Make It Work For Work: The Ballet Skirt

I have fond memories of ballet skirts from my little-girl dance class days. Everyone’s skirts were made out of different kinds of pretty lace, and it was fun to twirl around in them and get into all sorts of shenanigans (and cause my parents headaches).

Little did I know the flouncy skirts would be back in style again when it was time for me to hit the office. It seems like in the past few years everything extremely girly from our childhoods has been brought back: 90s florals, headbands, scrunchies, jellies, Elaine Benes. I’m not complaining (I’m actually looking for a pair of work-appropriate jellies on ShopBop as we speak) but there is a time and place for everything… and work is not the time to rock your door knocker earrings and Minnie Mouse ears. With that said, here is how to dress up the girliest of ballet skirts for work without looking like Carrie Bradshaw in the credits of SATC:

Look 1: Take A Cue From Menswear

The number-one rule for wearing a ballet skirt to work is not to pair it with anything reminiscent of, well, ballet. So don’t bust out your girly flats — quilted, pink, with a bow, you name it — even if they look awesome with other outfits. Don’t put your hair in a tight bun. Don’t pair them with the American Apparel leotards (only their models can pull that off anyway because they’re genetic mutants). Instead, contrast, contrast, contrast. A smart blazer, a boxy tote, and menswear-inspired button-down shirts and brogues pair well with the pictured candy-colored ballet skirts. But you don’t have to look like a dude to be professional. A long string of pearls and a tortoise-shell headband, plus sunglasses for when you go out to lunch, will Jackie-O those skirts up several notches of elegance and seriousness (yes, I just used Jackie O as a verb). Click here to see the clothing items.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look 2: Contrast Textures + Add Serious Accessories

Cardigans can work magic. Take one lacy, playful skirt and add a chunky, navy blue cardigan with gold buttons: It will instantly look more work-appropriate. But be careful — longer cardigans sometimes cover up these ballet skirts so it looks like you’re not wearing a skirt at all, so choose wisely. Large but not overbearing accessories, like a statement necklace and cocktail ring (gold is always better than silver if you’re trying to play up the serious factor), will also help take your frilly skirt to the office. Add a practical, neutral-colored work tote with pockets for your ever-buzzing BlackBerry, ID badge, and mascara, and you’re good to go. Keeping it slightly matchy-matchy — the bag doesn’t have to match the shoes, but it’s nice to have an understated color scheme — helps too. Note the navy blue espadrilles — even though I generally oppose high heels, they enhance the outfit because they match the cardi. Click here to see the clothing items.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look 3: Don’t Fear The Color

Here we have one bright skirt — it’s fair to call it tropical-punch pink. On its own, you’d never think you could wear it to the office. But with the right blouse, bags, shoes, and jewelry — voila! You’re ready for that client meeting. And the great thing is, there’s more than one way to dress this one up because even at the office, it’s possible to showcase your individual style. On the left side is the preppier version, and a good example of how you can pull off bright colors as long as you keep it all in one style family. Pink and green can be professional as long as you keep the rest of the outfit strictly black-and-white. And keeping up the classy factor while wearing these bright hues helps too — frilly sleeves and Tory Burch flats do the trick — otherwise it devolves into teenage Forever 21 territory.

On the right side is a more Gothic/heavy metal look — as Gothic and heavy metal as you can get away with in an office! The frilly sleeves and details on the collar of the black blouse give the outfit a romantic vibe, while a bright blue cocktail ring and matching flats add just the right pop of color. Note the color choice — bright yet serious. The snake-skin bag does double duty, not only adding a funky touch but lending a more grown-up tone. See — you can have fun and still look professional! Click here to see the clothing items.

Share This Post:
    • Nicole

      What a great piece Natalie! Love your ideas for toning down the almost girlishness of a ballet skirt. Also, did not know ballet skirts existed.

    • natalie

      glad you liked it!! is this THE nicole? as in nicole perri? :)

    • Pingback: new column at the grindstone | fashion & philanthropy()