Wednesday, January 13, 2010

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?


moi said...

I love The Nina, but still, ain't no way girlfriend is getting Moi into a kaftan. Although, I'm kinda diggin' the idea of a Minnetonka moccasin with some skinny jeans, a tee, and an army-style jacket.

K9 said...

this is fascinating...and i have to agree with every icon you named. and its an interesting truism about the shoes; and it applies to all situations. for instance i am wearing the cadillac of mountaineering boot; the swiss asolo. here it has the currency that a fine stiletto may have in the city. i might get a sweater at Goodwill, but my shoe? the best. (and they do wonders for my skeletal system...absorbs beaucoup shock.)

Aunty Belle said...

This. Was. Terrific.

I'se wif' ya 90% of the way (jes' never did the jean thang--wuz raised to think unles youse in a saddle or has a hoe in yore hand, jeans ain't fer ladies...I know, I's Dark Age attitude)

But, Pearl could be mah middle name! Aunty Pearl works 'bout as good as Aunty Belle.

On shoes?? Oh how ya nailed that--doan wear cheap shoes wif yore power clothes, mercy.

Ya covered all the good stuff, onliest thang I'd add is a black cashmere cape/ poncho. I live in it when I travel where temps drop under 80. It covers a multitude of sins, an looks myusterious, alurin', feminine, slightly covert. Heh.

This were a real fun read!

moi said...

Aunty: I'll cover your covet next week. The sociology/history of blue jeans is very interesting, the way this humble article of clothing went from something only the truly working classes wore to a near necessity of wardrobes not just in our country, but nearly across the globe.

LaDivaCucina said...

GREAT post! Just catching up, Jeez, a Diva gets busy for a few days and look what happens! I agree with all of them and also want to point out a black turtleneck is a must for a man too. I just love my Big Bear Man in his black turtleneck, black jeans and leather. YUM.

I have to snark about the cheap shoes. I don't understand when a friend says to me, I love your shoes, where did you get them and I might say DSW, got them for only $80 and she says $80!!!! I'm like....that's cheap. (for a good shoe) La Diva paid $150 for a pair of sneakers once and they were like wearing pillows. Best $150 I ever spent. In high school, (in the 80's) I had my boyfriend buy me a pair of kick ass Charles Jourdan shoes and they were $150 then! Naturally, they "made" every outfit.

Whatever you think is expensive or not for shoes doesn't really matter but quality does. Quality shoes can be re-soled and re-heeled. Usually the fit, comfort and wear will be superior and they will still be in your closet long after you've thrown the cheap ones out. Maybe one day I'll get me some Manolos or Laboutins! If I had the cash, I'd gladly spend it on them! There is a Laboutin store in Bal Harbor....

I have a black pear necklace. I need to wear it more because the pearls are beautiful, but am thinking of re-stringing it in a more modern style so I can wear them more often.