Rachel Zoe on Her Favorite Fashion Formulas for Every Occassion

rache zoe lead.jpeg

by Jessika Roth

New York-born designer Rachel Zoe started out as an assistant, then an editor, at now-defunct but still adored teen magazine YM. She struck out on her own as a freelance stylist in her twenties, getting her big break when she dressed 'Alias' star Jennifer Garner for the Emmy Awards. Her A-list clientele has included Keira Knightley and Cameron Diaz. 

In 2011, Rachel parlayed the boho-chic look that had become her personal signature into her first collection of women's clothing. We spoke to Zoe at our Empowering Connections event in Austin this SXSW about her latest collection and to have her answer to the single question women have asked most repeatedly throughout her career — how to get dressed both fashionably and functionally to accommodate all occasions day to night.

The everyday outfit formula

If only it were that easy. Zoe quickly admits, “There is no exact formula — we’re all shaped and sized different, and our lives are different.” In lieu of a formula, she offers tips for building a wardrobe that will make you feel great every day.

"Look at what your go-to uniform is and what works for you.”
Zoe says she’s happier in a wide-legged pant than a skinny pant, and feels more confident in a dress that covers her knees than a mini exposing them. Note that she’s also most comfortable wearing 7” heels. The advice here is to know what works on your body and fits you well. Continue to find and wear those pieces that make you feel confident.

“Have your go-tos, throw in a little sparkle.”
It didn’t take long for Zoe to confess her obsession for all things sequined. Her advice is to put on your basics, then throw on a snazzy blazer to dress it up. To give an example she pulls the metallic fringe jacket from her collection and calls it a staple that’s been in demand for many seasons.

"Every woman should have a suit.”
Zoe advises that a suit is a key foundational piece no matter what industry you work in. The most important aspect of buying a suit is that no matter what, it should fit well.

"Don’t overlook the tailoring."
"The worst thing you could do is wear things that don’t fit well,” Zoe continues. Not only do clothes look better when they fit, but you feel better in them. She advises that tailoring is always worth the price in order to feel your best.

rachel zoe embed.jpeg

What to wear in an interview

While fashion trends go out almost as soon as they come in, Zoe’s advice on dressing for an interview, “Go classic, go chic, go timeless." She urges that you can never go wrong with being appropriate when dressing for an interview. "If you are questioning, 'Am I showing too much?’ — you are.”

What to wear on a first date

Zoe joked that she hasn’t been on a first date in 27 years. Even so, she recommends staying covered rather than revealing all your skin on a first date. Her styling advice is to find balance in exposure. If you’re wearing a dress that’s covered in the front, show some skin in the back. If it’s a mini, leave your arms covered, or try something like a one-shoulder top which shows enough but not too much.

Above all else, Zoe left us with the two things we should always have our closets: a good black blazer and good black pumps. And a few staple sequins never hurt anybody.


CareerClare O'ConnorBizz