I would like to see how you can style a single, basic piece (ie. black pencil skirt or white button down shirt, etc.) in several different ways to expand your wardrobe options.
Right up front, I’m gonna give massive thanks to Husband Mike for making this post possible. Can we give him a big round of applause, please? I love posts like these, but they are loads of work for my wonderful husband, so I want to give credit where it’s due. He took a big chunk of time out of a weekend afternoon to do these shots with me, and I’m very grateful.
You’ll also notice that these photos were taken a while back, while our yard was still fully green. Well, it took me a while to cook up my part of this post, too, hence the lag time!
Now. Since a simple black skirt is one of the few items that I actually believe EVERY WOMAN SHOULD OWN, I took Nique up on that option.* Below you’ll find outfits that all feature the same black Banana Republic skirt – an A-line/pencil hybrid of sorts – and that range from super casual to super dressy. So without further ado:
I know many of you consider jeans to be the ultimate in comfort, but I vastly prefer skirts. This ensemble would be perfect for a Casual Friday at the office, or a Saturday afternoon bumming around a coffee shop.
Here, the classy cowl neck takes things up a notch … but the tough-gal moto boots keep things casual overall. I’d be more likely to wear this to work than hanging out at home on the weekend. It’s got just enough fanciness to feel more like office wear.
Although it errs on the casual side, this outfit is still work-appropriate … at least at my office. The vest is at once funky and formal, and keeps this otherwise plain combination interesting.
You’ll notice that, thus far, all of these outfits have stayed in the black, white, gray realm. I’ve come around to the philosophy that black goes best with other stark neutrals. Although it can also look great when deployed intentionally with color, as you’ll see in upcoming iterations.
Although blazers are traditionally formal garments, the funky scarf and tights keep this from getting stuffy. Nevertheless, I’d consider this a medium-formal to formal work look. I’d be perfectly comfortable wearing this to an important meeting with important people.
This look, however, is close to my most formal of work looks. Just a notch below superfancy, but still solidly fancy. If the previous look is medium-formal, I’d call this full-formal. However …
… this look is what I’d most likely reach for if I were scheduled to speak in front of a crowd at work, meet with my CEO, or do anything else that falls into the “super-formal work” category. It’s conservative and clean, but still has personality. Just right for making a great impression at the office.
And it may seem like a big leap, but here’s an outfit that’d work great for a truly formal occasion – cocktail party, work dinner, benefit concert, etc. The silvery wrap and chunky statement necklace add spice, but the microfishnets and beaded top keep it all in the “classically elegant” realm.
Every single one of these outfits was created around the very same black skirt. Clearly, it’s a piece that can take you from casual to formal in several easy moves, and works beautifully for every look in between.
When I’m considering a new purchase, I generally ask myself if I can imagine wearing the item in question multiple ways. Most items won’t even approach the versatility of a classic black skirt, of course, but I like to know that I’ll be able to craft more than one look from a new purchase. Knowing that you can style a single piece multiple ways – especially if those ways cross over seasonal or stylistic boundaries – can help you determine if that piece will have real staying power in your wardrobe.
Top image via J.Crew.
*Not a black pencil skirt, as that style doesn’t suit all bodies or tastes. Just a simple, unadorned black skirt in a 4-season fabric like twill or stretch-cotton. You’ve got one lurking in your closet, dontcha?