How to Look Pulled Together Even When you Aren't

We've all been there -- that cursed Monday morning when the alarm clock rings and we can only groan and push snooze. Then we push it again. And again. Gadzooks! Now we're beyond late! And to cap it all off, there's that morning meeting, that presentation or that lunch date we wanted to look so pulled together for. Suddenly we're bolting out of bed, heading for the closet, heart sinking. What to wear?

Not to panic. We asked fashion designers and stylists what to wear when we've got to look pulled together, and fast. We asked them to give us pieces that'll announce, This woman's got it going on '- she's neat, organized and on top of things. Here's what they said


A wrap-front jersey dress

Everyone should have at least one fabulous dress. Nothing is simpler. This classically chic wrap-front jersey by Diane von Furstenberg is an impeccable choice because it's flattering, feminine and works everywhere, from the boardroom to your child's classroom. It might, in fact, be the ultimate "fast" piece, because you can literally just slip it on and appear instantaneously pulled together. We especially love the fitted torso and striking black and red pattern.

Approximate price: $325


A well-tailored jacket

Always have one good, well-tailored jacket in your wardrobe, says Johanna Martinez, a young Brooklyn-based designer. "If it's structurally proportionate to your body, you can throw it on over anything, and you'll look instantly polished." When looking for a good cut, make sure the shoulder seams sit at the shoulder, not below, she says. Even one centimeter below the shoulders can cause you to look slouchy '- a big no-no if you're going for sharp and polished.


A quality knit

Invest in at least one high-quality knit sweater or dress. For one thing, it will last longer than your average sweater. Cashmere and cashmere blends are far less likely to fade, pill or need to be ironed. For warmer weather, cashmere-cotton blends are perfect. For cooler climates, a heavier cashmere-wool blended turtleneck always looks great.


A bag and shoes that correspond

If your shoes and bag go together, you look like you have it together, says Wendy Mullin, the designer behind the clothing line Built by Wendy. They don't have to match exactly, she notes, but look for corresponding touches. "If you're wearing black heels, for example, make sure your purse has some black in it to bring it all together."


A scarf-tie blouse

A simple silk, chiffon or viscose-blended scarf-tie blouse in cream or white is not only an easy, sophisticated and tidy look, but it's actually trendy this season. Look for a blouse with some tailoring at the waist for a more flattering fit. Wear it alone or under a jacket.


Tailored trousers

A pair of unfussy black or gray men's-style trousers, featuring two slanted front pockets, is timelessly chic, à la Katharine Hepburn. When in a time crunch, just jump into them. Wear them with a crisp blouse or cashmere sweater.


The right scarf

Designer Jesse Kelly-Landes prefers wearing a scarf to wearing jewelry. "I like the way it draws attention upward, bringing color to your face," she says. "Jewelry's nice, but it doesn't make your skin brighten up the way a scarf can." The designer for Amet and Sasha says she loves knitted or woven scarves in natural fiber, anything from blended silk to nubby wool.


A few extra tips to follow so no one will ever guess you just tossed your outfit on two minutes before flying out the door:

  • This might be asking the impossible, but try laying out clothes the night before, just in case '- it'll make the morning grind that much less daunting.
  • Boni Joi, our own expert stylist, recommends trying to keep at least one of your favorite basics laundered and ready to wear at all times, because "then at least you have one item you feel comfortable in and you know looks great on you!"
  • We like blouses that are designed not to be tucked in but rather to lie gracefully and smoothly on the outside. When you're in a rush, jamming that inevitable flap back into your pants or skirt is not really an option.
  • Don't experiment when you're in a rush. Kelly-Landes points out that every woman looks best when she's dressed in a way that feels most natural and comfortable to her. "Once a woman discovers her individual style, she'll look pulled together no matter what."
  • Knitted garments or cottons blended with polyester, rayon or spandex will show less wrinkling and therefore maintain a fresher look.
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