Ellen Piccolo's 5 Summer Fashion Must-Haves


Ellen Piccolo, fashion guru for Tommy Bahama, a dear friend and the most fashionable female I know, always inspires my sense of style. I feel strongly that I would be robbing the world of something special if I didn't take this opportunity to have her talk to us about fashion. Ask anyone who knows her, and they'll agree. Ellen is an icon, and has a knack for outfitting herself in a way that turns heads and warrants frequent stops by perfect strangers when perusing the sidewalks of Manhattan.

While it's difficult to narrow down just five summer essentials, Ellen ultimately picked the items below for their effortless style, classic nature, and versatility – think day to night. Ellen loves to shop but, like most of us, is forced to stick to a budget, so she always strives to be a savvy consumer. With that, Ellen has also provided us some shopping tips that she lives by in an effort to keep her wallet full and her husband happy.

Now I'll let Ellen do the talking. Read on for her list of top 5 summer essentials.

Ellen Piccolo's Top 5 Summer Essential List

1. White Jeans

The 411: Nothing says summer like a great pair of white jeans. White pants in general are a great go-to piece, but there's something about the sexy, rugged nature of white denim that makes me particularly partial to them. Contrary to its more forgiving black counterpart, white denim conjures up negative images for a lot of women. Fear not! Like any piece of clothing, it's all about fit. The right fit equals a fabulous look. Stick with the style (i.e. skinny, straight, cropped etc) that is most flattering on your body. White denim is ultra versatile and can be worn day to night, not to mention with just about any color of the rainbow depending on your mood and style.

Fashion Faves: AG, Hudson, J Brand

Deals and Steals: White jeans are certainly a piece that you can get heavily reduced at the end of the season (and remember, a designer's end- of-season is much earlier than the true end of season). However, if you're looking to score that perfect pair now, wait for department store sales at retailers such as Bloomies, Saks, and Lord and Taylor. These stores, L&T in particular, always have some type of coupon or promotion being offered, though you may have to be beware that your designer isn't excluded. Outside of department stores, many large chains also offer a variety of coupons and promotions as well. Most retailers reduce new items on the same day each week (most often times on Tuesdays) so check back for the greatest, most up to date selection on those days.

2. Nautical Stripes

The 411: This classic look is one of my favorites. It really appeals to all style genres, from preppy to punk, and everything in between. When envisioning stripes, more often than not, a nautical T-shirt comes to mind. However, stripes are not just limited to the casual cotton top. Two of my obsessions this year include my new striped blazers (yes, that's plural) and my striped maxi skirt from Anthropologie. It's comfortable, flattering and fashionable all at the same time. Who could ask for more?

Fashion Faves: J. Crew, Anthropologie

Deals and Steals: Because stripes are so universal, and most often made of cotton, they are generally a lower price point to begin with. In addition to the above stores, you can always score cute striped frocks at discounted retailers like Target, Old Navy and Marshalls.

3. Denim Jackets

The 411: Denim jackets are one of the most versatile and universally flattering pieces out there and are a must-have summer staple. Recently, a friend asked if they were back in style to which I responded, "were they ever out of style?" Certainly this denim favorite has morphed over the years. The '80s conjure up images of acid-washed (although making a comeback now), ill-fitting jackets with popped collars. Admittedly, I'm still a fan of the popped collar, but today's denim jackets have a more fitted, structured feel. Denim jackets are worn best when they hit at just the right spot and fit like a glove. You shouldn't be struggling to pull it on, but it should work to accentuate both your outfit and your body. It can be thrown on with just about anything and is the perfect pairing with almost any outfit - I often leave mine on all day! Personally, I like a color and feel that's a little more worn-in, but anything goes depending on your outfit and personal preference. And keep in mind, white denim is a fresh take on the classic blue.

Fashion Faves: Almost every denim jacket I've ever owned, including the one that I own now, is from the Gap. I'm also a fan of Levi's denim jackets.

Deals and Steals: Denim jackets can be found just about anywhere, so shop around for the best price. This is another item that will go on sale end of season. It's also something that could be a great find at consignment shops and vintage stores.

4. Handbags

The 411: I will try to contain my excitement when talking about handbags. I guess you can say I'm a bit of a purse addict. Remember the Sex in the City episode where Carrie Bradshaw comes to terms with her shoe addiction and says that she will literally be the old woman who lives in her shoes? Well, you get the idea. While a handbag is certainly not a piece you only wear during the summer (thank god!), summer is a time when you can expand your choice of style and color. The white purse is always a summer classic. You can't go wrong with it, except when something inevitable spills on that ever so fragile shade. If you opt to leave the white purse at home, there are a plethora of colorful shades to choose from- red and yellow being two of my personal favorites. My red Rebecca Minkoff MAB goes just about everywhere with me. It compliments my bright summer wardrobe and adds color to those outfits that are a bit more mundane.

Fashion Faves: Rebecca Minkoff, Kooba, Marc Jacobs, and my most recent purchase, the Linea Pelle Alex Zipper Speedy - love! You also can't go wrong with designers such as Balenciaga, and Chanel, but unless you want to forgo paying rent this month or end up in a divorce you might want to choose something a bit more affordable.

Deals and Steals: My biggest piece of advice when it comes to handbags is to shop discounted retailers such as Amazon and particularly Ebay. Almost all of my bags were bought brand new from there. As long as you're dealing with a reputable seller, you will get the bag you love, brand new, at half the price (and tax free)! Another great option for those who live in or around a city, particularly New York, are samples sales. I have acquired quite a collection of Lauren Merkin clutches and an assortment of Rebecca Minkoff bags through their samples sales. In order to be notified of these sales, simply add yourself to their email chain directly from their websites.

5. Sundresses

The 411: Nothing is more comfortable, cool, and chic then slipping on a summer dress. They are easy, versatile, and not as constricting as most shorts and skirts. I own an array of summer styles- mini, maxi, bright, and basic. Dresses really appeal to everyone as they come in all types of fabrics and fit. As always, choose dresses that are flattering, comfortable, and hug all the right spots. Mini shouldn't be too short and maxi's shouldn't be dragging on the ground. They should contour to your curves and accentuate your favorite areas.

Fashion Faves: French Connection, Milly, Shoshana, DVF. You can also find a wide variety of fun pieces at stores like Anthropologie or your neighborhood boutique. In general though, you can pick up a cute dress anywhere from Target to Tibi.

Deals and Steals: As mentioned earlier, look out for department stores sales and promotions. Dresses continually go on sale (no need to wait until end of season), so if you find one you like, check back with the retailer and snag it when the price drops. As with the majority of pieces, most retailers will honor a price adjustment on full-priced items within two weeks. And again, Ebay is a great option. I recently purchased a brand new DVF dress to-die-for for a fraction of the price!

Don't forget to accessorize all of the above looks with chunky jewelry (turquoise and coral are my summer favorites), killer sunglasses, and of course, amazing shoes. From flip flops to wedges there is something (cute!) for everyone. Moral of the story - make every outfit your own by adding your creative style and always wear things that fit well and make you feel like a million bucks!

To see these summer style must-haves and more, visit Head to Toe with Emy and Po!

Happy Shopping,

Renee & Ellen

Renee Woodruff blogs about travel, food and living life to the fullest on Shape.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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