Hits and Myths - une femme d'un certain âge

Hits and Myths

Last week, Shar at La Femme Couture posted an excellent piece titled Wardrobe Must-Haves…and Myths, a topic I’ve also been pondering lately, after having read yet another “you-can’t-be-truly-stylish-without-these-items-in-your-wardrobe” type articles, that doesn’t seem to take into account body type, lifestyle, or climate. I’ll admit that in the past I’ve succumbed to influence of the style book writers (and granted, some of it was good advice that worked for me) but on the whole, I’ve grown a healthy suspicion of someone else’s list of indispensables.

Like Shar, I’ve found that the White Shirt is one of those items that sounds good on paper, looks very chic on other women, but just doesn’t work for me. My combination of large bust and short waist have not yet found a white shirt that is compatible. I don’t like to tuck things in; it’s just an uncomfortable feeling for me, and I’ve found few white blouses that don’t look sloppy when left untucked. Add to the fact that they tend to wrinkle around the waist after a few hours sitting at my desk, and the overall effect is anything but classic.

T-shirts have become my must-have tops under a jacket or sweater. I love the Banana Republic “Timeless Tee” in black and white, and the Talbot’s 3/4 sleeve boatneck tee for cooler weather or worn alone. When the chill really sets in, add a v-neck cashmere pullover (another of my non-negotiables).

The Little Black Dress has achieved mythic status among stylistas, but it’s an item that I’ve managed to make it this far in life without acquiring. (Though not for lack of trying; I’m always on the lookout, but have yet to find one that works for me.) A black suit or a pair of black trousers, on the other hand, are items I can’t live without. They’ve become the backbone of my wardrobe for work, travel and evenings out, and when in doubt I grab my Banana Republic basic black suit, as it’s easy to dress up or down with accessories.

I’m still on the fence about trenchcoats. I love the look, but most I’ve found tend to have too much bulk in the waist, and tying the belt renders the “sack of potatoes” effect. So I tend to wear them open, if at all.

Truly indispensable for me is a black leather walking length jacket, like this one. Worn over a cashmere sweater, it’s warm enough for Southern California winters, and doubles as a raincoat in all but the heaviest downpours.

Accessories: keeping the silhouette simple allows me to play more with scarves and other accessories. Still, there’s a less-is-more factor at work, and with my lack of height it’s easy to look swamped when there are too many focal points. Indispensables include a good watch, a simple pair of gold hoops, scarves (bien sur) and a favorite fragrance.

Later this week: shoes and bags!

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  1. chicamericaine
    September 29, 2008 / 12:51 pm

    Great post! I totally agree about white shirts. I’m not especially big busted (except for France, where bra shopping is a trial for me), but I always have a gap in button-front shirts. My short waist also makes getting the right fit tricky. The only white shirt I ever wear is one I bought at Ann Taylor probably 10 years ago. It’s perfect: cross-front (not wrap), princess seams, straight hem that hits at the hipbone, elbow length sleeves, collar and side zip. It fits, it’s comfortable, doesn’t gap or wrinkle, and is slimming. It’s still in great shape, but I plan to have more custom made because I know I’ll never find the perfect white shirt ever again.

    After years of searching, I did finally find my ultimate LBD last fall. It’s by InWear, matte satin, sleeveless, boat-neck and fitted with multiple darts that radiate in toward the mid-section. I don’t need it often, but when I do it’s perfect. I get much more wear from the variety of simple knit black dresses in my wardrobe, which can be dressed up/down, layered for winter, worn with tights, boots.

    But neither my white shirt nor my LBD is what I would consider true must-haves for me. In that class I would include my deep v-neck 3/4 sleeve black cashmere sweater (J. Crew at least 5 years ago and still going strong despite almost constant wear in the winter) and my black leather jacket (bought in Florence almost 5 years ago). It is simple, fitted, with a stand-up collar. I could not live without it.


  2. September 29, 2008 / 1:41 pm

    I’ve always felt horrible in white shirts, though recently I got one at Anne Fontaine that I pray looks good. But overall I agree they’re so overrated. I have plenty of LBDs but people’s reliance on them as a sure thing is ridiculous.

  3. September 29, 2008 / 2:33 pm

    White shirts don’t work for me, either–in fact, I can’t wear any kind of crisp shirt, even if I made it myself and got a perfect fit. They are just not a good look for me.

    I can’t wear trench coats either, although I did have a black one that I liked a lot. It was double-breasted and I removed the belt so it looked more like a lightweight pea coat.

  4. September 29, 2008 / 2:44 pm

    I’m with you on the trench coats. They are awesome, in theory, but not particularly flattering. I prefer a single breasted coat with a slim silhouette or princess cut.
    I love this leather coat…and lines and the price!

  5. September 29, 2008 / 3:52 pm

    Pseu’s Style Guide, when published, will be on my must purchase list. Hallelujah for your flexible rules!

  6. September 29, 2008 / 4:16 pm

    Love your post!
    White shirt: to look chic, needs great details (like huge French cuffs, not oxford button down, too masculine for me.
    LBD: Love them, so great for jewelry, esp. pearls!
    LBS??? Have 9 black skirts (more interesting than pants). With cashmere deep vee, good 10 months of the year!

  7. September 29, 2008 / 5:05 pm

    Who decided the white shirt was the epitome of class anyway? Although I do love the look on my gal Audrey H. Le sigh…

    I do have a trench, but it is not typical. Its single-breasted with princess seaming in an lighter olive/army green. I live in it in the fall. But I certainly think this is an exception to the rule.

    Will you come to my house and give me scarf-tying lessons? You look so chic when you post pictures!

  8. September 29, 2008 / 5:46 pm

    Two items I’ve identified as must haves have completely eluded me – a trenchcoat and black shoes. Of course if money were no object…

  9. September 29, 2008 / 6:34 pm

    MIss J recently purchased a white shirt… Did she not try it on and notice how truly AWFUL it look on her??? Evidently not. Because there she was at work last week when it finally hit her, “MIss J, that shirt looks like ASS on you. Stop trying the white shirts… They do NOT work.you’re too busty and too pale…” Thus ws busted another Fashion Must-Have Myth.

    Too bad Une Femme didn’t post his two weeks ago!

  10. September 29, 2008 / 6:34 pm

    that leather jacket is a great price and classic. & i keep telling myself i need a trench, but belted waists are awful on me. Perhaps i just don’t need a trench?!

  11. La Belette Rouge
    September 29, 2008 / 2:42 pm

    It is soooo comforting to hear that white shirts do not work for so many women. I thought it was just me.

    I am a lover of the LBD. I have dozens of them and will in time have more.

    I have not given up hoping that someday I will find a trench that will work for me. The Burbery one was a nightmare as it did the most horrible thing to my figure. It was worse than a sack of potatoes.

    I also love the Talbot’s tee, cashmere sweaters, and good layering tees from Jcrew—these are workhorses of my wardrobe.

  12. cybill
    September 29, 2008 / 3:33 pm

    Oh I succumbed to the trench coat, must have. It sits in my wardrobe with the tags still on, though thinking about it they did say must ‘have’ not ‘wear’. Like everyone else I cannot do the white shirt either. A cashmere jumper however, sits on my wishlist, I have just never found one – the hunt continues…

  13. September 30, 2008 / 12:43 pm

    The leather coat is beautiful. I too, have been mesmerized and done many searches for ” wardrobe must haves”, in an attempt to simplify daily dressing. The white shirt does not work for me. I am too busty, the buttons gape, and as I am curvy and not too tall, it just looks bad. I just bought a white and black timeless tee from BR!

    The LBD I have a few and am working dilgently on. I love black and I love dresses. Since I don’t work, it is kind of difficult to fine dresses that are casual enough for everyday wear. Don’t have a trench coat, but was on my list. Haven’t tried any on, but since reading posts, will probably give me sack of potatoes look also.

  14. September 30, 2008 / 1:12 pm

    Karen – I’d heard that about French lingerie, that it’s not for the well-endowed. It’s amazing just how versatile a cashmere v-neck sweater can be.

    Wendyb – before I gave up on white shirts, I’d been tempted to look at Anne Fontaine. Let us know how you like it.

    Betty – smart move to remove the belt!

  15. September 30, 2008 / 1:16 pm

    LBR – well from comments here it seems we’re in the Not-Feeling-The-White-Shirt majority! I tried on a Burberry trench last year…it was horribly bulky and heavy. Feh!

    Belle – the leather coat I have was purchased a few years ago from Overstock.com. It’s been one of the best values ever, probably the lowest cost-per-wearing of anything I own!

    cybill – try tying the belt in the back and wearing open. That’s what I do with my BR trench bought two years ago on a whim and never returned.

  16. September 30, 2008 / 1:22 pm

    dana – you are too kind! Flexible rules are the only kind I can follow.

    duchesse – did most of your LBD’s come from that LBD store you showed materfamilias? I haven’t given up hope of finding one someday.

    shar – I think a white blouse *does* look classic, but probably only if you’re built like Audrey. Wouldn’t it be fun to get a bunch of us bloggers together to shop and play with scarves?

  17. September 30, 2008 / 1:29 pm

    Thomas – really? Black shoes are hard to find? We saw some fantastic men’s shoes in Paris last year, but they were a bit too fashion-forward for mon mari. He’s more the Ralph Lauren type.

    fashion herald – I really don’t think that everyone needs a trench, despite what Tim Gunn says. I’ve come to the conclusion that if you can’t find that “must have” item that works for you, then it’s probably not a must-have.

  18. September 30, 2008 / 1:33 pm

    Miss Janey – I had one of those what-was-I-THINKING?!? moments a few months ago, which is what finally put me off the white shirts.

    julianne – you might want to at least try a trench if you’ve been yearning for one. Either you’ll like it, or you’ll be able to put the question to rest once and for all.

  19. September 30, 2008 / 6:30 pm

    I agree with most of your must haves and “No’s”. White shirts are a no-no for the reasons you stated plus my own main reason – they attract spills. I gave up spending a lot on a white shirt that would average two good wearings before a drip from tea cup or splatter from some sauce or other would ruin it. Wearing white is almost a dare in the modern world.

    And sheath dresses – yuck. So unflattering to anyone with curves – Jackie O did look great in them, but like her hairstyle…she was the only one who could pull it off.

  20. September 30, 2008 / 6:48 pm

    Forgot to post my must haves! for me, it’s cardigans. Cashmere or thin wool/blend – cannot live without them. Perfect over a dress, or T with jeans or pants. Also have a few cashmere v necks that I have picked up over the years, wear them to death. I have a ton of vintage leather jackets, coats mostly with long 70’s (so, in effect 30s) lines. Lots of LBDs, which I liven up with my cache of vintage purses. The rest of the wardrobe is optional and changes quite a bit.

    Trenches don’t like me, and I don’t like them – they turn me into a frump as soon as I belt them.

  21. October 1, 2008 / 1:04 pm

    Pseu: One LBD from The Little Black Dress Shop here (materfamilias bought one too!) and one from the Bon Marche (which I hope you get to in Paris!)And often cheat with a black top and skirt.

    Anne Fontaine shirts are a whole other order of white shirt and now she makes a number of styles in …. black!

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