Dressy-casual | Casually-dressy

I'm a big fan of contrasts, be they contrasting colors, textures, or in this case, degrees of formality. Not following my train of thought? Let me explain.

We've all heard of dressing a piece up and down, and how great it is because it expands our choices without additional capital expenditures. But what does it mean to dress something up or down? How is it actually done? I'm sure I've done it dozens of times without really thinking about it. Sometimes it works out spontaneously well, while other times...let's just say things didn't quite work out. I've concluded that things work best when they're are clearly identifiable as two extremes; like they say, opposites attract. The shock value creates some fresh looks. Proportionally, I've found that it's better to wear everything casual except for one very noticeable thing (usually big), or vice versa; that way, the focus is on that odd piece out.

The first step is to identify things in your closet as being on one end of the spectrum or the other. Then it's time to mix and match. The really casual clothes tend to be the basic t-shirt, jeans, hoodie, and sneakers/flipflops. The really conservative would be suits and pumps in dark colors. The dressy things tend to be frilly or flowing, usually made of silk or satin.

So far I've started with the odd piece of outerwear. A few weeks ago I went out for a friend's birthday dinner, so I wanted to wear something nice. But it happened to be pretty cold outside. I ended up wearing a rugged hoodie with a silky top:

This is how the top looks like without jacket--very airy and flowing. (My faux-model post was completely unintentional...rather amusing, though.)

This week I got an idea from someone from StyleDiary to wear a work blazer with more casual items. When I visit family that came into town, I was wearing a suit because I had been in court earlier that day. We decided to go shopping, and I found a lovely shirtdress on sale at the Gap--it's a much cheaper alternative to a striped Diane von Furstenberg dress that I had my eye on. After I got it, I realized that the black blazer I was wearing that day would match just fine, and it did. This is what I wore to work the next day:

I'll have to do the mix and match thing more often. Work has really changed how I dress, and sometimes I miss my old style.


michelle said...

Hey, I just found your StyleDiary page by accident, and it's been enormously instructive in terms of how to build a professional wardrobe and look age-appropriate at the same time. I was just offered a tenure-track assistant professor position, so I will gainfully employed come fall!

Sales Rack Raider said...

Congrats, Professora! That's great news.

I'm glad you got some ideas out of my StyleDiary page. I get a lot of ideas from the people who post there.