Ann Taylor designer is a fan of all-day dressing

The Associated Press
Modified: February 1, 2013 at 5:26 pm •  Published: February 1, 2013

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Also in her commuter tote bag are a scarf or wrap and two sets of jewelry, one that's sleek and sophisticated and the other that's a little more chunky and funky.

She likes the look of more glamorous or crisp items, such as white linen pants or a skyscraper stiletto, but they're not "real life," and she has a real life. Most days, Axelson says, her outfit is rooted in black or navy, maybe with some gray during the winter, or khaki in the spring and camel in the fall. Boring? It doesn't have to be. She'll break out the flash of hot pink or orange, probably a top under a cardigan, and she's not afraid of a bright or embellished coat.

Colorblocking is a tool that's gone from trendy to basic because, she says, it's eye-catching and modern, but not froufrou.

That works for her. She's definitively a pants person. "I need clothes that I can wear a lot."

She says an underrated item is the T-shirt blouse, which goes over the head, has a refined, silky front, but a comfortable knit back. A silk camp shirt works that way, too, and the same thing goes for a tailored, shrunken blazer that's cool, not stuffy. That could be the key piece for a woman with a home office or unpredictable schedule. It pulls everything together at the last minute — and no one will really pay attention to what's underneath, Axelson says.

Her best tip is to add a bit of structure to an overall relaxed look: It'll take you almost anywhere, she says.

Other quick hits: A knit dress can have a hint of sex appeal because it can be form-fitting but cover your arms and hit at or below the knee; embellished or textured ballet flats straddle the comfort of the low heel and the savvy of a fashion fan; and there's nothing wrong with a washable top. Her current favorite is a jewel-neck one with a peplum that's mostly polyester.

"The American culture has changed, and it's full of changing expectations and blurry lines. It's so much more stylish to look comfortable in your own skin," Axelson says. "I think it's more of a fashion faux pas to be overdressed than underdressed."