Business Casual Superstar: Working Structure and Colorblocking

by Rachel Yeomans | April 29th, 2010   

By Huma Rashid

Today, I’m keeping things simple, but showing you how to dress up an outfit with some flattering structure and color blocking. These are great tricks for any gal to be aware of, and if you pay attention to these guidelines you’ll be able to put together an elegant, polished workday ensemble in no time.

The two themes for today, as you’re already aware, are structure and color blocking. The best way to add structure to a normal outfit (that is, an outfit without shoulder embellishments or a wrapped orientation or A-line skirt) is to do so with belts. Belts are a great way to split up the body in two distinct parts, rather than just letting it disappear under a swath of fabric that just kind of hangs there. When you’re wearing a belt, there are a few things to remember. If you think you have a long torso, go with a wider belt. If you’re trying to make your torso look long (that is, if you’re all legs, lucky duck), go with a skinny belt.

Also, belts should be worn at the narrowest point of your waist, to really cinch you in there and give you that flattering hourglass shape. You can wear them fitted and on the tighter side, so they really stick there, or you can let them slouch a little so they’re just kind of slung across there. In either case, remember: the narrowest part of your waist.

Doing that very neatly divides the body into your distinct halves, emphasizing the difference in size between your shoulders and your waist, and the widest point of your hips and your waist. It’s just plain flattering.

Color blocking can be used to dress up your two halves, too. If you’re top-heavy and want to de-emphasize your sweater puppies, pick a dark, solid color for your top and go with a printed skirt. Pick from abstract or geometric styles. If you want to draw attention away from your hips, pick dark pants in a flattering cut (boot cut is generally flattering) and a printed top to draw attention to your shoulders and sweater puppies.

Even if you’re not using it to strategically emphasize your better assets, color blocking is a great way to add some fun and color to your outfits in terms of accessories.

ww16 Business Casual Superstar: Working Structure and ColorblockingPencil Skirt ………. $16.99
Crewneck Pocket Sweater ………. $19.99
Simply Vera Wang Abstract Scarf in Blue ………. $14
Steve Madden Lizard Embossed Belt ………. $16
Monochrome Peep Toe Shoe in Black ………. $23.67
Black Drop and Silver Bow Earrings ………. $4

We’re starting off with a pencil skirt in black. Pencil skirts are amazingly flattering, and guess what? We have Christian Dior to thank for that! He crafted the pencil skirt in the early 1950s after WWII as part of his new look. And what a look!

I paired the always work-appropriate (so long as it’s at the knee or just an inch or two above, absolutely no more!) with a really bright blue sweater. I love that color: it’s bold and vibrant and eye-catching, and the short sleeves give it that sweet-ingenue look.

To add some structure like we talked about, I threw in a Steve Madden belt to be worn, again, at the smallest part of your waist. For the color blocking, I went with accessories: shoes and scarves. The scarf is from Vera Wang’s Kohl’s line, which I find hopelessly ugly. Almost everything in is atrocious. I don’t know what possessed her to design and/or lend her name to that line, because…yuck. But the scarf isn’t that bad, and it worked for my purposes.

Not feeling the scarf? Maybe you’ll like this one from Bebe (click to purchase):

2010 04 26 230400 Business Casual Superstar: Working Structure and Colorblocking

Bebe Silk Scarf $19

It’s only $5 more than the Vera Wang one, so we’re still under the $100 limit even if you decide to make the substitution. These two scarves mix black, blue and white and add some nice color to the whole look.

Because we have some white in the scarf, I went with these white and black peep toes. Normally, if you’re wearing a pencil skirt (particularly one in a heavier fabric, like tweed) go with round toe pumps because they emphasize the shape of your calves. But these peep toes are pretty nice, and I like the white accents. They really help tie this whole thing together.

Last, I threw in some black drop earrings. When you wear earrings to work, you don’t want them to be long and dangly. It’s distracting and unprofessional. Yeah, it’s kind of dumb that we women have all these stupid rules about what to wear to work (in terms of how we do our hair and the jewelry we wear, things that are relatively trivial), but it is what it is. When wearing earrings to work, if you work in a conservative office, they shouldn’t be more than a half inch off the lobe. But in a normal office, you can totally get away with earrings like these. Heck, I bet you could even get away with big hoop earrings occasionally as long as the rest of the outfit wasn’t flashy and whatnot.

And there we have a structured, color-blocked look that is lovely and entirely work-appropriate!

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