How to Put Together a Outfit in Black That Stands Out

blue top black pencil skirt 2

Confession: I love black.

I think it started in high school when my 21-year-old drummer boyfriend told me that brunettes didn’t look good in black. My rebellious heart said, “Oh, yeah?” and promptly considered changing my name to Jet (I did, at least, get wise and dump him).

blue top black pencil skirt

I definitely don’t have the stomach for the multiple-piercings-Hot Topic-angstiness or the corporate mausoleum look that often accompanies black, so I’ve learned to get creative with wearing head-to-toe black.

Mixing different textures and cuts (I adore black sequins at any hour of the day), adding analogous colors like charcoal or navy, or injecting a shot of bold color like the cobalt here adds dimensionality to black and keeps the look refined but intentional and  creative.

To add a finishing touch, rock nearly any shade of lipstick you damn well please (I have yet to see one that doesn’t pair well with black) and give a mischevious wink to your ex.


Cobalt Silk blouse, Elie Tahari.

Black (leopard-lined!) pencil skirt, Express.

Sequined jacket, Banana Republic Heritage Collection.

Heels, Cole Haan.

Black pearl necklace, T.J. Maxx.

Shades, The Loft.




How to Get Rid of the Back-to-Work Blues

When I’ve had a particularly lovely long weekend with my family and friends, it can be difficult to head back into the office (and consequently, part with the men in my life). To ease the pain, I like to wear the pieces in my wardrobe that make the day feel a little more special and fun.

black with taupe blouse

I bought this skirt in Belgium earlier this year and have nearly worn it out already! I don’t know how such a voluminous skirt can look slimming, but it somehow manages to make me feel sleek every time I put it on. The ballet pink silk lining doesn’t hurt, either.

Also, there’s something about a V-neck blouse that falls at just the right point. This one has enough beading and bejeweling that it renders further bedecking unnecessary (but not necessarily unwelcome, depending on your taste). I couldn’t resist adding my two currently favorite bracelets to the sentimental wristlet I always wear (with charms bearing my family’s fingerprints).

black skirt with taupe blouse2

I don’t know why moms even try to buy groceries for themselves. I hardly ever get to eat all of my own food anymore; I’m such a sucker for the eyes this kid makes at me.



Bubble-stamped Scuba Skirt, Bitte Kai Rand.

Satin Jewel-encrusted top, Banana Republic Heritage Collection.

Waxed Denim moto jacket, Mango.

Berry pumps, Cole Haan.

Stainless steel chain bracelet, Kohl’s.

Leather and metal square bracelet, Boondock Studios.

Shades, The Loft.

How to Wear: Dress Over Pants

Dress over pants looking at hat

Sometimes what we need to push us out of our comfort zone is an accident or necessity (the old mother of invention herself).

I purchased this lovely lightweight summer dress on sale, but when I put it on at home and started moving around (and sitting down) in it, it felt way too short for my tastes. I couldn’t return it because it was final sale, so what to do?


Dress over pants with hat

You may have seen the recent street style trend of wearing a dress over pants. While it’s not my natural inclination, I decided to give it a go with these leggings I picked up last week.

I know you thought I had a abhorrence for wearing yoga pants in public that rivaled only my animosity towards slow drivers in the left lane, but leggings and yoga pants are not the same. Leggings are a fantastic complement to a flowy top and I fully endorse donning them at every possible opportunity.

So how can you determine if that pair of stretchy pants you’re reaching for are polished enough for everyday wear? Here’s a handy comparison to help you out:

Yoga pants:

  • Are usually made of performance or moisture-wicking fabric.
  • Have brightly colored or bold athletic designs.
  • Are sold with a matching sports bra.


  • Are made of soft fabric representative of real clothing (yes, I said it).
  • Resemble a slim-fit pair of pants.
  • Have intelligent details that clearly elevate them to pants status. Sophisticated design, regular seams, pockets, zippers, buttons, lacing, trim, or–my favorite–studs often differentiate leggings from their sporty counterparts, giving them a leg up (no pun intended) on the fashion food chain.


These leggings from Population are softer than a baby bunny, so I anticipate they’ll enjoy a heavy rotation in my wardrobe.



Dress, Greylin via Hattie’s Branches.

Leggings, population via Babe’s Shoes & Apparel.

Shoes, Cole Haan.

Hat, Brixton via Bearcat & Big6.

Earrings, TJ Maxx.

Necklace, Polk Museum of Art Gift Shop.

Action, Boys, Action

blue trench black white windowpane

I adore a dramatic collar.

According to Charlotte Bronte’s character Jane Eyre, people “must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.” I think Jane was onto something, because whenever I anticipate having a run-of-the-mill day, I feel obliged to wear a little something special, and this trench, with its oversized collar, front pockets, and bubble skirt, usually does the trick.

You would think that a punchy color like this would enjoy limited use in a wardrobe, but when you buy things in your favorite, most flattering colors, you’ll find yourself reaching for them over and over again.

White black windowpane

Along with my fondness for nearly theatrical proportions, I possess an incorrigible love of white and ivory pants. I insist on buying them, even though I have never been able to keep them clean or in good repair (we all have our vices). They do not pair well with park benches, coffee, pens, babies, or being in any sort of rush. I find it imperative to commute with a dark outer layer extending past the derriere for impromptu outdoor lunches, diaper changes, coffee on the drive in to work, etc.



Black and White windowpane top, Merona via a friend’s closet sale.

Pants, Elie Tahari.

Shoes, Cole Haan.

Earrings, ?.

Necklace, via Polk Museum of Art Gift Shop.

Bubble-skirt trench, Samuel Dong via a charming little shop in Charleston, SC called   Ooh! Ooh! Shoes

Know the Deal: how to shop at an outlet store

Coach Weekender

This mustard Coach weekender has been on some grand adventures with me. When shopping for bags, look for labels with identification numbers to verify authenticity. Coincidentally, most of my outfit in this photo was purchased at an outlet mall. Shoes and shades, Cole Haan. Necklace, Kate Spade.

Everyone loves a good deal. Hence the appeal of the “outlet mall,” a phenomenon we fully exploit here in Central Florida. People traveling from all over the world work a trip to the outlet mall into their itinerary, and leave with enough merchandise to clothe a small country.

Many people think that just because they’re buying something at an outlet mall, it’s guaranteed to be “a deal” and less expensive than buying it at a regular store. We get caught up in the thrill of the score, and wind up going for broke (literally and figuratively) by the end of the day (c’mon—how many of us really need a fancy garlic peeler?).

Here are my tips for making sure that your next trip to the outlet mall produces items that will be workhorses in your wardrobe:

Have a list (at least a mental one) of what you’re looking for.

Not only do I like to have a general idea of what specific pieces I’m looking for, I like to map out my route to certain stores once I arrive. This ensures I visit the stores that are most likely to have what I need. Once I get everything I need, I can visit other stores for extra fun. That way, I stand a much better chance of coming home with pieces that fill in the gaps in my wardrobe.

Know what’s the real deal.

I’ve seen too many friends disappointed in their search for designer items (especially bags). It’s not impossible to score a good deal on a designer bag, but you need to know the hallmarks of that designer and the materials they use. Designers usually stamp each bag with an identification number and the particular bag style should be recognizable from brand marketing. Shoddy zippers and linings or off-kilter or oddly colored logos are usually a good sign that you might not be getting the real deal.

In addition, some designers put out diffusion lines that have a similar aesthetic to their main line, but sometimes sacrifice a bit of luxury in the manufacturing process. The leather might not be as buttery soft, the hardware might not be as hefty, or the stitching may not be quite so even. You can find incredibly fun diffusion line pieces, but I do caution against overpaying for a diffusion line piece (this is easy to do because many times, diffusion line pieces are sold side-by side with main line items in the outlet stores with little to no differentiation. I say again: Know your designer).

Michael Kors moto jacket

After searching for years for the perfect leather moto jacket, I finally happened upon this one at a Michael Kors outlet.

Know what’s a real deal.

This generally has to do with your style aesthetic. The expression “Know thyself” has never rung more true than when applied in a sartorial sense. Snagging a purple sweater for $10 is $10 wasted since I don’t wear purple. Conversely, I love moss green, so paying $35 for one in that color (I like a silk-cotton blend) is a much better deal for me.

Similarly, since I don’t really wear sneakers, the 2-for-1 sale going on at Adidas isn’t going to be the best use of my finances. But I love leopard, and the utter abandon with which I pair it with everything imaginable completely justifies picking up two pairs in differing heel heights (the men in my life may disagree, but I’m standing by this one).

I find that wardrobe demise does not sneak up on you through well-thought-out investment purchases, but by frittering away your budget on things that appear to be a good deal at the time (This t-shirt in every color because it’s only $12!).

These guidelines may not completely safeguard you against the odd errant purchase (Oh, like I’M the only one with pool slides in my closet?), but they should at least ensure that you make good use of most purchases from this weekend’s ventures.

Know what is important to you.

I almost can’t believe I’m saying this, but there will be times when quantity will be more important than quality (pregnancy reigns fresh in my mind; so do newly-minted college graduates entering the job market). But barring a few exceptions, I tend to look for a very few (thank you, Lilliputian closet) quality pieces over volume.

Is prestige or living on the edge of the fashion scene more important to you? Does your weekend wardrobe read “sporty” or “party”? Do you prefer frequent shopping fun or a few big trips a year? These are all things that will affect how and when you spend your clothing budget.

3 Pairs

Spring has sprung, and this time of year always has me yearning for renewal in my closet. Maybe it’s the Florida girl in me, but spring shoe designs are usually my favorite—they’re more bare than boots, but haven’t yet reached the two-straps-of-leather style that we Floridians are forced to don in the summer months because it’s so hot our feet are sweating.

Of course, we’d all love to buy an entirely new shoe wardrobe every year, but who has the money (or time or closet space) for that? So here are my recommendations for the shoes that you’ll get the most style mileage out of this spring if your shoe budget is a little limited (full disclosure—these recommendations assume you already have a serious pair of black pumps and a comfortable pair of nude pumps. You don’t?! Run, don’t walk to your nearest computer and hit the checkout button now! Then come back here):

If you can buy only one pair:JCrew Leopard stella pumps

LEOPARD. Leopard, leopard, leopard.

Leopard has been A Thing for a hot minute now, but there’s good reason it’s popularity hasn’t diminished. It lends chic to black and other neutrals and a dose of cheekiness to brights and prints (Exhibit A: the J. Crew catalog. “Leopard is a neutral”—Jenna Lyons is my kind of girl).


If you can buy only two pairs:PG.NWJOWZER.JJ127A4.PZ

A muted tone like blush, dusky blue, or lucite green. Elegant with the pastels so popular right now, they’ll also pair well with deeper, warmer tones in fall.


If you can buy only three pairs:Cole haan sandals

A pair of block-heeled sandals. Great for grounding airy styles, and low-heeled pairs can work with mid-and long-length shorts as well.