What to Wear to Work Summer 2014

summer fashion trends

A seemingly innocent trip through the grocery store checkout line can be a recipe for a trend overdose. Aisles of magazines beckon for your attention showcasing seasonal fashions that promise to make you the hippest person in the room. But is that what you want at work?

Trends can be traps. They’re not always the best financial investment (they’re called trends, not classics, after all), and they’re often not designed with professionalism in mind. Here are my rules for any trend:

Don’t spend too much on most trend-driven pieces. That doesn’t mean you can’t find some with staying power but you need to choose wisely. Most trends don’t stick around as long as your white t-shirt or tan heels. So, align the price points accordingly.

When in doubt, go small. I’m not talking about size, but surface area. Some trends are so overpowering that you don’t wear them — they wear you. Best to keep louder trends in the subtle details, rather than the centerpiece of an outfit (though there are some exceptions, which I’ll highlight).

Wear one trend at a time. You don’t want to look like a trend victim, trying to cram as many hot looks as possible into one outfit. The exception is in the rare case where the one trendy item embodies multiple trends simultaneously, in an understated way (examples to follow).

So, which trends should make their way into your office and which have the most staying power? Here are my warm weather trend picks and how to expertly integrate them into your wardrobe.

Keep Your Cool

Keep Your Cool

A seemingly innocent trip through the grocery store checkout line can be a recipe for a trend overdose. Aisles of magazines beckon for your attention showcasing seasonal fashions that promise to make you the hippest person in the room. But is that what you want at work?

Trends can be traps. They’re not always the best financial investment (they’re called trends, not classics, after all), and they’re often not designed with professionalism in mind. Here are my rules for any trend:

Don’t spend too much on most trend-driven pieces. That doesn’t mean you can’t find some with staying power but you need to choose wisely. Most trends don’t stick around as long as your white t-shirt or tan heels. So, align the price points accordingly.

When in doubt, go small. I’m not talking about size, but surface area. Some trends are so overpowering that you don’t wear them — they wear you. Best to keep louder trends in the subtle details, rather than the centerpiece of an outfit (though there are some exceptions, which I’ll highlight).

Wear one trend at a time. You don’t want to look like a trend victim, trying to cram as many hot looks as possible into one outfit. The exception is in the rare case where the one trendy item embodies multiple trends simultaneously, in an understated way (examples to follow).

So, which trends should make their way into your office and which have the most staying power? Here are my warm weather trend picks and how to expertly integrate them into your wardrobe.

Animal Print

Animal Print

Animal prints come and go as seasonal trends, but they are also part of a longterm classic look. When they’re not “trending,” you may not see as many options in the marketplace, but an animal print accent is always in style. They can be a bit overpowering if they cover too much surface area, so focus on accessories like a scarf or a belt. A lightweight scarf can be worn year round, and a skinny printed belt is the perfect way to break up a monochromatic ensemble, like all black or all tan.

Our Pick: 
Express Animal Print Scarf, $19
Merona Leopard Print Skinny Belt, $14

Wide-legged Pants

Wide-legged Pants

Skinny jeans! Flares! Wide legs! Every season declares the return of one of these leg shapes. But the truth is that both skinny and wider legs have been around for several years and show signs of staying that way. This year’s wide-leg trend doesn’t mean you should ditch your skinny jeans (I promise those are here to stay for the foreseeable future), but the wide leg is nicely interpreted for work in a silky trouser and white pant. Neither screams “trend” and both will have staying power, regardless of what’s advertised next year.

Our Pick: 
Chelsea 28 Pleated Wide Leg Trousers, $88 
Loft High Waist White Pant, $69

Tribal Patterns

Tribal Patterns

Tribal patterns are a bit like animal prints: they come and go from the official roster, but there’s always a place for them if well-executed. A tribal-influenced scarf like this one is so soft and subtle, it quickly becomes a seasonal favorite, not a fleeting fad. For bolder interpretations, like the tribal print dress, the geometric pattern is more classic than trendy and can be toned done with a black or tan blazer. Add some metallic jewelry to keep it neutral.

Our Pick: 
Calvin Klein Tribal Print Dress, $49 
Nurture Tribal Scarf, $39

Cropped Jackets

Cropped Jackets

A shrunken jacket is as practical as it is hip. You may consider a blazer a natural companion to a dress or high-waisted skirts and pants, but it’s easy to lose your shape and look frumpy if the blazer falls too low on your hips, instead of right at the waist, like a cropped jacket. 

Find an affordable summer-weight jacket, like the notch-collar option or a black cropped blazer you can wear year round. Regardless of the price of the jacket, pay a little extra to have it expertly tailored, if need be. With trends and wardrobe staples alike, fit reigns supreme when it comes to looking sharp.

Our Pick: 
JC Penney Notch-Collar Cropped Jacket, $17 
ASOS Cropped Blazer, $65

Midi Skirts

Midi Skirts

In 1967, Faye Dunaway popularized the midi skirt in “Bonnie and Clyde,” inspiring a marked diversion from the popular minis of the ‘60s. Now the shin-length trend is back and many of its interpretations are rare double trends: tea length and pleated, or midi in trendy black-and-white patterned. Fortunately, both of these 2-for-1 trend expressions work as wardrobe staples that don’t send the “trying too hard” message typical of many multi-trend items. Pair bold patterned skirts with neutral tops and find your color in accessories or shoes, and wear the black midi year round.

Our Pick: 
ASOS Black Pleated Midi Skirt, $52 
Humble Chic Paint Splatter Skirt, $68

The Color Orchid

The Color Orchid

Perhaps you weren’t aware that there is an official color of the year? This year’s lucky winner is radiant orchid. Purple is definitely not everyone’s color, but even for those who prefer a more neutral palette, there are benefits to strategically implementing spots of color (hint: it could radically transform your mood). 

For a novelty color like orchid, stick with pieces that are structurally more conservative — like a classic ballet flat or a bangle bracelet, both of which work equally well in both casual and professional contexts.

Our Pick: 
Lands’ End Ballet Flat, $44 
Etsy Orchid Resin Bangle, $35

Sheer Pieces

Sheer Pieces

How to wear it: While some sheer pieces will send your HR department into a tailspin, there is a professional way to be sheer. Blouses are the perfect place for a strategically see-through piece, particularly when it is half sheer, half opaque (in all the right places, as with these blouses). Experiment with sleeve lengths: A sleeveless blouse is great for layering with a blazer or sweater, and ¾ sleeves are a nice alternative for in-between weather. Pair any of them with white or tan pants to keep the look warm weather appropriate. When in doubt, layer with a cami to hide bra straps and create a smoother look. 

Our Pick: 
Vince Camuto Sheer Top, $79 
Express Flutter Sleeve Sheer Panel Blouse, $49 
Dorothy Perkins Grey Sheer Inset Blouse, $44

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