Wear to Work: Animal Print Cardigan

Wear to Work: Animal Print CardiganKey Piece: Cardigan, $24, Plus Size , $24; Outfit One: Pants, $29; Boots, $375; Bag, $130; Earrings, $35; Bracelet, $80; Outfit Two: Shirt, $20; Jeans, $77; Loafers, $250; Bag, $49; Earrings, $35; Bracelet, $80

Animal Print, it’s either really good, or really bad.  Done well it can be fresh and modern, but finding that balance means you run the risk of looking like Janice from Friends. I would never spend on an animal print piece of clothing (shoes and bags are a different story). The print is too memorable to wear frequently so your price per wear wouldn’t give you much value. Instead, pick up a couple of inexpensive layers, like this cardigan from Target, and pair it with your classic wardrobe staples to create a pulled together look.

Remember, you can mix and match patterns. Our former stylist Erica (who now has her own business in D.C.) is the queen of mix and match. She has an eye for it, and it’s part of her personal style. But there’s a method behind it, which is why she looks effortless, that we’ll talk about in a later post. For now, just remember to keep it simple, and don’t haphazardly mix patterns. Whatever you do, please do not wear a patterned top or dressed and carry your Vera Bradley (or the like). If not for you, for me.

Outfit One: Because it’s a fitted cardigan, you can wear it on its own with just a cami underneath. I paired it with a slim bootcut trouser. These from Old Navy have been a reader favorite, and they are $29 and go up to a size 20 in regular, petite and tall.  When you are wearing a bottom that has width, be sure to pair them with a top that is slim, so you create balance. Have the hem of your pants tailored to “break” on the top of your boot to extend the line of your leg.

Today is one of those posts where I pair affordable with investment pieces. You can quickly enhance the overall feel of a look by incorporating better quality pieces. I typically do this with a shoe or bag, because (1) they have more impact and (2) they give the best return on your investment. For this look, I splurged on the boots. Before you talk yourself into buying some ridiculous designer shoe you can barely stand it, take a look at Aquatalia. Aquatalia shoes are incredible for women who commute to work, travel and face the elements on their way to the office. Have you ever walked to work in a Chicago winter? Or Boston? Or in Philly where they don’t plow the streets for days? Then you need these boots. (And to all of our lucky West Coast readers, because I know you’re reading too, if you have to travel to any of these places, you might want a pair as well.)

When wearing a flare, pay attention to the proportion between the leg opening and your shoe. If you wear a dainty or skinny heeled shoe, the pant will overwhelm them. Instead, fill in the leg of the pant with a boot. For your bag, this is where you can add some interest without introducing a new pattern. I sound like a broken record, but texture is the key to a visually attractive and sophisticated outfit. This bag from Vince Camuto is the perfect example of a classic silhouette, with a two-tone pattern that creates that texture. It complements the cardigan rather than competing with it. (It’s also on sale.)

Finally, I am crazy for this bracelet. I’m probably never going to shake my QVC roots. I love the woven detail and subtle gold accent. Because the pattern is bold, keep your accessories to a minimum, like with these modern gold stud earrings.

Outfit Two: Years ago I was wondering around Neiman Marcus when I spotted a woman in the shoe department who was so stunningly put together; I may have followed her for a bit. I wanted to break down her “formula” and figure out what she was doing that the rest of us were missing. Have you ever looked at someone and wondered how they look so clean and shiny? Just me?  I realized it wasn’t what she was wearing, but how all the elements came together. Nothing about her look was extravagant or overdone, it was simple, on point, attention to detail. Her clothes were tailored, her nails manicured, and everything looked pressed. You can create the same feel, with inexpensive elements if you take good care of them. That was my inspiration for this outfit.

A classic white button down as a layer never goes out of style. You could layer the cardigan over the button down, just make sure the button down you are using is a slim fit, so it doesn’t bunch underneath. I went with an inexpensive option here because if you’re just using it as a layer, you don’t need to spend. This one is from H&M, is $20 and goes up to a size 16.

Next, I added a pair of straight leg jeans. (Need help finding the right one for you? Check out yesterday’s comprehensive jean guide). Regardless of your size, you want these to fit right below your ankle. I paired them with a lovely, suede loafer that really grounds the outfit. If you need an updated flat for a casual office, you could wear these every day. To keep things easy, I repeated the jewelry from outfit one, because that’s what you would do in real life.

Finally, I was looking for a structured, ladylike bag that wouldn’t break the bank and found this from Kohls. I have walked into a Kohls three times in my life, once to see the Vera Wang merchandise when it first came out, the other two were to return Christmas presents, so I don’t have the best understanding of their inventory. But this bag from Jennifer Lopez (the girl is a hustler) is cute and under $50. I also like it in the tan and pink.

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