Back in Black
There are basics that every working woman should own: a classic suit, neutral trousers, silk blouses, pencil skirts and, of course, a classic LBS — the little black sheath. It might sound boring, but this dress is an ideal multi-tasker. With its simple sleeveless tank or scoop neckline, layers can be added over and under. A variety of belts, jackets and accessories can change the way this closet-chameleon looks in a snap. You can dress it up and down and take it easily from day to night and work to weekend. The black sheath is universally flattering and — best of all — swapping tops and accessories for one dress requires a lot less time and money than coming up with entirely new outfits every day.
Here are 10 of our favorite looks.
On Its Own, With a Pair of Great Heels
Let’s begin with the dress. A classic black sheath should be as simple and unembellished as possible. The less detail the dress has, the more you’ll get out of it. For versatility, look for a sheath with a sleeveless tank or scoop neck top. These type of necklines will allow you to layer pieces underneath without looking fussy or clumsy.
When you’re picking the dress for you, don’t forget that the right fabric is key. Try to pick a seasonless material like a tropical weight wool or a similar blend. It doesn’t need to have a lot of stretch because it shouldn’t be super fitted or clingy. Aim for a skirt that stops at the knee, just above or a hair below, depending on your preferred length. If the dress has a waist seam, then that seam should be literally at your waist, not above or below. Remember, you might want to belt it.
Simplicity is always in fashion, the LBS looks great with just a sleek pair of heels. Pick a heel height that you look good in and feel good in too.
With a Matching Blazer
Mixing up your basics gives your wardrobe extra legs. Why not toss the idea of the classic suit on its head by pairing a basic black blazer with your sheath dress? This modern look is best with a single breasted jacket that has a bit of shape to it, not a straight masculine cut.
Also, try to match the blacks. Like all colors, black can have different tones. It can have either a blue cast or a red cast, which can make or break how well the two pieces look together. An open-toe shoe with a stacked heel looks relaxed but still polished and gives the outfit a fresh touch.
With a Preppy Blouse Underneath
For a whole new look, choose a slim-cut shirt to layer underneath your sheath. Solids, stripes, polka-dots all work, it’s really up to you, but the preppier the better here. Consider rolling the sleeves up to add a more casual, but still pulled together touch. A low pointed d’orsay shoe gives the look a feminine touch while also flattering the leg. Adding a neat shoulder bag keeps the whole look modern.
- Brooks Brothers Non-Iron Classic Fit Stripe Dress Shirt in Blue, $98.50
- French Connection Mod Squad Shoulder Bag in Black, $59.99 (on sale)
- Jenn D’Orsay Pump in Black, $69.95
With a Wide Waist-Cinching Belt
If you’re one of those lucky ladies who has a svelte waistline, show it off! There’s no better way than with a wide waist-defining belt. The new corset style belts add a bit of show-stopping style to a simple LBS, and it’s really all you need — with a great pair of shoes, of course. This is also the perfect dramatic add-on if you’re going from the office to dinner. Just buckle it up and go.
With a Cropped Jacket
The clean cropped jacket brings a bit of that mod-retro feeling to your outfit without looking like you’ve got a costume on. This will elongate you as well by making your bottom half seem longer. Pick an abbreviated jacket with no buttons, no collar and a bracelet-length sleeve. It can be fitted or boxy, whichever you find more flattering. Add a clutch to complete the look.
Underneath a Lightweight, Modern Coat
Challenge yourself to think differently about coats. It can be one of those items that can refresh anything you pair with it, particularly a simple black sheath. A coat can be worn as a modern version of the jacket, and this very simple cocoon coat acts just like another layer. Add accessories sparingly, you don’t need too much with this look. Punctuate it with bold shoes and a bag to make a cool graphic statement.
With a Sheer Chiffon Blouse Layered Underneath
Give your LBS a feminine touch by adding a silky chiffon pussy-bow blouse underneath. The sheer fabric adds softness and a bit of sensuality to your look and the soft tie-neck keeps the whole look completely buttoned up. The play on textures and transparency makes for an interesting contrast and can be a fabulous way to go from the office to a night out. Keep it simple with solid black or another deep tone, or try something a little more spirited like a fun print.
A Pop of Color
Don’t be afraid to add a splash of color, particularly to your neutrals. Whether you prefer pastels or a zestier tone depends on your coloring and the season. An easy way to do this is by picking a clean-cut blazer in a bold shade. And if you can help it (sometimes even I can’t resist), don’t match your shoes and bag to your jacket. Let that bold, beautiful shade take center stage and be your singular statement in color.
Zara Fabric Blazer in Red, $79.90
With a T-shirt
This look is perfect for a Casual Friday since mixing t-shirts in with more dressed up pieces can take the guesswork out of what feels like a weekly conundrum. A fitted, cap-sleeve tee layered under your LBS is an easy, cheeky way to incorporate the best of both worlds. Solids or prints work equally well. Pair with zippy flats and sleek hoop earrings.
- Boden Short Sleeve Breton in Ivory/Meadow, $27.20 (on sale)
- Fine Hoop Earring Multipack in Silver, $11.00
- Zara Pointed Ballerinas With Bow in Metallic Silver, $49.90
With a Cardigan
Fitted, button-front cardigans in bright, pop-art shades not only ward off the office AC chill in style but can look fresh with the right fit. Go for a sleek rather than a sloppy fit. Make sure the shoulder seam sits on the shoulder and that the front row of buttons stay closed when you move your arms akimbo. Whether you leave your cardigan open over your LBS or opt to button a few buttons, add a skinny belt to accentuate your waist.
- Land’s End Supima Cardigan in Washed Cyan, $20.99
- Kate Spade New York Skinny Bow Belt in Black, $68.00