Posts Categorized: tutorial

Reader Request: Boho Professional

Reader Lena made a request on the AP Facebook page for some Boho professional options. “Harem pants go to work!” she said. Shortly thereafter, Alison at Wardrobe Oxygen did a fabulous post on the very same topic, so I’ve GOTTA point you there, too. (Especially since Allie has a much broader Boho streak than I do.) But I’m happy to weigh in as well!

Certain Bohemian staples just won’t fly in many office environments: Torn or super faded jeans, broomstick skirts, and blousy tunics can work in creative or casual environments, but only the most flexible of business casual offices will accept them on days that aren’t Casual Fridays. But plenty of other Boho faves can be mixed with conservative and structured pieces to create office-friendly looks. Let’s peek at some examples:

Boho at the Office 1

A dress with a fairly Boho print – bold paisley – in a floaty, diaphanous material can work in professional settings if the dress design is trim and neat. Add a structured blazer to the mix to create balance and pick boots or shoes that are more sleek than casual. Then duck back in with accessories like a voluminous scarf and some beaded, dangly earrings to inject a bit more boho into your look. Keeping your palette in warm tones also keeps the vibe going, as cool and super bright colors don’t generally work with this aesthetic.

Boho at the Office 2

Cool tones are not impossible, of course, and using gray as your neutral means you can bring some lovely greens or blues into the mix. A great way to do Boho at the office is to create a fairly conservative backdrop – a flowy cardigan may lend a little Stevie Nicks to your look, but a stately silk shell and classic wide-legged slacks are more subdued – and then layer on some amazing jewelry. An outsized pendant and chunky cuff bracelet can both work in this mix since everything else is so understated. Pick smaller earrings, though, so you don’t hit jewelry overload.

Boho at the Office 3

Maxi dresses just won’t fly at many offices, but if you can get away with them at yours and want to try for a Boho-professional mix, go one of two routes: Pick a maxi with a fairly straight skirt and slim fit (like the one shown here) but in a relatively heavy, non-clingy material like ponte. With this sleek piece as your focal point, you can add a drapey jacket or cardigan, embellished belt, and funky lace-up boots which will just peek out at your hemline. A chunky necklace works in this mix, too. OR if the maxi dress you’ve picked is flowy and/or printed, tone it down with a solid colored jacket, blazer, or cardigan. Pick classic or conservative footwear like flats or pumps and keep jewelry simple to balance out the major shot of Boho that such a dress provides.

Other notes:

  • Use blazers and jackets to add structure to otherwise flowy mixes. They will inject work-friendliness into most outfits.
  • Try to limit yourself to one flowy, diaphanous item per ensemble. Two can sometimes work depending on the mix, but be careful you don’t swamp your figure.
  • As noted above, jewelry and accessories will be key and can make an otherwise plain outfit feel wonderfully arty and Bohemian.
  • Scarves add softness and flow, and are a great addition to outfits of this kind.
  • Boots of just about any kind will enhance a Boho vibe. So long as the rest of the outfit has prints, accessories, or other hints at this aesthetic, lace-ups, knee-highs, booties, grannies, slouches, just about every style of boot will augment the feel. (Cowgirls are questionable in many workplaces, though, so beware.)
  • Use prints sparingly and balance them with solids. This style utilizes so many lovely prints, but print overload may feel too wild for some working environments.

Since I’m not a terribly Boho gal myself, I’ll stop right there. I’d love to hear from those of you who gravitate toward this aesthetic! How do YOU do Boho professional?

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Picking Your Cold-weather Dressing Battles

Already Pretty outfit featuring striped dress, black cardigan, magenta tights, Rebecca Minkoff Logan, Gudrun Sjödén scarf

Lovely reader Mary e-mailed me lamenting the dearth of long-sleeved garments available today. I have DEFINITELY noticed that long sleeves are in short supply, especially when it comes to dresses but also among tops, many of which tend toward 3/4 instead of full sleeves. I know this irritates many of you readers, including plenty of folks who live in climates warmer than mine! I haven’t been able to find any research or confirmation, but my theory is that this shift to shorter or no sleeves is related to our country’s obsession with youth. Short-sleeved and sleeveless garments seem to be marketed to younger women who aren’t as self-conscious about their arms (supposedly). Older gals are left to either wear those same styles in hopes of emulating their younger counterparts, or scramble to find the limited sleeved options on the market. Mary pointed out that cost savings for the manufacturers may also factor in.

She went on to ask, “What do you suggest for a woman who wants to stay warm yet look good?”

Looking good is subjective and staying warm is relative, of course. In my experience, most women who lament winter dressing options do so because piling on loads of layers in order to keep your body warm adds bulk and volume to your outfits. Assuming this is the primary concern – balancing bodily warmth with visible bulk – I suggest you pick your cold-weather dressing battles.

Most humans have Cold Weather Weak Spots – body parts and areas that MUST be covered in order for the body to feel warm and comfortable. Common ones are hands, feet, and necks, but anything is fair game. In Mary’s case, she is hella warmer in actual long sleeves than 3/4 ones; She needs her arms covered to feel truly warm. In my case, it all comes down to my feet and neck. My legs don’t get terribly cold and my core is usually just fine so long as my extremities are covered. When my feet and neck are warm, most of the rest of me is just fine. So I’m totally willing to go out in a shortish skirt, 3/4-sleeve top, and tights so long as I’ve got warm boots and a scarf on. I will admit that I do frequently wear sleeveless dresses under my blazers and cardigans because they’re what I have on-hand, but also because my blazer sleeves fit better when I do. If I cover my neck and feet/ankles, I’m usually fine.

If, like Mary, your arms need to be covered to keep you truly warm, stick to full-sleeved blazers and sweaters and consider compromises elsewhere, like lower necklines or tights with skirts instead of pants. If your core needs to be covered and warm, go for warm, wooly sweaters but pair them with fitted bottoms like pencil skirts or slim-fitting jeans. If your lower half is the danger zone, wear longjohns and pants but try for a fitted blazer on top. The same principles apply here as do whenever you’re dealing with voluminous garments: If you do volume in one half of your body, do sleek in the other.

(An aside that has nothing to do with volume or proportion: Investing in fibers like silk and cashmere will definitely help. Both add minimal bulk and help you retain body heat better than cotton and poly blends, and are less itchy than wool. Possibly excepting merino, which can be pretty darned soft. But we’re mostly focused on coverage and balance, here, so you can read more about my fiber recommendations here.)

NOW. This is all fine and good so long as “cold weather” means “around 20 degrees or warmer,” at least in my case. My Cold Weather Weak Spots theory only holds true so long as it’s cold but not my-snot-has-frozen-inside-my-nostrils cold. If your climate regularly gets so cold that the weather gurus issue wind chill warnings OR if you are just plain freezing all winter long and being warm is your top priority, I suggest investing in a few Whatever Sweaters: Sweaters so big, thick, and warm that they can handle subzero temps. You can see mine here, here, and here. They are super bulky and super warm and I bust them out when temps hit the negative digits. (Most are foreign-born or handmade. Try Aran Sweater Market, Etsy, or Nordicstore if you can’t find anything locally.) You’ll notice that I still pair them with fitted bottoms – thick leggings, skinnies, and jeggings – and I definitely encourage you to do the same whenever possible. Whatever Sweaters can still work within the volume/sleekness balance principle. But if your legs need more coverage, go for it – jeans and silk longjohns make a great team.

Bottom line: If you’re miserable and freezing you won’t look your best no matter WHAT you’re wearing. If you can identify your Cold Weather Weak Spots and keep them covered while compromising elsewhere, do it. Pick your cold weather dressing battles. If it’s horrifyingly cold or you only feel comfortable when you’re encased in wool, silk, and loads of layers, that’s totally fine. Winter is hard enough to endure without suffering for fashion.

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How many of you can name your Cold Weather Weak Spots right off the bat? Does keeping them covered mean you can go with less coverage elsewhere? Or are you someone who needs loads of layers and coverage at all times? Other resources for truly warm winter sweaters or other garb? Do tell!

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Reader Request: How to Fit a Blazer

Already Pretty outfit featuring navy blue blazer, purple ponte dress, gray Falke tights, CC Corso Como Del pumps, Foley + Corinna Mid-City Tote, feather brooch

Reader Jamie left this request in a comment:

Not sure if you’ve covered this in your posts before, but would you do a post on how to determine proper blazer fit? I have an expensive blazer I bought at Filine’s Basement over 10 years ago, but have NEVER worn it. It’s a navy blue wool Ralph Lauren made it Italy blazer, really nice, lined in silk. I’m struggling with the fit, it seems almost too long, almost covers my whole bum, even though the sleeves are the right length. And I have no idea what to wear it with.

SUCH a great question. I adore blazers and jackets, as I feel they can add structure and polish to virtually any outfit … but they can be tricky little beasts. Finding blazers that fit off the rack is challenging for most women, regardless of size or figure shape. I always recommend thrifting for blazers because they can be annoyingly expensive and are durable enough garments that they can typically last through several owners and still hold up. But thrifting for blazers exposes you to an even wider variety of  lengths, styles, and fits from bygone eras, many of which will seem almost perfect. But not quite.

So let’s start with how to determine if a blazer fits YOU.

Shoulders first

Again, very few women can waltz into Ann Taylor, grab a blazer off the rack, and have it fit perfectly in every way. And, in my experience, even women who can fit blazers relatively well often encounter shoulder fit issues. Blazers can be altered, and when you find one that fits almost-perfectly you should definitely consider getting it tailored. But shoulder alterations are complex and costly, so if you can find a style that fits your own shoulders and needs some tweaks elsewhere you’re in good shape.

The shoulder seam of the blazer should hit right about where your own shoulder ends. If it falls closer to your neck, it’s too small. If it juts out over where your shoulder begins to slope downward, it’s too big. Hug yourself while wearing the blazer. If it pulls a little, that’s fine. If it pulls a lot, it might not be your best bet. (Hug gently. You’ll be ever so cranky if you hug yourself and rip a seam. Plus you’ll be mad at me. So, ya know, go easy.)

Although full-on shoulder pads aren’t common now, a little padding or added structure in the shoulders isn’t unheard of. If you are self-conscious about your broad shoulder line, seek unpadded styles. If you wish your shoulders had a wider span, padded blazers can work wonders for ya.

Sleeves next

Sleeve alterations are relatively simple, although they’ll be more expensive if your blazer is lined. Regardless, be sure to consider sleeve fit. 3/4-sleeve styles have considerably more leeway, but full-length sleeve fit is fairly specific. (I’ll admit to letting this one slide myself, but I mostly cover my tracks by cuffing.) A full-length blazer sleeve should hit just a little bit above the top joint of your thumb if you’re standing with your arms at your sides. Your wrist itself should be covered. Simple as that.

Then bust

In most cases, if a blazer doesn’t fit you in the bust you will TOTALLY know it. In my case, there is often excess material that causes extremely amusing sagging. Like someone has tacked wet Ziploc baggies to my chest. For women with larger busts, you may experience pulling. A blazer that fits properly in the bust will cover about half of each breast (measured from vertical outside working in toward the navel) and skim over the covered area without bunching or wrinkling. Ideally, it should fit beautifully both buttoned and unbuttoned. However, a blazer that fits great buttoned but looks wonky unbuttoned won’t be as versatile as its opposite. In my opinion – and Angie’s got my back on this one – a blazer that fits properly in the shoulders, bust and torso but cannot be buttoned all the way without some pulling is just fine. Most of us wear our blazers unbuttoned most of the time anyway, so if it comes close but can’t quite button properly, you’re good.

And, of course, torso

Again, you’ll likely know, here. But generally speaking, you want the blazer to follow the natural curves of your body without pulling or sagging. If you’ve got wrinkles at the sides or across the back, the blazer is too small in the torso. If you’ve got gobs of extra fabric around your midsection, the blazer is too big in the torso.

Other resources on fitting blazers properly:

Now let’s talk blazer styles.

Pants blazer vs. skirt blazer

If you’re wearing a skirt and top, you want your top to be relatively short – between two and three fingers’ width below your navel. If you wearing pants and a top, you want your top to be longer – between two and three fingers’ width above your crotchpoint. This also applies to blazers. Let’s take a look:

Proper blazer lengths for skirts and pants

Although the blazer on the left is being shown with pants, it’s actually more suited to being paired with a skirt or dress. It hits higher on the hip and is shorter overall. The blazer on the right will look slightly off if worn with a skirt, but is a good length for wearing with pants. So, shorter blazers with skirts/dresses, longer blazers with pants. This is NOT a hard and fast rule, of course, just a guideline. Much will depend on your figure and preferences, but in working with my clients I’ve found that most look best pairing short styles with skirts and long styles with pants.

Buttons and stance

“Stance” describes the highest point where the blazer buttons. Blazers with higher stances tend to have more buttons – at least two or three. Lower stances are frequently one-button jobs. Let’s look:

blazer button stance

The blazer on the left fits beautifully … but that high stance can look a little dated and matronly. The blazer on the right also fits well, and the lower stance seems more modern. NOW. I realize that bust size and stance interact. Busty women may find that low stance, single-button blazer will open up awkwardly at the chest while higher styles sit a bit quieter. Other busty women may find high stance blazers intolerable due to where the bustline falls. It’s all extremely personal. Some three-button, high-stance blazers are gorgeous – I own a few myself! – and if that style works for your figure, then by all means wear it. But if you’ve got blazers in your closet that aren’t getting worn and you can’t figure out why they seem “off,” see if it’s high stance.

Overall length and shape

Length and shape are other factors that may make your thrifted or decades-old blazers seem dated or frumpy. Yes, it’s true, “boyfriend” EVERYTHING means that long, loose styles are everywhere we turn. But today’s long/boxy will look slightly different than 80s long/boxy. Well, most of the time. Let’s look:

blazer fit

I’m flabbergasted to report that the blazer on the left is current. Designer even, and expensive as hell. (Theory, if you’re curious.) To me, that super long, super boxy fit is very vintage, although most 80s styles have more buttons and a higher stance. The blazer on the right is also current and also long – appropriate for pants – but more fitted and contemporary looking. Now, again, you get to have taste. If you love the look of a oversized, loose blazer, embrace that look! But if, as Jamie did, you feel like your butt-covering blazer might date you, opt for shorter, more fitted styles moving forward.

Finishing touches

blazer lapels buttons pockets

Lapel width, button or closure type, and pocket design and placement can all affect how a blazer works with your shape. With lapels, consider scale: Petite women often favor smaller lapels or lapel-free designs which work with their smaller frames. Flap pockets can jut out awkwardly if placed wrong, but can define and complement your curves if placed correctly. And button and closure style and placement will impact the overall look and fit of any blazer.

And even though that post was impressively long, it is far from comprehensive. Definitely check Angie and Kelly’s posts for more details and information. As always, none of my figure flattery advice posts should be considered gospel, including this one, and I fully expect you to read them with a grain of salt. Style “rules” are merely guidelines, no matter who is dispensing them. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent.

So! What fit challenges do YOU face when shopping for blazers? Where are you willing to compromise? Anyone out there a stickler for stance? Lapel width? Let’s hear it all in the comments!

First four images courtesy Macy’s, next two courtesy Nordstrom, final two courtesy Macy’s.

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