The perfect pair of shoes can imbue your whole look with a little magic. Which is a good thing now that we're fully in holiday mode and our schedules have officially gone from "booked solid" to "slammed" with festive fetes of all kinds. If you're preemptively panicking over all those holiday parties, cozy catch-up dinners, and last-minute gift dashes, consider this your invitation to chill.
To help greet your packed schedule in style, we partnered with Tamara Mellon to talk with three women on Refinery29's fashion team — our year-round masters of dressing for action-packed days. These are the women whose days start at dawn and end well past sundown, who clock multiple miles hopping from the office to a business lunch to a designer's showroom to a podcast studio to a black-tie dinner all in 24 hours. Considering that's with no outfit changes, they definitely know a thing or two about making a look work no matter where they go.
Ahead, they share the secret to always feeling like yourself (even at the fanciest shindig), the songs that give them life on their craziest days and latest nights, and why you should never, ever save your showstopping shoes for a special occasion. Read on to see how they build their style and swagger from the ground up.
Tell us a bit about your role at Refinery29. What's a typical workday like for you?
"As cliché as it sounds, it's always busy and never quite the same from day to day. Some mornings start with brand previews or coffee with a publicist. Once I’m at my desk, I’m working on four different posts that involve getting interviews, researching, and writing at a fast pace. After work, I usually attend events or catch up with friends over dinner."
When you're running from the office to a holiday party or event, how do you keep your look elevated while still feeling like yourself?
"I'm a huge proponent of never saving things for a 'special' occasion. I love wearing sequins with sneakers or velvet with jeans for an elevated feel. A bright lip always feels festive, and, of course, shoes are everything. They can make or break an outfit. I love pairing colorful pieces with a sophisticated heel — this pair makes me feel chic and powerful, which is the best combo in my opinion."
When did you first realize the power of the perfect heels?
"In college, I used to wear my favorite pumps everywhere and had dreams of living in New York City like Carrie Bradshaw. My ex-boyfriend drew a picture of me wearing them — standing tall amid the buildings in the NYC skyline — and captioned it ‘Channing in the City.’ In that moment, I knew I could have the life I was dreaming of."
How has your style evolved over the years?
"For so many years, I worked so hard to master that 'effortless' trope — as in, stylish and cool without looking like I tried too hard. Today, I'm all about being fearless and trying out new, sometimes out-there trends and silhouettes I previously wouldn't have."
What's your current theme song?
"Kanye’s 'I Wonder.'"
What's a typical day like for you?
"I feel lucky that most of my days revolve around work and discussions with such a crazy mix of creative people. I'm always learning and diving in and out of different projects that extend our R29 mission to support and celebrate women in so many smart ways. Right now, I'm still intensely focused on season 2 of my podcast, UnStyled. We have just three episodes left, but it's still so much work to get each one edited and packaged just right. The whole process engages all the things I love most, especially getting to know so many influential and talented women carving their own path in life and work. Inevitably, great personal style discussions come out of that."
How do you dress for a job with such widely varying duties? Do you care about looking occasion-appropriate, or is it more about your mood?
"I really don't ever think about being occasion-appropriate. I'm more interested in being ME-appropriate. I wore a raffia skirt and a plain white T-shirt when I got married. And I wore Vans with a gown to a formal New Year's party once. I really enjoy approaching each event or experience in a very personal way, and I try to always ensure my true self is coming through. Because there's nothing worse than feeling like you're wearing a costume at an event that's important to you."
One thing that defines your style is you don't wait for a special occasion to wear special pieces. Is having a sense of everyday glamour important to you?
"Absolutely! Why wait to wear a vintage chiffon maxi-dress or striped pantsuit? Every morning when I open up my closet (unless I'm tearing out of the house in a hurry), I take a minute to think about what I'm in the mood for...in particular, what kind of shoes do I want to be dashing around in all day? It usually all starts there. Also, if I notice that there are shoes in my closet that I'm never in the mood to wear, not even on super-special occasions, they have to go."
Most people choose shoes last. Why do you start your outfit there?
"Shoes are such an important foundation — not just to your outfit but to your state of mind. There's nothing worse than feeling inhibited to move or take a quick sprint to catch a taxi. I like to be free, which is why I love Tamara's shoes so much. She has so much experience in this particular business, and she respects that shoes are really engineered artwork — they have to be comfortable and functional to warrant the investment. Tamara Mellon is kind of a genius in that way. I also like her sensibility that everyday shoes should never feel ordinary. I couldn't agree more."
What's your current life motto or theme song?
"'Dreaming is free' works for both."
What's a typical workday like for you?
"No two days are alike for me, and that's really what I love about my job. One day I'm running around the city meeting fashion designers and viewing their latest collections, another I'm on set styling a fashion editorial or in the office in back-to-back meetings."
What's the most important consideration for you when getting dressed?
"First and foremost, I want to be comfortable, but because my job puts me in so many scenarios within one day, I try to find the balance between comfort and feeling confident and powerful. Working in the creative industry allows me to be a bit more risky and creative with my outfit, so for me it's about feeling great no matter what the day throws my way."
What are some of your favorite styling tricks to make an outfit interesting while retaining comfort?
"Look for unexpected ways to wear pieces. You can cinch a belt around a coat to make it into a chic winter dress. Or add a bold accessory, like an earring or epic pair of shoes, to dress up a simple jeans and T-shirt combo in a hurry — especially handy when you're running from the office to a fancy dinner or event."
So what makes a shoe "epic" for you?
"I often dress in neutral colors or a simple pair of jeans, so shoes are really my big statement piece and the item of clothing I invest in most. I look for quality, comfort, and a little bit of a showstopping element. Despite the heel on these boots, they're incredibly easy to run around town in, and the knee-high style is a little bit sexy, a lot powerful."
Do you remember your first pair of really showstopping shoes?
"I was a freshman in college in L.A. when I bought my first pair of designer shoes. They were extremely pointy and silver and more expensive than anything I'd ever purchased, but I just knew they were right. I remember feeling a moment of panic but, more prominently, a feeling of excitement. I wore these shoes to death, getting them resoled more times than I care to remember. The next semester I moved to NYC to pursue a career in fashion."
What's your current theme song?
"Let It Ride."