I’m having a great time tracking down answers for all of your requests! Here’s a good one from Rachael, that I think will resonate with a lot of you.
Here’s my request. I tend to be fairly casual and would live in jeans and t-shirts if I could. In fact, I work at a university where jeans are okay as long as they’re paired with something funky and hip because that’s the prevailing aesthetic. My problem is that I cannot figure out how to be funky and hip. I sometimes *think* I’m putting together a cute and fairly hip outfit, but I get to work and look like I walked out of a Lands End catalog. I guess what I’m really asking is how I can avoid looking so conservative without looking ridiculous. What is funky and hip and where do I get it? I see women in the hallways at work looking adorable, but I can’t figure out where they get these cute things. I must be shopping in the wrong stores. Maybe that’s really my request: what stores/catalogs/online shops might be the best for a funky and hip, but casual, aesthetic? I’ve tried Boden, but it looks too little-girlish on me and the sizing is often not right for my body (I’m a 14/16). Other suggestions?
This is a great question for a few reasons. First: The workplace has certainly seen a dramatic upheaval in the level of casualness now appropriate. But in certain professions and cultures (eg: media, academia and creative professions in general) I think fashion is playing a more important role than ever. Also: I think in some ways professionals are using their wardrobes to communicate authenticity and uniqueness in a way we haven’t seen since the late 60s.
Before we even get to clothing, adding a quirky flair can start with accessories. Do you wear glasses? If you do, there are so many options and fun frames that will update your look on an everyday basis. If you want to go for a Zooey Deschanel hipster style, there are a ton of frames to choose from.
Including these cute frames, which were designed by Zooey herself for Oliver Peoples.
Or you can go for this hip retro cat-eyed look from Kate Spade:
There are literally thousands of frames to choose from. The best thing to do would be visit your optometrist. They usually are experts at finding a pair of glasses that matches the style (retro, hip, funky) you like to the best color and frame for your face shape. For example, my eyes are a bit close-set, so my optometrist picks out frames that make my eyes look farther apart.
Next: Jewelry. A great necklace can perk up the most conservative outfit and make you look updated and fresh. When I was in Austin a few weeks ago, I noticed a few things. 1. It was incredibly funky and fun, and I’ve never seen more vintage stores. 2. I saw a lot of the following jewelry: delicate gold-tone necklaces with an edge and/or chunky natural stones.
Like this delicate horseshoe necklace from Alexis Bittar.
Or this necklace, by Kelly Wearstler.
Or this cuff, by Dannijo.
TJ. Maxx, Ross and Marshall are jam-packed with necklaces and bracelets like this right now if you are on a budget.
A bold, fun necklace or bracelet will punch up a plain black V-neck shirt and a pair of jeans like you would not believe.
Let’s move on to clothing brands. Boden can be really, really cute and funky (and I find it is a favorite of academics, which is interesting) but the sizes can be weird and you’re right: it’s not for everyone. There are a few other chains that might be of interest.
I love Anthropologie. My friend is a size 14 and she does very well there, but you’ll definitely want to try the clothing on as everyone’s proportions are different. What I like about Anthopologie is the clothing looks unique and it definitely has a retro, quirky vibe. It can be pricey but look for sales. AND TRY CLOTHES ON that might not be in your comfort zone. I bought two jumpsuits there recently and I thought I would NEVER wear a jumpsuit, like, ever.
Also, Modcloth may be of interest. They have really cute clothes, mostly dresses, in that funky, hip style you may be interested in. Online only, but you can return clothes easily for another size if you need to.
I LOVE this dress. It would be super cute and work appropriate with a cropped jean jacket or a cardigan.
Other brands to check out: Zara and H & M.
Finally, there are a number of fashion bloggers out there who cover what to wear in Academia. Here is a list of a bunch of them. Academichic was really wonderful, but they stopped blogging in 2011. However, it’s still worth a look.