How to Wear Pink Without Looking Like a Pretty Princess

In the fashion world, wearing pink can be a bit of a challenge. While the color often crops up in designer collections and in the wardrobes of savvy celebrities and street style stars, it can so easily veer into Barbie territory if worn the wrong way (Tinsley Mortimer circa 2010, I'm looking at you).

However, pink is a universally flattering color if you find the right shade, and it also reads warmer and more classically enchanting than beige or white. And as the warm spring weather has finally swept into most of the country, it's tempting to wear something other than black or grey to work. After all, spring is the perfect time to dust off those beautiful pastel ensembles that simply don't withstand winter weather, especially when designers from J. Brand to J. Crew are still embracing the shade for Spring 2014. Bearing this conundrum in mind, I pulled together a set of guidelines for wearing pink in a decidedly cultured and grown up way. Fashion isn't as much fun without breaking a few rules, so forget everything you know about the color and meet the new, grown-up incarnation of pink. Who knows? It may actually become the new black.

1. MIX PINK WITH MENSWEAR

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Even the most frilly of ensembles becomes more edgy with the addition of a few well-placed menswear accents. A fitted blazer, modern vest, or tailored trousers do wonders for an otherwise girly ensemble by toning down a pink palette. If you want to go the extra mile with your ensemble, try following Emma Watson's lead and wearing a vest or blazer in a shade of pink.

2. CHOOSE YOUR SHADE WISELY

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There's a fine line between bubblegum and blush, so when you're office-bound or generally hoping for a more sophisticated statement, choose a more muted shade. Peach, azalea, dusty rose, and blush are safe bets for a more subtle look. For the pop-of-color obsessed, bright coral makes bold statement without the juvenile connotations of bubblegum pink, and Radiant Orchid is the ideal pink/purple hybrid for trend-hunters. For the fall, pink-infused berry shades are key.

3. ADD A LEATHER ACCENT

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Despite its prevalence on the runway over the past year in delicate, hand-cut forms, and its many celebrity fans, leather is still an edgier choice than your average silk or cotton. Throwing on a leather pencil skirt with a pink blouse gives an ensemble a business-like edge, and when you add a leather motorcycle jacket to a pink lace minidress, suddenly the look becomes infinitely more grown-up. For extra style points, try a leather skirt in a muted rose. However, don't try leather in a blinding shade of pink unless you want to look like an '80s throwback (see Rule 2).

4. THROW IN A BOLD PATTERN

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A graphic, silk-screened pattern lends interest and polish to any ensemble, so it's only logical that adding a patterned skirt to a pink top would serve the same purpose. However, stereotypically whimsical prints aren't the best choice when it comes to pink pieces. Pink paired with polka dots can read a bit childish if you're not careful, and a rosy skirt with a floral top might be a bit too saccharine for the office if both are rendered in a bright palette.

5. COMBINE PINK AND BLACK, NAVY, OR BEIGE

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It may seem obvious, but toning down a pink piece with black, navy, or beige gives an ensemble an extra professional tone. If your office dress code is on the stricter side, combine a peach silk dress with a tan or black jacket, and you're well within the limits of respectable, formal dress.

6. PAY ATTENTION TO CUT

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Nearly any piece of clothing can be made to look chic and urbane if it's well-tailored and cut to perfection, so if you're going for a full-on fuchsia shift or a solid pink coat, make sure it's fitted and cut to flatter your body. Anything overly voluminous or fluffy may provoke flashbacks to your childhood tutu, but a sleek shift or minidress reads both professional and stylish.

7. TRY A PINK COAT

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Kate Middleton has this idea down to a T: when in doubt about pink, wear the color in coat form. If you find you're uncomfortable wearing the shade to a particular occasion, the coat can be removed and you're left with a more conservative ensemble. If not, you have a wonderfully unexpected piece of outerwear. As an added bonus, you'll make a statement when first entering your destination, whether it's the office or a weekend shindig.

8. USE PINK AS AN ACCENT COLOR INSTEAD OF THE MAIN SHADE

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Instead of thinking of pink as the main event in your ensemble, try using it as a subtle accent to complement other shades. If you're wearing your favorite boyfriend jeans and a blazer, add on a pair of blush pumps. Running out the door to the office on a chillier day? Throw on a coral scarf. And a thin pink belt is a great accent for a neutral dress.

9. TRY PINK PANTS (AND NO, THIS DOESNT MEAN HOT PINK)

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Remember when peach-colored skinny jeans were all the rage back in 2012? There's was a good reason for the trend, and it's because muted pink jeans and pants don't read quite as twee as a full pink skirt or a hot pink dress. A good pair of peach or rose-colored skinny jeans paired with a great white tee is a fantastic and easy off-duty ensemble, and cropped blush pants are a polished and office-appropriate way to wear pink without looking quite so girly.