NEW YORK – Day-to-night dressing doesnt quite cover it for most people. Its more like sunrise to bedtime, and the clothes need to be appropriate and comfortable for the long haul.
That means finding a look that blends in enough at business meetings, the bus stop and the coffee shop so the wearer doesnt draw too much attention – without giving up personal style.
Lisa Axelson, creative director of Ann Taylor, lives the life of so many working women: She balances duties of home, family and career with those things that change every day.
Forget day-to-night. You dont even have weekday versus weekend, Axelson says. That goes for clothes – and lifestyle. There are many people working from home, and they can end up turning a Sunday brunch date into a business meeting, she says. On the flip side, theres the school event scheduled smack in the middle of the workday.
She says she has to approach her day in a uniform that, more often than not (at least four days a week!), starts with black, tightly knit ponte pants that have a little Spandex in them.
Axelson recently spent a morning at Ann Taylors renovated location in The Westchester shopping mall in White Plains, N.Y., pointing out the styles that she believes are the cornerstone of a womans wardrobe in 2013. The store is set up like a closet, without a specific suits section or all the denim tucked in the back corner. Displays are more likely to be built around a color theme, or a versatile item.
Scarves, necklaces and other accessories get prime real estate, though, smack in the middle of the place. Thats not by accident.
I will change my accessories several times during the day. I have my commuter flats – every day its the train-to-the-office trek – but Im lucky to have a lot of choices at the office, she says. Theres the sample closet and a predominantly female workforce at the company that started in 1954 with a shop at a hotel in New Haven, Conn.
On this day, she had taken off her fuzzy and warm winter boots upon arrival at the store, switched to heels – 2 1/2 inches is the sweet spot – and then went back to the boots on her way out.
Also in her commuter tote bag are a scarf or wrap and two sets of jewelry, one thats sleek and sophisticated and the other thats a little more chunky and funky.
Colorblocking is a tool thats gone from trendy to basic because, she says, its eye-catching and modern, but not froufrou.
That works for her. Shes definitively a pants person. I need clothes that I can wear a lot.
She says an underrated item is the T-shirt blouse, which goes over the head, has a refined, silky front, but a comfortable knit back. A silk camp shirt works that way, too, and the same thing goes for a tailored, shrunken blazer thats cool, not stuffy. That could be the key piece for a woman with a home office or unpredictable schedule. It pulls everything together at the last minute – and no one will really pay attention to whats underneath, Axelson says.
Her best tip is to add a bit of structure to an overall relaxed look: Itll take you almost anywhere, she says.
Other quick hits: A knit dress can have a hint of sex appeal because it can be form-fitting but cover your arms and hit at or below the knee; embellished or textured ballet flats straddle the comfort of the low heel and the savvy of a fashion fan; and theres nothing wrong with a washable top. Her current favorite is a jewel-neck one with a peplum thats mostly polyester.
The American culture has changed, and its full of changing expectations and blurry lines. Its so much more stylish to look comfortable in your own skin, Axelson says. I think its more of a fashion faux pas to be overdressed than underdressed.