When I drew my first (and miserly) paycheck, I made the promise that, once I earned enough, I would treat myself to a real Chanel two piece suit. Even when I could have conceivable given up a vacation and shelled out on a couture Chanel suit, I never did. Chances are, I never will. Sofagirl and I fantasize and exchange e-mails filled with haute couture collection pictures that we know are doomed to remain just that, fantasies. I really do believe that a $5,000 Valentino cocktail dress would make me feel like a million bucks – and spare me the cheap psychology of self-esteem and feeling good about our bodies being what makes us feel on top of the world. A perfectly cut and sewed prime piece of fabric can work magic.
The real challenge is to look flawless with what we can afford and, for helping me in such effort, I am extremely grateful to street couture. The Italians and French always knew how to do it better: affordable clothes that would still look good, made with fabrics that wouldn’t fall apart after two washes. But, in part thanks to the foray of European chains in the States, we are catching up too.
J.Crew is as American as they come an it was always the reliable fuddy duddy go-to for basics: tees, work cardigans and sweaters, and affordable cashmere. That was about it. Until Jenna Lyons, a J.Crew insider, took over as Creative Director around 2005 and subsequently became Executive Creative Director and President. The collections saw an injection of patterns, colors and more experimental shapes. The accessories, shoes in particular, moved away from the tried and predictable. And the prices went up. Still, we are a long way from designer labels’ prices.
Unlike sofagirl, I tend to be more experimental with colors and patterns, after having dragged myself through my 20’s and most of my ’30s dressed in black and white. Mostly black. I have dark hair and a dark-ish complexion and few colors don’t work on me (most greens and pale pastels tend to drag me down).
I was recently at a J.Crew store with time on my hands and encouraging girlfriends, so I piled a bunch of items in the dressing room and went to town in front of the mirrors. I don’t shop often but, when I do, I like to have a trusted friend who knows me well – I find that another set of eyes can spot something that would look good on me but that I might pass over at first glance.
These are the two items that ended coming home with me
The top, which is sold with a fabric belt and is filed under Beach cover ups, looks great over skinny jeans and I wear it without the belt, a bit more ’70s style. The Capris, in a shade of pale pink I would not normally wear, can be dressed up with high heels and a white shirt or worn every day paired with flats and a plain t-shirt.
I tend to like form-fitting pants, jeans spin-offs really, in different textures and fabrics and I found quite a lot I could have played with. I never buy pants online because, even if you know your size and have a conventional body type, you just have to try them on . Case in point, a pair of pretty floral jeans I tried on whose back pockets were cut in such a way that made my butt look square.
A top can make or break an outfit. I find it easier to wear a dress sometimes. Here are some of my J Crew favourites: basic, well cut and, above all, versatile. The cashmere can be a bit pricey but it’s decent quality – not Brunello Cucinelli but it won’t break the bank either.
And, finally, some accessories. I can get very whimsical when it comes to shoes, which is what I tend to splurge on because I just can’t stand ill-fitting or uncomfortable shoes. I have never bought any shoes from J.Crew but I have been coveting the Etta pumps (J.Crew’s current ad campaign for shoes touts that the designs are American but the shoes are made in Italy). With bags, on the other hand, I steer towards the classic – simple shapes with no bells and whistles. I feel a bag should not detract attention from the rest of the outfit but just complement it.
All photos are from J.Crew that did not sponsor this post in any shape or form