Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Bitch a Day: Desktop Sailor

Moi and I have discussed the need to take our ideas on the road, as they say. Air out the closet. Show off our fashion smarts. Hold ourselves up for ridicule. Give our readers the opportunity to yay or nay us with impunity. Maybe even throw us candy or rotten fruit. We also take cash . . .

Anyway. In the service of this idea, I've decided to add a new topic and call it, "A Bitch A Day." I have decreed that every once in a while, we'll post outfits that we have thrown together. This can serve as style inspiration and as a reminder to us of what we have in our closets, or what we could do with stuff we haven't quite figured out yet. We DO sometimes forget what's in there, you know. . .

Today's Bitch A Day is called "Desktop Sailor."

Inspiration: On Moi's suggestion I have purchased a new French Sailor top from LL Bean. I went with the cream with navy stripe, 1/4 zip. On the plus side: I opened the bag from LL Bean yesterday and was immediately impressed: It's great quality and fits perfectly. What more could a bitch ask for? The down side: this stripe thing is new material for me – it's a great top, but what the hell do I do with it? This is the top's first time out.

Twin A (she's not so steady, but she's learning)

Venue: my messy messy house, late for school (hurry up and take the picture already!)

Pants: Beat-up jCrew jeans

Shoes: shiny red flats by Born

Top: LL Bean French Sailor 1/4 Zip, cream with navy stripe

Jacket: (Much coveted – yes, Moi, I KNOW) H&M Military Blazer, black. I almost almost went with my jCrew velvet pinstripe blazer - it worked just as well. I just love this one. OK? There's nothing wrong with that.

Accessories: Whatever I could grab with one hand on my way out the door (red heart earrings, pearls, button bracelet)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

closet icons part deaux

Last week, Pirate posted a list of her Closet Icons, those items that anchor her wardrobe and give it substance and style.

I’m with Pirate on several of her choices, not the least of which are blazers and good shoes. My Jones for each are pretty much equally matched. A well made, versatile jacket/blazer and pair of shoes are the backbone of any workable wardrobe. As for the rest of my Closet Icons, some of these items are particular to my individual style; others I think should be included in every gal's closet. I've tried to provide links to items, where available.

A Wedge and a Boot – Lord knows, I loves me a sky high stiletto heel, but if I were forced at gun point to pick only two shoes in which to spend the rest of my life, I’d choose my vintage Famolare Hi Up wedges

and Born’s Thicket black leather riding boot

In my opinion, there is literally nothing you can’t pair either shoe with. On the boot, there's enough of a heel so that you don’t look like a reject from a Lord of the Rings conference and enough of a sleek silhouette that you don’t look like you’re about to go muck out a barn. I’ve had this pair for eight years and they look brand new.

Because my over all aesthetic leans towards 1970s Boho mixed with a little rock and roll, a wedge is essential to my wardrobe. In summer, I pair mine with wide leg jeans and a peasant blouse or a floaty summer dress. In the the winter with skinny jeans, a long sweater, and leather jacket.

Grey V-neck Cashmere Sweater – Not everyone can wear a turtleneck and to those gals I say, make the v-neck your friend. I choose v-necks primarily because they are more accommodating to my tendency to pile on necklaces and scarves, which is difficult to do with a turtleneck. Besides which, for some reason, while wool never makes me itch any where else on my body, it bugs the skin on my neck to no end. Why grey? Because it's one of the few neutrals that, like beige, come in a range of hues, from pale dove, to deep gunmetal. Which means, there is a grey to flatter every skin tone.

Pashmina – Yes. I'm a scarf gal. I’ve got tons of them, in every color, size, shape, and print, but my number one go-to is a lovely pale pink pashmina a good friend gifted me for my birthday last year. There’s nothing like a pashmina for keeping you warm and looking stylish. There are about a gazillion ways to tie the things, and you can even wear them as tops. There’s nothing better for travel (especially now that the NTSB has put a fatwa on in-flight blankies), and they wad up into nothing to fit easily in a carry-on bag. Two is all you really need: one in a go-with-everything neutral like grey, pale pink, navy, or camel, and one in stand-out color like fuchsia, lipstick red, or brilliant turquoise.

White Jeans – If you want to bump up the easy breezy chic factor an extra notch (and you're not given to sucking on chocolate bars 24/7), try a pair of white jeans. In summer, the combos are endless: pair with sandals and a tee for go-anywhere-casual; a pair of pumps, button down, and blazer for work; a silk peasant blouse, heels, and a dangly earrings for dinner. In winter, do like the girls in Milan do and pair them with a sweater and a pair of chunky boots, either over or under.

How cool is this look? So cool, I want to reach through the screen and steal it!

LL Bean’s French Sailor's Boatneck Shirt with Three-Quarter Sleeves – I’m not really a flimsy tee shirt or tank top gal, so in the summer, I LIVE in this shirt. The cut is classic, the quality first class, and you can wear it year round. I have two of them: the regular cut and the three quarter zip, both in cream/navy. After ten years, I haven't worn either one out yet, that’s just how awesome the quality is on this baby. And did you see the price? Uh, huh.

White Button Down Shirt
– I have two. A simple tailored basic from New York and Company (great place to pick up basics at low, low, low prices), and a slightly fancier one from BCBG with ruching under the bust and puffy, three quarter sleeves. Is there anything a crisp white shirt won’t do? Well, it won't get Johnny Depp to return your phone calls, but other than that? A white button down shirt is the motivational speaker of your wardrobe. Check it out at Polyvore.

closet icons

Nina Garcia published a really great book called "The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own" – a nice little coffee-table tome. I have used Nina's guide to justify more than one addition to my closet (thank you, Nina, for helping me with the purchase of those Frye boots).

Although Nina is well qualified to tell us what we should wear (she has held positions as fashion director at both Elle and Marie Claire magazines), one could argue that Nina's 100 are maybe not for every woman. Nina qualifies her list of essentials to be for all "stylish" women, which is perhaps why she includes things like Caftans and Driving Shoes. Her style is not always mine (Minnetonka Moccasins? Really?), so I don't know if I would go so far. I also don't think that every woman need collect all 100 things that Nina has identified (and I daresay Nina says the same in her foreword) but as guides go, I think she has the right idea: every stylish woman must own certain items. I call them Closet Icons.

Here's what I mean by Closet Icons: they are the things that I own because they are so entirely useful and versatile. They're go-to pieces. My essentials are pieces that get regular wear, look undeniably chic in any setting, and/or set a standard for the rest of my closet. My closet icons are the pieces that I wear that make me look like I give a shit about how I look.

I think closet icons are an individual thing. If they were all the same, we'd all dress in snappy white jumpsuits and Pumas like those people in The Island. Although, I do think there are some versatile staples that can be done by pretty much every body.

I am putting in writing my own list of essentials, in no particular order, and not exhaustively compiled. This is not the list of things I would shove into a bag if my closet were on fire and I only had a minute to grab things to save – that's an entirely different list. Here goes . . .

Pearls Barbara Bush and I are in total agreement on the wearing of pearls, though perhaps not for the same reasons. Barbara is known for saying out loud that fake pearls are just as good as real ones, no one need know how much you paid for them (and lord knows she could afford the real ones).

I had a string of pearls in my jewelry drawer for years that I was afraid to wear – they seemed "too nice". Boy was I wrong! Pearls can be dressed up or dressed down, they really can be worn with jeans or with a dress, and you don't have to be too careful about how to wear them. Most importantly, pearls don't have to be expensive to look classic and timeless – I have pearls of different lengths and different sizes and variations so I don't have to wear the same classic choker every day.

Black Turtleneck I seem to remember that black turtlenecks were first in vogue when they were the exclusive domain of arty beatniks, along with cigarette pants and cigarette extenders and berets. These days, it's one piece in my wardrobe that I can wear with anything, and it works: jeans, dressy trousers, skirt, etc. I have recently updated my best black cashmere turtleneck because it was too boxy (yes, even the cut of classics change over time – giving you yet another excuse to go shop).

One Really Good Fitting Pair of Jeans
Nuff said. My current faves are the vintage jCrew Matchstick fit, though these are not all-occasion denim. I have a few pair of Really Good Fitting Jeans for dressier occasions (no holes), and for going out (ass-tastic butt-huggers). It's a go-to item for me, because I can dress them down or dress them up without feeling fussy or overdressed. Plus, in New Mexico, denim is pretty much standard fare for all venues (nightclubs, dinner out, the opera, the symphony, etc.), regardless of the fact that it makes Moi insane (oops, sorry, Pirate :o) )

Pencil Skirt I was a slow convert to the wardrobe muscle that is a good pencil skirt, mainly because I used to hate dressing up. Now I think my closet is not complete without it. It's definitely a dress up piece: this is not something that can be worn for the birthday party at Chuck E Cheese. Pencil skirts are good for many body types. The cut is girly genius for lengthening legs and emphasizing hips, while showing off a feminine shape.

A great pencil skirt is all business. It says, "Pay attention; I'm about to say something important." It's possible that once you put on your pencil skirt, all attention will be on you, and it won't matter what you have to say.

Blazer Again, I was a slow convert to the utility of the blazer, probably because a good blazer is expensive and I used to be totally cheap-ass about my clothes. Now I have two or three in my wardrobe, and they weren't all that expensive. One of my favorite blazers is my H&M Military Blazer which I picked up for #20, and which will be bequeathed to Moi in the event of my demise (y'all are witness to this.)

Blazer math is very simple. Allow me to demonstrate:

Blazer + white shirt + trousers = business conservative
Blazer + complicated top + jeans = eclectic
Blazer + dressy top + pencil skirt = business
Blazer + t-shirt + jeans = rock and roll
Blazer + Black turtleneck + khakis = Patrick McGoohan...

You see? Crazy versatile.

The ubiquitous Little Black Dress Every woman has at least one asset: you might have been blessed with a great butt, nice boobs, strong shoulders, long legs, good skin, etc. You should have at least one go-to piece that emphasizes your asset(s) to make you look even more fantastic. This is your superpower dress.

Good tailoring costs a lot, so don't be afraid to spend the money. This is the dress that you'll keep coming back to because you look great in it, and you feel great wearing it. Perhaps your best asset is your skin, and black is not your color? Your LBD should be your color – black is a good color for most people and most skin tones, and has the added benefit that it can be chicly worn to a wide range of occasions (work, funeral, ballet, dinner out, ex-boyfriend's wedding, etc.).

You can, and should, wear any shoe you like with your LBD: Bright colored or neutral heels, tall boots, flats, etc.

Every woman needs a superpower dress. When I wear my LBD with my hot pink McQueens and some turquoise jewelry, I can stop traffic.

Expensive Shoes I know women who, no matter what, refuse to spend money on shoes. Out of pure stubbornness, they think it's absurd to spend money on something that they don't notice – but trust me when I say no matter how well you take care of your Payless shoes, everyone can tell that they're cheap. It does not matter if you love sky high heels or if you're happier in flats, the difference between an expensive shoe and a cheap shoe is obvious to the world. Even if you don't notice, other people do. We can tell. Expensive shoes aren't always perfect, but cheap shoes will always let you down. Always. Worst of all, putting cheap shoes with a nice outfit just un-does all your hard work.

Expensive shoes endow a woman with something I call Shoe Confidence. As in, I can do whatever I want, because I look awesome from the ankles down.

I would also argue that your feet are an essential part of your person – they carry you from place to place, they hold you up and walk you around. They are yours, and without them you'd be sitting all the time. I say, why not lavish them with love by decorating them?

By "expensive," I mean more than $30. Yes - I mean spend $50. Spend $100. For the record, I'm not talking sale price, I'm talking retail value. Doesn't matter how much you actually paid (the better your sale deal, the better the Shoe Confidence). Good expensive shoes change your outfit and your demeanor. Go and put $100 worth of fine Italian cow on your feet and get back to me – I'm betting you'll feel good about yourself, you'll feel beautiful.

And that's the whole point of a Closet Icon.

Moi will post her Closet Icons next week. In the meantime, disclose to the Bitches: what are your Closet Icons?