| Ask The Style Chefs: May 2011 Archives

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May 2011 Archives

Q. Last week you gave some packing suggestions for a weekend in the city, but I have a few beach weekends planned for the summer. Can you give me some ideas on what to pack for a weekend at the shore?

A. Of course! There’s nothing I love more than spending a long relaxing weekend at the beach. My packing tips are pretty simple: I pack a few day-to-night dresses and tunics that go straight from beach to town to a sunset clambake. Add a couple of swimsuits, beach-to-street sandals, a hat, sunglasses, tote bag, sunscreen, and a lightweight scarf or jacket in case the nights are cool, and you’re ready to go! Here’s what’s typically in my weekend bag (click on each item for purchasing info):

Q. I am visiting friends for Memorial Day weekend in New York City and haven’t a clue what to pack! We’ll be shopping and going to a museum or two during the day and going out to fun dinners at night. What should I bring?


A. I love New York on holiday weekends when most of us head out to the Hamptons or Jersey Shore and restaurants seem a bit easier to get into and the streets are a touch less crowded. Some of my favorite places to spend time outdoors are on the lower West Side’s Esplanade by the water near Battery Park City and dining al fresco in the meatpacking district (great for people watching!) Be sure to hit the High Line and Chelsea Market while you’re down there for a truly NY experience.

Packing for a shopping/eating/touring weekend in the city is a lot easier than you think. Pack a few of your favorite day-to-night dresses, some well chosen accessories, and your most comfortable pair of chic summer sandals. The idea is to dress like a local (read: stylish), so leave your gym sneakers and faded t-shirts at home! Here are a few essential items to add to your weekend bag:

Q. Last week you mentioned your daily summer uniform of a simple cotton or linen dress for daytime. Can you give me some examples?

A. With pleasure! On any given day in the summer, you will likely find me wearing a lightweight dress and a pair of sandals or wedges. There’s literally nothing easier or more comfortable to wear. My closet is full of these daytime dresses, making getting dressed in the morning a breeze. Packing for summer vacations and weekends away is also relatively easy, since many of these dresses can be dressed up for an evening out or even worn over a swimsuit to the beach.

I generally look for styles that resist wrinkles and don’t need to be dry cleaned, so my day dresses can be laundered at home. Avoid fabrics like polyester or silk that don’t breathe and opt for cotton or cotton/linen blends instead. I also stick to styles that are under $100 (under $50 is even better!), saving my more expensive purchases for nicer dresses to wear to work meetings or events. Another important requirement is that I don’t need any special underpinnings, meaning, the dresses can be worn with a basic bra or racerback bra, or even a tank top underneath for fuss-free dressing.


Here are some perfect budget-friendly day dresses to wear all summer long:

Q. I’m looking for a casual, lightweight summer skirt to go with cute cotton summer tee shirts and tanks. I would like something that is a slight A-line, in a white or khaki color. I’m 5’1 and 40 years old, so I would like it to hit right above or at the knee. I can’t find a skirt like this anywhere! Please help.

A. I, too, love the summer uniform consisting of a tank or tee and a skirt with sandals. In fact, for years this was pretty much all I wore, amassing quite a collection of A-line skirts in a variety of colors and prints. I’ve since moved on to mostly dresses in the summer which, if you can believe it, is even easier than throwing on a skirt/t-shirt combination since it consists of just one piece. So now my varied collection of skirts has transitioned to a closet full of casual lightweight cotton and linen dresses.


Ah, but enough about me, right? Here are some white and tan colored skirts to get you through the summer:

Q. My fiancé and I are eloping and then celebrating with a big party a few weeks later with all of our friends and family. I would like to look “bridal” without wearing a traditional wedding gown. Can you help me find a fun, cocktail-style white dress to wear to my wedding party?

A. Congratulations! I think wearing a white cocktail dress is the perfect solution for looking like a bride at your party, while still wearing something a little less formal and traditional than a bridal gown. Below are some options for you. [Note: these dresses would also be perfect for an engagement party, elopement, or any less formal wedding occasion]


Q. I am going to be the maid of honor at my sister’s wedding this summer and she has given me the freedom to choose my own dress. I found a really beautiful off-white dress but I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to wear white or ivory to the wedding. What do you think?

A. It is typically a faux pas for anyone but the bride to wear white (or ivory) to a wedding, for fear of outshining the bride. At the royal wedding last week, Kate Middleton’s sister Pippa (below) wore an ivory dress and there has been a lot of buzz about whether she stole the spotlight from the princess. Though there’s typically no one more beautiful than a glowing bride, I’m of the opinion that she should be the only one in white at the wedding. Therefore, it’s probably best that you look for a different dress, even if your sister seem’s fine with your choice.


Q. Now that spring is here, can I wear sandals to work?

A. The rules vary from office to office, so it’s important to look to your coworkers, and more importantly, your boss, before deciding if sandals are appropriate for the office. In general, sandals are a big no-no in a corporate office, stylish sandals are typically ok for a casual or creative office, and flip flops and gladiator sandals are generally not appropriate. Here’s a breakdown of some of this season’s top shoe styles and whether they can be worn to work or not.

Peep Toe Pump

A peep toe pump is typically appropriate for all but the most corporate of offices. If you’re unsure if a peep toe is acceptable, then opt for a closed toe pump in a pretty spring-worthy color instead.

Slingback Pump

Slingbacks are making a comeback and offer the perfect compromise between a pump and a sandal, with no toe exposure. This style is appropriate for virtually every office.

Heeled Sandal

A tasteful heeled sandal that isn’t too sexy or strappy is appropriate for many offices, especially a casual or creative work place. We suggest looking to your superiors before opting for this type of shoe.

Wedge Sandal

A wedge sandal typically follows the same office rules as the heeled sandal, unless your wedge is an espadrille, raffia or cork wedge, then see below.

Espadrille or Cork Wedge

Espadrilles and cork wedges tend to have a breezy, summery look to them and are best left for casual offices only.

Flat Sandal

There are many types of flat sandals with varying degrees of acceptance at work. A simple elegant pair like the one shown here can be worn to a casual or creative office, while a very bare sandal or casual gladiator-type sandal is often too casual for work. Use your best judgment here, and if still unsure, save them for the weekend.

Flip Flops

Flip flops, or any other shoe you would wear to the beach, is never appropriate for work (unless you’re a lifeguard!)

And remember, if you do choose to wear sandals to work, be sure your toes are properly pedicured!

For more spring shoe ideas, check out 20 perfect work shoes.

Q. I keep seeing colorful jeans everywhere, but I’m not sure if I can pull the look off. Can you give me some ideas for wearing the trend?


A. Colored denim is a fun trend for spring. I think a slim ankle length jean in a bright hue can be pretty easy for most women to wear. Try pairing it with a contrasting solid colored top for this season’s color blocking trend, or pair with a printed top that picks up the color of the jeans. If you’re still a little uneasy with all that color, a white top is the perfect contrast for a bright hue. Add a flat sandal or wedge heel and you’ve got a breezy, bright, summery look. Here are a few ideas for inspiration:

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