There are certain items in my wardrobe that, no matter how bold my sartorial experiments may be, will just never make it into my daily wear. One such example is my mini top hat, which would have looked smashing with this outfit, but which simply doesn't belong in the office. Instead I used this little plaid cloche as a substitute, while all day long I imagined I really looked like this:
It's fine to have a few things in your wardrobe that you reserve only for non-work use. As a rule though, I think it's best not to keep too many of them, because for most of us, reserving clothes only for 'special' occasions means they don't get worn enough to make them worth owning. They take up closet space, they're often expensive, and they taunt you day after day with their loveliness while you go schlumping out in your boring black dress slacks and sensible shoes.
There are plenty of ways to dress down items in your wardrobe that you might currently consider to be off-limits for daily wear. Why not try pulling them out and giving them the airing they deserve? A mini top hat might be crossing the line for your average daytime office setting, but I've toned down ruffles, sequins, dominatrix boots, and even a Derby-worthy hat at work. Pair a sexy top with a boxy blazer and a pair of jeans; wear a slinky dress with a soft cardigan, chunky scarf, and boots; but don't let your best items languish in your closet because you don't think you have anything dressy enough to wear them to. Here are a few tools that you probably already have at your disposal to help you pull off those 'special' items in your daily wear:
Denim: Jeans and other denim items are the great casualizers of the world. Even the most ethereal top can be brought back down to earth with a well-worn pair of jeans. Denim jackets and vests can be thrown over dresses to give them a relaxed, daytime look.
Menswear: A button-down shirt, vest, or blazer is a great way to offset even the girliest of dresses or floaty tops. Try a simple, boxy cardigan over a flowy dress, or a button-down underneath a sheer top (examples here and here).
Flat shoes: A simple pair of flats or low-heeled boots makes any outfit look more demure; you might think that miniskirt is too sexy for work, but you'd be suprised how different it looks with a pair of flats. Conversely, you can pull off even a sexy pair of platforms if you've got the right pair of long, wide-legged dress pants to go with them.
Patterns: Try a preppy plaid or a sensible stripe to downplay frills, feathers, florals, and other flashy finishes. The contrast of a conservative pattern against a flamboyant one makes for an interesting look.
What special items do you have hiding, neglected and barely-worn, in your closet? Isn't it about time they saw the light of day?
Cloche: San Diego Hat Co.
Mini top hat: Audra Jean
T-shirt: Rock Steady