How to Dress Off a Column of Color

There is a trick to creating an easy work “uniform” that you are likely already using without even knowing. It’s called dressing from a “column of color” and it is the easiest way to quickly pull together a professional look. 

Start by creating a column of color with your better neutral basics. You can use any combination: tank/skirt, top/pant or dress (a solid structured sheath works best) as long as it is one color like black, navy, grey, or winter white. 

This “column” creates one continuous line and acts as a base. Then, simply add a blazer, preferably with some interest or a color that complements the column. The blazer works to add contrast which creates a visual that makes your body look longer and leaner.

Below is work wear look I pulled together combining some pieces I’ve had forever, and two updated items, including this gorgeous jacket that is under $60 and stunning flats I found on sale at J.Crew

How to Dress off a Column of Color 

Must Have Boucle Jacket for Under $60

Jacket, $60  |  Pants, $265  |  Shoes, $99  | Similar Tank, $65  | Similar Bag, $298  |  Hoops, $55 

Rarely am I this impressed with a jacket, but H&M hit it out of the park. I picked this up last week for $59 (regular price). Online the sizes are limited but at the H&M in King of Prussia (PA) there was a rack full of them. 

This beauty fits true to size, I’m wearing an 8. Feels great on, it’s substantial but not too heavy and doesn’t feel bulky even though it’s tweed. And it’s lined.  Lined – for under $60. 

Any time I find something that combines black and navy, I scoop it up, because it’s a piece that will pull so many other items together. Wear it with an all black column, swap out black for navy or throw it over a white tank and dark jeans for a super chic Friday office look.  

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Despite the affordable price point, this is a quality and will live in my closet for as long as it fits!

Just take a look at the details …

Must Have Boucle Jacket for Under $60

Related: Easy Red Blazer Outfit for Work 

Extra Special Touches

In the same trip I hit J.Crew for some end of year sales and walked away with more shoes than I needed. My favorites are these slingback flats with bow stud details

Must Have Boucle Jacket for Under $60

These are the kind of shoes that make my heart sing. They are flat, so I don’t feel too tall, and I can walk in them all day. But it’s the studded ribbon bow that instantly sold me.

Tip! Look for extra little details on simple styles of shoes to elevate a basic outfit. Doing so adds visual interest, which creates overall depth. 

Here, I like how the shoes balance out the busy-ness of the jacket by creating proportion. 

Related: 6 Flats to Wear When You Can’t Wear Heels 

I paired my two new purchases with some serious wardrobe workhorses I’ve had forever. Theory makes my favorite suit pants. They are expensive so I try to buy them when they go on sale so I have a few to rotate through. I’ve had the ones above for at least 5 years and wear them all the time. 

Note: Theory’s sizing is all over the place, so you might have to size up more than usual. 

My tank is from Banana Republic. I linked to a similar option here. They have great sales so if you don’t need on right away, keep an eye out for a discount code. 

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Finally, I’m wearing the gorjana hoop earrings I featured on Monday. They are light and comfortable – I can’t recommend the enough. 

Related: Affordable Earrings that are Office Appropriate

This outfit is a beautiful example of how to combine higher end pieces (the Theory pants) with something more affordable (the H&M Jacket) to create a look that feels sophisticated and doesn’t scream like you shopped off the mannequin of one store.

Shop all items below:

Must Have Boucle Jacket for Under $60

Jacket, $60  |  Pants, $265  |  Shoes, $99  | Similar Tank, $65  | Similar Bag, $298  |  Hoops, $55 

 

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How to Dress Off a Column of Color

16 thoughts on “How to Dress Off a Column of Color”

  1. Great post. I’m going to try your recommendation for the nydj trouser. I find it so difficult to find an appropriate pant to wear to work that is decent quality & fit that’s not part of a suit or looks like straight leg fitted pant. Thank you for the great outfit ideas too.

    Reply
  2. Megan,
    I appreciate you so much! One of my favorite things about you is that you are such an advocate of all women. Your image consulting is always authentic. Posts like this demonstrate that. How we can use your suggestions to look
    More polished yet remain true to ourselves. I know I always feel better, more confident when I feel pulled together. Thank you for having the courage to speak up about things that may sabotage our efforts. You are the best!!!

    Reply
  3. What’s your opinion about wearing flats with pants/a whole look like this? (I’m a teacher and just can’t do heels for everyday anymore.)

    Reply
    • I hear ya, Lisa. Flats with this look is totally appropriate, I would just switch out the pant to something not so wide. You could still do a bootcut, just a slimmer one, or opt for a straight leg instead – that would look great too. Be sure to have the pant hemmed for the flats so that the hem slightly breaks on the top of your shoe.

      Reply
  4. Megan, what are your thoughts on this type of cardigan for a petite? I feel like they make me look frumpy. Thank you for the wonderful and practical posts. Keep em coming, you are killing it!

    Reply
    • Thanks! It’s not oversized so you might be ok. It could overwhelm you if you’re extremely slim, but it’s worth a shot since Nordstrom has a great return policy. I looked for a petite and plus option for this but couldn’t find one that fit our standards.

      You could also recreate this with the KUT drape front jacket we featured last week – that comes in petite and won’t have so much volume.

      Reply
  5. I’m so glad you revisited your post on leggings. I’m really not as old as I will sound but I’m getting to the point where I resent leggings and the women that wear them to the office. Put on pants! I am a professional and dress accordingly. Legging-wearers are not showing respect for me and my place of business when they show up like it’s the weekend.

    Reply
  6. Great article and I am enjoying all of your tips! Can you address wearing sheer stockings with a dress or skirt. Some times tights just aren’t the right look, and bare legs in winter look silly, especially in areas where it is cold! Thanks so much.

    Reply
    • I think it’s totally acceptable and modern to wear sheers – you just need to wear the right kind. My best advice is to skip drugstore brands as their skin tones look artificial. Instead, I like Donna Karen’s The Nude Collection which offers an inclusive range of skin tones and look like you just have perfectly airbrushed legs. 🙂 You can pick them up at any better department store or online. They are more expensive but look a 100 times better and last longer.

      Reply
  7. Megan—I LOVE this look and am so happy to see this topic. I recently kinda threw together a casual outfit and then realized I did this exact thing: column of navy with white denim jacket. I really liked the results! One thing I sometimes struggle with is the neckline of the shell/tank/tee underneath combined with the neckline of the jacket/blazer/cardigan on top. Do you have any rules or guidelines for pairing up two necklines?

    Reply
  8. H&M is sold out of the jacket and there aren’t any stores in my area that have it. Do you have an alternative jacket? I love this one, I have been looking for something like this for a while now. (apparently, a lot of people have…)
    BTW: Love your post!!

    Reply
  9. Two Questions – I remember from the past you had commented on the proper way to wear a top when you had a rounded jacket – I don’t remember your answer however (I think that the neckline of the shirt should be under the neckline of the jacket) could you clarify. Also – do the blacks have to exactly match – is it ok to wear two different tones of black – I like to have things perfectly match and when using two different brands they don’t always. Am I being too picky?

    Reply

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