Sure, in a couple of weeks I’ll need to buy some swimsuits and face the unflattering lighting in those tiny dressing rooms with the fun-house mirrors that make me look short and squat (and don’t bother telling me that’s all in my mind – it’s my party and I’ll lie if I want to). But right now, I’m focusing on the more office-friendly summer suit.
First of all, to paraphrase: if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the wool. In other words, choose your fabric wisely. Look for light-weight, breathable fabrics such as silk blends, cotton or linen (if you can handle the wrinkling and inevitable ironing task).
Along this same vein, fabric color is key. If you’re mostly inside the office, you can still wear darker colors. But if you’ll be outside a lot, choose lighter hues that will reflect light and keep you cooler. (Such as white, beige, ivory, light grey.)
Remember: just like our mothers told us on those days in high school when we moaned that our face was breaking out or our hair was in the dreaded growing out stage: “It’s what’s inside that matters.” Your summer suit should be unlined or half-lined. Avoid any extra padding or heavy lining that doesn’t breathe. You won’t be able to either.
There are a variety of brands that carry wonderful options, and they can be found in a range of prices. These are some of my favorites, from economical to eek!:
H&M offers inexpensive separates, that when combined can make a wonderful summer suit alternative. With blazers, pants, and skirts starting at $25, you can end up with a $50 suit if you’re shrewd.
Jones New York has adorable seersucker suits in the $200 range. Consider mixing up the jacket and skirt/pant so that you don’t look too much like a bar-code.
Ann Taylor carries a variety of summer suits in the $220 range (once you figure in the price of the jacket and skirt/pant together).
Theory sells linen-blend and cotton twill separates at Nordstrom that run in the $600 range (or less on sale) when combined to create a suit.
Burberry if you can splurge, because they are in the $1500 range. These classically elegant clothes can be considered investment pieces.
Have fun picking out some comfortable, chic summer suits. Come back in a couple of weeks to see what I’ve discovered about the best swimsuits – that’s right, I’m taking one for the team and heading into the racks to investigate. If it’s traumatizing I may need you to send chocolate. And kittens.
A working holiday might sound like an oxymoron, but there are actually good reasons you might want to sneak in some hours while taking your vacation. A study shows that 47% of people feel less stressed if they don’t completely disconnect from work. Another study found that more than 50% of workers find they’re more productive when they can stay plugged in. Just don’t over do it – holidays are a time to regroup and relax so that you can return to the office refreshed. Peek these tips to help you check-in and check-out at the same time:
1. Before you leave town, remember to add an auto email reply that states you’ll be out of the office for x period of time, and include a contact person if there is an urgent work matter. It will at least slow the number of people who expect you to respond and take the pressure off knowing that in an emergency, someone else will also be contacted to handle the matter.
2. Plan ahead and before you leave, decide which project(s) must be tackled while you’re away and then feel good about leaving everything else waiting until you return. Print out and organize all the info you’ll need for that project so that you can work on it even when you don’t have internet access. It may sound old-school, but you can’t always count on modern technology.
3. Speaking of modern technology, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. You may not always have internet access or it might be really slow. I use a Mifi so that I don’t have to depend on hotel or airport Internet access and I don’t have to worry about security. Also, bring an extra power-strip because often hotel rooms (especially quaint, older B&Bs or reconfigured manors) won’t have enough outlets for you to plug all your technology into.
4. Install a secondary browser on your laptop that doesn’t require quick Internet to load. Strip it of most of your bookmarks, bells and whistles so that you can just boot up and perform basic work tasks like checking your email.
5. You can keep in touch via phone conferences if need be. Just be prepared to find a quiet place ahead of time so you’re not calling in while marimbas play in the background.
6. Similarly, you may offer to attend a virtual meeting via Skype (or similar means). Just remember that you don’t want to log-on to a virtual meeting sitting by the pool in your bikini. So pack something presentable if you think that could occur.
7. Plan-ahead for your downtime. Check your itinerary and look for moments when you’ll have nothing to do. For example, plan on working while you’re on planes or on buses.
8. Set limits as to what you will accomplish. Don’t tackle time-consuming elaborate projects. It’s OK to delegate tasks to a coworker while swinging from a hammock so that when you return, you’re not faced with an overflowing inbox.
9. Set boundaries as to how much time you’ll spend working and during what hours you’ll be working. During the rest of the day, be completely present with your friends/family or just enjoying your holiday. Wake up an hour early to check email (especially if the time difference is in your favor). Or, if you’re in the tropics, consider taking the hottest hours to sit in air-conditioning and work. In my case, as much as my boyfriend will claim that he’ll be go-go-go on vacation, I know that he’ll be taking a siesta mid-day between his beer at lunch. I take that time to work while he’s snoozing.
Look, let’s face it – we all sneak moments while in the office when we check our personal Facebook page, or Pinterest, or order something off Amazon that we suddenly remember we need. So if someone complains that you shouldn’t be working during your time off, just smile and offer to email them a cute cat-photo when you get back to the office and call it even.
Shakespeare may have written “clothes make the man,” but I am here to tell you that accessories make the outfit. I have an amazingly versatile Gerard Darel suit that I have adapted for numerous occasions. All I do is change out the shirt and accessories and, voila, new look.
On this day, I had a project meeting with a multinational, internet-related company. The employees here are known as relaxed, clothed in hoodies and jeans, post-grad-school-style sorts. So I knew I needed to convey a laid-back feel while still maintaining a business-like appearance. Which is why I grabbed my trusty Darel jacket and pants and planned around it.
I chose a cotton-blend shirt instead of a more traditional, conservative, button-down. This also allowed me to remove my jacket if the room was filled entirely with t-shirted individuals who probably wouldn’t want to work with someone who looked like their parent. I added a variation on the traditional pearl necklace, opting for a multi-strand, creative, modern look. I paired my black, peep-toe sling backs with a slouchy large leather tote. This enabled me to carry my iPad, media kits, business cards, and all in something other than a briefcase.
Style note: the more structured a piece is, the more formal it appears.
I was able to walk the line between casual and formal here by wearing a well tailored, structured outfit and pairing it with somewhat casual accessories.
I’m not going to lie, though – I still had a moment when I felt like a mom because at one point, walking through the quad I wanted to yell “pull your pants up!” to one of the employees riding his skateboard to a meeting in the building next door.
How do you use accessories to transform an outfit?
Photography credit: Erica Hampton
Even in this age of tolerance, I have to admit that not all hair-curling tools are created equal. Or at least that was the start of my rant when my boyfriend once again threw up his hands at the “redundant” (his word, not mine) products and gadgets I have scattered about the bathroom. I channeled my inner defense attorney and argued the case of Curling Irons vs. Hot Rollers.
The Curling Iron
I use my curling iron for minor touch-ups, for just flipping the ends out or under, or cute spirals. It’s great for travel when I don’t want to pack the hot rollers. I have more control for adding a curl here and there. Plus, I have really thick hair so being able to control the temperature is healthier for my locks long-term.
My hot rollers are essential because I can style my entire head in less time. These days time is of the essence – with rollers I can set my hair, then put on my make-up, text my BFF, respond to my emails and check my schedule for the day. Voila – hair curled. If you’re saying, “Oh, I have naturally curly hair, so I don’t need rollers, in fact I wish my hair wasn’t so curly,” then re-think your no-roller plan. Hot rollers will loosen and soften your curls. Rollers are also gentler on the hair so if you have delicate and/or fine hair these should be your go-to appliance.
Either way, you’ll need some specific hair products:
For example, shampoo. (OK, we need shampoo even when not styling our hair afterwards.) But here’s where I’m going to throw you for a loop: it’s better if you don’t wash your hair before curling. Curling doesn’t hold as well if hair is shiny, smooth and uber-clean. So, get yourself a dry shampoo (such as Drybar Detox dry shampoo).
If you are one of those people who must wash her hair, then fine (who am I to come between a gal and her quirks.) Just be sure to apply a mousse, gel, or curl-enhancing cream before drying or you’ll be in for a world of limp frizz. (That may sound like anoxy-moron but it happens. Look at Sarah Jessica Parker the early years.)
Try Tigi Catwalk Curls Rock Curl Amplifier or Bumble and Bumble Curl Conscious Holding foam if you prefer mousse.
Apply a heat protectant before curling your dry hair (such as Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Heat Protect Spray).
Now, have you surfed the internet and painted your nails? Then your curls are probably set and finished cooling off. Don’t stop now – you’ve put in all this time so you want the curls to last. Top it all off with a finishing spray (try Chi Helmet Head Extra Firm).
I tried to explain the above to my boyfriend. I don’t know if I won the case, but I certainly wore down the opposition. I believe the gavel came down when he sighed and said:
“I have no idea what that all means, but I will say your hair always looks good.”
When I was a teenager, washed denim vests and all, the mall was the mecca of social happenings. Granted, we couldn’t do much with our meager allowances, apart from the occasional movie, but gossiping by the water fountain while eating pretzels was good enough for us.
Alas, I’m all grown up now. The thought of hauling myself to the mall seems ambitious. The ease of online retail makes it all too tempting for me to sit in bed while “window shopping” for new shoes. For like-minded souls who prefer shopping in bunny slippers at home, I’ve gathered my favorite retail sites to peruse based on price and how user-friendly they are, a big deal when you can’t hold the actual cloth in hand.
1. AnnTaylor.com – Quintessentially classic businesswoman clothes that are well-made and never of dubious taste. They have petite and tall sections, and I love their “lookbook” where they put together different pieces so you can see how they work together instead of waiting until they arrive in the mail. (Also great for inspiration.)
2. ASOS.com – I’m so glad that ASOS opened a USA online store because I was blowing all the savings on these clothes by having them shipped from their UK site. This is a great go-to store for inexpensive trendy pieces when you don’t want to spend a fortune on basics or clothes that will be out of style before they wear out.
3. Avenue32.com – A luxury womenswear hub (from clothes through accessories) with a right-off-the-runway vibe.
4. Bloomingdales.com – With a 90-day return policy, this department store’s online version follows closely behind Nordstrom’s #1-best-return-policy. On top of that, their price range is fantastic – you can find sale items at low prices, as well as premium designer merchandise.
5. Bluefly.com – Picture an outlet store for designers that sells everything from clothing to housewares.
6. eBay.com – A great option if you don’t have qualms about used/vintage goods. I’ve been known to buy designer pieces on this auction site that have barely been worn or used.
7. Farfetch.com – Over 300 luxury-level, independent fashion boutiques are sold on this site.
8. Lastcall.com – Neiman Marcus’ outlet serves up designer fashion at slashed prices. You won’t find items straight off the runway, but if you can wait a couple of months you may just find it at half-off the price.
9. Lyst.com – Thousands of brands are available on this one e-commerce site. You can follow a brand, a store, or a specific item and you are alerted when it goes on-sale. No more scouring the web for your favorites.
10. Mango.com – As you’d expect from a company started by two brothers in Spain, the clothes tend toward the relaxed-yet-stylish, international young woman image. Picture affordable, often colorful, comfortable-yet-still feminine fit.
11. Modaoperandi.com – Order outfits straight off the runway (if you dare.) You will need to put down a 50% deposit but you’ll be the first in your town to receive the piece and sometimes the items don’t even hit the stores.
12. Nordstrom.com – Famous for their amazing refund policy (return anything, at any time, at any of the stores, no questions asked), the website offers free shipping and free return shipping as well.
13. Polyvore.com – Not only can you shop for a wide variety of brands (low-end to uber-high-end) but you can seek fashion inspiration from fellow Polyvore users who create “boards” where they place outfits they’d love to own. It’s like shopping and looking at a fashionista’s style board at the same time.
14. Revolveclothing.com – Hip clothing, but not inexpensive. Head here when you want some quality, mid-range priced au courant pieces.
15. ShopBop.com – Mid-priced, chic pieces for the young or young-at-heart. For example, you’ll find DKNY, but not Donna Karan.
16. StyleBop.com – One of the largest, designer e-commerce site where my favorite hook is their “shop by look” option.
17. Theoutnet.com – A designer discount site. Fashion outlet to the fashionable. You’ll sometimes find deals of 75% off list-price.
18. TopShop.com – Their flagship store in London is the largest fashion store in the world. Thank heavens you don’t have to a) fly to London and b) try to find your way around the building. Recently Kate Moss collaborated with the brand so you can probably imagine that the clothes are modern, youthful and have the stream-lined tailoring of the Brits. Prices are reasonable.
19. Zappos.com – The place to buy shoes online. Free shipping and I often receive my shoes the very next day.
20. Zara.com – Style of the absolute moment (word has it that the company only needs 2 weeks from concept to piece hitting the stores) expect to see trendy, yet classy items on this site. Extremely wearable, reasonable (but not inexpensive) pieces make this e-tailer a permanent “bookmark” on my computer.
With 20 years of ballet under my belt (or leotard and tights as it were) I have learned many life lessons from the art. Among them was one I learned from Mikhail Baryshnikov, a legend, who joined class one day. He was in the back with some of the male dancers who were showing off and telling him about how easy the lessons were. In response, he turned to them and simply said: “You know how to give yourself class don’t you?” The implication being that if you’ve already followed the lead and grasped a concept, then stretch further and push yourself to do more.
I’m obviously not the only one who learned lessons from dance. If you haven’t seen the Leadership Lessons from the Dancing Guy video that went viral (at 3 million views and climbing) you should watch it right now. Unless you’re already busy watching Contemporary Eric, in which case I’ll wait.
I like to combine my ballet lingo with the video lessons — stay with me, this is going somewhere, I promise — and condense it this way:
The petit-battement is that ridiculous move that looks as though the ballerina is using her toe to swat at an annoying fly hovering by her ankle. A leader needs to have the guts to stand alone, on life’s stage, and look absurd.
Why do ballet terms have to be in French? Say jump instead of jete for heavens sake. Be public and easy to follow. Give simple directions so that it’s not intimidating or confusing to follow your lead.
A pas de deux is a partnered dance. We move from soloists to partners when the prima ballerina is paired with another dancer. Nurture your follower as an equal, making it clear it’s about the movement, not a solo. Being the partner takes courage and serves to catch the leaping dancer. We’re all encouraged to be leaders, but we also need people to catch us and help us balance.
The Company! The rest of the corps turns this duo into a group where you have real momentum and beautiful cooperation. It’s no longer risky to leap and those who chose not to join are the audience who will stand back and applaud.
If you’re a reformed-ballet geek such as myself, then you know of Miranda Weese, a NYC Ballet dancer who came back after a major injury. I have a quote of hers on my desktop that reads:
“Try to be fearless, because fear can inhibit you and keep you from a life.”
Fear keeps us from acting because we worry that we might be mocked or ridiculed, letting our vulnerabilities hold us back. Yet in the end, the only thing that matters is what we learned from our experience. So, let go of worries and jump… or dance, if you will.
As a little girl, I was always fascinated by my father’s brief case. There was something so grown-up and mysterious about it. It had locks on the outside, and inside it was so organized. There were so many files and papers to read! My favorite part was the sound and feel of those locks as they snapped in place on either side of the case.
My mother eventually brought home her own briefcase, but it was all soft edges, no locks and inevitably maroon. Thankfully, social sense has updated the briefcase and there are finally functional, chic options for the working woman. So, I make my case…
You can’t go wrong shopping at Nordstrom. Not only do they have a great variety of merchandise, but their return policy (anytime, anyplace) is unparalleled. The above briefcase is Jack Spade and the grey fabric is a subtle neutral that teeters the line of oh-so serious and relaxed.
I also find Amazon.com to be a great shopping experience – so much variety and range of prices. The above yellow bag has an area to keep your laptop undamaged, is only slightly over $200, and the color adds a playful pop to any outfit without clashing. Plus, it pays an homage to the classic Hermes Kelly Bag without looking like a complete copy.
If there’s an item to splurge on, it’s the briefcase because you’ll be using it almost every day and want it to last. If you can afford to, head to Saks and check out the above, Burberry case. The leather feels sublime and the design will never go out of style.
Perhaps my adoration for briefcases comes from my father, as seeing one in the house meant he was home. However, today I love them because they mean I have my own work that affords me the reason, and funds, to buy my own.