Glorious Spring Florals
If you've always thought florals were too girlish, reconsider: Actress Lake Bell shows off some truly sophisticated blooms.
The Light Fantastic
The red blossoms and green leaves on this white maxidress (Diane von Furstenberg, $465) have a graphic brilliance that's absolutely magical. Thin straps and strategic draping help define the bustline; the generous tiered skirt is flattering. And because the fabric is cotton voile rather than something more fussy, you can segue from summer-wedding guest to meditative beachcomber with a simple change of shoes. Necklaces, Jessica Simpson Collection, Alexis Bittar. Wedge sandals, Seychelles.
Down the Garden Path
The setting may be formal, but there is nothing prim or old-fashioned about this short-sleeved shift, painted with strong, vivid strokes and dressed up with a scattering of sequins (DKNY, $325). "It gives you a really bold splash of pattern," says Bell, 31, whose latest roles—from the driven second wife in It's Complicated to an ambitious young interior designer on HBO's How to Make It in America—are nothing if not assertive. Necklace, Simply Vera Vera Wang. Rosette-trimmed sandals, René Caovilla.
Give Her the Slip
A perfectly simple white dress is the canvas for a vibrant floral still-life (Tibi, $458). The result is the most comfortable party piece imaginable. The silk glides freely over the body, so it's as unrestricted as a nightgown; the tea-length hemline works with heels or flats (these, from Mia, could be the season's smartest buy at $59). Necklace, L Bijoux by Laura Lehmann.
The Little Prints
Although its tiny pattern is a nod to nature, this easy-fitting stretch-silk frock (Ann Taylor, $168) also appeals to urbanites like Bell (How to Make It in America is set in New York, where she grew up). The dress is wrinkle-proof and versatile; you could even wear it under a jacket for work. A downsized print looks almost like a solid, so you can afford larger-scale jewelry, like exuberant flower pins (Bando) or a huge ring (Gara Danielle). Shoes, Edmundo Castillo for Tommy Hilfiger.
Here Bell has an earthy, voluptuous quality reminiscent of actresses in the classic Italian films she adores (L'Avventura, La Dolce Vita). The silk top has the look of a strap falling innocently off the shoulder and a loose cut that suggests her curves rather than advertising them (Marni, $864). Advanced pattern-mixers could wear it with printed shorts or pants in the same palette; it would also marry with all things neutral. Necklace, Gemma Redux.
Nothing in life is as reliably mood-lifting as a gorgeous bunch of flowers (okay, maybe chocolate). The style equivalent: a softly blooming cotton button-down shirt (J.Crew, $88). Under a business suit, it gives a whole different tenor to your day (it's equally compatible with jeans, shorts, or khakis). The clean tailoring is a great balance for the misty watercolor print and fanciful necklaces. Short chain with flower motif, Miriam Haskell; long, Simply Vera Vera Wang.
A mini-print in a blue-verging-on-purple palette that's pure Monet: With tiny ruffles trimming the neck and sleeves, this short, filmy number (Collette Dinnigan, $920) is as delectable as a babydoll dress—but with a more shapely silhouette. "This one is a good place to start if you are afraid of patterns," says Bell. Don't fret about the sheerness—a skin-colored slip (Organic by John Patrick, $120) will keep you covered. Necklace, A.V. Max. Shoes, Jinny Kim.
Get the look—for under $100
Get the look—for under $100