Work it, Girl!

bows and culottes

Being relaxed for work doesn’t have to mean looking sloppy. I break out these roomy culottes with loafers on days when I’ll be on my feet for 8 hours. They’re comfortable, but a refined fabric reads more “office appropriate” than “pyjama.”

I (still) love a black and blue color combo-très chic. And in my opinion, it’s impossible to go wrong with a Chanel-esque jacket; it’s appropriate in the workplace and polishes up a weekend outfit.


Black crepe culottes, Banana Republic.

Bow-tie tee, Holly Bracken via 5th and Hall.

Jacket, Ann Taylor.

Silver Loafers, Calvin Klein.

Adorable photographer’s assistant, self-made (with a little help ♥).



When It’s Hot, But You Want to Look Polished

With the days getting  warmer (understatement of the year), my wardrobe is trending towards lighter colors and fabrics.

ivory and white dress on back patio

Since it’s already hot enough to break a sweat when I walk from my house to the garage, I rely on tailored but loosely-fitting clothing that drapes and allows a breeze or two of relief.

ivory and white on back patio2

Perfect for an afternoon birdwatching sesh on the back patio.


Ivory dress, via Hattie’s Branches.

Vintage shoes, Bally.

Tiger’s Eye earrings, Sorrelli.

Gold chain bracelets, street markets here and there.

Good, Fast, & Cheap


There’s an old saying: in the trifecta of good, fast, and cheap, you may choose any two.

Generally, if something is good and you can get it quickly, it’s not cheap. If something can be gotten quickly and cheaply, it’s usually not very high quality. And if a high quality item is not that expensive, you’ll probably have to wait a while to get your hands on it.

Everyone has the parts of the trifecta that are most important to them, and we begrudgingly adjust our purchase patterns accordingly. I’ve always had a nearly dangerous love affair with “good,” and my means have many times required me to choose “cheap,” which means I’ve spent much of my life developing patience (not an easy feat for a Pisces, I assure you; in fact, my mother used to sing a little song to me that began, “Be patient, be patient, don’t be in such a hurry,” but I digress).

I’m still perfecting my patience skills, but what little I have acquired paid off big time in a pair of Gaimo espadrille slides I scored for $40 (!) at my local T.J. Maxx last weekend. I’ve been looking for an honest-to-goodness, handmade-in-Spain, chic-but-comfy (it is summer after all) pair for the past two summers, and had yet to find a pair that met my quality standards.

On several occasions, I’d nearly caved and bought a cheaper pair, but I’ve always tried my darndest to invest in fewer, higher-quality pieces (a philosophy to which I’m clinging even more tightly since reading numerous articles, including this one in Vogue, on the damage fast fashion is doing to the planet and my fellow human beings).

As soon as I stepped into the cushy leather and jute soles of these neutral-hued (read: immediately going into heavy rotation) darlings, I knew I found my new Pair of Summer Shoes (everyone has that one pair…). And because they’re so well made, I know I can count on them for several summers to come.

While I’m elated my patience proved fruitful, you can get a similar pair here (I especially adore the orange wedge and the brown suede fringe versions) if your tendencies trend toward “good and fast.”

Warning: it will be excruciatingly difficult to change them out for heels on your next day in the office.

10 Things to Spend Your Style Money On Instead of Clothes

Reading on couch

Wait a minute—aren’t fashion bloggers supposed to tell you all the price-of-a-mortgage-payment clothes YOU MUST BUY to be in style? And shouldn’t I be dripping in Louis Vuitton bags and draped in a monogrammed Burberry blanket poncho while I wax poetic on the absolutely life-changing power of Manolo Blahniks (then again, perhaps someday on the latter)?

Potential Sponsors–Stop Reading Here

I’m probably not going to secure too many sponsors with this post, but you don’t need to have a closet full of expensive clothes to exude style (in fact, “logo chasing” can often be a symptom of a severe lack of confidence in one’s personal style; it screams “insecurity” to the style-conscious).

Indeed, phenomenal personal style is built from many sources, and stems from much more than one’s most recent trip to the mall. Hence, here are ten things to spend your style money on that go beyond clothes.

After all, as Grace Coddington, former Creative Director of Vogue, said:

“Keep your eyes open, because whatever you see can inspire you.”

1. Books

I try to regularly banish clutter in my home, but that rule does not extend to my books. I’m happy when wherever I sit, there’s a book within reach. Indeed, “she is too fond of books, and they have turned her brain.” (Louisa May Alcott)


2. Travel

I’m a little biased here, because, as many of you know, my husband orchestrates custom travel experiences through Lugos Travel. But science totally backs me up on this one, because it turns out that experiences make us a lot happier than possessions (or so suggests a  recent study at Cornell University).

Also, travel opens up your eyes to different people, different architecture, different philosophies, and different ways of doing things, all which amp up your creativity in the style department.


3. Patronizing the Arts

Go to the symphony. Visit your local museum. Roam an art festival or a music festival (bonus points if they feature art or music you wouldn’t normally appreciate). Go to an opera or a play. These experiences shape us in ways unlike any other. They speak to the commonality of the human experience (I double-dog-dare you to watch Fantine sing “I Dreamed a Dream” and not be reduced to tears by the hopelessness of her position).

Many times your community will host arts events and exhibits that are low-cost or even free. My hometown has an arts-focused high school that produces incredible plays for less than $15. Do some research to find out what your community offers, then get out there. Truly stylish people have an appreciation for the arts.


4. Learning Experiences

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”– Eric Hoffer

Don’t be satisfied with your current education. Don’t rest on your laurels. Neuroplasticity allows the brain to adjust to new situations and changes in environment-definitely a requirement for an evolving personal style.


5. Exquisite Stationery

There’s been a resurgence in the world of paper lately (on a recent trip to Belgium, I couldn’t begin to count the number of paper artisans operating out of the most fantastical little shops) and for good reason–fewer things can bring a smile to your face than a gorgeous handwritten note from a friend.

Our stationery is like an extension of our personal brand. Quality stationery seems expensive up front, but if you amortize the cost over time and write friends personal notes instead of buying them $8 birthday/condolence/congratulations cards, it actually offers significant cost savings. Bonus: I daresay your friends would much rather receive a few heartfelt sentiments from you (instead of the commercial card makers) on their special or difficult day.


6. Connection

As in, anything that connects you with the people you love. Shared experiences. Walks. Game nights. Drinks. Coffee. Participating in their creative endeavors.

When it comes down to it, your people are all you have. So spend wisely here, but spend.


7. Flowers

In my experience, people who display flowers in their offices and homes tend to be more stylish. But whether or not my perception’s on point, research suggests that at the very least, they’re probably in a sustained better mood (at least according to this Rutgers study) and that can’t hurt their style, right?


8. Tools of Your Trade

Everybody’s got a thing. A thing that might seem trivial to other people but that you love doing. Knitting. Photography. Playing an instrument. Mountain biking. Scuba diving. Tennis. Cooking. Gardening. Pottery. Dancing. Painting. Sewing. Basketball. Geocaching. Writing. Motocross. Hiking. Rowing. Camping. Archery. You get the picture.

People will tell you that spending time on your thing is irresponsible. That spending money on your thing is ridiculous (especially if they perceive that you’re not good at it).

Well, with all due respect for people, screw them.

Your thing makes you YOU. It enhances your creativity and helps you prove to yourself that you can survive challenges and exceed expectations. If you approach it enthusiastically, your thing makes you better than you ever thought you could be, regardless of whether anyone else ever recognizes that.

Your thing informs and enhances your style, so go do your thing.

(If you don’t have a thing, I highly suggest you get out there and try ALL THE THINGS until you find one that’s yours).


9. A Stellar Haircut

“The right hairstyle can make a plain woman beautiful and a beautiful woman unforgettable.” –Frederic Fekkai

Perhaps hair is on my mind because I just took the leap and had bangs cut (check out a full frontal of my fringe game on Girl About Downtown’s Instagram), but PEOPLE, hair can change your life.

While in college, I saw Ann (Audrey Hepburn) saunter into that neighborhood barbershop in Rome and get the chop of her life, and while everything seemed to eventually return to normal (to the relief of her attendees), she flashed those doe eyes at me through the silver screen and I knew her life was forever changed. I immediately pranced into a new barbershop in town and had my long locks sheared off into a bob.

You don’t have to go to the most expensive salon in town to get a hair cut that makes jaws drop, but you definitely don’t want to go the $10 route here. Find a stylist you trust, who continues their education, and gets your hair. Bring them pictures. Talk with them about it. Then close your eyes and leap.


10. Shoes

Oops–I guess some would consider those clothing related. But a girl can’t behave herself all the time now, can she?

nothing but shoes

Change 1 Thing

black skirt black shoes   black skirt brown boots    black skirt metallic silver oxfords   black skirt red shoes


One of my all-time favorite books on sartorial style is The Lucky Shopping Manual, written by the former editors of Lucky Magazine, Kim France and Andrea Linett.

In it, they dispense some “Why didn’t I think of that?” style advice, a portion of which appeared under sections entitled, “Sure…but why not…?” As my style evolves, I’ve taken that on as somewhat of a mantra, and every time I reach for the “safe” option in my closet, I challenge myself to stretch a little farther.

It’s been so instrumental in helping me expand my sense of style, that I’m going to start sharing my adventures with you under posts called “Change 1 Thing.”

Many times, by changing just one aspect of your outfit, you can change the entire vibe of your look. An outfit that you previously found passable but uninspiring can suddenly blossom with possibilities.

Look, I’ll start you off easy–our first foray into changing one thing will use shoes (see? This is going to be completely painless.).

Sure, the black suede pumps on the left are a classic finish to a nearly monochromatic outfit of navy and black.

But why not exchange them for chocolate over-the-knee boots to winterize a floaty skirt? Outfit feels too feminine for you? Slip on a pair of dark silver oxfords for a hit of menswear glam.

All these neutrals leave you feeling a little sleepy? Some red suede stunners will make you want to kick up your heels and dance.

The next time you automatically reach for the easy choice, consider whether your day’s activities will allow you a little space to change one thing. You never know what a little change might bring your way!




How to Wear Sneakers to the Office

Image courtesy of Pinterest.

Image courtesy of Pinterest.

A reader who works as a rehabilitation therapist was recently promoted (Get it, girl!) and sent me this message:

Dear Christina,

I have a challenging scenario. I’m a rehab therapist who’s on my feet all day treating patients, and I just got promoted to Rehab Manager. I’m the youngest manager and youngest-looking therapist. Our administrator wants his managers to look professional, but I can’t seem to find any article on how to wear sneakers to work, and wearing scrubs makes me look like I’m straight out of college even with a white lab coat.

As someone whose “day job” vacillates between spending hours in front of the computer one day and teaching a 4-hour class (read: on my feet) the next, I completely understand the need for comfortable footwear. And while sneakers may (at their very, very best) usually be worn only on “Casual Friday,” some professions require the support a sneaker provides every day.

In my twenties, I picked up what remains one of my favorite books: Genevieve Antoine Dariaux’s A Guide to Elegance. Its author is clearly on my dear reader’s side here, as she admonishes to “never overly sacrifice comfort in the interests of chic, because shoes that are too tight or ill-fitting inevitably give you a tired and tortured look, which is hardly the impression an elegant woman wishes to create!”

Still, while it’s important to be comfortable, it’s also imperative that you not look like a track coach at work (unless you are indeed a track coach, in which case, carry on).

There are three ways to wear sneakers in a professional environment, and they all hinge on balance.



Tory Burch

•    Neutrals—Keep your shoe in a neutral color: black, navy, brown, grey, or white. You can then style the rest of your outfit in the same way you would any other professional outfit.




•    Deep or Muted Colors—If the thought of wearing grey shoes every day makes you feel, well, a little grey, pick a pair in a deep shade of wine, olive, or plum, or in a muted shade of blue or pink. These colors can add a little personality to your outfit while still maintaining your status as an adult.


Image courtesy Pinterest.

Image courtesy Pinterest.

•    Bright Colors—But Christina, you just said…. well, rules are made to be broken, right? If you can’t possibly live without that retina-searing neon orange pair, keep the rest of your outfit completely neutral (and preferably one color–may I suggest charcoal as a lovely foil to orange) so the shoes can be the star instead of competing for attention (let them do that on the track).

I cannot stress this enough–the rest of your outfit should be completely professional looking–no athletic attire (a good rule of thumb is to only wear one athletics-inspired piece of clothing at once, and in this case, that part is being played by your shoes).

Whatever strategy you choose, make sure your sneakers are clean and in good condition for the office (i.e., not the pair you mowed the lawn in last night).

And because God (or the devil? I’m still not sure which) is in the details, be sure to have your pants hemmed to the proper length, so that they are neither dragging on the ground nor high-waters. I like mine about 1/4 – 1/2 inch off the ground when standing.

For examples of some of my favorite office-appropriate kicks, follow Girl About Downtown on Pinterest and check out my board “Sneakers at the Office.”