Darren Kennedy: Style dilemma
Q: Darren, I recently returned to work from maternity leave after having my second child. My office dress code is smart/casual, and I'm seriously struggling to find pieces that are smart and stylish without being too dressy. Have you seen anything that might fit the bill?
Lisa (29), Kerry
A: That inbetween area of casual and smart can be a difficult look to achieve, as it's not always so evident on the high street. The key is recognising how pieces are interchangeable and can be worn in various ways to create different looks.
Keep separates lightweight, which makes layering easier. Make like a chic Parisian and build up a mix of good-quality basic separates in colours such as black, white and navy that you can add colour to as you go. Cos, Tommy Hilfiger and Karen Millen are all worth visiting.
A classic white shirt is essential. Pair with some city shorts, such as these beige tailored cotton ones (€115, Karen Millen), for a chic look.
Mexx also nails the smart/casual look. Create a chic office ensemble with these dark-beige slim-fit trousers (€69.95) and the soft-blue ruffle blouse (€49.95), and finish off with a simple brown belt.
This cream crochet jumper (€18) from New Look is just the ticket for the uncertain nature of the Irish summer.
Q: I have my daughter’s Holy Communion next weekend and I have a lovely navy DVF dress that I plan on wearing. To go over it, I bought a great tailored orange jacket in Zara. I'm now wondering what colour bag and shoes to go for (bearing in mind I'm 5ft 9in, so nothing too high). Any help would be very welcome. Andrea (41), Dublin
A: Andrea, I really like the combination of colours that you've opted for. Combining a dark colour such as navy — very complementary to Irish skin tones — with one of this season's bold colours is a great way to approach colour blocking, especially if you're not comfortable combining several block colours in one outfit. The obvious footwear choice would be some tangerine heels. If this is too ‘matchy matchy' for your taste, then navy, light grey or nude/taupe are all possible options. Both the ‘Jasminium' with floral detail by Pied à Terre (€158) or the knot-detail pair by Dune (€122) would work well. With regards to a bag, Love Moschino has a wonderful collection including this navy polka-dot one (€190). If you prefer to keep it simple, then this navy bag with chain detail, from the same collection, is a chic option (€200, Arnotts).
Q: I'm really trying to get better wear and value from the clothes I already own, so I'm trying to use the budget I have to purchase new jewellery and accessories to freshen up my look. Do you have any recommendations? Sandra (33), Balbriggan
A: Most people experience the ‘I've nothing to wear' syndrome at least a couple of times a year — if not on a weekly basis for some. This is nothing to do with not having enough clothes; in fact, most instances involve a wardrobe brimming at the seams. Generally, it's a case of boredom with what we own. Many of us tend to assemble outfits using more or less the same combinations each time, to the extent that they become like a uniform. Investing in accessories is the perfect way to breathe new life into your wardrobe and to save money. It also allows you to touch on the latest trends without straying from what you know suits your shape best. For example, take a gorgeous LBD, which is one of the few items in your wardrobe that will never go out of style. Introduce a pop of colour and contrast with this gold and coral cuff (€27) from Debenhams or the green gemstone cuff (€47) from Monsoon.
Crochet has become very chic over the past couple of seasons, as seen on the catwalks of Chanel, Issey Miyake and John Rocha. Update your LBD with some crocheted accessories. Irish designer Yvonne Beale has created a beautiful collection of handcrafted pieces. I'm particularly taken by her neckpieces, which would make the simplest of dresses stand out. Scarves, chains, pendants, brooches, bags and belts are all pieces you can pick up cheaply on the high street that will extend the life of your wardrobe.