Polka Dot Wrap Dress for After Work Events

Sometimes, when it comes to work, you have to socialize outside the office.  This, shockingly, was never my favorite thing to do. I just found the whole process exhausting.  Does anyone enjoy it? After a long day at work, I barely had the energy to go out and see my friends, so the last thing I wanted to do was pretend to get along with my passive aggressive boss. Even now, though I don’t mind client dinners and functions as much anymore, they are still so very draining.

So what do you do when you’re technically working, just in a more casual environment, where you have to balance schmoozing with cocktails and still keep your poise?

When I’m out with friends, I am usually the first to show up and the last to leave.  What if I miss out on some fun?  I’m 38, and my FOMO is still very real. But I learned early on in my career that nothing good happens after 10pm when it comes to work parties. Nothing.  That’s why I set a time limit and dip in and out.  I’ll arrive within a few minutes of the event starting, and set a curfew with a firm stop a few hours later.  If I’m traveling, I’ll let the host know I have an early meeting or flight. If I’m local, and I feel like I have to give a reason for leaving early, I’ll say I have a sitter with a curfew. Often, I’ll just find the host, thank them and head out; you don’t always have to give a reason.

In the summer, there is the added detail of what to wear.  For some reason, the warm weather creates a landmine of inappropriateness. When I’m not sure what to wear, I always turn to a dress.  This polka dot dress, is the perfect choice for a warn weather function that’s an easy going take on a classic wrap dress.

Polka Dot Dress For After Work Events

Misses Dress, $128  |  Plus Dress, $35  |  Heel, $42  |  Clutch, $95  |  Bracelet, $49  | Earrings, $36

I get excited when I find a dress in missy and plus sizes.  It’s not often that two dresses look so similar. Both have a gorgeous v-neckline, and trend-right, high-low hem.  Polka dots are quintessentially summer.  Inspired by the dress, I wanted to create a look that is a modern take on a classic combination.

The dress has enough going on to let it stand on it’s own.  All you need are a few well placed accessories and a shoe that disappears on the leg.  What’s better than pearls with navy and white polka dot?

This stacked pearl bracelet has the right style and proportion to work with the movement of the dress. Kenneth Jay Lane has a beautiful line of costume jewelry, and when you find it on sale, it’s even better.  To keep the pearl theme going, I used a small pair of studs.  Avoid anything oversized, or you’ll teeter in Pretty Woman territory, and the look will feel too retro.

To keep a modern edge, I used this popular Rebecca Minkoff envelope clutch with a zipper detail trim.  It adds some much-needed contrast to balance the femininity of the dress. Finally, for the shoes, you can wear any neutral to you shoe, like a sandal or a slide with a heel.  The dress needs some height to show off the movement of the skirt.  I used these block heel slides.  They are different from a lot of the shoe options we’ve featured recently but work well, and the suede adds another layer of texture.

 

Go-to Lightweight Sweater for an Air-Conditioned Office

Go-to Lightweight Sweater for an Air-Conditioned Office - The Well Dressed Life

The office sweater: the bathrobe like article of clothing that lives on the back of your desk chair.  Likely the byproduct of a closet clean out that you deemed not acceptable to wear with an outfit but still okay enough to keep the freezing air conditioning off your neck while working away. Fair enough. But, of course, we all know what happens. The sweater that was not good enough to wear in an outfit ends up being what you wear every day. Ladies now is the time to upgrade that old rag with something slightly more polished.

Go-to Lightweight Sweater for an Air-Conditioned Office

Lightweight Sweater for an Air-Conditioned Office - The Well Dressed Life

Sweater, $88

Instead of throwing on something that should have ended up in a donation pile, look for something with clean lines and smooth knitting that will blend seamlessly into your outfit.  I love this Merino sweater from Banana Republic.  It’s lightweight, machine washable, and available in five neutral colors with a simple basic design that will work with lots of different styles. The length works with ankle pants, skirts, or dresses. We featured it in light heather grey, but the ivory and of course, black, would go with anything.

Need a non-wool alternative?  I love this soft cardigan from Barefoot Dreams.  Or pick up multiple colors of this Bobeau shawl collar cardigan for under $20.  Plus size?  Give this open cardigan comes in five colors, also by Barefoot Dreams.

Wear to Work: Floral Peplum

Wear to Work: Floral Peplum - The Well Dressed Life

It’s not even officially summer, and I’m already over warm weather outfits. Not a great place to be since we have three months of summer and weeks of posts to fill. I think part of my frustration is the current inventory is god awful. Everything is either tiny, skimpy, cheaply made, backless or booby. Would someone please explain “side boob” to me? Seriously, I can’t name one woman who would see a top and think, “you know, this is great, but it would be even better if you could see the side of my breasts.”

Anyway, when I do find something I like, I quickly try to figure out if I can make it office appropriate. When this floral peplum from MICHAEL Michael Kors floated down my scroll, I stopped for a second look.  It’s better than a tee shirt but has the same ease of wear.  Just put it on and go.  If you are print-adverse like I am, this one is sophisticated and reads like texture.  Speaking of texture, there is a subtle, lace overlay that adds to the visual interest of the outfit.  When you are picking up tops for high temp days, look for details like this.  The combination is balanced and creates a layered look without adding more material.

Don’t be afraid of a peplum.  If it fits you the right way, the peplum will float over your belly and somehow, doesn’t enhance anything you may want to hide.

 

Wear to Work: Floral Peplum

Top, $93  |  Pants, $178  |  Ring, $118  |  Shoes, $80  |  Bag, $178

To ground the femininity of the top, I paired it with simple navy ankle pants by Elie Tahari.  His fit is fantastic, and the quality is well worth the price point (under $200). For something less expensive and in a broader size range, try these seasonless wool ankle pants from Talbots.

For a shoe, try to wear a heel.  It doesn’t have to be super high, but a bit of height with an ankle pant helps to elongate your leg and give the pant a beautiful drape.  I went with these block heel sandals. They disappear on your feet, and the block heel is comfortable to wear all day long.

Finally, I pulled in color with the bag and ring. Do you need a green handbag? No. But it sure does look great with this look. If you do work with a bold color bag, use it like a neutral and incorporate it strategically.  Here, green shows up three times in the outfit, which is a good formula to follow to make a look cohesive and purposeful.   The bag is on sale at Henri Bendel. I have many Henri Bendel pieces and always appreciate their timeless style and quality.  Of course, you don’t have to spend, this option from Target is under $35.00. Same thoughts on the ring, this one from Anthropologie is gorgeous, but this $45 ring from Etsy is almost identical.

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How to Wear Patterned Pants to Work

When you have to get dressed every day for work, it’s easy to fall into a rut. It’s why so many of us look in our closet and find zero inspiration. Sure, it’s all fine, but, gosh, it’s so boring when you feel like you’re wearing the same thing all the time.

Today, we’re pulling together an affordable outfit you can wear to pretty much any office, with pieces that will brighten and freshen up your current wardrobe staples.

How to Rock Patterned Pants to Work

Patterned pants to workPants, $35  |  Blazer, $74  |  Tank, $58  |  Sandal, $80  |  Bag, $60  |  Necklace, $30

My idea was to work with a patterned pant.  I didn’t want something super specific, so I went with a gingham print (that looks like dots) that works as a neutral while adding visual interest.  Don’t spend here.  These pants from Old Navy are $35 and come in petite, tall and missy up to a size 20

For this look, I went with a cheerful red blazer.  I have several Mural blazers and have been very please with the quality.  For under $100 you get a fantastic, casual, cardigan alternative that will add structure to your look.

Both of these pieces can get tons of use outside of this outfit.  For the pants, pair them with a simple summer weight sweater, add a pop of color with a bright blouse, or tone it down with a classic black tank and blazer. 

The Mural blazer works wonderfully with slim lined black pants, white jeans, or your favorite pair of dark jeans.  It’s available in red, black and a soft and pretty blue.

To keep this look clean, I used this tank by Eileen Fisher.  It’s more expensive than the Old Navy scoop tank we’ve featured over the last few months but feels more substantial.  It just a great staple that comes in white and black. Her quality is always excellent so this will wash and wear well season after season.

There are a few elements to this look that are important.  These black slides by Nine West, are on sale at DSW. If you tend to wear a lot of ankle length pants in warmer weather, the height of these slides are perfect.

For this outfit in particular, you need a shoe that grounds the look. There’s a lot going on, so the shoe creates balance. A white or “nude” would be too light.

We make black the primary color of the outfit by using this long beaded necklace.  Even though the red is bold, by using black three times we create cohesiveness and symmetry. 

Finally, I wanted a bag the mimicked the structure of the blazer but didn’t stand out. Don’t be afraid of a white bag and don’t spend a lot. Sole Society is my go-to for trend-right, affordable bags. I like the shape and size of this one. I just wish the hardware was gold, so it complimented the necklace, but it disappears enough that it might not make a big difference.

 

How to Wear a Floral Skirt to Work

Wear to Work: Floral Boden Skirt - The Well Dressed Life

Not all prints and patterns are the same. Some are juvenile, look inexpensive and downgrade your entire outfit. Others are fresh and fun and when done in a timeless silhouette, are incredibly wearable. When I stumbled on this floral print skirt from Boden, I thought, “yup, we can work with this.”  Here’s how to wear a floral skirt to work.

How to Wear a Floral Skirt to Work

How to Wear a Floral Skirt to Work Key piece: Skirt, $110 (size 2 – 14)

I don’t typically turn to Boden. Some of their casual dresses are sweet, and I’m a fan of their sweaters and cotton tops, but their patterns generally turn me off. A print can’t be that sophisticated if a 40-year-old woman and a four-year-old girl are both wearing it. But I really love this navy and white floral pencil skirt, and it was almost too easy to pull these outfits together.

 

How to Wear a Floral Skirt to Work

Skirt, $110  |   Blazer, $178  |  Tank, $14  |  Heel, $60  |  Bag, $298  |  Earrings, $52

I would wear this today if I had a place to go.

First, notice the waistband of the skirt.  See how it’s finished?  The detail of the band tells you that you can tuck in if you want.  To create the base of the look, I used our go-to $14 Old Navy Scoop tank.  It’s seriously perfect, and I know many of you have it.  The neckline works with the cut of the blazer, it drapes nicely, and the hem is finished so you can tuck in or leave out.  In this case, personally, I would tuck it.

If I had to pick one piece for you to invest in for the spring, it would be a classic navy blazer.  You can do so much with it.  Pair it with jeans and a white tee or with your black pants and blouse for work (yes, black and navy. Yes, you can do it), or wear it with a pencil skirt like this one.  The one button detail pulls the line of your body in and makes any combination of separates a complete outfit. The J.Crew Parke Blazer is as good as it gets and under $200.

You have a lot of options for shoes here.  Whatever you wear have it blend with your skin tone so your leg is elongated and the overall weight of the look feels light.  I’m showing a “nude” slingback because they are a ladylike yet modern shoe that gives a closed toe option if you need that for the office or just didn’t get around to getting a pedicure.

Finally, I wanted a navy bag and found this Tory Burch option that works perfectly. It feels proper and feminine, almost like a Chanel quilted bag.  The gold chain detail acts as an additional accessory for added interest. I finished the outfit with these double hoop earrings from BaubleBar.  I LOVE them.  The design is updated and not at all stuffy.  I also love that the shape of the earring compliment the chain on the bag.

 

Wear to Work: Floral Boden SkirtSkirt, $110  |  Top, $69  |  Heel, $100  |  Bag, $298  | Earrings, $25

For a slightly less formal, yet still work-appropriate outfit I used this 3/4 flounce sleeve top with a finished hem that you can wear out and still maintain the shape of the outfit. I especially like the detail at the yoke of the top, it’s so subtle but adds some much-needed interest.  Because a few style details are going on with the top, I skipped a necklace and used a slightly oversized earring.  Almost every pair I found was thousands of dollars. I have amazing taste.  Luckily, I landed on these fun studs on sale for $25.  They are just right.

I like letting a bold print stand on its own and not bring too much “stuff” into the mix.  Here, I used a pretty marigold yellow suede pump, because blue and yellow is always a winning combination.  It gives the look a fresh feel, and makes everything look intentional.  Finally, I’m a fan of a white bag.  Again, it’s a way to lighten up an outfit and gives a modern feel.  This Kate Spade Satchel is the stuff of dreams.  Take care of it and you’ll have it for seasons to come.

The Perfect Spring Sheath

Back when I was working with private clients, every season there were a few go-to pieces that would end up in most dressing rooms. This dress, for sure, would be one of those pieces. It’s a great staple you can dress up for work or weekend events with a can’t-beat price.

This time of year, weekends are crazy. Just looking at our family calendar for April and May, every Saturday and a few Sundays have at least one, sometimes two events.

I feel like we are going to blow through the Spring and Summer, which would usually bum me out, but my brother is getting married in early September and I am out of my mind excited about it.

Before that, our next big event is my daughter’s First Communion.  That’s what got me looking for a simple, affordable, and versatile dress. If you have any kind of shower, graduation or similar event in the coming weeks this dress might be for you.

The Perfect Spring Sheath

Sheath, $90  |  Necklace, $50  |  Clutch, $70  |  Heel, $99

I ordered it in “serene” (above), but it’s available in eight other colors.  The sheath silhouette is perfect for layering under a blazer (take a look at our picks for classic spring blazers here). For the office or after work, black or navy would be perfect. But, don’t be afraid to pick up a bold color. I have a similar dress in bright pink that I wore to all kinds of events last summer.

For this look I wanted it to be super simple and elegant. I love a nude (to me) sandal, and these by Vince Camuto are different yet still wearable with their 3″ heel. 

For the bag, I’m going matchy-matchy.  This box style clutch in patent leather is quintessential Spring.

Finally, you can skip a necklace if you prefer but I wanted to show it as an option. If you can pull off a bold statement, I L.O.V.E this necklace. The shape will mimic the neckline of the dress and act almost like a collar.  The mix of color adds a really lovely depth to the outfit.

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Springtime Blazers for Work

Springtime Blazers for Work - The Well Dressed Life

You would think, the longer I do this, the easier it would be to come up with content.  But it’s the opposite. After working with clients for a decade, and writing daily style tips for three years, there are times when nothing feels fresh and exciting.

So I’m always happy to receive questions and comments from readers.  If you have a question, I guarantee a few thousand other women do as well.  Focusing on your needs makes my time writing much more productive. Instead of spending time thinking about what to write about, I can focus entirely on finding solutions to any of your challenges.

That’s what we’re doing for the next few weeks as we work through the questions you’ve posted over the past month.  For today’s post, we talking lightweight springtime blazers for work.

I’m not much of a light sweater person when layering and more of a stylish jacket or blazer. I think I like the structure of the jacket/blazer. Do you have any recommendations for light jackets/blazers for the spring/summer?” – Laura

 

Laura, I will always pick a blazer over a cardigan.  You’re right, they add some much needed structure to an outfit and really pull together a look, which is especially important for work.  

Spring and summer appropriate blazers are tricky.  If you want the best selection of style and price points, now is the time to shop.

Springtime Blazers for Work

One, $74  |  Two, $168  |  Three, $118  |  Four $111  |  Five, $130  |  Six, $111  |  Seven, $128

For the sake of today’s post I kept the price under $200 and made sure there was not only size variety but color within each style.  I also wanted these to be extremely wearable. 

Almost all of these picks can go with jeans, classic black or white pants, patterned pants, a sheath or a straight line skirt.

One, $74:  Mural makes a nice blazer for under $100. The open, no button detail keeps it casual but you still get structure.  The elongated front detail will pull the line of the body inward, visually creating a slimming shape.  Available in black, white (above), taupe and rust in XS – XL.  Runs small.

Two, $168:  I’ve always loved J.Crew style, but for awhile their quality and size selection wasn’t great.  Over the past few seasons I’ve been pleasantly surprised by both.  Especially their sizes, which now go from 00 – 20.  This cotton linen blazer is available in white, deep water (above), red and black.  Because of the length, it will work best with any kind of trousers or jeans.

Three, $118: This chambray blazer by LOFT is so lovely and perfect for spring.  Pair with dark navy, white or denim bottoms.  Available in sizes 4-18 in regular and petite and in plus here.

Four $111: You have to search for it, but every now and then Talbots has an item that is updated, classic and doesn’t look like Talbots.  Like this notched-collar blazer that comes in blue (above) and black. It will easily be that piece you keep grabbing out of your closet. I special shout out to their commitment to inclusive sizing. This blazer is available in sizes 2 -18 in regular and petite and 14 – 24 in plus.

Five, $130:  I love a boyfriend blazer with jeans in a casual or creative office.  You can take an outfit that would look frumpy with a long cardigan, swap it for a boyfriend blazer, and instantly look effortlessly cool.  I have a similar style I picked up a few years ago and pretty much wear it to death.  This style is only available in black, in sizes 0 – 14.  

Six, $111: With this knit blazer, also by Talbots, you get the look and benefit of the structure of a blazer, but the comfort of cardigan or sweater. Because the fabric is inherently casual, you want to pair it with other casual pieces, like stretch cotton or denim.  If you wear it with more formal items, you will look disjointed. Available in cherry tomato (above), iris, black and white, in any size you need.

Seven, $128: Finally, there is nothing quite like the look of a double breasted blazer. The key to wearing this is to keep it simple, just a classic pair of jeans or black slim pants.  Because the buttons are the star of the piece, avoid prints and patterns.  LOFT is also killing it with sizes. This style is available in regular and petite in sizes 00 – 14 and in plus in sizes 20 -26.

Have a question?  Be sure to add them in the comments and we’ll feature it in an upcoming post.