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The Chic Shop
by shop girl
issue no. 99

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Back to Basics Style


Ahh, winter. The grey skies/landscapes, the snowstorms that recur like bad dreams, the relentless cold. The exhausting search for a new look in the dark recesses of your overworked closet. (Can you tell I’m so over it?) IMHO, winter is about played out starting the second or third week in January, but here in New England we have at LEAST three more months of cold before we can go outside without a coat. (A bargain on pedicures, but hell on the heating budget.)

And since the mags/shows/celebs are no help (spring fashions? Lovely, but impractical when frostbite is still a real threat to open-toed piggies), we’re reduced to wardrobe retreads for the foreseeable future. What we need is a new strategy.

When I’m feeling adrift, my usual plan of action is to return to the basics. Like learning a solid melody before you improvise, or practicing a well-loved recipe before you adapt it to whatever’s left in the fridge, you should slip back to your reliable sartorial staples. Then at least you know you’ll look unimpeachably stylish and elegant while you wait for new inspiration to strike. (Not to mention that the end-of-season sales present the ideal opportunity to stock up on or replace these wardrobe workhorses.)

For Work: Obviously, the suit is your go-to for weekday presentability. Whether you choose a jacket with a skirt or a pair of trousers, start with a good neutral color that suits (sorry!) your complexion. Black is certainly reliable, but doesn’t flatter very fair or very olive-hued skin – porcelain beauties should try mid-grey or navy, and honey-toned ladies look better in warmer colors like brown or dark khaki.

Buy one or two pairs of good heels: black and brown are the obvious choices, but think about the interest-boosting ability of a great texture like snakeskin or calf hair. (I’m starting to think of leopard-print as a neutral – is that wrong?) I’m as crazy about the platform/stiletto silhouette as the next shopaholic, but caution leads me to choose a deliciously cut pump with a heel height I can live with on a daily (twelve-hour-at-a-stretch) basis. The same goes for a high boot to wear under skirts or a short boot to wear with trousers: haute height might not feel so hot at the end of a long day. Think carefully!

Your work tote should also be reliable enough to carry every day without much thought: bright canvas will wear faster than good leather, and will show dirt; it’s hard to spot-clean that greasy black crap that shows up like evil magic on public transportation. A small wristlet that slips inside can be bright and showy, but get a bag that will hold your daily needs without having to lug extra carry-alls around – nothing ruins an elegant look faster than competing gym bags, laptop bags, and handbags flapping around your hips.

For Evening: There are a few levels here, but I can think of some great starting points. Take your black blazer, pop it over some dark-dyed skinny or trouser jeans, add a sparkly or bright-hued top and a pair of metallic strappy evening sandals (see “Target” link below). Toss your MILK (money, ID, lipstick, keys) in a jewel-box of a clutch, and you’re good to go.

Or take your black pencil skirt, top it with a buttery silk blouse with soft details like a flowing full sleeve or a rich pattern, and slink off in your best black pumps.

Finally, every woman needs a cocktail dress. I’m not saying it has to be black, but it is the go-to color for every occasion. Make sure the cut is classic, the fabric rich, and the details timeless; a little embellishment like a ruffle or a beaded accent is okay, but it’s even better to get a simple dress and let your accessories do the talking. That way, you can wear it with pearls and peep-toes to a work function, with chains and platforms to a cocktail party, or with a cardigan and flats to brunch. A v-neck will elongate a rounded face; an empire waist will lengthen a short torso; a boat neck or cap sleeve will balance out a larger hip.

For Weekend: Again, there are endless choices, but if we’re talking about basics, you really need to focus on denim. Once you’ve chosen the perfect pair, one that’s truly the most flattering for your figure (petite? Straight or skinny; hippy? Bootcut or trouser; boyish? Straight or trouser) and a uniformly dark wash, you can mix and match to your heart’s content. Way casual? Cardigan and flats. Going out for the day? Add a great white shirt, a sharp blazer, a scarf and boots. Sunday afternoon at a friend’s house? Turtleneck, hip belt and wedges.

Alternatively, there are corduroys and chinos for the traditional girls, and leggings and tunics for the progressive ladies; once again, I urge you to consider quality over quantity. It’s better to wear the same impeccable outfit in the same company more than once (I know, I don’t say this often, but it’s true) than have a different look in sub-par fabric or cut for every outing. Chic is the new trendy. And black is always black.

One important point to keep in mind: When you are buying wardrobe staples like these, with one or two exceptions (white shirts will get pit-stained, tees will wear out, pantyhose will run) it’s better to spend more money on one or two high-quality options than to buy a huge pile of cut-rate knock-offs. The well-made pieces will wear better, fit better, be alter-able (should you have one or two figure changes or if the style is different next year), look nicer after dry cleaning, and make you look like the fashionista fox you really are. You’re not fooling anyone with that cheap triacetate suit (although the cute Target kicks might hold their own for a month or two!). Shop like a French woman while you’re basics-building; you won’t regret it.

Shop happy!

Shop Girl

P.S. Be sure to check out the Home Page for updates from She She Me. Also, check out our all new Hot Products in the She She Mall. We are also adding New Stores each week so check back often for updates and fantastic savings! Also, don't miss the great girly merchandise in our Chic Shop.


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