Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Black: From blah to beautiful

So, I'm not the only one with a new job. My friend Claire got a fantastic new gig in NYC - an awesome upgrade from being a banker. But with a new job comes a new dress code - she's required to wear mostly black.

This is both a blessing and a curse. Black is universally flattering and slimming, and it's easy to find almost any item of clothing in the dark hue. Black goes with anything.

But it can be easy to get into a rut when your 9-5 look is the same shade 24/7 (or 24/5 as it were). How can you keep one color from become one-note?

Here are my tips to take your black from basic to bold.

(Note: This is intended to be inspiration... I don't actually expect Claire to go out and buy a $1k pencil skirt! Also, I've bolded what I consider to be wardrobe staples - must haves for every woman!)

1. Belt it. Start with a black sheath dress - a wardrobe staple - and change it up by adding a fabulous, unique belt. Studs, sequins, or floral details add texture and depth to your look.
Tibi sheath dress: $214
Matthew Williamson belt: $140
Anita Ko dagger earrings: $2,840
House of Harlow ring: $78
Nine West Madeup pump: $52.90

2. Grab a bold accessory. A fun statement necklace can make an old dress or shirt look like something new and different. Fill your wardrobe with fabulous jewelry. It will be the first thing people notice on black canvas (in fact, they might not notice you totally wore that dress last Tuesday).
3. Play with texture. A shirt with a peplum or a unique necklace (like above) will totally elevate the interesting level of a look. The technical twill of this shirt gives a fabulous sheen.

Antonio Berardi crepe pencil skirt: $1,115 (or check out this more reasonable priced one from J. Crew)
Stella+Dot pearl bib necklace
DKNY technical twill peplum top: $275.55
Kate Spade Halle wedges: $298
Gold ball studs: $29.99
Lodis Audrey portfolio: $150

3. Change up the fabric. Wool and cotton are great for the office, but when you are in an artier field, you have the luxury of exploring fabrics beyond the suiting standards. I love this pleated leather skirt from Vince. It also adds some volume on bottom to change up your silhouette (and avoids the borderline-skanky look of fitted leather).

James Perse stretch-cotton turtleneck top: $85
Vince pleated leather skirt: $495
Spanx tight-end tights: $34
Kelsi Dagger Moxie boots: $39.97
Michael Kors chronograph watch: $250
Kate Spade bow studs: $45

4. Play dress-up. This rule can be a little tricky because there is a fine line between costume and couture.  Dress with a theme - it will force you to put things together you might not otherwise, and maybe push the boundaries of the banality of your normal outfits. But be careful - you don't want to take it too far or too seriously or you'll become a parody of your outfit. For instance, I call this look the 'saucy secretary.' But make sure to keep your hair loose - don't dress the look to a T.

PS A black blouse with a feminine detail is such a wardrobe necessity. You can wear this with skinny jeans and a leather jacket at night to edge it out or dress it up for work... Just love it.

Blouse By Malene Birger: No longer available (sorry) but here are some other options from Joseph and ASOS
Antonio Berardi crepe pencil skirt: $1,115
Kate Spade bow studs: $45
Cutler and Gross cat eye glasses
Manolo Blahnik Campy mary janes: $645
Black jade and pearl ring from Nature's Jewelry: $79.98
YSL patent leather belt: $295
5. Trend is your friend. Black+the latest trendy piece = instant chic. I love these wide-legged pants for the workplace, and they are so much more fun than your standard black trousers. Keep the rest of the outfit simple, classic and clean. Invest in a basic black tank made with a stretchy fabric (looks nicer than plain jersey) to wear with the pants (or really anything!).

Tibi wool crop jacket: $306.90
T by Alexander Wang layering tank: $87
Elizabeth and James Jake wide-legged trousers: $403
Nine West Madeup pump: $52.90
Diamond studs
Silver and enamel ring
6. Get inspired by the classics. The reason why they are classic is because they work - they've worked for many years, and they will continue to work. Mix your trendy pieces with your classic pieces, and your wardrobe will seem infinite. I love these straight-legged pants from Gap - Very Audrey Hepburn without being a drain on your wallet.
7. Comfort is key. It's so hard to wake up in the morning and want to put on that uncomfortable dress when all you want to do is wear those half-size too big but oh so comfy pants - even though you wore them twice last week. So make sure ALL of your clothes fit well and this won't be an issue. And remember: Some days, you'll just need the easy comfortable outfit. 

Guess shirt: $98
Gap true straight pant: $34.50
Pour la Victoire flat: $112.99
Botkier Venice crossbody clutch: $295
David Yurman chunky chain: $1750

8. A word about shoes: Claire didn't let me know if her shoes had to be black, but I guessed conservatively. I have tons of black shoes, and honestly, I rarely think my shoe wardrobe is missing anything. A good pair of black pumps, boots and flats will get you far. Also, wedges are my new favorite thing; the Kate Spade wedges above are classic, stylish and comfortable.

So, Claire, does this help? Are you inspired? More importantly, are you so excited? (especially for me to come visit you ASAP!)

(And now I need help: The YSL belt from above is my dream patent leather belt. I really need a new one, and this is the only one I can find that I like. If you have seen a similar one for under $50, let me know!)

1 comment:

  1. i love this post! great roundup. i am such a color/pattern/brights girl, but whenever i wear all black (doesnt happen very often), i feel sophisticated and classy.

    hope you are having a great time on your trip! xoxo