It also seems to be the season for going to Paris. This week at work I had two clients who were shopping for their Paris vacation wardrobe and a few more have already completed their trips. Their refrain, however, is always the same: "I need nicer casual clothes because in Paris everyone always looks nice." These women, who come in shopping in uninspiring tees and khakis, suddenly are trying on black knit wrap dresses and are pairing patterned blazers back to black slim-leg pants. They are embracing a different notion of what casual can be- simple, comfortable, but also stylish.
Even one of my colleagues, who is moving to New York City for her day job, is now concerned that she needs to step up her casual wardrobe to fit it. It may not be Paris, but the Big Apple does have expectations. But where are those expectations in other cities? Would your grocery store outfit be scorned upon by your Parisian counterpart as gardening grubbies? And more importantly, you are probably wondering if someone would whisper snarky remarks about your outfit if you showed up at your local grocery store dressed like a Parisian running errands? We shouldn't be afraid to wear the clothes we own. Spring is a great time to review our clothing formula and look at beloved pieces in a new light.
Not everyday can be a completely casual day. Sometimes you need a little extra pop, whether for Casual Friday at work, drinks with a long lost friend, or a meeting with your volunteer or hobby group. I love adding blazers to my casual clothes. The base of this outfit consists of the same denim crops and pink tank from above. I tucked in the tank and belted with a similar (but not matching) color of belt and finished off with the absolute spring/summer essential: a seersucker jacket! A novelty jacket (as opposed to a basic suiting jacket) moves more easily between dress codes because although its basic form is polished, the color or pattern gives it a fun flair.
Dresses always make a resurgence in the spring and summer because they are the perfect design for hot days. Most of us do not want to buy an entire summer's worth of dresses, however, so it is imperative that the ones we own pull double- and even triple-duty.
The dress to the left was not designed as a casual sundress to be worn at the beach. It is highly structured, with boning throughout the bodice and lots of seaming to create the effortlessly perfect drape of the skirt. I adore this dress, but my social calendar just doesn't offer me enough opportunities to wear it as is.
To dress it down (for book club, brunch or an evening stroll) I layered the loose knit sweater and belted with a very contrasting color. This transforms the dress into a skirt and sweater combo, one that is more casual and versatile.
Not every dress needs to be fancy to look great. The dress pictured to the left is one of my go-to summer pieces because it is easy, cute and machine-washable!
It is a white knit tank sewn to a simple khaki skirt (with pockets!) and if Lands' End Canvas ever brings it back, I will buy up five more of them! The beauty of this dress is that you really don't need to do anything to it and most of the time I only add a bright belt to the waist.
But since we are talking about double-duty dresses, this photo shows how easy it is to dress up a simple sundress. I added a metallic belt instead of a colored one to further move away from casual and layered on a cardigan and necklace. Wear this for Casual Friday at the office, for drinks at your local wine bar and as the hostess for your summer dinner parties.
Some days your dress will be called into duty to be the knockout it was born to be. However, with busy schedules it is pretty likely that your big night out will be right after an even bigger deadline at work. Don't be afraid to do a quick costume change at work.
For the day work look, I paired a seersucker jacket over a navy blue lace dress. I added a high contrast belt and an optional necklace. Pair this with flats or wedges.
To get ready for your evening out, leave the seersucker jacket in your office and slip into a fancier shoe. Add the necklace if you had skipped it earlier. The belt can be left on for a funkier edge, but if you prefer more classic and streamlined, that can be stashed in your desk drawer as well.
It may not be a Paris vacation, but at least the tourists in your city won't be looking at you and saying, "I can't believe how slobby all the Americans look. We should've packed more jeans and t-shirts!"