A Wardrobe Game-Changer

Both of these outfits feature the same base: an ivory v-neck top and light wash jeans. Details at une femme d'un certain age.“Effortless” Style Is Anything But…

Many of us (me included) sometimes struggle to put an outfit together. Why, we wonder, can’t we emulate our Instagram and Pinterest icons, who just seem to throw on a few random things and look amazing? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look effortless, but that takes some wardrobe planning and well…effort.

That’s one of the reasons I’m always emphasizing wardrobe basics. Having a foundation of pieces that you can put together without a lot of fuss is a crucial first step. But the devil’s in the details, and nailing down your best basics can sometimes take some trial and error.

A couple of years ago, I spotted a woman whose outfit I really admired. The piece that really clicked for me though was the silky ivory top she was wearing underneath what appeared to be a vintage kimono jacket. It looked more polished than a tee shirt, but not too stiff and “buttoned up.” Even worn untucked, it looked finished.

Sleveless ivory v-neck top. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Ever since, I’ve been on the lookout for something similar. It’s the kind of “supporting player” that felt like a missing piece in my wardrobe. I kept searching and finally found a version of it a few weeks ago. (And then another, and another.) Above, this sleeveless shell is the one I’m wearing in both outfits above. It’s lightweight, and even though the fabric is polyester, it feels silky. It’s not completely opaque, but underneath a sweater or jacket I feel comfortable without a camisole. It skims over my tummy but isn’t voluminous.

Silky ivory top with sleeves. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Here’s the same top with sleeves. Yes, I bought this one too. It’s offered in a few colors as well as the Ivory.

ivory single pleat shell top. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

And if you want something more opaque, this one has a lining. Offered in Misses, Petites, and Plus. I found this shell most recently, and of the sleeveless styles, it’s my top pick.

Ivory silk tunic top. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

If natural fibers are non-negotiable for you, here’s a silk version. I just discovered this brand (The Reset) when we were in San Francisco last week. I haven’t tried this top yet, so don’t know how the sizing runs.

Since I’ve had a couple of these tops in my wardrobe, I can’t believe how easily some outfits come together. Sometimes “effortless” is a result of searching out just the right pieces.

Is there a garment or style in your wardrobe that was a game-changer for you?

Stay in touch.

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37 Comments

  1. Rose
    September 25, 2018 / 3:26 am

    Susan-a review on the WHBM sleeveless shell stated it was billowy. Just wondering how it fit and what size did you order? Did you notice if the vee neck was low?
    I’m liking the Vince Camuto 3/4 sleeve top also but it doesn’t come in petite. What size did you purchase?

    • Cheryl
      September 25, 2018 / 4:27 am

      I received the WHBM sleeveless shell yesterday and, although I liked it, the vee was too low for me at 5’2″ (in the petite). I am returning it today. The Vince shell was also returned, because I thought it was a little too sheer, even with a jacket. Hope this helps.

    • Susan B
      September 25, 2018 / 6:13 am

      I purchased the Petite Small in both pieces. I didn’t find either one of them to be “billowy,” just not fitted. (When I purchased the VC top it was still available in Petites in Ivory, has since sold out.) The v-neck isn’t too low for me, hits just above the top of my bra.

    • Jill Ann
      September 25, 2018 / 12:38 pm

      I have the WHBM top. I think it has a nice drape, so “flows” over the abdomen, but I wouldn’t call it voluminous. The v neck is fine on me, although I’m fairly tall. It is one of my favorite and most worn tops. Wish they’d make it in different colors!

  2. SueAnne Robinson
    September 25, 2018 / 4:44 am

    It’s funny how the right underlayer can be the PERFECT outfit finisher! I tend to opt for black as my underlayer but the white/off-white is so much more flattering. I see you’re carrying the Demelier green bag I’m still obsessed with in the first photo. Are you enjoying it?

    • Susan B
      September 25, 2018 / 6:11 am

      Yes, very much!

  3. Chris Haven
    September 25, 2018 / 6:00 am

    https://thisbluebird.com/ is a vintage kimono jacket (“haori”) source. I bought three (!) last year. They are longer and bulkier than the current pieces in stores, but they’re beautiful. I wear them with jeans and wore one as part of a 1920s costume this month-perfect!

    • Marcia
      September 25, 2018 / 7:19 am

      Thank you Chris for sharing this wonderful site!

    • September 25, 2018 / 9:58 am

      Hello Susan and Chris! This is Lauren from ThisBlueBird. Thanks for sharing us, and the timing of this is so perfect! I worked late into the wee hours last night, to launch a special autumn sale on Kimono Cardigans and Jackets. It’s just starting to feel like fall around here, so I thought it was a good time to showcase the kimono jackets for the season. http://thisbluebird.com/kimonocardigans Cheers!

    • Sierra Delta
      September 25, 2018 / 2:02 pm

      Thanks (I think), Chris! I just bought two gorgeous kimono jackets to wear on a cruise next spring. They’ll be elegant with refined separates underneath, but I’m also planning to wear them with white jeans and sandals.

  4. September 25, 2018 / 6:38 am

    I noticed the WHBM top is only available in actual sizes such as 4P, 6P, etc. What size did you take in it, Susan?

    • Susan B
      September 25, 2018 / 7:09 am

      6p

      • Carol Frey
        September 25, 2018 / 7:16 am

        Thanks … placing order now!

  5. September 25, 2018 / 7:26 am

    Love that Reset silk tunic. Looks like it is the perfect length.

  6. Lyn
    September 25, 2018 / 7:40 am

    My “style,” such as it is, could not be more different from yours. Your game-changer is a non-starter for me as I avoid the color white, V-necks, 3/4 sleeves, and long-over-lean. I carry one handbag for months at a time without changing it. My sweet spot is the slightly dowdy cardigan-over-knit-shirt look.
    Nevertheless, I LOVE your column. We are both women of a certain age, about the same size, with fine hair, and in love with travel and all things French. And your column has been useful: I finally tried out the EF washable crepe pants you rave about, and love them! And you have started me gravitating to navy instead of black. Petits pas.
    Thanks for the effort you put into your column.

  7. Pam
    September 25, 2018 / 7:51 am

    The long sleeve versions have been favorites of mine for a few years now (in different brands and fabric). You’re soooo right – they make styling nearly effortless for me and are comfortable as well. I’d love to have it in the silk fabric and glad you posted it because I haven’t had time to do my usual shopping or looking for months and might have missed this! Love your combination with the camel jacket and that gorgeous blue scarf!

  8. Anon
    September 25, 2018 / 9:34 am

    My closet has navy, grey, black and white with various blues and a few pastels. Scarves are my color source now.

    I didn’t realize that the bright colors I used to love have gradually worked their way out of my closet. This is my game-changer..

    How did a fundamental shift like this happen? Was it because of travelling to places where mostly neutrals are worn? A woman’s clothing is said to reflect her state of mind. So what is going on here?

    The scarves are the saving grace.

    • Linda
      September 26, 2018 / 12:53 pm

      For me, too, Anon. Almost no color in my wardrobe anymore. But I’m in a happy state of mind, so I’m not sure what all that black and gray is indicative of!

  9. Rose Patev
    September 25, 2018 / 10:12 am

    This is slightly ‘off topic’, but I have a question about the second picture posted here. How do you EFFORTLESSLY tuck in just a tiny portion of your blouse in order to show a cool belt? It just never words for me! Is there a trick?

    • RoseAG
      September 26, 2018 / 4:39 am

      It helps if your pants have a higher waist and the tail of the shirt is long enough. It does have to be readjusted after a restroom visit.
      I have come to employ the “tuck of shame” as the Kendi-naysays like to describe the half-tuck. You get a hint of waist, but everything to the side is unseen 🙂

  10. September 25, 2018 / 10:35 am

    The silk version with sleeves is my cup of tea 😉
    I think this is probably in my all time top 5 key pieces as far as throwing an outfit together on the hop. Also it really has no limit to whatever style genre you like. The perfect blank canvas!

  11. Gail
    September 25, 2018 / 11:27 am

    I happened by WHBM today after reading this and found the off white shell marked down to $39.99 with an extra 30% off! The fit was beautiful, so I also bought it in black. It was not on sale, but by giving them my email, I got another 20% off the full order…..perfect timing for your article!

  12. Cilla Crane
    September 25, 2018 / 11:27 am

    Neither of the first two tops were available by the afternoon of your column in a size medium in the white. Very disappointing because I would liked to purchase both!!

  13. Linda
    September 25, 2018 / 1:02 pm

    White and ivory both wash all the life out of my face. I wish it weren’t so because I love what you’ve done here!

  14. Sharon
    September 25, 2018 / 1:06 pm

    I bought the sleeveless Vince Camuto shell yesterday at Nordstrom in the Cabernet color. Beautiful. Odd though, this color does not appear on their website.

  15. Den
    September 26, 2018 / 4:13 am

    You have hit the nail on the head in my books!
    I started wearing white shells and/ or long sleeved tops with my suits as I worked In a corporate environment.
    I now also wear these tops under jackets or trench-coats when I am going out and it makes me look sharp. Sometimes white t-shirts just aren’t enough.
    I love them.
    Thanks for your blogs. I love your style even if i’m the opposite to you in so many respects as in, i’m Tall, have long dark thick straight hair, still work & have teen living at home.

  16. Hilary Sunderland
    September 26, 2018 / 4:46 am

    NYDJ has a similar blouse in black and white, sleeveless and 3/4 sleeve. The drape is perfect.

  17. Ariss
    September 26, 2018 / 5:07 am

    I would say my “game changer” are my long blazers, coats, and jackets. That saying about a great piece of outerwear elevating a simple outfit is really true. I try to balance a semi-formal look so I can go from day to night and nothing achieves that like a good jacket/cardigan/coat/etc.

  18. Jan whichard
    September 26, 2018 / 7:47 am

    Just a note on Reset. I’ve been there as I live near San Francisco. Another shop and website with stick figure models with their hands eternally in their pockets.. these clothes are pretty but if you are not under a size 10 or 12 don’t bother. I also find no info on the material sourcing as one finds with EF. I’m a size 12 or 14 with a proportional chest. Too bad. Nice clothes.

  19. Linda
    September 26, 2018 / 12:54 pm

    For me, too, Anon. Almost no color in my wardrobe anymore. But I’m in a happy state of mind, so I’m not sure what all that black and gray is indicative of!

  20. September 27, 2018 / 11:14 am

    I would want one, but not with a V-neck, due to all the wrinkles who have made that spot their home….
    Greetje

  21. Joie
    October 1, 2018 / 5:42 pm

    This post really inspired me.
    I purchased the Vince Camuto version in sleeveless (light blue), long sleeve (white) and a short-sleeved longer back but the same cut in front (rusty/rosey) all in my usual XL from Nordstrom. Wore all 3 last week on vacation in steamy Charleston and they performed beautifully. Easy, breezy and effortless as promised, with jeans to shop or with black Eileen Fisher crepe crops for the evening. Literally “done and done” and I not only felt comfortable but knew I looked a step up from what I would have tried to piece together out of the old suitcase in the past.

    • Susan B
      October 1, 2018 / 5:53 pm

      I’m so glad to hear they worked for you!! Thanks!

  22. Nicole
    October 3, 2018 / 1:29 pm

    Hi Susan, Can you source the blue scarf and camel coat in the first picture? Love that outfit!

      • Nicole
        October 3, 2018 / 2:50 pm

        Thank you! How do you find it functions? The fabric content seems so perfect for CA cool/winter weather. Is it soft against the skin? I’d like to be able to wear short sleeves under it, or a shell as you did. I am thinking of getting it for northern CA and for a New England Fall visit soon.

        • Susan B
          October 3, 2018 / 2:52 pm

          I wear it with sleeveless tops without any problem. It’s not itchy at all, and I love how the fabric drapes.

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