New York Fashion Week ideas for the professional woman

Amid the feathers and flounces that marched down New York’s Fashion Week catwalks, a few trends emerged for spring that were as appropriate for the office as they were for the runway.

The key workwear trends can be summed up in a few words: peplum, culottes, floral and leather. But not all together, please.

It’s a bit early to call out definitive looks since New York is just the first of the fashion weeks that follow in London, Milan and Paris. But the New York runways show some of the most wearable, saleable and even the most trend-setting garments.

“New York is the end-all-be-all,” says Galen Hardy, who oversees a team of about 30 buyers for US online apparel merchant Inc. “You have to be a part of it, not only to see the trends from the designers, but also what’s happening on the street.”

The New York collections are “the most translatable” he adds. “At these shows, about 80 to 85 percent [of what you see] you’ll be able to sell.”

That makes these collections particularly important for professional women who are looking to update their wardrobe with clothes that are appropriate for the office.

So what are the standout, wearable shapes, materials and colours at New York’s Spring 2014 collections?

Shape: Culottes and peplum

When the frenzy of fashion week ends, Sheila Aimette, vice president of North American content for global trend forecasting service WGSN has a single purchase in mind: a pair of culottes.

Culottes are easy to wear and entirely appropriate for work. These flowing, loose trousers, which hit between the knee and the mid-calf, are part of a minimalist sports theme that is quite strong on runways, says Aimette.

“They are very transitional,” she says. “You can wear them with tights or a chunky shoe.”

Alexander Wang showed loose, flowing culottes, while Victoria Beckham cut hers close to the leg and paired them with peplum tops.

Fashion watchers said they were surprised to still see peplums (a fabric flare on the waist of a dress, top or skirt) on many runways, since this shape has already been strong for a few seasons.

This makes them even more essential for a modern office wardrobe – they are accepted yet still fashion forward.

If you don’t have something with peplum, “you’re way out the loop,” says Laura Cochran Nay, a writer for Splash Magazines. “They have a ladylike glamour.”

Like a wedge heel, peplum tops are comfortable, professional and go with almost everything, particularly a slim, knee-length pencil skirt or slender trousers. The shape appeared in Kate Spade, Victoria Beckham and Noon By Noor’s collections.

Pattern: Flowers

Flowered prints bring femininity and lightness to officewear, which can be dominated by subdued blacks and greys.

“Colour is important this season, more than ever before,” said designer Joanna Mastroianni before her show. “It’s happy. It feels right.”

Mastroianni’s dresses were ablaze with pink, purple and yellow blooms. Florals also popped up elsewhere, including Tracy Reese, Christian Siriano and Ostwald Helgason.

“A great floral shell under a great blazer is a playful piece that makes [your wardrobe] exciting,” says Ryan Baker, a personal stylist for the US chain Nordstrom. “It reinvents your outfit.”

Fabrics: Leather (or vegan leather) and sheer

Leather is a catwalk staple. New for this season is laser-cut leather, which brings a sophisticated dimensionality to a heavy material. Alexander Wang was one of many designers who updated leather pieces with cut-outs.

For more adventurous types, another type of cut-out appeared on runways such as Lacoste and Rebecca Taylor. This trend, perhaps a bit daring for conservative offices, alternates strips of solid fabric with blocks of sheer.

“It can be scandalous, but it’s also unbelievably chic,” says Baker.

However, the bottom line for any fashion choice is how a woman feels when she wears it.

“Be true to your trend self,” says Aimette. “If you put something on and you don’t feel comfortable in it, walk away,” she said. “There are always going to be trends, but you have to pick items within those trends that work with what you have.”

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