Wardrobe for Travel: Your Right to Non-negotiables

This is the fourth part in my travel series for proud outfit repeaters on vacation.

In my previous entry, I talked about how to avoid overpacking by leaving unnecessary things at home where they belong; you’re not likely to miss them. This time, I also want to stress the importance of bringing your non-negotiables. There may be one or two things on this list that are less than practical, but I think that’s perfectly okay. It’s a vacation, and we all deserve to bring/wear anything that will make us feel our best. It’s also a great way to combat the inevitable fatigue that comes with all the walking, sightseeing and shopping.

Just for fun, here is my very short list of non-negotiables:

  1. 2-in-1 flat iron and curler. I don’t necessarily straighten/curl every single day (hair usually benefits from a break every few days), but I often use the straightener to touch up messy areas. This way I retain hair’s natural volume, but lightly get rid of frizz.
  2. Full toiletry set, including make-up and skincare. TIP: I like getting random small containers around the house and using them as travel-sized make-up jars to store liquid foundation and primer. For readers from the U.S., the small sample jars offered for free at department stores like Nordstrom make great little containers to bring along. No need to lug around giant glass jars of make-up.
  3. A small arsenal of accessories. This foldable one (pictured below) worth around Php200 (USD 4.65) has small plastic pouches that can store rings, as well as mesh pockets great for flat accessories, and metal rings to keep necklaces and bracelets untangled. TIP: bring jewelry you like, but won’t cry over if it gets lost. Leave all precious items at home; expect to lose a couple of things of varying value on a trip.

    My arsenal of accessories hanging from the window of our hotel room in Madrid, Spain.

  4. Dresses. I’m a dress girl, and as much as I appreciate the versatility of separates, I will choose to pack a dress any day. TIP#1: On vacation, I prefer long-sleeved dresses that end just above or right on the knee.

    Viewing castles in Lisbon and Segovia. Both days were very windy, so I was glad for extra protection from these dresses with longer sleeves. The longer length also wards off wardrobe malfunctions while climbing steep castle steps.

    TIP#2: I also like dresses that will work with or without layers, depending on the weather. Here I am at Fatima, Portugal, which is actually a holy destination as this is where the Virgin appeared to three children. To dress appropriately while viewing the area and attending the Mass, I paired this navy sundress with tights, flats and my beat-up blazer. While sunny, it was also very windy so I was glad to be more covered up. I wore the same dress on its own, with no layers, on a hot day in Madrid, Spain.

    Left: A sunny but very windy day in Fatima, Portugal. Right: Downright HOT in Madrid, Spain.

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Summer Series Part 2: Wide Leg Trousers

Fitted pants are a staple in my closet but they are most challenging to wear in the summer because they can be very sticky and confining. Wide leg pants are a great alternative, but there are a great many varieties and not all of them are easy to wear. I’ve scoured many shops, including bazaars and online stores, in search of a good, dependable pair like this buttery beige number from Details. I’ve put together three wearable, everyday looks to show how these pants can be very useful, but I also wanted to share some tidbits I picked up on choosing the right one.

  1. Try not to choose pants with too much material in the legs. The intention of wearing palazzo pants is often to appear flowing and swingy, but donning one with too much material will overpower most body types. Instead, choose a pair whose legs will create two straight lines coming from the hips. This will create a very streamlined, polished effect, and won’t bunch up around the thighs and highlight that particular area.
  2. Go for pants that have a higher waistline and zip up along the side instead of in front. A higher waistline will cinch in your middle in the smallest part, and having an invisible zipper along the sides will make the hourglass shape that much more evident.
  3. I’m sure that rocking flats with wide leg trousers is doable, but I always prefer to pair mine with high heels. They unobtrusively add height, and having the pants float gently around my feet makes me feel like Galadriel from Lord of the Rings.

Look 1 is a clean, structured look that I imagine would be a breezy summer ensemble perfect for strolling along gardens or an outdoor mall. I tried to give this oversized dress shirt some shape by tying it in a small knot around the waist, which yields the same effect as tucking it into the waistband. A long gold necklace with a coin pendant subtly peeks out from the top. I added three cute rings and a tri-color bangle for a small pop of color. I think this would also work as a Casual Friday look at the office, depending on how relaxed the dress code is at your workplace.

Look 2 is a more relaxed look that is wearable to almost any casual event. There is a lot of “neutral” going on in the pants so it’s good to punch up the look with a solid color like this green tank. These long gold necklaces, a gift from a beloved cousin, glint cheerfully against the top’s glowing color.

I went for a more refined, feminine approach to Look 3, where I attempt a fresh office look. This light peach top has navy striped accents on it, and the strong details on the shoulders firmly keep the outfit from being too washed out or pale. To keep the look light and airy, I went with a satiny headband to keep hair away from the face, and finished with two bracelets: a dainty textured one featuring faux pearls, and contrasting tough-edged cuffs with gold studs. Finally, these earrings in the shape of happy toast slices never fail to make me smile. Note the little pieces of butter on their happy faces! Peachy make-up and strong eyeliner finish the look.

Summer Series Part 1: The Maxi Skirt for Work AND the Beach

When the general atmosphere is humid and almost oppressively hot, comfort becomes a priority when choosing clothes for the day. Many items become difficult to wear. Slim trousers  suddenly feel too sticky to the legs, sweaters feel like straitjackets, and black, a color so forgiving and friendly, becomes off-limits. I wanted to share three good clothing investments that will help you keep cool at your workplace during the hottest months of the year, starting with the full-length skirt. I’ve put together four looks: two for work or more formal situations, and another two for casual occasions like beach parties and post-workout wear.

First, four things I learned on the quest to find the right maxi skirt for me:

  1. It’s a myth that these skirts are only for tall women. Celebrities like Nicole Richie and Eva Longoria have often been spotted wearing full-length skirts. The trick is to find one sold by shops that tailor the length for Pinays, rather than importing them from shops abroad, which will have made them for taller women. I found this rich caramel maxi from Liberte, and shops like Details and The Ramp do carry Pinay-sized ones. This particular skirt also cinches at the waist, giving it more shape than usual.
  2. Pick a color that can anchor the entire outfit as the skirt will likely be the focal point. I chose this basic camel color, but vibrant colors like electric blue, salmon, and pale yellow work great, too.
  3. Try to choose one with a solid lining so that you can cavort peacefully on a windy day with no chance of wardrobe malfunctions. The skirt should move gently with the wind, not blow upwards like someone left a fan on under it.
  4. Try not to pay more than 400-800 for one. Many brands and small boutiques will sell these for less than 500, but make a concession if the fit is exceptional.
Look 1 is recommended for the following occasions: post-workout loungewear, to an outdoor concert, to a bazaar or the park, over a two-piece bathing suit to a beach/pool party where you think you won’t be swimming but can’t say for sure. The look above was my exact outfit worn to the Death Cab for Cutie concert earlier this month; I also often reach for this skirt to wear on my way out of yoga class because it doesn’t stick to legs and moves well when there’s a nice breeze. Choose a colorful tank top and tuck it into the skirt, finish with a large statement accessory like this faux-jewel necklace with bright stones, and a bangle or two.
 Look 2 is recommended for a pool party where you know you will be swimming but want to stay covered up while you socialize. I’m wearing this over an olive green one-piece bathing suit and with a single bangle that is pretty much waterproof. I chose accessories that will work well even when wet, like this sturdy necklace made of plastic and wooden rings.
 Look 3 is a look for a workplace where attire is more relaxed, as well as to any event with a casual dress code. While choosing looks for the maxi skirt, I tried to play with textures and color. While a warm-toned maxi skirt is usually paired with deep colors like greens and reds, I realized that it also worked when I paired it with other garments in cool colors and let that skirt be the vibrant standout. The fitted gray sweater is paired with a textured black stone necklace and glossy gladiators for sparkle. I chose a clutch in a contrasting purple color to draw in the eye. Tip: throw a sweater like this on over a breezy tank top and instantly go from day to night.
Look 4. This is a layered look so it isn’t exactly for the warmest weather, but it does illustrate how the maxi skirt can be worn even when it isn’t summer. The skirt cascades downwards in straight lines and is quite billowy, so I wasn’t too afraid to try layering a minidress under it. For this look, I wanted to experiment with textures, starting with the pinkish lace in the dress, moving to the satiny black blazer, the buttery flowy skirt, and finally the studded leather wraps on my wrist. The horse earrings, made of plastic painted to look like wood, are a personal favorite. I also like how the gold-capped tooth pendant is cheekily winking back at the casual observer. Tip: remove the blazer and it reveals a look for another hot day. The black blazer simply adds an edge and formality one needs at the office.

Wear Different Ways: White Blazer for 3 Work Occasions

Blazers are common additions to the office wardrobe, especially the black and gray iterations. White can be a little more challenging to wear, so I’m sharing how I would build three different looks around the same ivory blazer. This investment piece is very versatile, but today I’m focusing on looks that are wearable to different work occasions, from casual business to presentation attire.

First, a note on choosing the perfect shade of white. Along with other cool shades like hot pink or silver, a bright and true white usually seems to suit bluish-toned skin. My yellowish Asian skin is better complemented by jewel tones like ruby or emerald, so I chose a more muted shade of white. I found this ivory blazer on sale from Celine; instead of choosing a loose-fitting one, I went for a piece that would be very fitted when buttoned and would give the wearer much shape and definition in the waist area. I also tried to make sure that it would be foldable up to the elbow, for more casual occasions.

1. A fun look for day-to-day work. I would say that 90% of my wardrobe is composed of basic pieces in benign colors like slate gray, dusty pink, navy, black or white. I often go for accessories that will give the overall effect a small pop of color. Here I’m wearing my blazer over a faded blue sweater and plain black trousers. I went for clean, clear lines in the outfit, framed with bright accessories like this mesh tri-color bracelet and fun raspberry wedges. My favorite element is this spiked necklace, which I own in both gold and silver. Buttoning up the blazer over the trousers makes the look work-ready and sharp; removing it (perhaps when it gets a bit warm) reveals a more laid-back outfit perfect for a casual dinner after work.

2. Transition to a night look after a long day at the office. I love the idea of combining a blazer with a pretty dress. This makes the dress very wearable both to work and outside the office. If I’m going to a party after work, I’d simply remove the blazer or keep it on but pull down the sleeves. This halter dress in a dusty luxe pink shade blends seamlessly with the crisp off-white suit jacket. I added more polish with nude plastic wedges and a statement necklace. The textured black necklace really stands out against the more benign colors in this ensemble. Slightly undone hair and matte makeup finish the look.View my entries on this dress here and here.

3. Wear this to a big presentation. Deep jewel tones go well with the matte ivory in the blazer, so I chose to pair it with this sweater in a rich forest green tucked into a chocolate suede skirt. This is a more elevated look I would wear when I’m giving a big presentation, attending a big meeting, or entertaining visitors. I chose this large statement necklace with some deep-set stones, which contrasted nicely against the saturated green. To match the gold, I added a beautiful bangle I got on a trip to India. The bangle also has some shades of the same green in the sweater. I would also wear the same outfit sans blazer for a regular workday.  Light make-up and romantic waves finish the look.

Look 1: 

  • Blazer: Celine
  • Sweater: Zara
  • Pants: Greenhills tiangge
  • Wedges: Charles and Keith
  • Mesh bangle: The Ramp
  • Spiked Necklace: Wear Mauve

Look 2:

  • Dress: Forme
  • Necklace: Celine
  • Wedges: Terra & Agua

Look 3

  • Sweater and Skirt: Zara, on sale
  • Necklace
  • Pumps: Hong Kong night market

 

4 Different Ways to Wear Your White V-neck

The single most worn item in my closet is my white v-neck t-shirt from Giordano. Work, casual Friday, weekend, and vacation looks are all achievable with a plain white tee. The trick is to use the appropriate accessories to dress it up or down as needed: Keep Reading

Rinse, Wear and Repeat with Pride: Blazer to a Party? Challenge Accepted!

I once wrote about how adding a blazer to any daytime dress immediately turns a casual look work-appropriate. It’s one of my favorite no-brainer combinations, especially when I’m in a hurry to go to work in the mornings. Another discovery of mine is how the same blazer can be the key element for a smart look for evening parties and events, especially when you are with officemates or meeting new people for the first time.

On November 16, I attended a party with colleagues and work friends in Tagaytay. Dressing for this event required more care since many bosses (including mine) were in attendance. Here are my personal rules for a foolproof work/party evening:  Keep Reading

Wear Different Ways: Tuck Everlasting

One way to extend the longevity of individual pieces in your closet is to use them in ways other than they were originally intended to be worn. One of my favorite tactics is tucking in or out as needed.

Case #1. Layer a skirt under a tunic like a tutu. 

While I love this basic gray dress with a lightly ruffled neckline, I did think it could use some more definition on the bottom half. I thought this textured off-white skirt with silvery-gold veins sets off the ruffles nicely, so I experimented by wearing it under the dress like a tutu, making sure to let around 1-2 inches of the skirt’s hemline peek out. The a-line silhouette now gives the dress’ bottom half a more defined shape and emphasizes the waistline nicely.

Case #2. Tucking a tunic under a skirt, to make a preppy top.  Keep Reading

Two Looks, One Outfit: Blazer of Glory

Today I specifically needed an outfit that would look polished at the office, and relaxed enough for dinner with a friend. For situations like these, I like to build the entire outfit around a single office-worthy garment that can be removed after work to blend in with a more casual environment. In this case, this no-nonsense navy jacket with a fitted, tailored silhouette and sleek lapels anchors an otherwise casual ensemble for a solid day at the office. After work, I simply took off the blazer and showed off a more grown-up take on a jeans-and-t-shirt combination; as is usually the case, accessories, hair and make-up are key. Because the blazer serves as a structured anchor to the overall look, it’s possible to have fun with the rest of the pieces, like this old white v-neck and soft, stretchy gray pants. Keep Reading

Rinse, Wear and Repeat with Pride: Basic Black Blazer

I previously wrote about my favorite navy skirt and how it has become one of my wardrobe’s defining pieces. I’m obsessed with the blouse-tucked-into-skirt combo because it requires so little time yet looks like a lot of thought went into piecing the outfit together.

Similarly, one of my favorite “recipes” is the blazer+dress pair-up, which is a gift that keeps on giving. Keep Reading

Rinse, Wear and Repeat With Pride: My Prized Navy A-Line Skirt

Given my obsession with skirts, it’s easy to guess that my closet is teeming with them. Actually, I only have a few key pieces in classic shapes that I rinse, wear and repeat with pride. One alternative to the beloved black pencil skirt is an A-line shape in a basic but more unexpected color, like navy.

I consider this deep blue skirt from Plains & Prints to be one of the most wearable, versatile and comfortable garments in my closet. The navy color is easy on the eyes and is less severe than black; at the same time, it’s just as easy to pair with virtually any color or texture, for either full-on corporate looks (look 1) or more casual ensembles (look 2, look 3, or look 4). Keep Reading