Brighten up Your Winter Style

Our closets -- full of camel, charcoal, black and navy -- can seem downright oppressive during this third month of winter. But with spring style arriving in stores already, it’s the perfect time to refresh your wardrobe with accent pieces that promise to be relevant all year long.

By shopping with future color trends in mind, your spring purchases can pair with today’s neutrals or next fall’s deep palette. Spring’s silvery gray, dusty pink, lavender and coral-rose mix with upcoming fall shades of purpled wine, coffee brown, loden green and inky navy.

Spring style collections also feature some traditional fall colors, such as brown, russet and dark blue-greens that will remain important for fall, says color consultant Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. So hold on to those gray sweaters, camel jackets and charcoal pants. They can work with spring’s cropped jackets, fresh prints and vivid leather belts and bags.

Below, color and fashion experts give the lowdown on how to beat the winter style blahs with color.

1. Banish Black -- for a Bit
“The little black dress doesn’t have to be black anymore,” says celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch, author of The Shopping Diet. “Get some spice in your life. Try that dress in brown, plum, burgundy or green. It does the same things as black does. You can still dress it up or down, and it makes you look slim.”

2. Update a Classic With a Bold Color
This spring, designers at all price levels are offering the sporty-but-classic anorak. Its drawstring hood, zippers and snaps help chase away the wind and rain, but in new colors such as yellow, coral, red and turquoise, they’re great antidotes to drab days.

3. Sweeten Your Look With Honeysuckle
Pantone picked the reddish-pink hue as the defining color of 2011, so you can expect to see the uplifting shade in everything from evening wear to key chains. New York designers Nanette Lepore, Peter Som and Badgley Mischka employed this pink for dainty day and evening dresses, but you can expect to see it in cosmetics, sportswear and accessories. It’s a wonderful complement to brown, gray and green.

4. Incorporate Color on Bad-weather Days
Rain boots, umbrellas, scarves, gloves and hats not only are more fun to wear in vivid colors, but they can help spur experimentation with your daywear. Start with bright accessories, and you’ll be able to easily make the transition from black to bold in your staple pieces too.

5. Spin the Color Wheel
There’s nothing like a fresh color-combination to perk up your basics. Bloch has been pairing unusual tones with browns, including warm reds, soft pinks, baby blues, deep purple, forest green and pristine white. While the days are still dark, you can warm up neutrals with such combinations as gray worn with camel, butterscotch or marine blue. Going forward, black and white reappear in spring prints with jolts of cobalt. Designer Lela Rose paired teal with black for spring, but the blue-green works wonders to freshen winter’s black and brown too.

6. New Shoe Hues
Whether you’re wearing a sensible gray sheath dress or a black suit, you don’t have to play it safe with black shoes. “The days of matchy-matchy are gone,” says Bloch. “More and more in Hollywood, actresses are throwing on some random-color shoes.” Designers are following their example this spring and fall, even adding animal prints to the mix. On the runway, Valentino paired strappy turquoise sandals with a jaguar-print coat, while Giambattista Valli showed patterned tights and jaguar-print ankle boots with black and deep-olive cocktail dresses.

Workwear Rules for Style Success

This season’s corporate catwalks couldn’t be further removed from the aggressive power-dressing of old, as softer silhouettes replace the ubiquitous sharp shoulder.

The secretary in all her femme fatale glory is workwear’s new muse, with tweed skirt suits, pussy bow blouses and platform loafers stealing the show.

With this look in mind, follow these new rules for instant boardroom style success:


  • Invest in a seasonal capsule wardrobe, which you can rotate on a weekly basis. It should include at least: one suit jacket/blazer; two skirts (preferably pencil or skater); one shift dress; one pair of wide-leg trousers (the strides du jour); a pair of tailored shorts (they look sleek with opaques); and three to four interchangeable blouses.
  • Experiment with textures and colours. A cropped bouclé or tweed jacket will jazz up a cheap pair of black trousers, while a burnt-orange blouse will brighten up a navy skirt suit.
  • Accessorize sparingly. There’s no place for multiple rings and heavy gold chains in the office. Opt for one statement ring, dual-purpose gems -- like a bracelet watch -- and a pair of fuss-free stud earrings to be taken seriously.
  • Spend time putting a look together the night before. A well thought-out ensemble reveals a lot about the individual. Not only does it say you take pride in your appearance, but it’s also transferable to your work ethic. And it’ll ensure you clock in on time too!
  • Splurge on bags. Designers have taken a vested interest in boardroom accessories. Louis Vuitton’s iPad cases offer the epitome of corporate chic while Mulberry’s plush patent Daria MacBook sleeve doubles up as a cute clutch to take you seamlessly from desk to drinks.
  • Make time for grooming. A daily blow-dry may be beyond your budget, but washed hair and clean, buffed nails are a must.


  • Wear stained shirts, laddered tights, scuffed shoes or chipped nail polish. Your first impression should look like you mean business.
  • Confuse off-duty attire with workwear. Low-cut tops, miniskirts and 8-inch heels should be reserved for play and should never see the strip lighting of your workplace.
  • Compromise on style. The office is the perfect arena to hone your style. Take a look at the runway collections and translate them into your working wardrobe. Remember, select your trends wisely. Give aviator jackets and heeled hiker boots a miss but snap up ’40s-inspired mid-length shifts and matchy-matchy gloves, shoes and bags.
  • Become complacent. Fit flops and ballet pumps make essential commuting footwear, but resist the temptation to wear them all day. Keep a pair of heels in your bottom drawer at all times so you’re not caught out by a last-minute pitch.
  • Overdo your makeup. Heavy eyeliner and glitter shadow will kill the corporate shark illusion and make you the laughingstock of the office. Instead, aim for polished skin, defined eyes and add a slick of matte red lipstick if you’re feeling brave.
  • Rock up to work in the same clothes as the day before. Leave the telltale walk of shame to the weekends if you really must.

Look Stunning for Date Night

Whether you’re prepping for a hot first date or getting decked out for Valentine’s Day with the hubby, finding your fashion and beauty mojo is just a matter of sound style strategy, paired with timeless hair and makeup tips.

The Ultimate Date-night Outfit
For an eye-catching yet not-too-revealing look, Kabbie Rodriguez, associate fashion editor of OK! Magazine Philippines, recommends a long-sleeved black mini dress paired with heeled booties, a cocktail ring, and a cute clutch. Rodriguez, who has styled local and international stars like Charice Pempengco, Mylene Dizon and Jennylyn Mercado, advocates “the right fit and mastering proportions” when dressing up. For example, if you’re wearing something revealing up top, anchor the look with something long and flowy at the bottom, or layer a chic jacket over it.

The same holds true for makeup: If donning a smoky eye, balance it out with a nude lip. And, if wearing red lipstick, temper the sizzling shade with barely-there eye makeup.

The Ultimate Date-night Makeup
“The ultimate date-night makeup should be sexy but understated,” says makeup artist Barbi Chan, who has worked with celebrities Heart Evangelista, KC Concepcion, and Andi Eigenmann. For those who want to experiment with an edgier look, Chan recommends going for darker or stronger lip shades. “Lipsticks are easier to apply and to experiment with than eye shadows, and it’s amazing how different shades of lipsticks can completely change your vibe and image!” Standout shades to try are reddish plum, blue-based red, or fuschia-berry-pink.

 Another way to rev up one’s look is to play with a new hairstyle. “Whenever I am bored and need to update my look, I cut my bangs,” says Chan.

First Date Style
“First dates are more of the getting-to-know-you stage, so accessorize at a minimum,” advises Rodriguez. “You’d want your date to focus on you, and not on those huge chandelier earrings or that heavy bib necklace resting on your chest.” Since too much bling can be distracting, Rodriguez recommends subtle accessories like pearl earrings (which go with almost everything), paired with other classic wardrobe picks.

Long-term Charm
Whereas first dates require a little restraint and elegant simplicity, the opposite holds true for couples who have been dating for years. “Feel free to experiment!” urges Rodriguez. “If you’ve never worn cocktail rings or stacked various bangles before, it’s time to give them a try! Surprise your partner with something new, and he’ll surely be thrilled to see a different side of you. Just don’t overdo it -- one statement piece is enough and will definitely go a long way.”

Managing Your Assets
In the same vein as paying attention to proportion, “Every woman should know how to manage their assets -- bust, legs, flat abs, slender arms -- and be able to flaunt them without crossing the line between sexy and slutty,” advises Rodriguez. “Keep in mind that you just need to highlight one asset at a time. If you feel like you have all the goods, that’s something your date should look forward to on your second and third, and many dates to come.”

For busty femmes, try sweetheart-cut tops and dresses. And for those who have long and lean legs, try a long-sleeved mini dress (like the one mentioned above). One-shoulder dresses look great on those with slender arms, while full skirts perfectly accentuate small waistlines.

As for footwear, go for heels. “They’re sexy, chic and improve your posture. Just make sure you can actually walk in them,” says Rodriguez.

Confidence is Key
Most importantly, always take into account your innate style and personality. “When going out on a date, two important things a woman should have are self-confidence and the ability to laugh at herself when things don't go the way they’re planned,” says Chan. “Yes, it’s important to look good -- for yourself and for your partner -- but the main objective of date night is to have fun. Your personality is the most powerful and stylish weapon you have.”

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Best New Bag Styles

Nothing enlivens a ho-hum wardrobe like a new handbag. This season, we’re spoiled for choice with a host of must-have silhouettes, from the classic mannish messenger style, as made famous by Brit babe Alexa Chung, to the updated chain-strap bag that owes a substantial debt to Coco Chanel. “A handbag should stand the test of time, so it’s worth investing in a classic that won’t date with passing trends,” advises Prue Lewington, a style editor with The Sunday Telegraph who blogs at

While over-the-top handbag hardware feels like yesterday’s news (just how many zips, grommets and straps does one person need, anyway?), luxurious textures are still the name of the game. Finishes like exotic skins, feathers, fur and gem-encrusted designs are guaranteed scene-stealers.

Daytime is all about slouchy, sexy cool. For the evening, we love switching to a dainty, vintage-inspired clutch. Whatever your handbag mood, we’ve hunted down a style that suits you. The season is in the bag!

Messenger Bags

The pleasingly masculine lines of the classic messenger bag continue to keep us captivated. “I love how the old-school Elkington bag was the inspiration behind Mulberry’s sell-out Alexa style,” raves Lewington. “We can expect to see more of the messenger silhouette through 2011.” Along with the Mulberry Alexa (opt for animal print to punch up that all-black ensemble), look out for androgynous styles from Brahmin and Givenchy.


Another style to watch for, as Lewington notes, is the ladylike shoulder bag with a hip chain that drapes across the body for a cool, off-duty look. Chanel’s quilted clutch is perfect because you can hide the strap if you want to work a more grown-up evening look. Marc by Marc Jacobs, Badgley Mischka and Prada also offer great cross-body chain styles. Given the enduring popularity of the chain-strap bag, you can shop vintage stores for affordable alternatives that no one else will be carrying.

Bright Colours

Light up your life with a coloured bag that pops. If you’re not prepared to fully commit to the colour explosion that broke out on the spring 2011 catwalks, opt instead for a splash of colour with a brightly hued tote bag. The key to this style is keeping things simple: the colour is the whole story here, so the more streamlined and uncluttered the design, the better. (Although, like everything else, there are exceptions to this rule: see Balenciaga’s gloriously over-the-top orange and pink snakeskin bag from the spring 2011 collection.) Choose a citrus-bright tangerine or lipstick-red for maximum impact.


Oversized totes that carry everything but the kitchen sink have dominated the fashion world for the last few seasons, but the diminutive bag is making a serious comeback. Minaudieres, cocktail clutches and vintage-inspired miniatures were on the minds of designers from Marc Jacobs to Riccardo Tisci. The new collection from quirky-cool New Zealand label Deadly Ponies hones in on the small-is-beautiful ethos. “We made a move away from oversized bags to more petite, classic shapes this season,” explains designer Liam Bowden. For further inspiration, check out the adorable Mr. Flower Pouch style, or the ostrich-skin Mr. Bandit Snake clutch, with its fabulous tassel details.


Deadly Ponies’ Bowden declares: “This season is all about fur, animal textures and colours.” There’s nothing savage about these styles, though. “Playful tassels and classic equestrian detailing and hardware help refine the rawness of the fur,” he adds. Look out for exotic materials like stingray, snakeskin and feathers, which showed up in collections from Alexander Wang to Valentino. Bejeweled bags are also everywhere: Check out Matthew Williamson’s collection for Bulgari for pure, gem-encrusted bling that will make you long to be a princess for a day.

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Top 5 Sexy Winter Style Essentials

Dressing sexy in the summer is as simple as slipping on a sundress and showing off a bit of glowing skin. But in winter, layers of sweaters and puffy coats can leave you feeling shapeless and invisible. Still, you don’t have to give up looking and feeling seductive just because the temperature is dipping into single digits. Instead, try these key pieces that mix cold-weather practicality with a heady hit of sensuality.

1. Sexy boots. This year’s extra-tall boots make for a sleek, shapely look -- especially when they’re paired with leggings or jeggings, or when they’re peeking out from under a slim skirt. Go as vampy as you dare, from knee-high to over-the-knee lengths. The higher the boots, the shorter you can go with whatever tunic, skirt or dress you’re pairing the boots with, says Erin Busbee, a wardrobe consultant based in San Antonio, Texas. Whether you choose flat, wedged or high-heeled boots, look for striking details like buckles, ruffles, lace-ups or fold-down tops. For snow days, opt for winter style and warmth with faux-fur linings and trims.

 2. Something glittery. With sequins everywhere this winter, there’s no excuse not to sparkle. A sequined cardigan, tank top, scarf or clutch is an antidote to winter style stodginess, lightening up the heaviness of wool and cashmere. A new fashion trend this year is sequined sweatshirts -- the perfect melding of comfort and chic. You can find them for splurge-or-save prices at Elizabeth and James, Vince, J. Crew and New York & Company.

3. A silky camisole. Even when you’re swathed in layers or covered up with turtlenecks, you can cultivate a come-hither attitude by wearing something silky against your bare skin. Letting a little snippet of silk or satin peek from the V-neckline of a sweater can be just as provocative as a plunging neckline. A camisole is also a clever way to transition from workday practical to date-night allure when you don’t have time to change. Just stash the shirt or sweater and toss a shrug or throw over the cami.

4. The crisp white shirt. To instantly update your look, skip the T-shirt or sweater and make a white shirt your first layer under a blazer or long cardigan. The white shirt makes its reappearance every few years for good reasons: it’s versatile, flexible and flatters just about everyone. This classic look is easy to wear and easy to dress up by adding a statement necklace or elegant earrings,” says Busbee. Tuck your white shirt into a pencil skirt and pair with textured hose for instant Mad Men class. For a fashionable tweak on the classic that combines menswear tailoring with femininity, try a pinstriped ruffle shirt. You can find inexpensive, chic versions at Old Navy.

5. A touch of lace. During the winter, lace adds a welcome dash of girliness to any outfit. Try textured hose in a lacy pattern with a skirt or a sweaterdress, or wear a long lace or lace-edged scarf over a chunky sweater. If ladylike lace strikes you as too demure, try black lace. Designers like Alexander Wang and Philip Lam showed it on the runway, and you can find affordable interpretations at Forever 21 -- including a black lace tuxedo-tank.