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.
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What to wear to a colleague’s big event

I’ve had a good friend in Fren ever since my first day on the job almost two years ago in July 2010. Since then, I’ve left my first job, but the relationships with old friends from work hold strong. I do think that some of the great friends to be made are colleagues; there’s just something special about the way they understand day-to-day nuances in the same line of work.

Back when Fren and I worked in opposite cubicles, I was often witness to much of the hard work and skill that went into planning this event, the launch of give-toblerone.com. Though I’m no longer her officemate, I could not miss the chance to come out and support Fren (and her brand, Toblerone) on her big night!

Fren is an assistant brand manager, so for this particular evening she had to be on her feet most of the night, checking on details, going through the program, and even working the stage. Her maroon long-sleeved shift dress with diagonal stripes was the perfect choice for a festive but firmly work-related event. The statement necklace, featuring oversized pendants with a stone pattern, really anchors the look and pops against the muted red. Nude sandals add height, not fanfare, to the overall effect.

As a spectator and guest, I opted for this fun blue dress polka-dotted dress with a sheer yoke, which is a closet staple. As this was a corporate event, I threw on my favorite white blazer, which immediately balanced the dress’ casual feel. A bright blue-and-pink bracelet and matching fuchsia heels add some much-needed color to the look, but my favorite accessory was this Imperial Stormtrooper bottle cap ring, a recent acquisition from a trip to this year’s Art in the Park.

I was especially happy to see my former bosses Andrei and Cyn at the event, which gave us some time to catch up with each other! Taking this photo took me back to some great times.

Note: Fren’s dress is actually the maroon twin of this gray dress I’ve featured before. It’s a great option for any occasion that calls for comfort  and subtlety.

Read more about different ways to wear the blue dress above right here.

Read more about some ideas on what to wear with a white blazer here.

Tips and Tricks for Things: DIY Bracelet Holder in Less than a Minute

My cardinal rule for practical shopping is to make sure that you never buy something you already have. One of the best ways to do this is to keep mental inventory of clothes/accessories/shoes you already own. That way, you know exactly what you have at any given point in time. You will want to make sure that your things are 1. organized and 2. visible. If they’re organized but invisible you aren’t likely to remember them when you’re about to buy something remarkably similar at the store.

I’ve previously written about some tips to store make-up, necklaces, and small trinkets, but  bracelets in particular can be cumbersome because of their size. To store them safely, I simply grouped like-sized bracelets together and slipped them over old rolled-up magazines. The great thing is that the magazines are solid and stand on their own. They also mold directly to the shape of the bracelets so you don’t have to worry about them slipping off. You can use different magazines per color group for maximum order.

These cost nothing if you have old magazines lying around at home, and takes only a few seconds to roll up just so.

RTW: Ready to Work. My picks from the MEGA Young Designers Competiton finale

Last week, I attended the finale runway show of the top 6 designers from the MEGA Young Designers Competition 2012 season. I was really happy to see that all of the collections featured looks which were adaptable or already wearable to the workplace. Of course, I was looking for ensembles with elements that could be rinsed, worn and repeated for maximum mileage. Below, I share my top 3 favorite standout collections from the evening.

1. Mara Chua’s thoughtful, inspired collection. It seemed clear off the bat that the designer knew exactly how she wanted the clothes to sit on the model, in the way that she experimented with fit and proportion. This was particularly evident in Look 4, which was a deceptively simple black jacket that  hung beautifully on the model like the slouchy but sculptural creation it was. I couldn’t help but note how well her work complemented the works of other great designers like Haider Ackermann or Jil Sander.

I believe the strongest look in this collection was still Look 2, which was the only gown out of an entire collection that mostly consisted of grayish-black separates layered under plastic-like sheeting molded into vests and jackets. Mara Chua’s multi-textured gray gown was a sight to behold, not to mention very wearable to any major event. The plastic vest initially made it appear tougher, but once removed, revealed cascading straps, dreamy contrasting textures, and a  delicate floral design. I loved the tension between the gothic and industrial.

2. Oz Go’s clean, futuristic collection. At once dramatic and simple, the show focused the audience’s view on the clothes by having the models’ faces covered with large gas masks. Gimmick aside, the white collection (with some hints of sky blue) was very clean and modern, reminding me of work done by Jonathan Saunders or Peter Pilotto.

The sharp tailored white pantsuit caught my attention, reminding me of the costumes in Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation of A Clockwork Orange. I especially noted the daring cutouts on two of the dresses, which nonetheless retained their sophistication and form. While tough and hard-edged, the collection was also elegant, very feminine, and still versatile. I was disappointed that this designer did not place in the top 3, but I feel sure that he will produce more stunning work down the line.

3. Robin Gundran’s trendy, retail-friendly collection. I could easily imagine Robin’s entire collection as a special tie-up with a retail giant like Oxygen or Maldita. Many of the pieces could be worn straight off the runway with only a few modifications to the cutouts. I loved how the models were styled, with clean faces and sleek topknots. Robin also thought about the shapes made by the gray and black patterns on the clothes, incorporating texture with some sheer materials and ruching. My favorite was look 5, which I would love to own myself after some minor adjustments to the sheer overlay.

I was also happy to chat with Santi Obcena, who told me about his upcoming work for Philippine Fashion Week. I was thrilled to hear that he’ll be working on a Klimt-inspired collection following that.

Renan Pacson ultimately won the competition, followed by Mara Chua and Robin Gundran.

Rinse, Wear, Repeat attends Mega Young Designers 2012 Finale Runway Show

Last night, I attended the Mega Young Designers Competition 2012 finale runway show.  I am often amazed by the detail and planning that goes into runway shows; the most beautiful collections are cohesive, visually stunning, and of course, tell a compelling story.

I was happy to attend as I’ve been a fan of this type of reality TV for a while; I’ve followed the US Project Runway since Season 1 and even discovered the joys of Project Runway Canada and The Fashion Show on Bravo. Christian Siriano and Rami Kashou, two of my favorite designers, are Project Runway alumni. Our very own local competition produced greats like Rajo Laurel, Michi Calica-Sotto and most recently, Russel Villafuerte, whose career I’ve followed since seeing him on the first season on Project Runway Philippines.

I will write more about the runway looks, but I also wanted to share my outfit for the evening. For many women who don’t like to wear sleeveless dresses to cocktail parties, a look like this forest green three-quarters length dress from Zara is a great option. The color is rich while remaining unobtrusive, which is perfect when one is going for a more understated look. A dress like this is perfect for those work events where you want to be a bit more covered up. Note the lined panels going down either side of the waist, expertly (and sneakily) cut to give any wearer an hourglass shape. The v-shaped neckline is especially flattering.

Jewel tones work great with luxe accessories, so I went for these stunning gold statement earrings. They are almost sculptural, and the small amber stones in the forest of gold twine really bring out the richness of the color. I added a matching gold bangle, nude wedges and a simple red lip to complete the look.

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

 

Big Meeting Attire

I’m always surprised by just how much better I feel when I’m wearing something that makes me feel extra sharp, like a pair of shiny new shoes or a lucky ring with a great backstory. So when I found out that I would be co-planning and attending a big meeting with some people who were flying in from abroad, I knew that I would need to wear something that would boost my confidence and make me feel like I was at my best, while still looking professional and understated.

This diagonal-striped gray dress did the trick. It’s very simple when viewed off the rack or on its hanger, but it actually has a great fitted silhouette and offers great coverage by skimming gently over most problem areas like the tummy or arms. It’s also at a great length; I come across many dresses that are often too short to wear to work.

When the dress has a great shape, I believe it needs little else to complete the look so I just added a bright aquamarine pendant to draw in the eye and finished with black strappy sandals and simple eye make-up.

I need to mention that on the day of my big meeting, I had a million things on my to-do list so I was very grateful that I didn’t have to deal with a fussy, uncomfortable outfit. On days like these I almost always settle for a no-fail dress that needs minimal accessorizing.

January 18: Back to Basics

Instead of buying new clothes, I’ve decided to focus on improving the overall effect of the outfit by sharpening small details. I’ve proudly repeated the outfit above more times than I can count–I actually have this v-neck shirt in two colors, and two of them are now so worn I can only wear them at home.

To polish the overall look, I chose fitted navy pants and went with gold and brown accent pieces. The tribal statement necklace from HnM really pulls the outfit together, and it also repeats the hints of brown and gold from the single star bangle and these tan platform heels.

To define and widen my eyes, I also lined it with simple black eyeliner–this makes a subtle but distinct change to the overall appearance.

Tip: When in doubt, go with something that will give you confidence. A pair of great shoes or a swipe of deep red lipstick always works for me. If you’re unsure about making major permanent changes, then go for smaller fixes like flat-ironing hair to get rid of frizz. This won’t make you look drastically different but will improve your look’s overall effect.

Wasting time, I shall miss this thing when it all rolls by

My last few days of 2011 were spent running errands and doing things I normally wouldn’t be able to do on a weekday if I had to work. I love how our lives are a collection of somethings and nothings, and nothings add up to a great many somethings.  My top 3 favorite “nothings” to do on Christmas break:

  1. Leisurely grocery shopping
  2. Taking a walk outside. Even better if it’s just rained
  3. Cleaning and finding little reminders of a lot of things to be grateful for. Also, lots of things to crack up about

I should also add “wearing shorts” to the list, but it didn’t quite make the cut. On this no-occasion occasion I decided to pair my high-waisted navy shorts with a floaty white blouse. I like how preppy it looks with the shorts’ clean lines. For a small pop of color I added my favourite peacock earrings; the oyster-pink color sets off nicely with the matching headband. To keep the look polished, I pulled my hair back in a sleek ponytail. In a departure from my usual no-makeup look, just for the day I decided to add clean thick black eyeliner to widen my teensy eyes. Tan camel sandals and a navy crossbody bag complete the look.

Go-to Holiday Festive: Little Blue Dress

Most of my December entries have been about dressing for festive Christmas parties at work. Once out of office, rules are immediately relaxed, so one can break out cute party dresses, extra-large accessories, and so on. My favorite go-to dress for daytime events is this little blue dress, purchased for Php350 at a Greenhills tiangge. The sleeveless navy blue dress features tiny polka dots with a white floral trim, a full a-line skirt, and a cinched waist. There’s a lot going on with the dress, so I chose low-heeled camel sandals to balance out all the blue.

For a small pop of color, I like bright accessories, like this tiny London bus pendant on a short chain. Long, flowing wavy hair and deep wine-colored lips help to polish the look. To make it more casual for daytime, blend the edges of the lipstick after applying so the make-up doesn’t look too overly precise, as this will stiffen the overall effect.

Happy new year everyone! 

Tip: Easy to dress up or down, the little blue dress in any shade is a great alternative to black.