Style + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle: NYC to DC Style Essentials

Hi Belle!

I’ve been reading your website for weeks in preparation for my big move from NYC to DC for a grad-level (paid) internship with the federal government.  Having lived in Manhattan for a while, my entire wardrobe has slowly turned into black…and black…and more black…and some grey or taupe as a splash of color.  Am I going to look ridiculous in DC if I stick to my New York style?  I’m terrified of color!

Do you have any tips for updating my wardrobe for a business casual DC office, without breaking the bank?

Thank you, Marissa

In the winter, black is fine.  However, since this is technically the South, black is not typically worn in the summer.  Here are some D.C. summer staples to lead you out of the darkness.


From Left, Labworks Peplum Jacket ($44) // Emmaleigh Sheath Dress ($129) // Zara Pencil Skirt ($60) // DvF Julietta Blouse ($129)

White Jacket.  You can wear a white jacket with your black pieces, navy or grey separates, denim and bright colors.  I like this peplum topper from Target (also comes in petites and plus), but if you want something more traditional, try this one button blazer.  I also like this white tweed jacket and this crochet lace blazer from ASOS.

A Colored Sheath.  A dress like this can be worn a-million-and-one ways.  You can add a wide belt, a cardigan, a jacket, a blouse underneath, a colored necklace (this one is awesome!) or a printed scarf.  And while this color is the shade on sale, the dress also comes in other hues, both neutral and summery.

I also like this orange cap-sleeve sheath, this bold red dress and this green drape neck dress.

A Colored Skirt.  While I do believe that you should start with a navy pencil skirt, adding a colored skirt is also a good idea.  Pair it with neutral separates (white blouses, gray cardigans) or contrasting shades.  This orange skirt is also a good choice and I love this purple one from Banana Republic.

Plus size? I like this knit cobalt skirt.  Petite? This green eyelet skirt is nice. 

Printed Blouse.  Jazz up your neutral basics with printed blouses.  This DvF blouse has enough of a sleeve that you don’t need another layer and the mix of colors is fun, yet professional.  This navy and white top would look spectacular tucked into a navy skirt.  This ikat print blouse is adorable, and I like this watercolor floral top from Mango.  Or try a black and white print blouse to use your existing black pieces and stay on trend for summer.

Looking for more ideas for summer office attire, check out this old post on spring basics and this post on building a wardrobe.



  1. Becca says:

    I think plenty of people wear black in DC in the summer! Color is nice, but you definitely won’t be out of place in black.

    May 30, 2013/Reply
    • Karen says:

      I agree — lots of people wear black in the summer in DC!

      May 30, 2013/Reply
    • Caroline says:

      Yeah, no need to get a new wardrobe if you don’t want to!

      May 30, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t wear black. Not at all. I’m saying that most people wear less black. And since the email suggests she’s looking to integrate more color, this is a good place to start.

      May 30, 2013/Reply
    • Helena says:

      New Yorkers wear much more black than folks in DC. I’m talking head-to-toe black, even in summer.

      May 30, 2013/Reply
  2. Julie says:

    I LOVE that peplum jacket. And it’s from Target? Score!

    Style by Joules

    May 30, 2013/Reply
  3. A says:

    This is redonk — you can totally wear black here. And I am a pretty strident color-rule follower.

    May 30, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I’m not saying you can’t wear black. I’m saying that DC-people don’t wear as much black as NYC-people. Obviously, the emailer feels the same and is looking to wear less black.

      May 30, 2013/Reply
  4. LadyMacbeth says:

    I agree with Belle. I am a New Yorker and I wear a pretty intense amount of black (multiple pieces, head to toe) even in the summer. I’m not so familiar with DC, but I haven’t seen such a dedication to black even in cooler climates like Chicago or Toronto. Marissa may well feel uncomfortable with an NYC summer wardrobe; this is a great opportunity to break out her mold and have fun!

    May 30, 2013/Reply
  5. LadyMacbeth says:

    *break out OF her mold. Awkward enough to warrant a correction 🙂

    May 30, 2013/Reply
  6. Katherine says:

    I made the NYC to DC transition too and still wear black all the time, even during the summer. Belle’s suggestions are great if you want to incorporate color, but don’t feel like you have to.

    May 31, 2013/Reply
  7. Jenn L. says:

    I love the emmaleigh dress 😀

    May 31, 2013/Reply