7 Must Have Pieces for Spring That Won’t Break Your Budget

On the east coast, spring is by far our shortest season. Sometimes the winter, like this year, lasts forever, and then it feels summertime hot sooner than it should. It makes the window for spring retail small. When you’re picking up items for the season, you want versatile pieces that will make an impact and not break the bank.

I thought it would be helpful to round up a few items that will breathe new life into what may already be hanging in your closet so you can look fresh and modern this spring, without having to buy a whole new wardrobe.

7 Must Haves for Spring That Won't Break Your BudgetWhite Jeans, $64  |  Denim Jacket, $79  |  Bangle, $25  |  Dress, $69  |  Sunglasses, $19  |  Satchel, $57  |  Palm Heels, $80

White Jeans

There is something about a white jean that makes everything look better.  For an affordable option, give these Articles of Society jeans a try.  They go up to a size 18 and have incredible stretch. If you like the look of skinny but need a straight leg, I like NYDJ’s Marilyn Straight leg.

Bold Print Shoes

When your wardrobe is filled with basics and neutrals, getting dressed is easy, but can start to feel redundant.  That’s why fun accessories are so important.  They add a pop of personality and help jazz up a flat outfit.  When I saw these palm print pumps, I immediately envisioned them with white jeans and a chambray shirt, or your go-to dark jeans and a crisp white blouse, or a simple cotton sundress.

Blush Bag

Blush continues to be a trend-right color, but I wouldn’t spend too much to bring it into your wardrobe mix. I often look to Sole Society for inexpensive options and this satchel is just right. Wear it as a neutral with a gold or nude-for-you pump and head to the office or a weekend brunch.

Denim Jacket

I truly believe everyone should own a denim jacket, like this one from KUT.  I wear mine all the time with everything from leggings to dresses.  If you think your outfit could use a cardigan, opt for a denim jacket instead for a modern and casual look.

Tee Shirt Dress

On days when you just want to throw on and go you want a tee shirt dress.  Karen Kane makes the best, most affordable dresses that are designed to throw on and go.  Pair with a long necklace and these sandals and you’ll be out the door in seconds but look like you care.

Enamel Bracelet

We talked last week about how Lauren and I are lusting after the Hermes enamel bracelet. While they are not on our priority list, we can buy is this $25 option in an array of preppy color combos.  They look great with your 3/4 sleeve tops, and are another way to bring a bit of color to your outfit.

Tortoise Shell Sunglasses

Classic RayBans are my go-to sunglasses, but it’s fun to have some options. Tortoise Shell has been having a pretty big moment in the trend department, and for good reason. They are classic and neutral, but when done in a modern style they instantly update your look. You can pair them with any color from black, brown, and navy, to preppy prints or vibrant colors.  Don’t spend here either when this pair from ASOS is only $19. 

5 Chic and Functional Bags for Work

If you’re on the hunt for a new work bag this season, we’ve got you covered, in fact we have five chic and functional bags for work . Admittedly, I am sick to death of the usual suspects. (I’m looking at you MICHAEL Michael Kors, Kate Spade, and Coach.)

For today’s post, I wanted to showcase bags specifically designed with working women in mind rather than a mainstream designer’s tote-of-the-moment.

It’s exciting to see companies take a narrow focus and provide actual solutions to the challenges women face trying to stay organized and looked pull together.  Many of these bags are not only gorgeous but thoughtfully designed by companies that are actively rewriting how retail is done. 

From price transparency, ethical manufacturing, and women owned and operated, it’s nice to know you’re doing good and getting more than what you need.

5 Chic and Functional Bags for Work Top: One, $465  |  Two, $265  |  Three, $475  |  Bottom: Five, $165  |  Six, $175

The Main Squeeze Tote and Chief of Staff Organizer Insert

I geeked out so much for this genius, albeit expensive, concept.  First, select the style bag you like. I featured the Main Squeeze Tote in gray; it’s also available in dusty rose and a deep navy.

It features a comfortable top handle, adjustable shoulder strap and full zipper closure. It’s crafted from Italian pebbled leather and is scratch and weather resistant. That’s amazing.

The inside is lined fully with durable nylon. But that’s not all.

You may also purchase an organizer customized for your bag in several options allowing you to decide how many, if any, compartments and slots you need to best manage your day-to-day.

I like the Chief of Staff; it has just enough dividers without micro-organizing. You can choose from the Chief of Staff, the Momager or the Senior Associate.

How great are the names?

What I like the most is that this bag and its inserts are available exclusively on the Etsy shop Sofia Fima. So you’re getting quality craftsmanship, created by hand in Maine and you’re supporting a female owned business. I don’t know if it gets better than that.

Dagne Dover

Dagne Dover was recommended to me by a former client years ago.   It’s pretty much everything you want in a simple, straightforward, yet chic work bag.

I featured the above bag because it’s a non leather option, while still having shape and structure. This one, in particular, is the largest size available. It will fit your 15″ laptop, a notebook, your water bottle and even a pair of flats.

Don’t need so much room? The same style is available in small sizes here and here.

Available in three other colors.

Cuyana Work Satchel 

Cuyana is like the handbag equivalent to the Container Store. You know you really don’t need so many things to put other things in, but gosh does it look pretty.

They have everything from a leather case to keep a single lipstick, to the “femme pouch,” which is just a fancy name for a pocket to hold a tampon. You can also get just about anything monogramed.

But what Cuyana does best, aside from hiding my OCD in blushed colored leather accessories, is gorgeous, structured handbags, like this work satchel.  It’s sophisticated in it’s shape and function. 

Going back to my must haves for an office bag: top handle, adjustable shoulder strap, zip closed center for added security and enough (but not too many) pockets and compartments.  Bonus points for the feet on the bottom of the bag.

Everlane Day Market Tote

Everlane is one of my new favorite brands. It’s like the grown-up version of J Crew, leaning a little more classic and a little less trendy. Their clothes and accessories are streamlined and straightforward, like this everyday tote. I have something similar and use it all the time, I take it to the gym, run to the grocery store and can throw my laptop in it for a quick, casual meeting.

What I like the most about Everlane is their ethical approach to labor and price transparency. There is no reason for a tee shirt to cost over $100.  Everlane tells you the exact costs, markup, and profit.  It’s also important to know that the people making your clothes are being treated well and make a fair living.

It’s a win-win all around.

KNOMO Mayfair Backpack

Last month, we featured our favorite backpack for work, the Tumi Voyageur Halle Backpack. Tumi is a high quality and sophisticated option but is definitely an investment.  KNOMO is a London-based design company that focuses on style, organization, and technology at reasonable prices.

This backpack is just as streamlined as the Tumi, made with durable nylon and features RFID technology, which help prevent identity theft for about half the price.

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.

Spring Shirt Refresh at J. Crew Factory

Spring Shirt Refresh at J.Crew Factory - The Well Dressed Life

Right about now we are all standing in our closets thinking, “I need a few new tops.” The weekends is when I really feel the void.  I’ve always been disciplined with keeping my closet edited.  One thing in, one (or two) things out.  But lately I’ve been taking a lot out and not replacing it, leaving me wondering where the heck are all my clothes?

So when Lauren texted me yesterday that J Crew Factory was having a Buy One Top Get One Free Sale, I knew we had to make it our weekend post.  Before we get started a few things to know.  Many people think J. Crew is a size limited retailer, only selling super small options.  In the past, perhaps, but they have become much more size inclusive over the years.  Traditional J. Crew goes up to a size 16, while J. Crew Factory (or Mercantile) has an impressive size scale ranging from XXS (00) – XXL (20).

For today I wanted to not only show you top options you can buy immediately, but also a little inspiration for how to wear each one, including bottoms and shoe options.  As usual, I included a variety of options within the text so there should be a something for everyone.

The BOGO sale is online only.  From past experience, these tend to only last a day or so and styles sell out quickly.

Let’s get started.

Spring Shirt Refresh at J.Crew Factory - The Well Dressed LifeOne: Button-down, $44.50  |  Pants, $27  |  Shoes, $50

I have been in love with a classic, white button down ever since I was 13 and saw Carolina Herrera interviewed on TV after one of her fashion shows.  I pretty much knew in that moment who I wanted to be when I grew up. While I’m still working on that, it doesn’t get more chic and elegant, but there is also an ease to the look.  This one, in a slim cut with stretch is great for updating some of your spring staples. I paired it with these simple pale pink pants from Old Navy (hello, $27).  You’ll see similar pants for $120 at better department stores, which is bonkers, that’s why I like Old Navy.  You can find easy pieces to breath a little life into your wardrobe without having to spend a fortune. Plus, they have a much better size run.

Do I think your whole wardrobe should be Old Navy? No. But a thoughtful balance of high and low will give you an elevated look without breaking the bank.

Take a minute an look at these Nine West shoes.  You will live in them.  They are currently on sale at Off 5th for $50.  Pair them with everything – jeans, skirts, dresses, shorts.  You’ll wonder how you ever got dressed without them.


Spring Shirt Refresh at J.Crew Factory - The Well Dressed LifeTwo: Gingham Button-Down, $51.50  |  Shorts, $49.50  |  Shoes, $90

When it comes to pulling of shorts in a sophisticated way you have to focus on balance.  The best way to do that is pairing your shorts with a 3/4 sleeve top. Miraculously, with the right faux tan, I can still pull of shorts.  Thank goodness, because I’m loving this scalloped detailed version from LOFT.  These are available in regular and petite, in sizes 00 – 18.  They are a 4″ inseam so they are shorter shorts.  Want something a little longer?  Talbots did a similar style, with a 5″ inseam and higher waist.  They are available in sizes 2-18, also in regular and petite.

When you wear shorts casually, skip the heel and wear a flat.  But you might want something more than a flip flop.  That’s why I love these suede slides.  They will disappear on your leg and aren’t entirely flat, giving you the slightest bit of height.  (Available in a variety of wearable colors.)  You could also wear a higher wedge, like the Nine West shoes above.

Spring Shirt Refresh at J.Crew Factory - The Well Dressed LifeThree: Stripe Shirt, $59.50  |  Jeans, $178  |  Shoe, $80

There is a reason why simplicity in dress is becoming increasingly popular.  It just works.  If you love the look of little effort but major impact, focus your attention on creating outfits that combine basic but updated pieces.  Here, we worked with this soft striped shirt that ties at the front.  It’s a subtle detail that adds tons of style.  We paired it with straight legged white jeans.  White jeans are always in my spend category.  You’ll get better coverage and fit.  These DL1961 are the perfect combination of stretch and structure.

You could wear pretty much any shoe you want with this look.  I used this heel to show how a basic sandal, like this block heel option, with simple gold accents, can add to your look.  Regardless of the kind of shoe you go with, a deep tan color balances out the white in the jeans and brings a richness to the look.

Spring Shirt Refresh at J.Crew Factory - The Well Dressed LifeFour: Peplum Top, $34.50  |  Jeans, $47.50  |  Shoes, $148

Finally, a simple, classic yet updated jeans and tee shirt look.  Think of this peplum top as a grown up version of a basic tee.  It provides more coverage (because why are so many tees see through??), fits well, and adds a bit more style.  The peplum is relaxed, so it just falls off your body, rather than creating a traditional peplum silhouette.  It’s available in a gorgeous jade and basic black, and you’ll be shocked to learn I ordered it the striped version.  For the jeans, I tend to go back to the dark skinny well too much.  Since the weather is warming (is it?) I’m trying out a lighter washed option.  It’s a less polished look but still put together, if that makes sense.  This casual option at Factory are a nice fit, and under $50.

For the shoes, again, you can wear anything from flip flops to pumps, depending on where you are going.  I included these cheerful striped slingbacks because they are so different from what we usually feature. I also like this $35 flat from ASOS, and these color block pink flats at Old Navy.

Soft and Feminine Trench

I’m a big fan of the trench coat. When I cinch the belt and pop the collar, I can’t help feeling a little more powerful and sophisticated. In general, coats are an essential element in an outfit. They are your first impression and can either elevate your style or distract from it. This time of year, the trench is such a great outfit “finisher.” Since we are finally able to shed our winter layers and add something light and elegant to our outfits, trench coats make it easy to up your style factor with little effort.

I’ve been on the hunt for a new trench with a few requirements: it couldn’t be Burberry (there are plenty of blogs showing off $1500 trench coats), it needed to be a little different, and under $200.

After searching for hours, I stumbled on this absolutely gorgeous Badgley Mischka Faux Leather Trim Trench, for, wait for it, $130.

Soft and Feminine TrenchTrench
, $130  |  Umbrella, $38  |  Scarf, $40

This trench comes in four soft neutral colors.  Above is “fog,” the most neutral of the options.  It’s available in XS = 0 to and XL =14.  I like that the style is unstructured, so if you are as straight as a pencil, or have curves,  it will work for your body type.  You can easily have this hemmed to hit right below your knee without the alteration affecting the line of the coat.

Because I get idyllic about this time of year, I envision walking in the city, on a rainy day, looking like I just stepped off the set of some romantic comedy.  This will never happen, but it’s good to have goals.  Why not pick up a cheeky umbrella, like this one from Kate Spade.

Finish off the look with a simple scarf.  I spent way too much time looking for one, and, for the record, I have amazing taste.  What I want is a vintage Hermes.  If you happen to have one and have no idea what to do with it, start wearing it immediately.  Mixing such a timeless piece, with modern, better priced items creates an incredibly chic look. I eventually found is this lovely black and white scarf by Ralph Lauren for $40.  It’s an entirely different look than the Hermes, but equally on point.