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How to Pull Off Leather at the Office

Here, 10 of the new wearable leather silhouettes showcased on the runways you’ll want to add to your wardrobe workwear now. We’re talking strictly business

NOVEMBER 27, 2014

As soon as fall merchandise started rolling into stores, leather shot to the top of my shopping list. But not the teen-pop legging look I saw on racks everywhere. I was more drawn to its grown-up sisters: lean sheath dresses, beautifully cut skirts and refined fitted jackets.

I’ve flirted with leather over the years: A favourite pair of leather jeans, long since sold on consignment, a well-loved collection of bomber jackets, biker jackets and a knee-length coat all had their places at some point in my closet. But leather for daytime just seemed too much. To ease myself in, I stuck to my cardinal uniform of black and found a few key leather pieces to gussy up my wardrobe of basics.

But first, some important reconnaissance. Susie Sheffman, fashion creative director and consultant, has sage advice for making leather look professional: Wear one piece at a time, and mix it with tailored pieces, like a well-cut blouse or tweed blazer. This, she points out, “takes the toughness down.” She advises me to remove anything too clubby or vampy from my outfits, and when wearing leather pants, to keep the stomach, waistline and bum covered up. She also recommends keeping shoes simple—skip the sky-high heels in favour of a flat, a mid-heel or an oxford to keep the sexiness in check.

Fortunately, on the day I wanted to brave leather pants, the weather was perfect. I wore skinny black leather pants from Ann Taylor with a crisp white collared shirt, a favourite black J.Crew “schoolboy” blazer and nude flats. I felt completely comfortable, as the outfit was a small upgrade from my usual black wool skinny trousers. I got a few compliments on the pants (they fit really nicely), and it felt office appropriate but with a little something extra. This outfit will indeed be in the rotation on the regular.

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Ann Taylor pants, $116, anntaylor.com

On Fridays, without fail, I wear some variation of the skinny jeans and blazer combination. I subbed out one of my go-to blazers in favour of a moto-style jacket from Banana Republic with an ink-blue body and black fabric sleeves. Marissa Webb, Banana Republic’s new creative director (and J.Crew alumna), has already put her mark on the fall and winter line, with a ton of leather and mixed-medium pieces.

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Banana Republic jacket, $310, bananarepublic.ca

One week, I wore it with a white collared shirt (yup, again), black skinny jeans and ankle boots. It felt like a cooler, fresher version of my casual Friday uniform. Another week, I paired it with a knit black pencil skirt, black tank and simple black pumps. Both times, I received lots of compliments (especially from the young ones around the office).

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Here’s the thing: When you introduce a beautiful leather garment into your outfit, it instantly makes it more special or interesting, even in a subtle way. So as someone with an admittedly basic wardrobe, I felt good wearing leather to the office.

 Danier skirt, $250, danier.com

(Published originally for The Kit, November 2014)

Taking the Coloured Eyeliner Trend Out For a Spin

Coloured eyeliner: Etiquette expert and fabulous business lady Karen Cleveland tests out wearing bright hued eyeliner in a corporate atmosphere

AUGUST 29, 2014

The notion of coloured eyeliner conjured up the worst of the ’80s for me: Remember Joan Cusack in Working Girlher lids lacquered with a garish swipe of shimmery cobalt? But on the fall 2014 runways, we saw electric blue cat eyes at Kenzo, orange and green flicks at Chanel and winged-out iridescent turquoise lids at Dior. Cue Duran Duran! I was curious: Could I pull off this look as a grown woman in 2014, working in a corporate environment?

RELATED READ: Trend to try: Matte red lips

With a routine that’s equal parts lazy and minimalist (touch of concealer, bit of bronzer and well-curled, mascara’d lashes), I was skeptical. So much so that I sneakily popped a makeup remover wipe into my bag before heading to meet Stila Cosmetics’ national trainer, Melissa Ortins, for some coloured liner education. My assignment: an evening liner look in bold blue (her work) and a daytime look in rich green (my work).

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I met Ortins on the hottest, rainiest day of the summer—challenging conditions for testing a bold makeup look. She expertly swiped Stila’s Stay All Day Liner (the brand’s best-selling product) in Indigo across my upper lash line in a perfect cat eye. Pro tip: Start from the outside and angle the tip toward the outer edge of your eyebrow for precise symmetry. The more pressure you apply, the more dramatic the line will be.

RELATED READ: Jeanne Beker talks bold summer makeup

While working her magic, Ortins explained that coloured eyeliner has come a long way. Rather than adding pigment for pop (as we did so gratuitously in the ’80s), the goal now is to shape the eye, using a complementary shade. People should notice your irises, not the colour of your makeup. The result was a pretty, interesting swoop that was less harsh than black.

I bounded out into the rain and headed straight to a rum-tasting party. I expected my fella and my friends to notice my makeup (quite bold, by my standards) but had to prompt them for feedback. The consensus was that it looked nice, if heavier than I normally wear. Nary a mention of the colour, but one friend, who wields a liner like no one’s business, thought it made my baby blues appear darker.

The next morning before work, I attempted to replicate the look using Olive, a greyish green. To keep things office-appropriate, I didn’t extend the line past the end of my eyes. Throughout the morning, I was nervously aware that I was sporting more makeup than usual, and in a bolder shade. But when I checked the mirror in the ladies’, I instantly chilled out—the line defined the shape of my eyes and made them look a little more grey, without screaming, “This is green liner!”

Surprisingly, at no point from my 9 a.m. meeting to the end of my marathon workday (hair in a bun held with a pencil, pounding on the laptop at 10 p.m.) did my coloured eyeliner and I feel the least bit Working Girl. Though the ’80s were pretty fabulous, weren’t they?

Would you wear an electric blue cat-eye?

 

LAURA MERCIER CRÈME EYE LINER IN ENVY, $28, AT HOLT RENFREW; ESSENCE GEL EYE PENCIL WATERPROOF IN BLUE LAGOON,
$3, AT SHOPPERS DRUG MART; MAKE UP
 FOR EVER AQUA LINER IN IRIDESCENT FUCHSIA, $27, AT SEPHORA.CAVASANTI LIQUID EYELINER IN CALM, $18, AT SHOPPERS DRUG MART & REXALL; STILA STAY ALL DAY WATERPROOF LIQUID EYE LINER IN INDIGO, $26, AT MURALE

(Originally published for The Kit, in the Toronto Star, August 2014)