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


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.

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