Create a Seamless Transition
Looking appropriate is far more important than looking fashionable. And since most of us don’t always move directly from home to work and back again, our contexts and audiences are in a perpetual state of flux. Evening events, travel, client meetings and weather transform the demands on our appearance, sometimes in the span of a single day. Here are some tips and tricks to help you move gracefully between even the most extreme situations.
You’re rarely in control of your environment, and when you’re moving between several extremes, it can be challenging to stay physically comfortable. You may bundle up walking to your train (or car), but once inside your office, it can feel positively tropical. A few strategic pieces will help you regulate your body temperature, regardless of the spikes and dips. A capelet offers most of the warmth of a coat, but the shorter, wider sleeves offer breathing room. Carry a pair of long arm warmers to fill that extra limb space and take the chill off when temperatures drop. Unlike regular gloves, arm warmers can also be worn inside, and since there are no fingers, you never have to choose between staying warm and using a touchscreen.
While you always want to look polished and professional, you don’t always have the time or energy to put together an interview-caliber outfit. Unfortunately, your everyday ensemble might not have the pizazz you want for last-minute client meetings. Guys often keep a tie and blazer on hand in their offices for such an occasion — so follow their lead on this one. A fitted blazer and a striking piece of jewelry can completely transform even the most unimpressive of outfits. Keep a neutral colored blazer in your office and throw it over a dress, a blouse or even a T-shirt. Finish it off with a piece of statement jewelry for a no-fuss transition from everyday routine to stylishly put together.
Trying to dress like a local can work for or against you, but most often, it just leaves you looking like you’re trying too hard. So when you’re traveling, pay attention to the overarching local dress customs (What’s the predominant color palette? Does the population err on the side of formal or casual?), but don’t try to fully assimilate. Opt instead for a neutral, versatile foundation. Soft “non-colors,” like beige or grey, are safer bets than their extreme counterparts, black and white. Stick with monochromatic pieces that mix and match to minimize the total number of items you need to pack and create a clean, universally appealing aesthetic.
Daytime Office to Evening Function
The day-to-night transition is one of the most frequent wardrobe challenges, with endless advice circulating on the perfect panacea to guide you from professional to glam. Unfortunately, many of those suggestions often involve carrying an extra bag. But big costume changes can travel in small packages (like your purse): Add a bejeweled collar to a conservative sweater or crewneck blouse to add a little edge and flair — and a conversation piece — without the extra baggage.
Try this: Black Tie Collar Necklace, $48
You may like piña coladas, but chances are, you aren’t a fan of getting caught in the rain. Sooner or later, however, it happens to all of us — sometimes at very inopportune times. A smart trench can weather most storms, but professional footwear is more of a challenge in inclement weather. Clunky rain boots send a sloppy visual message that conflicts with the rest of your workwear, and yet it’s costly to risk ruining your favorite shoes. Look for a non-traditional all-weather boot (even better if they’re tall and can protect your clothes from splashes). And don’t be afraid to spend a little extra on these wardrobe staples: They’re worth the investment, as you can wear them in rain or snow, and they’re stylish enough to keep on when it’s dry.
Try this: La Canadienne Gaby Tall Suede Wedge Boots, $240
Corporate to Creative
Walking into a creative office or event in conservative corporate attire can feel depressing and disempowering. Take back the power by planning ahead. Don’t worry about changing into a just-off-the-runway ensemble — shoes and a handbag can be all you need to demonstrate you're hip, even if you’re still in a tailored suit.
Opt for professional shoes with some height and a bit of interesting detail. When it comes to handbags, expensive designer purses are usually not the most distinguished options in those settings. Find a small designer locally or on Etsy — someone with a signature style who focuses on craftsmanship — and invest in a bag that will have your creative counterparts asking "Where did you get that bag?"
Anna Akbari, Ph.D. is the founder of Sociology of Style (formerly Closet Catharsis), her wardrobe and image consulting company, where she is the "thinking person's stylist." Find out more and follow her on Twitter.