A hide panel toughens up a Milly dress ($395, Sherman Pickey, 1647 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-333-4212). Worn with a David Aubrey necklace and Julie Collection earrings ($110
and $85, Bishop Boutique, 815-B King St., Alexandria; 571-312-0042) and Elizabeth & James wedges ($275, The Shoe Hive, 127 S. Fairfax St., Alexandria; 703-548-7105).

Wearing leather was once an all-or-nothing fashion statement. (Think biker gangs, 1980s hair bands and loin-cloth-loving cave persons.) But thanks to improved technology, hides can now be shaved into thin, supple-as-velvet material and dyed hues (metallics, gem tones) far more refined than Harley black. Designers also are combining skin and fabric on the same garment — blouses with leather collars, jeans with suede tuxedo stripes — turning the bad-girl staple into a work-to-weekend favorite. “The mix of leather and fabric is softer and more elegant than full-on leather,” says local wardrobe consultant Tara Luizzi of Tara Styles DC (Tarastylesdc.com). “You no longer have to look like a dominatrix.”

Tibi’s blouse pairs lace with leather ($425, Piperlime.com). Shown with a Joie leather skirt ($458, Piperlime.com) and a chunky necklace, ring and bracelet ($134, $42 and $32, Proper Topper, 1350 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-842-3055).