5 Summer Fashion Risks You’ve Never Dared to Take

1. Experiment with unexpected textures.
 

Elizabeth Mitchell

“Most women feel obligated to rock only certain fabrics during the summer, like cottons, chiffons or silks. But why not mix things up and incorporate a winter favorite into your summer wardrobe?

Try a faux fur vest in a lighter hue (like white) thrown over a black mini-dress for night. Or toss on a cool beanie or wool hat with cutoff shorts and a crop top for a rad daytime look. Here, I chose a super-soft white faux fur vest paired with matching high-waisted American Apparel leggings and a blue crop top.”
-- Elizabeth Mitchell, The Neon Blonde

2.  Pair ankle boots with short bottoms—whether it’s a dress, shorts or a skirt.
 

Hannah Marr

“Everyone is so quick to throw on flip flops or a pair of sandals in the summer months, and while I, too, love to have my toes free, putting on a different kind of shoe every once in a while can add something unique and unexpected to a summer look. I recently matched a new pair of booties with a skater skirt in this ensemble, which is especially good for the end of the summer as we reach the cooler temperatures.”
-- Hannah Marr, Be More Thrifty

3. Show skin in unusual places.
 

“Whether it's a cut-out dress, a backless dress or cropped top, an unexpected sliver of skin will turn heads and help keep your cool in sweltering temperatures. Here’s Jennifer Aniston on the red carpet for the premiere of her movie We’re the Millers showing just a peek-a-boo triangle of skin in her strapless plum dress.”
-- Shelley Levitt, The Style Glossy

4. Step Away from Solid Black.
 

Reese Cromwell

“Wearing bold patterns or colors is a change that often scares women, myself included! My comfort zone is solid black. This summer I have slowly broken out of this zone and started experimenting with bold prints and bright accessories. Remember, style is a reflection of your personality. Make a statement. Be memorable. Don't play it safe!”

-- Sherise Cromwell, jewelry designer, Reese

5.  Top off your Look.
 

Kathleen Lisson

“Add a Panama hat to your wardrobe. Most women don’t feel comfortable in hats, but a well-made Panama hat looks great with so many of this summer’s hottest trends, from a nautical or ikat printed top and a pair of jeans to a brightly patterned maxi dress. Here, I pair a J.Crew Panama hat with a simple, comfortable dress.”

-- Kathleen Lisson, That's a Pretty Hat

7 Summer Style Essentials

Don’t stress over what to wear this summer! It’s the season for taking things easy, and that includes getting dressed. If you’ve got the basics down -- good jeans, T-shirts and tanks -- all you need are a few fresh pieces to liven up your wardrobe. We asked style pros for their top picks and pared down their choices to eight no-sweat summer essentials. 

1. A sheer blouse
Super-versatile! Pair it over a lace bralet and denim shorts for an easy, eye-catching summer outfit. Or throw one over your swimsuit for a chic cover-up. Sheer blouses can be found everywhere from H&M and Free People to high-end designers like 3.1 Phillip Lim. I love them all! -- Ali Levine, celebrity stylist, Los Angeles

2. LWD
Instead of the little black dress, the little white dress is an absolute must for summer. The misconception is that white makes you appear larger, but that simply isn't true. White always looks fresh and modern and projects confidence. Pair a LWD with a nice faux glow and strappy sandals, and you'll ooze sex appeal. -- Hilary Kennedy, Dallas, Texas, TV host and fashion blogger

3. Nude or neutral espadrille wedge sandals
These shoes can be worn with everything from dresses and skirts to jeans or shorts. Not only does the color work with any other color or pattern, but it nearly disappears on your foot, adding visual length to your legs. Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren are just two of many designers offering fresh takes on the nude espadrille. -- Joanna Avantpersonal stylist and fashion blogger in Richmond, Va.

4. The jumper
In jersey cotton or linen, the jumpsuit is a sexy, stylish and comfortable look for summer. Both Trina Turk and BCBG have terrific versions that will take you from work to a night out. -- Laura Frecon, assistant costume designer, Mad Men, True Blood

5. Neon sunglasses
This is the emerging trend in eyewear this summer. You don’t need to go all the way to bright neon pink or yellow if that feels too young or trendy. A brighter-than-usual mint green or rich purple can work too. You can find budget-friendly pairs at T.J.Maxx or Target. -- Hilary Kennedy, Dallas, Texas, TV host and fashion blogger

6. A crisp white shirt
Tied up at the waist over a dress or high-waisted bottoms, belted over sheer skirts or shorts, or worn with classic tailored pieces, a polished white shirt is timeless. You can find options that won’t bust your budget at Banana Republic, J.Crew, Club Monaco and Kohl’s. -- Jonathan Joseph Peters, Project Runway designer, season 7

7. A colorful tote
A tote-style bag is practical and convenient for almost all outings – an early morning trip to the gym, work, errand running, even for drinks and dinner. You can find terrific totes in petal-pink leather from Rebecca Minkoff, bright-green pebbled leather from Cole Haan and vividly patterned straw from Mossimo at Target. -- Joanna Avant, personal stylist and fashion blogger in Richmond, Va.

 

 

Your Most Flattering Neckline

When it comes to choosing a T-shirt, blouse, sweater or dress, it’s the neckline that is likely to make all the difference between a look that flatters your figure and one that accentuates your less-than-perfect parts. “Often, when an outfit doesn’t work, it’s because of the neckline,” explains Houston stylist and fashion show producer Todd Ramos.

On the other hand, choose the right cut, and you’ll appear taller, slimmer and more stylish. How to create this magic? You have to factor in your bust size, neck length, height and even face shape. Here’s a guide to discovering which necklines work for you.

Sweetheart, Scoop Neck, V-neck and Square Neck
The collarbone and decollete region is one of the most alluring parts of any woman. Wearing an open neckline that shows it off is going to make most women appear longer and leaner, says Ramos. Lower, open necklines like a sweetheart (which is shaped like the top of a heart), scoop, square or V-neck tend to look good on almost every body type and size. “They bring attention to your face and elongate your upper body, especially if you’re petite or have a short neck,” says Ramos. Just make sure you don’t reveal too much.

  • Tip: If you’re not well endowed, sweetheart and scoop necklines are best at creating the illusion of curves.
  • Bottom line: Great for everyone, unless you’re top heavy or have an especially long neck.

Crew Neck and Boatneck
If you have a long neck, narrow face, small chest or sloped shoulders, a high neckline -- one that rests on or very near the collarbone -- is your best bet. Crew necks and boatnecks draw the eye out to your shoulders so you appear more balanced and proportioned. In this case, the more substantial neckline gives the illusion of square shoulders, a shorter neck, a fuller face and more ample bust.

  • Tip: If you’re pear-shaped, look for dresses in this cut to balance your upper and lower body.
  • Bottom line: Crew necks and boatnecks balance out narrow necks, faces, shoulders and small chests. But on the flip side, these necklines can make you look bigger than you are if you have generous curves, a short neck or broad shoulders.

Cowl-necks, Mock Necks and Turtlenecks
By choosing the right amount of coverage, you’ll find there’s no need to shiver in the name of beauty. A true turtleneck that hits a couple of inches below the chin will whittle away your height, making it best for those who want to offset a long neck or face. A cowl-neck, which is a looser version of a turtleneck, naturally drapes at the chest, creating a vertical line that elongates the body. A mock neck hits slightly lower than a turtleneck and serves as a good midpoint if you can’t part with your more covered-up sweaters.

  • Bottom line: Trade turtlenecks for mock necks or cowl-necks unless you have a long face or neck. 

A Universally Flattering Neckline
Whatever size you are, a halter will flatter your figure. “It gives support and lift to a big bust,” says Ramos. If the halter has a built-in bra, it can create curves where there are none, which is why you see a lot of halter-style bathing suits and wedding dresses. If your arms or shoulders are your trouble spot, Ramos advises topping the halter with a fitted jacket.

The Neckline to Avoid
Strapless clothing may be on every rack in every store, but stylists agree it’s a hard look to pull off -- unless you’ve got flawless proportions and a yoga bod like Jennifer Aniston. “A strapless cut can make top-heavy women spill out, and tall, thin women look giraffe-like,” says Ramos. The silhouette may, however, be a boon to petite women, helping them look taller.

Tweak Unflattering Necklines
If you wore crew necks before you figured out it’s not your most flattering neckline, work the scissors. “Cut a crew neck a few inches straight down the middle,” says Ramos. A T-shirt may fray a little, but that’s in vogue, he says. And if you cut a sweater, a few minutes in the dryer will prevent it from unraveling.

With any lower necklines, there’s the risk of going too low and looking inappropriately sexy. Whether your top goes too deep or a V-neck is not your best look, try it over a camisole or slim-fit collared shirt before you toss it. “Layering can breathe new life into a too-revealing top,” says Ramos.

Must-have Spring Accessory: The Belt

Updating your spring and summer wardrobe is a cinch this year. All it takes are a few well-chosen belts. If the statement necklace was last year’s must-have fashion accessory, the bold belt is 2012’s style essential. From skinny, neon waist-nippers to embellished corset-like hip-huggers, the belt was everywhere on the spring runways.

Embracing the belt can add shape and chic to the most humdrum outfit, says Phoenix stylist Fawn Cheng. “You can refresh a tired dress or an oversized top by cinching it with a brightly colored belt,” she says. The smocked tee that feels about as sexy as a tablecloth? The boho peasant blouse you wore to death last summer and now seems as fresh as expired milk? “They’re both scorning to be tuned into new silhouettes with an eye-catching belt,” says Cheng.

Belts are also crafty accessories when it comes to flattering your figure. If you’re short-waisted, sporting a low-slung belt will create the illusion of an elongated torso. Try a chain-link version for a modern look. Long-waisted? Balance out your proportions with a wide belt worn at your waist.

Here are four belts you’ll want to add to your warm-weather wardrobe:

1. Glitzy. Skinny or wide, elasticized or leather, the statement belt of the season features a bold medallion buckle in plated or hammered gold, silver or brass. Cheng likes to see the wide version worn high on the waist -- right under the rib cage -- to add edgy glamour to a body-conscious dress. Or put a slimmer medallion belt through the loops of your flared jeans or trousers for understated elegance. The Italian designer Balmain offers a half dozen takes on this signature piece, ranging from $800 to more than $3,000. You can find stylish alternatives at stores like Urban Outfitters and Zara for a tiny fraction of that price.

2. Colorful. “Shocking sorbet” is what Cheng has dubbed this season’s collection of belts in vivid hues -- fuchsia, tangerine, baby blue, coral and chartreuse. They’re the perfect way to introduce color into a neutral or all-white outfit. Or, to update a preppy look, consider a neo-neon combination like a carnation pink cardigan punctuated with a lime green patent-leather belt.

3. Safari-inspired. For spring, Michael Kors showed his version of what a chic woman might wear while enjoying cocktails at a luxe gaming lodge. Models strutted down the runway in animal and camouflage prints -- and utilitarian colors like khaki, olive and brown -- all in supple fabrics. The standout accessory was his fashion-forward interpretation of the frumpy fanny pack: a gorgeous burnished leather strap slung twice around the waist -- once through the belt loops and then just below -- tied on one end and with a small leather purse on the other. The purse-belt is perfect for hands-free toting of your essentials. Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg, Fendi, Hermes and Yves Saint Laurent are all offering their luxe take on the belt bag. You can also find affordable versions from LeSportsac and, of course, Michael Kors.

4. Corset. Thick, waist-cinching belts show off a woman’s ladylike curves. They’re an edgy match -- especially in metallic -- for the peplum skirt you’ll be wearing this spring and summer. You’ll also find casually playful versions in more forgiving woven leather. These look smashing with a traditional trench, a structured jacket, or high-waisted trousers and a white shirt. Corset belts might be a fleeting trend, so you probably don’t want to make this an investment piece. Instead, have a fling with an inexpensive option from a store like Forever 21 or Anthropologie.

Photo: Getty Images

The Most Wearable Leggings

Leggings. The word sends shivers up the spines of women packing even an ounce of extra padding below the waist. But the clingy bottoms -- which traipsed back into style a few seasons back -- aren’t going anywhere. In fact, some of the edgiest names in fashion recently unveiled amped-up new versions of the body-hugging staple for spring 2010.

Never fear. You don’t have to be a size 2 to rock the hosiery-inspired pants. With everyone from Marc Jacobs to Lindsay Lohan creating leggings collections, there’s an avalanche of fabrics, patterns and fits to choose from. And the best news is, leggings -- when they fit properly -- can feel as comfortable as a pair of flannel pajamas.

Leila Baboi, the West Coast staff stylist for Women’s Wear Daily, contends that there’s a pair of stretchy, skintight leggings for every woman -- regardless of age or body shape. What’s the key to pulling off the look? “Pair them with a long and slouchy top,” says Baboi, who has dressed Scarlett Johansson and Ashlee Simpson. “A cropped top or a too-tight tank will throw the balance off.”

Here are some of the stylist’s savvy tips on how to work the lean-and-mean look -- without adding extra pounds or delving into overly trendy territory:

Choose Long Over Cropped
Capri leggings are for spinning class -- not the office. They cut up the line of the body and can make your bottom half look shorter and chunkier. (We’ve yet to meet a woman who wants that!) Instead, get a long-and-lean look by choosing leggings that hit at, or even slightly below, the ankle. Skip the gimmicky stirrup legging: It’s an overly complicated style that’s likely to peter out soon.

Skip Prints
If you wouldn’t have stripes or polka dots on your regular pants, don’t try to pull them off in a legging. Cheetah-print or metallic leggings are strictly for fashion-forward 20-somethings -- and if worn with something simple and oversized on top, can be adorable. Over 35? Stick to solid black leggings or subdued prints, such as a gentle acid-wash or tone-on-tone all-over paisley. Designer David Lerner’s weighty, well-made versions have a marked slimming effect.

Opt for Big Tops
Avoid looking like you’re wearing a unitard, which means you’ll want to balance the tightness of a legging with a roomier style up top. That’s a cinch these days, since big is definitely huge in fashion right now. Boyfriend blazers, oversized tunics, slouchy button-down shirts and baggy sweaters are all perfect companions for leggings.

Look for Length
Pear-shaped figures aren’t exempt from wearing the look but look best with an even longer top. A fetching outfit: Leggings paired with a roomy tank or tunic underneath a knee-sweeping cashmere cardigan.

Legging Jeans
Denim leggings, coined the “legging jean,” are a sexy alternative to all-jersey leggings and offer a bit more thickness of fabric than all-knit varieties. Citizens of Humanity, J Brand and Goldsign all make chic legging jeans. Choose ones that have five-pocket styling on top to avoid the maternity-ish elastic waist.

Leather Legs
Leather and PVC leggings aren’t just for Rihanna and Lady Gaga. The decadent-looking drawers are a chic nighttime option when paired with towering stilettos and jackets and tops that are cut on the longer side. Nor is it a look solely for the young. Worn with a crisp white button-down shirt and statement earrings, leathery leggings are uber sophisticated. But be prepared to sweat -- your legs won’t be catching even the suggestion of a breeze all night.

Shoe-pairing Options
Leggings work with a bevy of different shoe styles. Ankle boots -- heeled or flat -- strappy sandals (again, high or low) and classic flats are all cute options. Just steer clear of ’80s-esque pumps that don’t have a covered vamp (the part of the shoe that covers the smooth, top side of your foot), which can turn a leggings ensemble from sassy to sour in seconds.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/KRproductions