Tip #1: Give your warm-weather staples a sleek finish with black accents.
White shorts and a floral dress may be obvious choices for summer outings, but we appreciate how Kate Mara and Dianna Agron freshened up these staples at a Coach party in New York last month. For the event, Mara paired a polka-dot Madewell blazer and sheer black blouse with Zara's Guipure Lace Shorts ($20), while Agron donned Tracy Reese's Revisited Impressionist Dress ($298) and accessorized with Coach's Legacy Leather Large Clutch ($158) and a black belt. The ladies were clearly on the same chic page, as both opted for contrasting noir accents that lent a sleek finish to their overall looks. If you're particularly smitten with Mara's ensemble, we suggest either Vince Camuto's Tie Front Sleeveless Shirt ($69) or Patterson J. Kincaid's Carolyn Rae Button Up ($108) under Forever 21's Polka Dot Blazer ($25), which is the spitting image of Mara's version. In love with Agron's styling? In that case, we recommend polishing your favorite floral dress with a black belt, such as J. Crew's Patent Leather Skinny Belt ($40) or Diane Von Furstenberg's Tava Lizard Belt ($195), and snagging a noir clutch, like House of Harlow 1960's Marley Frame Clutch ($195) or La Regale's Mesh Minaudiere Bag ($58). The black accents will serve as a fantastic foil to any colorful, feminine frock, making for one smartly styled outfit!
Tip #2: Elevate denim shorts by adding a python-print top.
Denim shorts and t-shirts go together like bread and butter, but that doesn't mean the classic combo couldn't benefit from a bit of an upgrade! To ramp up these summer essentials, take notes from model Elettra Wiedemann. At a Coach event in New York last month, Wiedemann teamed her relaxed shorts with luxe pieces, including Equipment's Silk Riley T-Shirt ($258), a colorful vintage belt, and Coach's Classics Leather Mini Crossbody Bag ($118) in Vermillion. With its chic reptilian pattern and silky material, the shirt was an especially stellar choice; it's a far cry from the standard-issue tees normally paired with cutoffs, and effectively took the look from casual to elegant. Feeling inspired? Get a Wiedemann-esque outfit by snagging Topshop's Snake Print Extreme Hem Shirt ($68), a sleeveless version perfect for sweltering temperatures, Loft's ultra-affordable Snake Print Shirred Hem Dolman Sleeve Tee ($40), or Elizabeth and James' Sabine Snake-Print Silk Chiffon Top ($295), an investment-worthy blouse you'll want to wear all year long.
Tip #3: Make a beachy knit dress appropriate for evening by adding ankle-strap sandals and a clutch.
While day-to-night dressing typically involves making our work outfits party-ready, during warm-weather months we're more concerned about how to take our beach basics well beyond the shore. Photographer agent/Chanel beauty ambassador Jen Brill had the right idea at a Coach party in New York last month. She made her Chanel Resort 2011 dress appropriate for evening by adding Kenzo Sandals ($294) and a streamlined clutch by Coach. While the knit frock has a summery, easygoing vibe perfect for ocean destinations, the sophisticated accessories injected just the right amount of glamour into her look, making it great for nighttime soirees too. To emulate Brill, start with a casual striped dress, such as Eight Sixty's Zigzag Knit Minidress ($88), Lauren by Ralph Lauren's Striped Knit Linen Dress ($199), or Juicy Couture's Fiji Stripe Dress ($298). To elevate the seaside staples for after-dark events, add ankle-strap sandals, like Elizabeth and James' Tara High Heel Sandals ($295), which are is a neutral option that will go with anything. Finally, finish with a leather clutch, such as Vince Camuto's Kaitlyn Clutch ($198) or Madewell's The Dispatch Clutch ($98), and you'll have Brill's versatile ensemble in no time!
Tip #4: Style printed shorts with a dramatic peplum top and black heels for an elegant look.
Whether it's a dress, skirt, or top, we love a great peplum silhouette, which explains why we were enthralled with Zoe Saldana's outfit at Prabal Gurung's Resort 2013 presentation last month. The lucky actress was able to snag pieces from said collection in advance, including the designer's blouse, silk track shorts, and bow belt. While shorts might be too casual for some dressier events, this pair in particular worked well because of its chic silk fabric and the way Saldana styled them with a dramatic ruffled blouse and Nicholas Kirkwood for Prabal Gurung F/W 12 pumps. Just as we'd expect from Saldana, the resulting look is elegant, on-trend, and definitely worth emulating! Ready to experiment with the peplum trend? We think Theory's Peplum Top ($200), Julie Haus' Novak Peplum Top ($270), and Pim + Larkin's Eyelet Peplum Top ($59) are all worthy alternatives. To complete your Saldana-inspired outfit, get your hands on a pair of printed shorts, like Forever 21's Abstract Print Woven Shorts ($15), a wallet-friendly option featuring a geometric pattern, or Topshop's Co-Ord Floral Print Shorts ($70), which have a bold botanical print. Lastly, you'll need sophisticated pumps, so try Mango Touch's Twin Ankle Strap Pumps ($130), which look just like Saldana's pair!
Tip #5: Layer a loose knit over a tunic dress and cinch with a belt to create a luxe bohemian silhouette.
Try as we might, we're not sure we could make a grocery shopping ensemble look as stylish as Olivia Palermo's. The trendsetter ran errands in New York last month wearing an artfully layered look consisting of Rebecca Minkoff's Sunset V-Neck Sweater ($228) and a floral maxi, which she cinched with an Ann Taylor belt and accessorized with a Dior bag. We appreciate how the fluid, easygoing pieces give off a boho vibe, while the belt maintains a polished sensibility. Plus, we love how she fearlessly clashed two different patterns, making the outfit wonderfully unique. To try your hand at Palermo-inspired layering, scoop up a striped sweater like Forever 21's Macrame Open Knit Sweater ($23), which has a relaxed silhouette. Wear either over a long printed dress, such as C&C California's Halter V-Neck Maxi Dress ($118) or Young Fabulous and Broke's Maelle Aztec Wash Maxi Dress ($176), and add Hive & Honey's Wide Bird Belt ($58) to accentuate your waist.
Tip #6: Punctuate a vibrant monochromatic outfit with equally bold lace-up oxfords.
Striking red carpet outfits, spectacular stage attire, and can't-miss-it beauty looks are all part of Rihanna's repertoire, so it comes as no surprise that even her off-duty getups make a bold statement! Case in point: the ensemble the singer wore to dinner in New York last month. We're crazy for the vibrant monochromatic pieces that she punctuated with Christian Louboutin's Havana Trash Oxfords ($895). As if bright red separates weren't lively enough, the addition of her colorful oxfords made this an unforgettable look indeed. If you can't splurge on Louboutins, we're also fans of Steve Madden's Taxxi Oxfords ($90), Bass' Maebird Shoes ($129), and OluKai's Pakele Nui Oxfords ($125), all of which are anything-but-basic choices sans the hefty price tag.--Erin Fitzpatrick
Photo of Elettra Weidemann, Kate Mara & Dianna Agron, courtesy of Getty Images; Photos of Olivia Palermo and Rihanna, courtesy of Splash News; Photo of Zoe Saldana, courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency.