I saw this woman on a bus and had to snap a photo.  Without a doubt, her outfit is completely acceptable.  The black suit looked decent, the white button down was somewhat detailed and interesting, her shoes were innocuous and her bag fine. Yes, at first glance she looked just fine. However, that’s it…she was just fine.

Like I said in my last Where Are You Going In That? post,  this is such a perfect example of the type of women who reaches out to us for help with her wardrobe .  She’s not a fashion nightmare, her look is fine, she’s not getting laughed at for her crazy outfit, yet, she’s not exactly breaking any new ground either.  There is nothing particularly memorable about her outfit that would set her apart from the oodles of other women who would wear it.  Clients who call us often fall into this same category.  We call them Acceptably Dressed Nobodies.

This woman is another acceptably dressed nobody.

When we work with clients like this, the fix is always simple and there are varying degrees of help we could give this woman and her outfit.  If we were to start small, I’d keep the outfit exactly as is and I’d just suggest a shoe and bag change.   The shoes are just okay, not horrible, but they’re not buying her anything either.  Now, knowing that comfort is probably important to this NYC bus rider, I’d suggest something with equal comfort but some more flair.  With the rest of her outfit being so, so basic.  Secondly, a Longchamp bag is certainly an okay bag to carry, yet it is a little too unstructured and casual looking for what seems to be a more polished look.  Here is what I would suggest:

Instead of the Longchamp bag, I’d recommend something more structured and distinguished like this basic tote by Furla.  Next, for some pop, I ‘d direct this woman towards a lower heel in a pop color, like red.  This pair by Bandalino is not only reasonably priced but has a high comfort rating on Zappos.com which, I am assuming, would be important to her.

Okay, now, if we were going to look to do something more interesting with her suit than just an expected white shirt, I’d ditch it and just work with the suit.  The one thing I’d want to show this client is that black suits are not limited to optic color combinations, and that there are ways to soften the often harsh and heavy look of a  dark suit like this one.  Additionally, because this woman’s coloring is much softer, this softer combination will probably overpower her less.  I always want my clients to do more with less so this versatility in look is also very important.

Here is what I would do to give her a different looking alternative:

As you can see, by warming up a black suit with shades of tans and browns you can get a completely different look.  While some may argue that brown and black don’t work together, these shades of brown are light enough that the complement.

Let’s go step by step.  First the top is by one of my new favorites Vince Camuto.  It’s great because the soft tan creates less of a contrast when worn with black than the very optic white and black combination of her original did.  This makes it easier for someone to notice her and not necessarily just her suit.

Next, animal prints are quite hot for fall and what I loved about this pair by Isola  is that they pick up the black of the suit while the caramel color of the shoe complements the entire outfit.  I also wanted to give her  richer looking bag that was both modern yet not too stiff.

This suede bag by BCBG has an approachable yet professional look that works well with everything else going on.  Lastly, because the neckline is draped with the cowl, I’d suggest a pair of earrings.  Because the neck is clean, I could put a bolder pair of earrings on her, however, to keep the look relatively understated, and the focal point about the statement shoes, I this simple pair of earrings by Ippolita fit the bill.

So, you can see that your investment pieces like your suits can have multiple looks that are different enough that not only ensure you don’t get bored of your wardrobe, but also help you create greater versatility and maximize your budget for clothing.  The next time when you consider throwing a white top on with a black suit or pair of pants, remember this post and take a look in your closet.  You may find something in there that could bring it all together in a new way.