Friday, May 11, 2012

Without a Clue for Color

Dear Dress Up. Write Down,

I need more color in my work wardrobe! I feel like I'm always in black/ grey/ navy or red because I want to be professional.  My ultra conservative bosses loves it, but the hot boys in the hall? Probably not.

Dear Colorless Chicka,

It is certainly possible to be conservative AND attractive, in fact, that combination may be the very definition of classy or elegant. Color is the key element that will allow you to heat up your conservative looks, while still remaining appropriate. Here’s how:

Wear a suit in a statement color: Red, by the way, is actually a great choice. It makes you instantly sexy in a tasteful way, and it looks stellar with black and white add ons (think tweed pumps). It sounds like you need life back in your closet, so try on a bright suit for size. Do consider your wardrobe though. What are the existing, reoccurring colors of your tops? Ideally, you want your suit to be easily incorporated with what you already own. I’m a big fan of thrift stores or consignment shops for interesting, colorful suits, not only because I’ve scored great finds in the past, but also because suits can get pretty pricey. Check out this patterned cobalt suit I snatched at Salvation Army for $15. Pattern is completely appropriate by the way, and with a price like that, you can afford to experiment.  But remember, when it comes to suits, fit always trumps any color or print, and also, if you do wear a colored suit, go neutral with other elements of your outfit.

Vintage Suit, Salvation Army $15

Get colorful with undershirts: Of course, you may be wondering, ‘But, how do I add color to my existing black and blue suits?’ At the risk of sounding obvious, opt for colorful patterned undershirts. This comes down to preference, so the options are endless. You can decide whether it be a button up (option for collar out or in), or a V-neck, but whatever you do, do not show any cleavage. That will turn off your conservative boss more than a neon orange body suit. And keep those silk and lace camisoles under your clothes!  They look like lingerie! Pussy bow blouses are a stellar option for enjoying silk, while adding color, interest and style. I say, go for a colorful print that you think could be framed on the wall if not worn on your back.

Rafaella Print Boxy Blouse, $42.99

3.1 Phillip Lim, $414

Tribal Print Tank Top, $49.99

Tie in a colorful scarf: A neck scarf will add a pop of hue and make you feel Parisian all at the same time.  I like to focus on the square scarf that ties at the neck, because except for on flight attendants, I don’t see this look enough! Try it and stand out in a chic way! Emilio Pucci, Roberto Cavalli, Marni, and Versace are just some of the designers that offer beautiful silk square scarf as an investment piece, but American Apparel has a new line of square scarves in their Vintage collection that range from $5-35, and Mango offers some for less than $50. Have fun with color and print with these, they are very sophisticated, and therefore can handle wilder aesthetics. This is also a great item to go vintage, so ask to see your Grandmother or Aunt’s collection; they might let you borrow one.  

Vintage Bright Floral Bouquet Scarf, American Apparel $5
Step into a vibrant pump: We know your boss is conservative, so anything resembling stripper heels or fashionista footwear will not work. That being said, avoid 6 inchers, mega bling, or anything you have worn out clubbing. Stick to a conservative pump (a kitten heel is both very appropriate, on trend runway wise, AND comfortable) but add zing with a stand out color. The good news is, with all this restraint, it’s safe to go bold with hue!  I promise! Another bonus is, with all your black, gray and blue suits, virtually any color that your foot fancies is a ‘do.’

Collection Valentina snakeskin pumps, JCrew $425

Slip a statement necklace around your neck: A colorful, statement necklace takes your blah attire to a whole new, refreshing level. It’s a good time to go big here, whether it is a longer, chunky necklace or bib piece. Austere work attire in BLACK is always a smart choice when throwing on colorful add ons, such as jade green or turquoise. Pick the statement necklace that speaks to YOU. Your statement should be “wow” when you see it. Kate Spade offers a great selection of colorful necklaces that do not error on the side of rainbow cheesy. They are made perfect for a professional setting while still achieving ultra-cuteness. Check them out at

Bottom line: If you are wise with conservative cuts, and smart with balancing color with nuetrals, you can then let yourself have fun with color, whether it be on a sharp suit, around your neck, or on your feet. You work hard, and you deserve the enjoyment! As a bonus, “the hot boys in the hall” will certainly love it.

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