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.

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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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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.

 

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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.

 

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Nike

•    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.”

Pack It Up, Pack It In, Just Where to Begin?

Packing dresser all

Anna Wintour is my whimsical little piece of “home away from home.”

I love traveling, but I hate packing. I feel like I’m participating in that “you pass three of your friends standing in the rain at the bus stop but your car is a two-seater; which one do you pick up?” exercise. It just seems like I’m always forced to leave some of my best “clothes friends” behind.

That was certainly the case on a recent 4-day work trip, where I had to look polished despite a “casual” dress code (read: no flip-flops here).

Because every inch counts in a weekender bag, I like to physically lay out my outfits down to the underpinnings (not pictured here) and accessories (I think I can safely show you those) to minimize the chance of leaving behind any key players.

So while I did forget my pyjamas, I managed to remember everything I needed to wear in public, including a scarf for the always over-air-conditioned conference centers.

In the next post, I’ll show you how I navigate casual but professional attire, but in the meantime, do you have any strategies that have revolutionized your packing game (maybe I can avoid having to sleep in the nude next time)?