Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Casual Chic - the solution for Austin's lifestyle

When I visited Austin for the first time in November 2003, I had been living in Toronto, so unsurprisingly I quickly fell in love with Austin’s weather.  Wearing shorts to Baby Acapulco to sip my first-ever margarita provided me with an unforgettable introduction.

I’ve also learned that Austin presents a fashion challenge for many - how do you “keep it Austin weird” while staying well-dressed?  It can be very easy for casual to slouch over into sloppy or lazy.  Readers have recently emailed me questions like:

  • How would you define “casual chic”?
  • How can one dress well during a full day that includes roles as businesswoman and soccer mom?
  • What can I wear during the Austin fall and winter, when the “seasonal” looks I see online and in stores is not imagining Austin weather?  I’m not going to wear sweaters with temperatures still in the 90s!

First, let me say that if someone tells you that “fashion is pain”, ignore them.  Whether or not the statement is true (I for one don’t think it is), the point is that you must be comfortable to appear stylish.  It is simply not sustainable to force yourself into something that either isn’t you or isn’t comfortable for the situation.  Fashion does not serve you if it doesn’t fit you, physically and psychologically.  You want to be yourself, not a mannequin.  Whether it happened in high school or last week, most of us can remember some first date where either we or our date tried too hard to impress, through excessive boasting or extravagant behavior of some kind.  How did that work out?  As with dating, your style needs to fit you as a whole person to work for the long run.    

Casual chic seems to be the unofficial dress code that embodies the Austin lifestyle.  The way I define this broadly is:

  1. Fabrics that are easy to wear and easy to wash
  2. Clothes that are traditionally comfortable to wear, like jeans, khaki pants, skirts, knit tops, cotton shirts, flowing dresses etc.
  3. A look that is stylish, personal and a bit fashion forward with the right accessories. It projects a sense of easiness and effortlessness  -  meaning one does not spend too much time to much the look together, yet everything visually goes well with each other.
  4. The outfit is not label oriented and the look does not attempt to project wealth and power.   
  5. The outfit can be used for multiple functions.  For example, most creative or high-tech industry working environment, family gathering, friends' party, after work cocktail, and some dinner party etc.

To be clear, this does not mean t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops.  There needs to be some effort to put the outfits together initially, and the looks that result can be casual but should “look” effortless.

Casual chic as described above is also the answer I would provide to the businesswoman soccer mom who needs to juggle multiple roles during a day.  Here are some examples of well put together casual chic looks.

Now, all the photos I’ve used here are fashion photos.  You absolutely don’t need to wear heels to be “casual chic”!  Use the looks from the ankles up as a guideline, and add some casual, comfortable flats (but not sneakers), and you’ll have it.

In my next post I will answer the fall-winter question.

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