Experiment With Neutrals
Don’t limit yourself to black and gray; combine other neutral hues for an understated look. Christina Reale of Chel Bella in Hingham (chelbella.com) favors blush paired with mocha. Lana Barakat of Heist by December Thieves on Beacon Hill (decemberthieves.com) opts for military green. “It goes as well with black as it does earth tones,” she says. “Try it with a pop of fuchsia.” Tina Burgos of Covet + Lou in Needham (covetandlou.com) makes her go-to neutral a surprising shade — lavender. “It works with other neutrals and provides contrast for greens, blues, and oranges,” she explains.
Invest in Statement Style
Incorporating unique pieces into your wardrobe can differentiate your entire look. Millicent Cutler of Ouimillie on Beacon Hill (ouimillie.com) recalls a quilted green velvet jacket with giant circular patch pockets she stocked six of last spring, a risky decision that paid off. “The first woman who purchased it was 76 years old and the last person was maybe 25,” she says. “It spanned every generation and looked fabulous across the board.”
Wear Your LBD to Work
The little black dress works day to night. Gilda Tunney of French Lessons — in Concord, South Hamilton, Wellesley, and Winchester — suggests slipping a turtleneck underneath, then pulling on tights and tall black suede boots for day. “Come evening,” she says, “off goes the turtleneck, swap the boots for red heels or this season’s glitter booties, add statement earrings, and you’re ready to go.” In the daytime, Barakat says, “don’t be afraid to wear your LBD over a pair of skinny jeans or with a long vest.”
Venture Into Velvet
An everyday option for this season is velvet in fresh colors like blush and mustard. Reale counsels customers not to pay too much attention to the calendar. “Pink velvet steps out of the traditional holiday colorway,” she says. “It works in spring and fall.” Sari Brown of LuxCouture in Newton Highlands (luxcouture.com) predicts a sellout of the bright blue and claret velvet motorcycle jackets she brought in for fall. “Everyday velvet is easier to wear in unexpected silhouettes,” she says.
Layer Like a Pro
Every piece should transition seamlessly across seasons, and that means layering. Taylor Capolupo, a buyer at French Lessons, says the silk slip dress you wear with strappy heels to a summer wedding shifts easily into fall with opaque black tights and chunky Mary Janes. In the dead of winter, wear it with a block-heel bootie and belted faux-fur jacket. Come spring, a distressed denim jacket and beat-up Converse sneakers take it down a notch. Burgos and Barakat extend the season for open-toe shoes with colored tights or patterned socks, which also help buy time for cropped pants, especially with the addition of combat boots. Finally, Barakat says, “remember to layer over and under.”
Disrupt the Prep
New Englanders will never banish preppiness, but there are ways to make it cool. “All it takes is summoning confidence to mix styles and patterns,” says Aimee Lombardi of French + Italian, in Marblehead and on Beacon Hill (frenchitalian.com). She likes to throw a colorful Missoni cardigan over a fitted navy Lacoste polo paired with an Apiece Apart cropped wide-leg pant. Can’t abandon your pink-and-green Lilly Pulitzer sundress? “Slip into Italian sneakers rather than the expected Jack Rogers sandals,” she says. Burgos suggests reaching for a No. 6 shearling-lined clog boot instead of L.L. Bean boots. And Cutler offers this easy tip: “Add in something sparkly.”
Own a Coat for Every Occasion
Considering that New Englanders wear coats at least seven months a year, you can never have too many. A large selection is essential for erratic weather. For fall, Cutler recommends a coat that keeps the wind out, a faux-fur or shearling piece, and a chunky knit coat that’s almost like a sweater or blanket. For winter, a down coat delivers warmth, but it needn’t be puffy. “Danish and Belgian designers showed wool coats with light down linings that are appropriate for work,” she says. If you’re feeling sick of your old winter coat, buy one early. “Customers are desperate for a new coat come January, but we’re sold out,” Cutler says. “It’s the first part of your wardrobe that feels tired and depressing.”
Taking risks is second nature to Bostonians, Tunney says. “My East Coast customers are more willing to try trends than my LA customers, who wear yoga pants all day.” Experiment by mixing styles; juxtaposition is what makes a look sing. And if you shy away from the feminine but want to give florals a go, Lombardi suggests choosing a smaller-scale pattern paired with a tweed blazer. And be careful with your shoe. “A floral dress with a rounded lace-up channels Elaine from Seinfeld,” she says. Instead, “wear it with a pointy bootie,” Lombardi says.