+ Style Translator

Style Translator: Summer Whites and Brights


I wear a lot of black and white in the winter.  So by Memorial Day, I’m ready for color.  Lots of color.  Brights, pastels, jewel tones…bring it on.  But wearing color to the office can be a challenge.

If you work in a professional office, the outfit above is good for any day when you don’t have a big meeting.  If you work in a conservative office, casual Friday might be a good time to bring in some color.  Here are the essential elements for recreating the look.

A Pop of Color. Whether you choose a pencil skirt, a bright top, or a colored jacket, sometimes it feels very empowering to wear a bold color.  The coral skirt in this post, from J.Crew Factory, is a nice option.  For something a bit more conservative, try cobalt blue or kelly green.

You can also try a colorful floral print, like this Risto Crepon skirt, or a pastel, like this pleated Club Monaco.  Specialty sizes?  Try this skirt from Talbot’s.

Layered Rings have been a trend for a while now, but I still love the look.  You can keep all the rings in the same metal-family or mix it up.  Here, we have a Michael Kors pave criss-cross ring, this large, domed Cloverpost ring, and Gorjana’s Cayne twist ring, all under-$100.

If you want to mix metals, it’s easiest with an anchor piece that contains all the gold tones you want to wear.  This Kate Spade Infinity ring is a good choice.

Crisp Whites. I love wearing white.  The only trouble is keeping it white.  I keep a Tide Pen in my purse when I wear white.  For more intense staining, Heloise has the answers.

This white jacket from Michael Kors is on deep discount at the Net-a-Porter Sale.  ASOS has an under-$75 version of the same thing, and I love this Mango ruched-sleeve jacket.  Specialty size?  This classic double weave blazer from Talbot’s comes in plus and petite.

Enter the Lariat. Did you watch Billions this spring?  I was obsessed with Malin Ackerman’s delicate chain necklaces all season, and her gold lariat was my fave.  If you like this look, Gorjana makes this lovely Joplin lariat.  Or you can go all in with this Jennifer Zeuner piece.

Flesh-Tone Shoes.  The blogger in the photo chose tan sandals, but my feelings on sandals for the office are well-known.  You can show a peek of toe in most places, but an open-front sandal is too far.  Translation, if you’d wear it out on a date, it’s not a work shoe.  And if you’d wear it to work, it’s probably not a date shoe.

Finding the right flesh-toned shoes means trying on a lot of pairs. DSW has a wider selection of shades for light to olive-skinned women.  If your skin is darker it can be shockingly difficult to find a nude-to-you shoe.  Christian Louboutin makes a wide array of hues; hopefully, a less-pricey brand will follow their lead.

These Liz Claiborne peep toe wedges are a good choice for a medium-light skintone.  Paler ladies should check out this Charles Pact pumps.  Dark-skinned readers might have some luck with Calvin Klein’s shoes.  Or if you’re ready to call the whole thing off, a couple of my darker complected friends just wear tortoise-shell heels as a neutral.  Please leave any other suggestions in the comments.

*image found here, courtesy of Memorandum.



  1. thb says:

    A fresh, clean, colorful and professional look. Love it!

    June 2, 2016/Reply
  2. Jenn S. says:

    I agree on full-blown sandals for the office. Creative offices may be more accepting, after all, but that much exposed foot definitely says, “play!” not work.

    Sometimes I can dig a sandal IF it is heeled and the wearer pairs it with properly hemmed pants so that only the toe area appears anyway.

    June 2, 2016/Reply
  3. abidina says:

    I love this blog, but I can’t help but feel so relieved to work where I do after reading posts like this! It’s nice to not even have to think about my pastel hair or whether my shoes are office-appropriate. It’s a foreign concept to me, and this blog is a fun glimpse into an alternate universe.

    June 2, 2016/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I once wore navy blue nail polish and got a talking to, I can’t imagine what would have happened if I had had pastel hair.

      June 2, 2016/Reply
    • Monica says:

      I was thinking the same thing! Thank goodness for the combination of California casual and working in tech: birkenstocks and sleeveless tops for the rest of the year!

      That said, I always find a way to weave some of Belle’s polished looks in to my more casual style. This post sent me on the search for fresh white tops, as last years always look a bit dingy.

      June 2, 2016/Reply
    • Jenn S. says:

      It’s a good point – region is certainly important. I’m grateful for Belle’s advice; it is definitely adaptable to your region, industry, and office – and will absolutely follow you and keep you, “safe,” even if your career changes to a more conservative one.

      For now, I work in an office with a (VERY) strange interpretation of Business Casual. My field is IT – even though it defies the stereotypes, *we’re* the ones classing the place up. It’s an odd place to be; until recently I was the only woman in the department so there was no one to take cues from. I have a female boss, now, and she asks me for wardrobe advice!

      June 3, 2016/Reply
  4. Rachel C says:

    Thank you for the photo from Billions. (Loved that show! And her hair!!) I have a short necklace with a charm that I wear every single day. (It was my wedding gift from my husband.) I’ve always assumed it would look odd paired with a longer necklace, especially the lariat style, but after seeing that picture, I’m convinced to give it a try!

    June 2, 2016/Reply
  5. Shelley says:

    I think if you work in the legal profession the dress codes tend to be way more rigid. I work in PR in municipal gov’t and the dress code is pretty laid back- more business casual. But what business casual means for some folks is another thing. I dress fancier than most of my team members, who sometimes wear yoga pants. Technically they shouldn’t be wearing leggings, but no one says anything. And they wear them tastefully, with longer tunics. So for me open toed sandals would be ok paired with the right work appropriate outfit.

    June 3, 2016/Reply
  6. Angela says:

    Thanks for acknowledging that ‘nude’ shoes aren’t readily available for everyone. Hopefully designers will one day realize that nude extends beyond olive tones…

    The tortoise print is a great recommendation.

    June 6, 2016/Reply