Navy and Neutrals


Ann Taylor factory lace dress (similar), H&M; knit blazer (similar), Crewcuts boys gingham shirt
Ferragamo Vara shoes (similar), Prada Saffiano Tote, belt borrowed from Nick’s dad

Earlier this evening, I had the pleasure of hosting a local workshop on “Maximizing your Work Wardrobe.” After some nervous mulling in the shower, I threw together a list of some of tips learned over the years.

One topic that we discussed was shopping for versatile pieces, including items beyond “traditional” office wear that one would love just as much on the weekends. When I was an intern, I loaded up on button-up dress shirts, trousers, and suit-style blazers. I didn’t enjoy shopping for them, did not feel compelled to shell out for alterations, and almost never wore them outside of work. Although those are still the most conservative and foolproof pieces for a corporate office, I’ve had much more fun shopping and dressing outside of that realm.
navyandneutrals2 This outfit is comprised of various pieces collected over the years, none of which are traditional work pieces bought for work. The lace dress has worked beautifully for cocktails or a garden party; the comfy gingham shirt was guiltily plucked from the boys department; the waffle knit blazer is a fave for pairing with denim. Worn together, these pieces give off a feminine yet academic vibe that is conservative enough for my office.

Another topic we discussed was how to change up the look of 1 item by accessorizing, layering, or unconventional styling. I immediately thought of Cee, and dedicated a slide to her “10 ways to wear a lace dress.” Reading Cee’s blog inspires me to experiment more with layering…for example, rather than simply wear this dress under a jacket, layering a boyish button-up shirt and worn leather belt provides both visual interest and extra warmth.
To lessen the eyesore of two busy patterns, I used a monochromatic palette, added a block of solid with the blazer, and kept the accessories neutral.

Readers – What are some of your favorite tips for maximizing your work wardrobe?
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  1. i love this – so unexpected but so right!

    you look fantastic!

    Posted 10.19.12 Reply
  2. yuni.k wrote:

    Hail to the queen of layering! I absolutely love this, even though when looked at separately, I would never think to put them together!

    yuni @ OBSESSED

    Posted 10.19.12 Reply
  3. FFREPLICA wrote:

    You are so beautiful. I love your style and your way to match outfits. Just fabulous!

    Posted 10.19.12 Reply
  4. Very, very cute! I have similar pieces but not so sure how to make it go together – especially for fall – my pieces are brighter in colour. And sadly my navy blazer got thrown into the laundry bin by mistake and is now too tight on me 🙁

    Posted 10.18.12 Reply
  5. You do such a fabulous job of doing things that I would never have thought of…and making them look so chic.
    I'm sure the attendees of the workshop must have walked out with a new found enjoyment of their work clothes 😉

    Posted 10.18.12 Reply
  6. that is such a pretty dress on you! xo

    Posted 10.18.12 Reply
  7. Anonymous wrote:

    hhhmmm, i've loved all your improvisation thus far.

    but i gotta say, i do NOT like the gingham + lace look. separately i love em', just not together.

    can u show us how to mix prints? 🙂


    Posted 10.18.12 Reply
  8. Celeste wrote:

    Hi there,

    I stumbled upon one of your videos on youtube and started checking out your website. I had been following Wendy on Wendy'sLookbook but I have to say I'm very impressed by your sense of fashion as well! What I love about you is that you know how to make clothes look classy without having to spend a fortune on designer brands (unlike Wendy). Keep up the good work! 🙂
    Celeste from Seattle

    Posted 10.18.12 Reply
  9. Great pairing as usual, Jean! Didn´t know gingham and lace would look that good. Long time reader here. 🙂

    Posted 10.18.12 Reply
  10. newpetite wrote:

    Such an unexpected pairing and looks perfect for fall!

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  11. Erin wrote:

    I love how you mixed these unconventional work pieces together for such a chic but office appropriate outfit! The navy color palette is so classic, but the subtle different textures and patterns make it so interesting!


    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  12. Anonymous wrote:

    I have a question.. How do you keep your Saffiano bag look so structured? I have one but for some reason mine does not stay in that "boxy" shape all the time. The bottom part seems to weigh down a bit which makes it look slouchy…

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  13. Lani wrote:

    Never would have thought to layer the gingham shirt with the lace dress. Good idea!

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  14. brella wrote:

    The more pictures I scrolled through, the more I liked the layered gingham/lace look. I've seen your posts for the pieces individually and they're very different styles, so it took a bit to get used to! Very creative and it looks great.

    However, I do think the reason you pull this off so well is your petite frame. I'm rather jealous–I think this would look bulky/unflattering on my size 4, 5'6" frame. That said, I I will definitely see if I can create more work outfits by playing around with some pieces in my closet. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  15. Janki wrote:

    oh how I would have loved to be there for your discussion! I know my early career self would have flipped. Your look is so cute! I sadly don't think I can layer as well. I'm not as slim and I'm very short waisted. I find any sort of tucking just makes me look insanely top heavy.
    But the general idea of your post is one I like: looking beyond the normal when it comes to your clothing. I am packing for a trip and started seeing how many of my items can do double or triple duty, all with the right accessory and accompaning pieces.

    Your writing is really hitting a stride! You always wrote well, but lately it is just so strong.

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  16. very cute and creative!

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  17. Emily wrote:

    Love the gingham in that look! The whole thing is so cute!

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  18. Mady T. wrote:

    one of mine is wearing different types and colors of tights ore stocking underneath skirts or dresses…


    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  19. Gingham and lace is honestly my FAVE combo!! Really pretty outfit(: You are so cute!
    xoxo, Gena
    Pearls, Curls, and Uptown Girls

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  20. You look so pretty. (: And I LOVE the bag!! <3


    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  21. Cee wrote:

    My dress post deserved a slide? Jean, I'm beyond flattered. Inspiration is a two-way street, so thank YOU for helping me polish up my wardrobe.

    To go with the monochromatic theme, I can also see you experimenting with your chambray shirt under the dress instead of the gingham. Still in the same color family, but a solid color won't compete with the lace pattern as much (a concern raised by the anonymous commenter above). I don't think it would be as cute as the gingham + lace sans blazer, but can see it working with the blazer.

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  22. Anonymous wrote:

    I really like your prada and seriously consider
    it in the same color, but I'm so worry about
    it get dirty or stained since the color is light.
    Do you ever have this concern with light color
    Bag? Thanks Jean

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  23. Anonymous wrote:

    This is one of my favorite outfits of yours ever! The layering of texture and print work so well because you did keep everything else minimal and neutral. I don't have any gingham or lace in my closet (what?! after I've been following you for, what, almost a year now?) but now I'm inspired to look for layering possibilities with what I already have. Oh, and I love Cee's post too!

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  24. That is really smart to add a long sleeve button up under that pretty lace dress! I think the layering would be too much depending on how different the textures were and if the colors didn't match so well. You pulled it off so stylishly… like you always do!

    I'm also still looking out for that gorgeous navy AT lace dress! Maybe you'll get sick of it and want to sell it later… well a girl can dream =P

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  25. Great twist on that dress!

    Check out The Glitter Life!

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  26. I just love the layering, you look so beautiful!

    xo, Yi-chia

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  27. I have a problem with layering..
    I'm just not comfortable enough to do that.. yet 🙂
    I'd love to try out this style!
    btw, thank for that link!


    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  28. You inspire me to try new stuff like this!!


    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  29. Anonymous wrote:

    Hey love! I was hoping you could help — I purchased a plaid Banana Republic wool blend coat 3 years ago and the color (dye?) on the right side has worn off (faded to a whiteish color) and I'm quite upset. I believe it's due to my Longchamp bag rubbing up against it. Is there any way to fix this? I took it to the dry cleaners but no luck :((

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  30. I think the layering here is perfect!

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  31. I can so relate to what your saying, I enjoy shopping so much more now that I've been purchasing pieces that I can transition from work to other. I love how you made the lace dress work appropriate. I have a few work outfits on my blog check it outfit you want to see my approach.

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  32. This is so cute! Love the mixed prints.

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  33. I would never believe this would work, but it does! I love this outfit on you, but I am pretty sure I wouldn´t be able to pull it off 🙂 But it is great inspiration.

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  34. Annie wrote:

    Wow, you look incredible. I'm at that stage in life where I'm trying to build a work-appropriate wardrobe, and this is actually really inspiring. Thanks!

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  35. Eva Wu wrote:

    beautiful dress! love it!

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  36. Sheila wrote:

    You always look so lovely Jean! I love your blog. 🙂

    xo – Sheila

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  37. Mika – how funny! I had no idea Ann Taylor was such a hot spot for coincidental meetings. Please do say hello next time! It's a small town so I am sure we'll cross paths again : )

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  38. I wear all of my "work outfits" on here to work, but usually don't have time to take photos on the actual day of wear. I've been putting them all on again on the weekend for blog photos, and am pretty sure my neighbors think I'm nuts : )

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  39. I love your outfit. Perfect for the fall weather 🙂

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  40. wux wrote:

    I was at the "Work Wardrobe" event/workshop, yay!

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  41. I love how you styled these different pieces together. Very unexpected but refreshing. Take care.


    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  42. Anonymous wrote:

    You look polished and lovely as always.

    I am not a big fan of the lace dress over the gingham shirt, though; the two pieces give off very different vibes to me. The dress is more figure-hugging and feminine, while the shirt underneath is more bulky and boyish, so the sight of the tighter dress worn over the bulkier shirt came across as a little… restricting and creating awkward shapes. Additionally, both pieces contain very strong eye-catching patterns, and thus seemed to clash with each other a little too much. Just my 5 cents.

    Kudos to you for hosting the workshop; I'm quite jealous of the ladies who attended & got to hear your great tips!

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  43. The gingham shirt and the lace dress is an unexpected but lovely combo! Looks nice with the blazer. Actually I spotted you last week at Ann Taylor with Nick but was a bit nervous to say hi to you, especially when you were busy shopping and talking with another gal who I think was your fan as well… I hope you have a Boston meetup sometime if you're not busy with work! Next time I hope I won't be as shy 😉

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  44. Such a classic look and dress, love it! We always look forward to your new posts. Have a wonderful day!

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  45. You always look so put together! 🙂 Do you dress for blog photos or you actually wear this out to work? (I am assuming you are in a professional setting?)

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  46. i layer "over" dresses quite often but need to try layering "under"! love this outfit!!!

    xoxo, jenn
    the stylish housewife

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  47. Anonymous wrote:

    you look very classy with the outfit. I would never thought of pairing somethign like this. so creative. Great combination!. love your blog btw.
    ps: i went to AT factory two weeks ago and surprised they had the lace dress you were wearing. larger size so I altered it and now it fit nicely..happy as a clam 🙂

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  48. Lindsay K wrote:

    Gorgeous! You look lovely. I love navy and how you've styled items that aren't typical "workwear." The blazer (love) anchors the entire look.

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  49. sal ♥ wrote:

    it looks nice. love the blue and brown 🙂

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply
  50. Abby wrote:

    I would never think to do that, but it's actually really, really cute. I need to open my mind a little bit more to come up with things like this.

    Posted 10.17.12 Reply

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