Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Humble Closet Essential Pieces

Following up on my previous post discussing the five things I have implemented to help green up my day to day life, I thought it would be fun to start doing weekly “Top” lists. I got thinking about this week’s list as the weather has been getting more spring like in the Northeast and I am starting to switch my closet over from heavy sweaters and wool pants to skirts and linen tops. As our apartment is very small, and closet space is limited, it is a necessity to switch out some seasonal pieces to make way for more weather-appropriate wear. Even though the switch over is usually quite extensive, there are always a few pieces that stand the test of time for just about any season, and have made it through years on their classic styling. I have always been a big champion of finding great deals on clothing and accessories, but for some pieces, I really feel like it is well worth spending a little extra on something that is timeless and classic, as classic looks never really go out of style, and a well made piece can last you for decades- I should know, I still have some of my mom’s vintage pieces! So without further ado, my Top Closet Staples:

1) Oxford Buttondowns: No matter what your preferred brand (Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Vineyard Vines), a well made Oxford will never let you down. They’re easily layered, can be worn year round, and always look crisp and fresh. Although I have more than my fair share of these collared beauties, if I could only have two, I would have to go with the classic white and light blue for their versatility.

2) The Black Dress: It is impossible to make a wardrobe staple list and leave the illustrious black dress off! Through the years, I have had various renditions of the LBD through the years, and have loved each one dearly. My favorite for a long time was a simple satin strapless a-line; I think I cried the day that it finally gave up the ghost. I currently have two, one knee length in wool with a square neckline, and the other is an off shoulder in satin and falls just below the knee. They really are the most timeless piece of women’s wear- everyone looks good in black, and there is no limit as to what you can pair it wth to keep it fresh.

 3) A Classic Trench Coat: The trench never goes out of style, and for good reason. Although many times I can be found in a foul weather jacket when it turns rainy outside, a trench makes a bit more of an adult statement. They are the perfect cover up for an evening out, and can be worn daily. Many makers offer detachable wool liners, creating more versatility for your trench, and allowing you to get more out of the wearing season.

4) Cole Haan Driving Mocs: These are probably the most comfortable shoes I own, next to flip flops. They are easy to slip on, made of beautiful, buttery leather, are great for driving (as intended), and comfortable for the office. I currently have them in navy and black croc and will probably wear them until they fall apart.

5) Brooks Brotters’ Golden Fleece Polo Shirts: Much like the Oxford, these pique polos go the distance. Some years ago while my brother was a salesman at Brooks Brothers I stocked up on these polos, and they still look just as fresh. BB is renowned for their attention to fit and detail, and their polos are no exception to that rule. They’re perfect for spring and summer, and hold up well to frequent washings.

6) High-Waist Khaki Skirt: I actually have two of these, one in twill with sailor style buttons and pockets and the other in plain-front linen, and I now that the weather is warming up, I find myself constantly reaching for them. Even in cold weather, I’ll pair them with a great sweater and knee length boots and they work well. They’re perfect if you’re headed out after work and don’t have time to change as they go from day to night effortlessly, and look just as great with heels as they do with sandals. For many women, the area just under their ribcage (where the natural waist is) is the narrowest part of their torso, and a high-waist skirt is a great way to accentuate this.

7) A Great Jean: There are so many jean styles out there, that it literally makes my head hurt, and I have tried just about all of them. I would have to argue that of all the denim I’ve tried, J.Crew has got to be the tops, for both their skinny and bootcut versions. Being that I am no longer 18 (or 21, or 25…) the super low cut is really not a flattering look on me, especially given my short leg line. The J.Crew jeans sit at a comfortable rise that don’t leave you worrying about “exposure”, are offered in regular, tall and short inseams (score!) and stand up well to wear and tear year round.

8) All Day Heels: Ahhhh- the elusive “comfortable” heels. Many think that this is an urban legend, but there is truth to this tale. Anyone that knows me knows that I am a great connoisseur of shoes in all shapes and sizes. It really is a weakness, and I am always working to resist temptation when it comes to purchases. I love a heel with a little personality, but no woman should be without a great pair in black and brown. I’ve had a pair of Kenneth Cole’s in black patent leather that I swear by, and my brown Cole Haan’s are a dream. Both sport a subtle internal platform to give a little added height boost (great for those of us under the 5’5” mark), and the Cole Haan’s have the added bonus of the Air technology- as in the same stuff used in Nike sneakers, making it the most comfortable heel to wear. You may scoff, but I would run a 5k those little beauties.

9) Long Waisted Cardigan/Sweater: For a while, cropped and short cardigans were extremely popular. While they work well for a lot of folks, I’m a bit long in the torso, so they make me a little disproportionate. I first came across Vineyard Vines’ Capeside Cardigan at the Newport Navy Exchange and fell in love, subsequently picking them up in both navy and green. These simple four button cardigans are a bit longer than many traditional cardigans and aren’t clingy- a huge plus in my book. The silver whale buttons add a touch of whimsy, and they pack well for throwing in an overnight bag. Sadly, I believe they have been discontinued, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed they bring them back! For a traditional pullover, I have relied on a pair of Brooks Brothers cowl neck merino wool sweaters that I would probably fall apart without- once again in navy and green. They are great for layering, and being from the Northeast, it’s never a bad idea to have a good sweater close at hand for chilly spring and summer nights. I can usually be found in one of these at pretty much any given time (as in I’m wearing the navy version right now while I write this list!), and their simple leather toggle button at the neckline adds a little classic charm.

10) Scarves: Although it’s more of an accessory than an actual wardrobe piece, a great scarf is a ridiculously easy way to add a splash of color or dress up an outfit quickly. I think my husband is overwhelmed with the amount of scarves I have, but I get a lot of miles out of them and can be found wearing one most days. I’m guessing I inherited this love of scarves from my mother, as she has a beautiful collection of scarves for all occasions. Long scarves are great for cooler weather, and a couple of well made silk scarves are perfect for warmer weather (for great designs and colors, my personal favorites are Brooks Brothers and Liberty). If you’re short on hanging space, here’s an easy way to store them and keep wrinkles at bay: Using a paper towel (or toilet paper, depending on the size of the scarf) tube, secure the edges of the scarf to the tube with plastic coated paperclips and roll up, securing ends in the same fashion. This will save your space and make it easy to grab one on the way out the door without ending up with a big tangle of scarves.
Anna and I love a good scarf set!
So there’s my Top List on style and wardrobe basics. I’m looking forward to doing more lists as time goes by, and look forward to hearing any thoughts you might have, or what your go to pieces are in your closet. What’s that one thing that you absolutely can’t live (or get dressed) without?

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