Prest-o Change-o: Professional to Party

I think one of the biggest wardrobe mistakes women make is to have too many party dresses. Once upon a time, I had more party dresses in my closet than tops. Now I have 2. It’s not that I’ve stopped going to parties (although I’ll admit that my clubbing experiences look more like a scene from “Neighbors”’ these days), but that I’ve learned the value of being able to mix, match, and accessorize pieces in my functioning wardrobe.

Maybe it’s my skill in rationalization coming into play (on some days I believe it’s my superpower), but it doesn’t hurt so badly to invest in quality everyday pieces when I know that with a flick of the wrist, I can remix them into formidable party outfits.

Here are my keys for turning office wear into party all-stars:

  1. Invest in staples with special details. Impeccable cut, intriguing fabrics, extraordinary details-these are what make a piece easy to take to the next level.
  2. Have a few anachronistic, luxe, or just plain weird accessories on hand. The last thing I want to see at a party is someone looking perfectly respectable. I want to see your personality ringing through loud and clear.
  3. Make use of your skin. I don’t want to see your skin at the office, but once the party starts, show me your neck or arms or legs (just remember-pick ONE. The idea is to live on the edge, not to fall off it).

How to do it:

professional-look-mustard-and-black

For work, this spade scarf adds drama to a sweater and textured scuba skirt (see #1) combo. Black boots and tights create a long, lean leg in the absence of skin.

party-look-mustard-and-black

In a matter of minutes, I’m ready for the party with a printed shoe (leopard is my favorite), a “maximalist” bow belt (#2), tsujzed-up sleeves, a vintage brooch from my grandmother’s closet, and fishnets (#3).

Now show me yours!

Unpacked:

Black Bubble-Textured Scuba Skirt, Bitte Kai Rand.

Mustard Sweater, The Limited.

Black Tights, Spanx Assets, Target.

Black Booties, Calvin Klein.

Dotted Spade Scarf, Kate Spade.

Party Accessories

Fishnet hosiery, Victoria’s Secret (in stores only).

Leopard Calf-Hair Pumps, RALPH Ralph Lauren, via TJ Maxx.

Poufy Bow Belt, Bitte Kai Rand.

Antique Brooch, inherited from Grandmother.

 

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Pumpkin, Baby!

orange pants black linen jacket

When I was little, my mom’s nickname for me was Pumpkin Baby (apparently, I had rolls like a pumpkin ♥). It must have subconciously imbued me with a love for the shade, because now I can’t get enough of it.

Here I’ve paired the hue with neutral basics (leopard is a neutral, right, Jenna Lyons?) to let the wide-leg pants be the star.

Also, I finally bit the dust and bought a paper planner. I’m still adjusting to carrying something around the size of a small dictionary, but feeling more organized and reading an inspirational quote each day (yes, I’m a dork like that) helps soften the blow.Update: While setting up the links to this post, I found my “Happy Stripe” planner has a matching pen, so I may survive after all.

Unpacked:

Pumpkin wide-leg pants, Whimsy Boutique.

White Tshirt, Target. Buy Now.

Black Linen Blazer, vintage Elie Tahari.

Leopard calf-hair belt, vintage Saks Fifth Avenue.

Black and tan wedges, Michael Kors.

Planner, Emily Ley (monogrammed to help me remember my name on the crazy days).

Change 1 Thing–Jack[et] Up

My last Change One Thing post focused on how simply changing your shoes can bring a different vibe to an outfit. I hope it inspired you to try on some unusual combos and stretch out of your style comfort zone a little.

Today we’re going to look at how a quick jacket swap can instantaneously change your look.

Linda Allard, the Director of Design for Ellen Tracy in the 1960s, said, “The jacket is the mainstay of a woman’s wardrobe.” With nearly 20 jackets to my name, who am I to disagree?

A jacket can change the line and flavor of an ensemble. Next time your outfit feels a little rote, switch up the jacket to breathe some new life into it.

Corsten reaching out to Mom

This canvas navy jacket serves as a non-competing topper to a floral and leopard mix.

 

Mom walking with Corsten on grass

Its cinched waist and stand-up collar provide a flattering but utilitarian extra layer perfect for weekend activities.

 

Mom carries Corsten

But exchange it for an army-inspired wrapper instead, and now you’ve got a great foil for the girliness of the other patterns. The internal drawstring waist on this one gives it a shapelier silhouette.

Corsten and Mom Army Jacket

Bonus: Lots of pockets for pacifiers, puffs, lip gloss and phone.

Mom and Corsten walking right

We’re constantly on the move.

Mom and Corsten out of focus

Unpacked:

Floral shorts, J. Crew.

Cotton tank, Everlane.

Navy Jacket, Ann Taylor.

Army Jacket, J. Crew.

Leopard flats, Cynthia Vincent via TJ Maxx.

Lilliputian skull necklace, Banana Republic.

Fingerprint charm bracelet, gift.

Shades, Ann Taylor Loft.

 

 

 

 

Pattern Play

emerald and stripes2.jpg

Sometimes I think I have three settings: dark, white, and high-wattage.

While I’m usually covered head to toe in neutral shades, I sometimes decide to go for ALL THE COLORS at once. This usually happens when, veering from my normal routine of planning my outfits in advance, I let a particular outfit evolve subject to the day’s whims.

Today I thought, “Why stop at colors? Let’s add some patterns into the mix.”

The result: a cheeky mix of emerald, stripes, leopard, and plum (on my lips). Perhaps it’s because the fashion world uses stripes and leopard so often that I pretty much view them as neutrals (thank you, Jenna Lyons), but somehow, it all just works.

emerald and stripes.jpg

With such a variety of patterns and colors, I thought it best to keep my jewelry simple.

 

Unpacked:

Sunburst Pencil Skirt, buy here} 5th and Hall.

Mattress-ticking striped shirt [I’m wearing it wrapped instead of buttoned], via What’s New Consignment [scored for $1, people!].

Leopard kitten heels, Liz Claiborne, bought at Belk on clearance for $17 ages ago [I sometimes remember the most random facts about my clothes. This pair is proof that sometimes your shoes find you; they look like a luxuriously worn carpet and I’ve spent far more than $17 having them reheeled numerous times over the years. I don’t want to think of the “Tragedy of cataclysmic proportions” that will undoubtedly befall my wardrobe when they finally leave me].

Earrings, via TJ Maxx.

Chain link bracelet, stainless steel via Kohl’s [I have tiny wrists, which makes finding bracelets that fit a challenge. After searching for the longest time for a hefty chain bracelet that fit my tiny wrist but didn’t weigh down my arm, I finally found this men’s version at Kohl’s. I took it to the jeweler’s to have the extra links removed, and voila! the perfect bracelet (and being stainless steel, it never tarnishes). Today’s style lesson, kids: sometimes finding the perfect item for you requires a little creativity.

Charm bracelet, cherished personal gift.

 

Bubble Butt

Weather in Florida can be fickle, so it’s a rare day when I experience the pleasure/obligatory vexation of wearing tights. I actually had a 10-minute conversation with my neighbor the other day about my sincere abhorrence of tights. I really don’t like to wear anything too restrictive (I also hate turtlenecks).

black skirt full shot back

On the days they are unavoidable, I wear a pair by Spanx. I know, I know-it’s counterintuitive: I hate restrictive clothing, yet go for the most restrictive version of said clothing. But I really like the finish of the Spanx version, and the waistband doesn’t roll like some other brands I’ve tried.

black skirt top

To wear black and still make a statement, look for interesting cuts or textures. I bought this black skirt in Belgium, and have just fallen in love with it and its bubble-shaped imprints (the sales clerks were probably thinking, “Crazy American!” as I tested its twirliness factor). Bonus: it has a gorgeous pink silk lining, which I adore (there’s a special place in my heart for the designer who considers details that aren’t immediately apparent to everyone).

black skirt shirt wrap

Years ago, I saw a shirt wrapped like this and immediately took to wearing all my button-downs this way. I’m glad to see the trend is back in rotation, just make sure you employ the services of a strategically-placed safety pin before venturing out into public!

 

Unpacked:

Mattress-ticking shirt: Generic, thrifted for $1 (yes, you read that correctly).

Black Skirt:

Belt: Saks Fifth Avenue, thrifted.

Tights: Spanks Assets, via Target.

Shoes: Lauren Ralph Lauren.

Necklace worn as bracelet: Sorrelli.

Shades: Betsey Johnson.

Bruges

After a year of intense focus on keeping another human alive, Shane and I decided it was time to take a little trip as a couple. He had a work trip in France, so it was decided that I would meet him afterwards in Bruges and we would spend a little time in Europe.

My flight suit was super comfortable, but after 17 hours of travelling in it, I decided to change into “real clothes.”

Christina against teal door navy coat

 

The weather in Bruges (pro tip-the locals call it Brugge; pronounced like Brew-hu with a rolled r) was pretty grey, but to make up for it the doors were brightly colored. Since I have a thing for cheerful doors (orange on a grey building is my favorite), most of my photos involved standing by a door that I found intriguing for whatever reason.

Christina white bldg navy coat

At one point in our first day in Bruges, Shane asked if I’d like to get a hot chocolate. I said no, but he insisted I try one.

PEOPLE, a Belgian hot chocolate is unlike any hot chocolate you’ve ever had. It is heaven in a cup. They melt the solid chocolate into the milk right in front of you, and give you a spoon encased in chocolate to stir it with. I’m converted.

lace spools

Belgium is known for its lace. I was really hoping to tour a lace-making factory before meeting up with Shane, but this was as close as I got. Apparently, the art is not as widely-practiced as it once was. I wouldn’t call my personal style particularly lacy, but found the painstaking process of crafting the intricate designs intriguing.

christina bridge

Bruges is full of canals, and there are interesting bridges everywhere. I fantasize about living over the water; can you imagine hearing the water lap underneath you as you lay down to sleep in this house?

dragon vane

The Maison le Dragon is officially my favorite place in the world. Next time I visit (and there WILL be a next time!), I plan to hole myself up in the sitting room next to the fireplace (or perhaps on the private patio, or in the mammoth four-poster bed), reading and writing to my heart’s content. Its golden weather vane topped with a dragon is like a beacon leading you back home from anywhere in the city. Boasting a select four suites, the owners Emmanuel and Maka ensure it’s the most peaceful little sanctuary.

Check out Girl About Downtown on Instagram for some more fun pics from Bruges.

Next stop, Ghent.

 

Unpacked:

Navy Wool Coat, MICHAEL Michael Kors (via Burlington coat factory and tailored within an inch of its life).

Gloves, Leopard calf-hair, Banana Republic.

Jeans, Level 99, Hattie’s Branches.

Nude Flats, Franco Sarto, TJ Maxx.

Earrings, Silver (I don’t remember where I bought them).

Shades, Betsey Johnson, TJ Maxx.

Handknit hat, Boondock Studios.