Mastering the Art of Casual Chic

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i’d hire these floral beauties. would you?

An article in this month’s fabulous Marie Claire @ Work (their glam new professionista insert which is a welcome freebie to this recently transplanted, former work-from-homer with a new corporate job) struck my fancy. The Problem with Casual Fridays carefully unfolds the pro’s and con’s of the concept, something that is rampant in offices from coast to coast, whether officially or by chance.

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if you have glasses, WEAR them at work. it can’t hurt!

It seems we spend much of the day on Friday day dreaming about tonight’s margaritas and tomorrow’s mimosas, longing to feel the sunshine that’s just beyond our grasp, outside the professional grade window. Along with a chill internal vibe, many of us lean toward more relaxed outfit planning for Fridays. And while this can go very well (dark denim, trend-right top, comfortable wedges), it can also go very poorly (ripped jeans, revealing top, scary flats).

The article asserts that while “casual” dressing may be encouraged on some (or in my case, all) days, there is a line and it’s important not to cross it. Also, dressing in a sharp manner at all times will still make you likelier to get that big promotion, or at least prove to your boss and the higher-ups within your company that you mean business. This is not to say you can’t have fun with fashion. But it’s all about balance.

So, how do we toe the line? And, um, what happens if you, like your friend here, work in an office that has a casual dress code all of the time? Gone are the days where my aching feet wept silent tears as I forced them into three-inch, pointed toe stilettos and began my trek by foot and subway from 103rd street to the Lower East Side. And here to stay are the days when I look in the mirror, knowing my proposed outfit of stirrup leggings, embroidered tunic and Ferragamo flats would be perfectly acceptable… but I just can’t wear it. I just can’t. Be. Sloppy. At. Work.

Thank you, Marie Claire @ Work for giving us some rules– flats are mostly not okay, but instead consider a kitten heel. Jeans can be done in dark, fitted *but not tight* varieties, but heels are really a must then. Bold colors are best on Fridays. Ditto whacky patterns. And spaghetti straps? No. Just, no.

I would hereby like to lengthen the list for those of us who work in perpetually casual environments. You can be comfortable, trendy and cute all at once. And the bottom line? When in doubt, wear a dress.

A maxi and a cardi
This combination will have you feeling pajama-comfy but will allow you to walk into any meeting feeling confident. If you’re going for a jersey knit, keep the pattern simple and chic. I really like silkier fabrics in a maxi, as they dress it up a little while keeping that same comfortable factor. Pair with a fitted cardigan or cropped blazer and work-appropriate slip-ons. A statement necklace or armful of gold bangles won’t hurt here.

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this maxi remains polished despite its sweeping length. a white cardigan and these exact shoes make it office-perfect. Cynthia Steffe, bloomingdales.com, $278

A color-blocked Oxford shirt and happy jeans
For the truly casual office, you can have a ton of fun with color while sticking to traditional cuts and styles. A two-tone Oxford shirt is professional yet cool, and these peach skinny jeans add humor. In lieu of her rope bracelets, though, I’d go with a gold-tone watch. And on the feet? Brogues or kitten heels, for sure. No flats with these pants!

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BDG printed button-down, urbanoutfitters.com, on sale for $29

Short dress and low heels (or vaguely masculine shoes)
Yes, as temperatures climb, so do hemlines. It’s okay to wear a shorter dress (be classy, here, ladies) at the office. The key is making sure you still look professional. A short dress that you would wear to the beach is likely not a great option for the office. (Except in a case like this, which I wrote about last week). But if you stick to classic prints like nautical stripes, shirt dresses, polka dots, or understated florals, you’ll be in great shape. Lace can work too, as long as it is paired with the right accessories. I like to add a chunky belt, dramatic earrings, etc. Hairbows are wrong with flirty dresses. It’s too little girlish, and not womanly enough for an office environment.

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this works because her gladiator-style low boots are subtle and funky. i would definitely throw a blazer over this though. and for happy hour, the back of the dress has a pretty openwork design you’ll love. needsupplyco.com, $88

Peplum top and cropped jeans with platforms
Okay, so to go ahead and break MC’s denim rule, I think a slightly faded jean can work. But the pairings have to be impeccable. In this case, she is wearing a sharp, white peplum top with a necklace-inspired yoke, and sky-high heels. Her cuffed jeans work, despite their lighter wash. Make sure if you go this root that your heels are incredibly high (but that you can walk in them) and that your accessories are chic and contemporary. And, ladies, definitely save this one for Friday.

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rag + bone jeans, $242; giuseppe zanotti platform wedges, $850; DKNY top, $89; all, bloomingdales.com

Dots of the Season

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Everyone loves a good polka dot, right? It’s just one of those timeless things that continues to work as we shift from season to season, year to year. On headbands and shorts, mini-dresses and jeans, high heels and bikinis… and beyond. Whether you go for a classic black-and-white or a more unexpected play of colors, a dot makes you feel so good.

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this 1920′s cocktail dress is fabulously dotted

As a child I started out the spring season with a good dress from each of my grandmothers. My Nana (Dad’s mom) usually designed and sewed these dresses herself or purchased them at Lord & Taylor. My Gaga (Mom’s mom) was no seamstress, but she did have a Saks problem, from which I benefitted quite a bit. These days, I’ve started that tradition with a few special little girls in our lives, one of whom is Josh’s cousin’s daughter, 1 1/2-year-old Harper.

This year, Harper’s spring dress was a divine dotted number from Jason Wu for the Neiman Marcus/Target collaboration. A rich, taupe silken fabric with cheerful white polka dots and a big bow at the back, I was in love with this dress instantly and decided that Harper needed it. I’ve been informed that little Harper already loves dots, and likes to point out each one when she is wearing them: “dot. dot. dot…” My point (at which I am taking entirely too long to arrive) is that dots work on every woman and girl, of every age, for any reason at all.

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is this not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?

If you want to freshen things up for spring, consider a polka dot. I have some extremely cute black-and-white polka dot shorts I got last summer on clearance at Target. And on the other hand, my very first pair of important shoes (that thankfully still fit even though I got them fourteen years ago in my freshman year of high school!) are pale pink Moschino pumps with tiny, navy polka dots all over. Go high-low here, girls. When it’s a dot, it will (almost) always work.

nina ricci side ruched cocktail dress, $3,290, neiman marcus.

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blue and white polka dotted sundress, on sale for $29, urban outfitters

To Louis With Love

Did anyone else nearly die when they saw Kirsten Dunst in a checkerboard Louis Vuitton dress at The Art of Elysium’s 6th Annual Heaven Gala a couple weeks ago? Her hair and outfit pairings (the ivory clutch, the simple pointed-toe show) were perfection. But if we’re being honest, that dress is what stole the show. And the red carpet. Nay, the entire night.Kirsten+Dunst+Louis+Vuitton+TAOEG+1

Louis Vuitton is often on the cutting edge of fashion despite their long historic roots and classically beloved styles. But this new collection is an absolute masterpiece fit for women of all walks of life. It’s fun, it’s chic, it’s a little of the old world and plenty of the new. If I had the chance to blow a ton of change on one outfit this spring, it would definitely be one of these. Now the question is, which one?

Louis+Vuitton+Spring+2013+p0vbkp1Rx4tl Louis+Vuitton+Spring+2013+708Kawuii6Ol Louis+Vuitton+Spring+2013+CR-5t2OicRflWhile we’re daydreaming, I’ll take a model’s body in addition to my spring wardrobe budget. And in that case, I’ll be going with Look #1 of the above, the long-sleeved black and white crop-top-and-mini-skirt ensemble. Gorgeous!

Fair Weather Fashion

Who’s got spring on the brain? This newly-southern belle does. From lace dresses to chunky platforms and even the oft-dreaded bikini, I’ve been cruising the racks and the online shops for some key pieces that will brighten up the coming season.

Today it’s in the 70s in Dallas and I rocked my favorite Theory cropped jeans (a chic slate blue denim) with black velvet Tory smoking loafers and a red crochet top I nabbed at Urban on what my mother would call “Deep Sale” at the end of last summer. It’s a fun spring outfit for a very temperate day, but just last week it was freezing here as it is in the rest of the country, so I’m sure we aren’t planted in full-on spring style … yet.

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Today’s cute top, though I am wearing it in red (no longer available). If you wear a medium, score it STAT in white, the only color and size combo left. urbanoutfitters.com, $24

I’ve been eying a particularly cute raised floral, high-waist bikini from American Apparel for over a year now and it’s finally inched its way down the sale ladder to a price I was able to swing. I sized up as I always do with them and was delighted when it came in the mail this weekend. Now, as for trying it on, I think I’ll take a few more weeks to make sure I’m feeling swimwear-ready. But from initial glance, it’s everything I expected and it has a cute a detachable string that can be used to turn the bandeau top into a halter on a whim.

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On sale for $15 each piece, americanapparel.net

For the most part, I’m biding my time with the acquisition of new duds for two reasons. First, I have a wedding at the end of this year and I need to save the cash. Second, some of what I’m seeing is still quite reminiscent of last year’s hot-ticket items and I think if I play my cards right, I might be able to nab some key pieces at low prices by digging through the sale racks.

If you’re itching for some instant satisfaction, check out Nanette Lepore’s new collaboration with jcpenney, an ultra-chic juniors collection that’s ready for the picking and bursting with neons, floral prints, high-low details and great skinnies. If you’ve got the dough, nothing says spring like my newest obsession– Miu Miu crystal-heeled ankle-strap pumps. Now, that’s fashion.

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Dream girl, dream. $1,150. Miu Miu stores.

Try Something New: Mix & Match for Spring

January’s Lucky mag is filled with surprising mix-and-match outfit ideas that are utterly to die for. From wild stripes with bright florals to stars and polka dots with a drapey neon cardigan thrown on top, this glitter girl was majorly inspired. It’s definitely still the dead of winter, but that doesn’t mean we can’t brighten things up a little, am I wrong? Today I’m sporting a lot of black: high-waisted BDG leggings from Urban, Ferragamo low-heeled rain boots, and a long cashmere cardi from Juicy Couture. My pop of color is in the form of a bright, ocean-blue lace dress from Free People that I nabbed on sale at Bloomie’s over the holidays. Compliment count: 3 so far. Not bad!
image photoThe blue creates a surprising burst of color and looks great next to my new gray Alexander Wang bag (thanks Joshy!) but now that I’ve braved a cold wintry day in my cheerful spring dress, it’s time for more fun. It’s time for tweeds with flowers and stars with dots and stripes. I’m ready! Are you? Here are some ideas:

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Yes! She’s got it. These minxy striped leggings and black floral tee are perfect. At this time of year, you’d need to add a leather bomber. But yes. This is it!

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Her H&M floral bomber is a surprising addition to the white and black polka-dotted frock. Bobby socks and peeptoe booties round out the look.

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She’s got it all. A bright top, plaid blazer, striped pencil skirt, statement necklace and wild shoes. Too much for you? Try just the top and a plaid blazer. Too cold? Add navy tights! Cute.

DIY: Floral accents

Remember that season of Sex and the City when Carrie wore huge flowers affixed to her outfits in almost every scene? Okay, well I do. And it’s not only because I don’t have cable right now and most of what I’ve been watching is S&TC on DVD… more importantly, it’s because this look is a fun, feminine, out-there and cheap way to brighten up any spring outfit.

Simply stunning with floral accents...

Over the weekend I wrote a post for All Things Chic on the new florals, from jeans to skirts and shoes. This got me thinking about the other floral, the more-than-floral. The flower. Now, this is not a trend for simple girls. Or wallflower girls. Or girls who don’t like attention. But if you’re ready to hit the streets of your hometown and receive raves on your accessorizing skills, it’s time to hit up your local craft store and get to work.

If you’re not up for DIY time, there are plenty of options ready for purchase at our favorite mass retailers. H&M, Urban Outfitters, and Aldo (to name a few) have had some pretty cute, under-$20 flower accessory options prime for the picking recently. But if you want to spend under twenty minutes and WELL under 20 bills, you could make your own flower brooch or headband at home, ensuring that no one else will sport your same look.

Creating your own floral accents is a cinch. Head over to createforless.com and check out their selection of silk flowers. A personal favorite of mine is the PETALOO brand of products. Starting at around $4, you can nab faux blooms to suit your personal style and working-girl budget. All you need is a flower, a pin or headband and some craft adhesive. Get your glue on, girls! And send me photos of yourself sporting your fab new flowers.

Thank you for the photo, lushlee.com