1. A Touch of Extravagance
An unexpected shot of something hot—a stunning color, sheer shirt, sharp jacket—can make your look entirely more modern. We asked six fashionable women to share their time-saving, mood-changing (and not necessarily expensive) strategies.
"I'm quite thrifty, really. I love a sale," says designer Georgina Chapman. And although her evening wear collections, Marchesa and Notte by Marchesa, are luxurious, she's no clothing snob: "Designer clothes are great, but I also spend lots of time in Topshop" (the trendy, inexpensive British chain that's on its way to America). Here, basic tuxedo pants from Express ($80)—a terrific source of well-fitting, inexpensive trousers—are elevated by an asymmetrical black lace dress that's pure fantasy (Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci). A lavish piece like this is worth the splurge because it lifts whatever else you're wearing to a higher level—and you'll have it for years.
Earrings, Fred Leighton. Bracelets and ring, Lorraine Schwartz. Shoes, Fendi.
2. A Touch of Leather
Whether it's music or fashion—her two passions—Sylvia Rhone, president of Universal Motown Records, dances to her own tune. "I graduated from the Wharton School, but the corporate dress code wasn't for me," she says. "In the music world, success is driven by self-expression." Still, there are practical considerations: "This is a 24-hour business, and I need to move seamlessly from the office to night events." So she mixes casual and dressy, day and evening, rocker and romantic, here adding edge to a gauzy floor-length gown (Alexander McQueen) with a couture motorcycle jacket (Balenciaga)—and the short-over-long proportion is one reason it works. Her Yorkshire terrier, Chili, is her cutest accessory.
Ring, Lorraine Schwartz. Shoes, Yves Saint Laurent.
3. A Touch of Tux
"I'm a style chameleon," admits Umindi Francis, who, as PR director of Karla Otto, a public relations firm, makes a career of promoting high-end fashion. "The fun thing about working in this business is that there are no limits on how I dress." This sometimes means wearing a tank with red lips on it (Moschino Lingerie, $555) and a swirly-print miniskirt (Thakoon, $675). What balances the bareness is a cool take on the tux jacket (Notify, $773) that "makes whatever I'm wearing look more sophisticated and confident." Layering with a blazer also enables her to take summer pieces into fall: "It's like having your wardrobe work double time," she says.
Earrings, Francis's own. Belt, Valentino. Ring, Mesi Jilly. Bracelet, Tom Binns. Shoes, Marni.
4. A Touch of Color
After 31 years of designing lingerie, Josie Natori has unveiled Natorious, a sportswear collection that's got the same comfortable glamour and gorgeous detail. "Clothes today are about pieces, not power suits," she says. "Women should mix as they please. They don't have time to fuss." Nor does Natori, who facilitates a quick day-to-night shift by slipping a silk charmeuse shell in a vibrant shade like red, orange, acid green—"Never wimpy colors!"—over a pencil skirt (Natorious, $195 and $250). The obi-style belt with "chopstick" closure (Natorious) is a signature; the designer, originally from the Philippines, loves to play with East-West fusion.
Watch, Chanel. Ring, Natori's own.
5. A Touch of Sparkle
"The other day I went to the bank in diamonds and a T-shirt," says jewelry designer Janis Savitt, who doesn't believe in timid baubles. Her new company, Janis by Janis Savitt, roughs up and reinterprets classic pearls and diamonds (real or otherwise) with chrome chains ("Like on a car"), and she loves the look of several necklaces at once: "Pile them on, mix real and fake, don't be afraid!" she says. Use graduated sizes and lengths—this pearl and crystal collar is bigger and shorter than the multistrand crystals and long platinum chains ($1,000; all, Janis by Janis Savitt)—and keep clothes casual: "It's best to be underdressed, or you'll look like a Christmas tree."
Cardigan, Dsquared2, $895. Jeans, James Jeans, $180. Rings, Savitt's own.
6. A Touch of Sheer
When she isn't playing the authority figure on Bravo's Top Design, India Hicks lives in paradise—actually, on an island in the Bahamas that inspired her Crabtree & Evelyn body and home collection. Refreshingly down-to-earth about fashion ("We're not curing cancer!"), she's drawn to this long, body-sculpting skirt (BR Monogram, $175) and the boost of refined sexiness provided by the chiffon blouse (Dennis Basso, $1,400) and glimpse of lacy bra (Agent Provocateur, $136). "It's a modern twist on what Princess Diana wore in the '80s," says Hicks, who should know: A second cousin of Prince Charles, she was a bridesmaid at the royal wedding.
Earrings, House of Lavande. Ring, Lorraine Schwartz. Shoes, Diego Dolcini.