but of course I have some more specific advice. The two shops that solved all my problems at excellent prices are VILAGALLO on the street Hermosilla, 35, and JAIME MASCARÓ in the same side street, Hermosilla, 22.

I can't understand why VILAGALLO hasn't expanded into all of Europe yet, somehow they have three branches in Madrid but that's it. They sell excellent suits and blouses of many varieties and colours that fit perfectly and are really inexpensive, especially now during the sales (a beautiful, perfectly cut suit will cost you around €135). At the left is a little picture I took with my mobile of the types of blouses they sell. I love this shop because you can try on any suit and they all fit perfectly, so if you need three suits you could just buy them there and all your problems are solved for the rest of the year.

The next shop I recommend is a shop by the Spanish shoe designer Jaime Mascaró who is quite well known throughout Europe, but his shoes here usually cost around €150 to 200, while during the sales in Madrid you can get them for as cheap as €60.

I love it the same as Vilagallo because you could basically buy any shoe in their store and each choice would be excellent. The shoes are very stylish and extremely comfortable (look at the picture I took on the left - would you say no to these shoes?).

After getting all the essentials in these shops, there are lots of other nice shops on the two main shopping streets Calle Serrano and Calle Goya. One shop I especially like is Adolfo Dominguez on Calle Serrano, it is a Spanish designer not very known outside of Spain, the clothes are quite original and very accessible,
especially during summer and winter sales.

The Salamanca district is also an excellent place to have tapas. One place I find especially excellent was El Rincón de Goya on Calle Lagasca (crossing the earlier mentioned Goya street). There are also many hotels in the same area



RusGirl said...

Nice guide! :) Why am not in Madrid? And I've found myself some nice shirts in London ;) If it's hard to find them in Europe, - it really impossible to find them in Moscow!

Marina said...

This post made me drool

karlitos said...

hey angie,

Madrid is a great town, I agree with you. Only wanted to point out that Sales in Spain take place in january-february and july-august.

hope to see you in london!


Vision said...

I understand what you are talking probably won't even believe this but I am in a similar situation and have decided to just make the bloody suits myself (because i know how to sew)....mainly due to the fact that you can't even buy a woman's suit made from mens suiting wool! this may evolve into a business plan as i am also shopping for an mba (possibly LBS).

angie said...

leah, it is definitely a great business idea! In fact I heard of a woman who's setting something up in London at the moment. But the market is definitely big and I think it is a fantastic business to pursue!

Vision said...

hi angie, i just finished making two suits using mens super 130 wool as i mentioned before. i nearly killed myself doing it by the way. i also spoke with a friend of mine who used to work in the clothing industry (production end in turkey) and she said that the people in marketing just dont believe there is enough demand for high quality womens suits/work seperates...but i think there might be a market for it....anyway long story, but here is a nice place i found out shopping in rome the other day....they had properly tailored womens suits (you will know it is of better construction when you feel a padded thing in the chest area of the is made with stiff wool fabric and felt like material, and it takes the form of the rib it starts at the shoulder seam, and is also sewn into the arm seam....but then at the bottom it floats around...its called a floating can feel it through the material and lining) so anyway here is the place
via del corso 29 and 162
via cola di rienzo 281 and 276 and 164
viale europa 20
via appia nuova 80
via di vigna stelluti 170
in siena via della calzoleria 20
i was in via del corso, dont know which one, and the womens stuff was upstairs. the suits were about 300 euros each, on sale they were half off, but all made from wool...i dont think this is a bad price considering that if you go to ZARA you can pay something like 100 euros for a jacket and 60 for the pants or skirt, and the material is crap, even if they are good on the design side.
PS i also found a place in brussels that sells max mara and max and co etc...for 20 euros an article! ill send the address when i go to brussels in a couple of weeks if anyone is interested.

Vision said...

best to check out their site first as not all the stores sell womens clothing, plus now see that there is an outlet outside rome listed on their site

Anonymous said...

Do you also have advice on what to wear, without looking either boring or unprofessional?

Paola said...

Hi Angel Angie! This post is hilarious.
I have to say, I'm glad to be beyond that. After 12 years in consulting, with the same style problems you describe, I now work at eBay, where a jeans-and-tshirt outfit is perfectly acceptable. (In the Italian office, favorite brands right now are Puma for sneakers and Diesel for jeans). My suits and formal shoes have been given away, or sold, or are hanging there in the closet in case of emergencies (but I can't really think of any - even our CEO, Meg Whitman, is most often found wearing slacks and a turtleneck). So, hang in there... even if you get a finance job that requires you to dress conservatively, it need not be for the rest of your life. Clothing freedom is within your reach!

Anonymous said...

hi, vision,
do you still have the address of this max mara outlet in Brussels?

L'ecogourmande said...

Hi there! Great Post!!
I so agree!!

Vision, I actually found this post because I ggoled: Max Mara outlet in Brussels.. I know this shop from before I left btussels, 7 years ago, and would love to find it again, i know it's somewhere between cinquantenaire and Place Meiser.. but there are sooo many little streets that look just like it..

Thanks for the tip
La gourmande