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Steal This Style Blogger's Easy Dress-Up Strategy

Photo by Nick Smith
Photo by Nick Smith

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Olga Monserrat's elegant style causes us great envy every time we get sucked into browsing her blog, 12:04 (which is often). To look so chic with such simple, clean lines takes serious sartorial skill. The San Francisco Art Director and El Cerrito homeowner has close ties to blogger royalty—she recently redesigned the entire Man Repeller blog, and has also created those iconic headers. But Olga blogs mainly for pleasure. 12:04 is a labor of love, and lucky for her, the loves of her life are more than happy to play photographer (they do an amazing job, we might add) to document her compelling looks. Read on to get to know her better—find out why she's loving life and don't miss her fool-proof after-work fancy-event strategy.

What makes you blog?
"I've been blogging since 2006 because I genuinely enjoy blogging about fashion. What I share on my blog benefits me because I get to document style that I admire, which is inspirational on mornings when I feel like I have nothing to wear. What keeps me motivated are the amazing emails and comments from readers I've received since I started. I think it's incredibly humbling to have any sort of audience, so that's why I strive for authenticity and honesty on my blog—about impulse purchases, obsessions, and even my sartorial mistakes."

Who takes your photos?
"Nick Smith! My fiancé is a talented Art Director, UX designer, and photographer. I just happen to be very lucky that he is kind enough to snap some photos of me when we're out and about. Other than him, my mom will occasionally take some amazing photos as well when we're together. These two are hands-down my biggest supporters and I love them so!"

Tell us something about yourself we would have never guessed.
"I am allergic to bananas. I love them, but apparently life has other plans for me."

You're at work, and you get an email inviting you to a fabulous, dressed-up affair. You're wearing ripped jeans and loafers and don't have time to go home and change. What's your strategy?
"Honestly, as much as I want to be that girl that says, 'No big deal, I'll just put on some heels and go to the party in whatever I'm in because I'm a confident superwoman,' the reality is I'd probably go shopping on my lunch hour to dress it up a bit. I have a mental Rolodex of minimal failsafe outfits and if I truly don't have a chance to go home, I'd figure out a way to mimic one of those quickly. If I was wearing ripped jeans, that means I'm likely wearing something more refined for the top (like a silk button up, or a clean tank with a blazer). If money was no object I'd go to Theory and get a pair ankle length trousers in black (a la Katharine Hepburn), pull my hair back into a loose chignon, apply some vampy lipstick and call it a day."

How would you describe your sartorial personality and which Bay Area store best matches it?
"My sartorial personality is idiosyncratic gamine. I love the toughness of incorporating menswear into an outfit because it reminds It just feels very natural to me. Growing up as the only girl, I had to learn how to hang with the boys, so that always meant I was a bit of a tomboy. Mixing masculine and feminine element works out so well in the advertising industry too, where the attire is often playful and relaxed. The idiosyncratic part means I'll throw in an unexpected playful element in an outfit, like a fun print, or a crazy sunglasses.

The store that encapsulates my style right now definitely is The Apartment. I know that's breaking the rules because they are in New York, but every time I browse anything from there I feel very sure of my style and confident in what I like."

If you had to sacrifice one, what would it be: lipstick, mascara or brow pencil/gel?
"Bye, mascara! Lipstick is often the most makeup I wear on some days, so I refuse to give that simplicity up! And if I don't pencil and fill in my brows to be more bold in the morning I feel like my face is just so foreign and too 'clean.'"

In five years I hope to be [fill in the blank].
"I'm betting someone is going to eye roll at this, but I just don't care: In five years I hope to be as fortunate as I am today. I am incredibly grateful for everything I've been able to achieve so far with lots of hard work and a lot of support from amazing family and friends. I'm a first generation college graduate, first-time homeowner, and have managed to keep up a blog that is part diary and part fashion. What more can a girl want?"