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“This is the one item that can go from office-appropriate to wear-it-with-jeans,” says Stafford — and that’s just the beginning of its potential. On cool evenings, a blazer doubles as jacket. During the day, it gives structure to a summer garden dress, especially with the sleeves hiked up slightly to reveal a fun lining. Look for a tailored double-breasted style that nips in at the waist, and hits just at the top of the thigh. A narrow lapel, especially on those with larger busts, narrows the torso, and a neutral topper, like this blush-hued one, goes with everything.
Sartorial Blazer, .99, Mango.
Whereas blouses change styles often depending on trends — first they're peasant, then ruffled, then who knows what — a classic collared shirt never goes out of style. Don't hesitate to spend a bit extra for a good one. In 100-percent cotton with a little bit of stretch, it'll be more flattering, and retain its shape better. Stafford raves about The Shirt by Rochelle Behrens, which uses patented dual technology to eliminate unsightly gaping across the bust. Plus, it's long enough to tuck into pants for the office, to wear loose over a shorter skirt for evening, or to leave casually open over a dress.
The Icon Shirt, 2, The Shirt by Rochelle Behrens.
Silk scarves are for your mother-in-law. But make no mistake about it, gauzy, patterned ones are just right for you. A rectangular one can be tied in multiple ways — our favorites are bundling it around your neck multiple times, and doubling, then pulling the end through. "With a great scarf, you can wear white, black, navy and chocolate and look stylish because of what's around your neck," says Stafford.
Club Monaco Brooke Scarf, .50, Shopbop.
Celebs may look great with big belts notched around their waists, but as real women, we need a one-to-two-inch cincher that fits through our belt loops. "It's not a big statement-making look, but it completely polishes off any outfit you wear," says Stafford. "It's the one step 90 to 95 percent of women forget about. It's like when men wear a great watch or bother to get their shoes polished." Get one that's expensive-looking without the hefty price tag by opting for an embossed crocodile or alligator style in chocolate, caramel, tan or black. But before you hand over your credit card, make sure the hardware matches the jewelry — gold or silver — you wear most often.
Shiny Exotic Leather Skinny Belt, , Ann Taylor.
The best way to look polished in 10 seconds or less? Slip on a classic, well-fitting white tee. A scoop neck allows you to wear a fitted shirt underneath, making it easy to layer over a longer, brightly colored tank. For one that'ssosoft, and will hold up to a million washes, try Splendid's slightly sheer style, which is casual and comfortable enough to wear with yoga pants, sparkly pants or a metallic skirt. Add that little something extra with a great scarf or a loose, bold necklace.
Splendid 1x1 Long Sleeve Scoop Neck Tee, , Piperlime.
Motos used to be for girls who rode motorcycles — or at least for the boho-chic among us. No more. "They have become the go-to jacket," says Stafford. "They've been all over the runways, and work with everything from a pretty, flirty dress, to a pair of jeans, to dress pants." Though moto jackets are available in just about every color of the rainbow, Stafford recommends a shade — like this black and eggshell — that you can wear all the time. Avoid super-cropped styles, which are best left to teenagers, and seek out one that hits at the top of your thigh. Then, wear a longer shirt underneath to give the illusion of a lengthier torso.
Buffalo by David Bitton Faux Leather & Knit Moto Jacket, , Nordstrom.
All women prize their little black dress — and that's exactly the problem. "Every time you go to a party, everyone is wearing black," says Stafford. "Yawn!" Instead, buy into the universally flattering fit and flare trend with a bright, eye-catching tone like fuchsia, red, or cobalt. "Stiffer and stronger fabrics create more shape to your body," explains Stafford. "If it's softer, you might need shapewear, so think about how easy it will be to throw on." A slightly looser cut that hits just above the knee makes it as easy as asking your husband to zip you up.
Eliza J Drape Sleeve Sash Belt Dress, 8, Nordstrom.
In the denim department, it's best to ignore trends, and go for those brands and styles that work well on everyone. A uniform dark wash — without hip-widening whiskering or fading — with plenty of stretch will frame your curves in all the right ways. We adore dENiZEN, Levi's line made exclusively for Target, for doing it at an amazing price. The key to ensuring everyone thinks you spent much more is to maintain the original hem, even if you have jeans shortened so as to hit one half-inch off the ground. "That's the mark of a premium-looking jean," says Stafford.
dENiZEN from the Levis Brand Essential Stretch Boot Cut Jean, .99, .
Have you ever heard a woman express that shedoesn'twant her legs to look longer and thinner? Neither have we. That's why a nude pump works so well. In addition to its outright flattery, the color makes it unnecessary to ever think about whether your shoes match your outfit — these babies go with everything. A patent peep-toe doesn't date, and is perfect for warmer months. Do choose a skinny heel higher than a kitten, which can add bulk to calves, but stick to a heel height you can walk in — there's nothing fun about a day of teetering around.
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