When I landed my dream job at Who What Wear, I knew I had to step up my working-girl game. After all, in an industry where fashion know-how is part of the job description, it helps when your personal style is on-point. But since executing flawless ensembles five days a week is no small task, it's easy to fall into a formulaic rut--my personal crutch being collared silk shirts paired with trousers. As a girl very familiar with the daily closet stare-down, I'm always searching for new ideas to add to my stockpile of go-to outfits and novel ways to push outside my comfort zone. So you'll imagine my delight when I spied the latest way to wear leather on the Resort 13 runways. While most don't normally consider leather as typical work wear, I think it's time to break the material out of its moto jacket mold. Leather separates, in all their versatile glory, are my current answer to the office outfit conundrum.
Leather is typically associated more with concerts and bikers than cubicles and business meetings, but the Resort 13 collections suggest a fresh spin. For example, Rag & Bone showed a conservative sheath dress fitting for a presentation, while 3.1 Phillip Lim's collection included a white leather dirndl skirt that would work perfectly with a blazer for a day of meetings. Not to mention, the trousers at Belstaff and the boxy, cropped jacket at Celine would make impeccable additions to your work repertoire.
All of these examples have a few common denominators, which hold the secret to easing leather into your own wardrobe. The pieces must be tailored, sophisticated, and have a fairly modest hem. Bearing that in mind, here's how I styled my workplace leather with three standout pieces from the current collections.
Look 1: Pencil Skirt
Ever since Christian Dior introduced the modern pencil skirt in the early fifties, it has remained a cornerstone of the working woman's 9-to-5 wardrobe. Since my fashion-obsessed self gets giddy at the thought of a novel spin on an age-old classic, I was immediately taken with this DKNY iteration. The material (leather, rather than the usual silk or cotton) combined with the pale blush color (a fresh departure from basic black) makes the traditional silhouette feel completely current.
Thanks to the sheer genius of Jenna Lyons' J. Crew catalog styling and the runways as of late, I love the monochromatic trend. I tried to recreate a subtle version of this idea by pairing the blush leather skirt with a lighter pink peplum sweater. The rosy color palette even extends to my toes with a pair of red pumps--closed-toe is the safest bet for the office. My final accessories are stylish yet functional: a metal belt defines my waist and adds a touch of industrial edge, while a roomy gray handbag is sophisticated yet large enough to hold my laptop.
What I Wore:
Ted Baker London Anegal Sweater ($180) in Pale Pink; DKNY Ballet Leather Pencil Skirt ($595, 212.223.3569, Available at Select Stores); Nicholas Roxanne Thin Rose Gold Plate Belt ($120); DKNY Opaque Coverage Control Top Tights ($15); ALDO Roberge Heels ($100); Bing Bang Diamond Teardrop Ring ($68) in Silver and Rose; Tod's Medium Leather Tote Bag ($1595).
Look 2: Collarless Blazer
The blazer is another time-tested work wear favorite that I couldn't resist trying in leather. I picked this MiH iteration because I was immediately drawn to its midnight blue color. I think the rich hue ensures the outfit works for daytime, but it's still as versatile as a black version. When looking for your own blazer, make sure the tailoring is on-point, as there are few fashion grievances worse than ill-fitting leather!
Although you can style a leather blazer with practically anything, I opted for a printed trouser paired with a t-shirt for a slightly casual feel. Since this is only one of many ways to wear it, I offer a few general guidelines. Limit yourself to one leather clothing item per outfit, since I assume you're not aiming for a look that can transition from the boardroom to a biker bar. Next, make sure to build the rest of your outfit with professional and modest pieces to offset leather's after-hours vibe. Lastly, edgy accents, like my oversized stud purse, are completely fair game, as they match the downtown vibe that comes with the leather territory.
What I Wore:
MiH The Leather Collarless Fitted Blazer ($1100); Zoe Karssen shirt ($78); Sea NY Yellow Slim Striped Pants ($398, 212.826.8900); kate spade new york Varick Street Violette ($313) in Black; H&M Shoes ($30); Callixto Mina Earrings ($45).
Look 3: Cropped Shell
This powder blue leather shell is a standout piece for so many reasons. The soft hue serves as a delicate pop of color against standard office wear, while the cropped boxy shape adds structure and proportion to an outfit of relaxed separates. Also the supple leather provides a pleasing tactile contrast that ensures the piece doesn't get lost among the layers.
The light blue color may seem unpractical, but in a twist of sartorial irony I find it actually goes with many work separates. I have a closet full of neutral staples like my charcoal wide-leg trousers and dove gray button-down, which all seem to be complemented by this shell. As for my bag, I went for pale yellow to play up my outfit's pastel color scheme, and looked for a style with a longer shoulder strap; a handheld purse would be too prim for this look, but this silhouette is perfectly nonchalant.
What I Wore:
Tibi Leather Cropped Top ($398); Equipment Brett Shirt ($198) in Ice Blue; Mango Herringbone Palazzo Trousers ($70); Coach Colorblock Mini Tanner Bag ($258, Available February); Sigerson Morrison Brielle Heels ($450, Available December 26) in Nude; Lia Sophia Nostalgia Necklace ($98).
SHOP THE TREND
Nanette Lepore Miracle Blazer ($998) in Licorice ; Reiss Barrett Midi Full Leather Skirt ($425, 310.276.0060); Kimchi Blue Structured Peplum Top ($49) in White.
The more leather options the better, right? Add to your stockpile with a boxy blazer, dirndl skirt, or peplum top.
P.S.: Do you have a trend you're not quite sure how to wear? Leave a message in the comments, and yours truly might try it out!--Kat Collings