I have a reliable uniform: in cooler weather a tee shirt in white or heather grey, a vneck cardigan in charcoal grey, jeans and ballet flats. In summer I simply drop the cardigan (most days) and substitute khaki shorts. The tear sheet above, although from 1999, still reflects how I see my look. Many of you would describe it as preppy, but I prefer “Vassar Girl” as I’ve learned that the Lilly Pulitzer prints favored by the prep set are NOT me. In fact, even the plaid shift or shorts may be pushing it. My punch comes from a colorful scarf (chartreuse/orange/pink) and I still wouldn’t mind a bright orange handbag. Totally neutral: in my mind, orange goes with everything.
I wish acquiring the parts of my uniform were easier. I’ll find the perfect tee and, the next season, the manufacturer has tweaked it. Not good when the perfect white tee is now see through. In moments like this, I start sketching my perfect clothing collection and fantasize that someone will offer to produce it. What would the perfect “simple + pretty” fashion collection consist of, you ask? Well …
- Tees, long and short-sleeved. Grey/white/black (I can’t wear black but I know many of you can. I am a realist.) Seasonal colors for fun. (ie orange or ocean blue)
- Turtleneck. Fitted jersey or cashmere. Black/charcoal grey (Alternatively, chunky/cozy version to wear over bermuda shorts on summer nights.)
- Vneck pullover in grey cashmere. A near staple in Chicago for months on end.
- Vneck cardigan. For eons, I would have told you this had to be cashmere. I’m now partial to a fine merino. Once again, in a shade of grey.
- A-line skirt in felted wool or khaki.
- Bermuda shorts in lightweight khaki. (This season, J.Crew is making a bang up version.)
- A simple vneck dress out of cotton voile. Must be fitted but not tight. I’m envisioning a pretty blue for this. This version, from Araks, is still stuck in my head. (Yes, too sheer, but the shape is nice.)
You should know that I’m a firm believer in less is more, and these seven pieces are intended to function as your wardrobe staples. Am I telling you these are your only options, day in and day out? Of course not. There are times where you’ll want something pretty (or dressy). Plus, everyone needs a good pair of jeans (or three) and I’m purposefully not including denim as I feel it’s hard to get right: so many ideas of what the perfect fit is, not to mention, there’s already a plethora of options.
Companies that I admire? J.Crew for design and fit (though I’d prefer to know less about Jenna Lyons). Margaret Howell epitomizes Vassar Girl, though sourcing it in the US is a problem. Makié consistently appeals. Barneys private label is reliably luxe for less. Album di Famiglia has a fantastic swimsuit this season. For pricier inspiration, Calvin Klein/Jil Sander/The Row/Céline. But you knew that. Feel free to weigh in on your perfect wardrobe (or critique mine) in the comments.
p.s. Two footnotes: 1. Love Meg Ryan’s kicky khaki skirt from the tear sheet. 2. I think Carolyn Bessette Kennedy’s style forever changed my view of fashion.
p.p.s. My pinterest fashion board further illustrates the components of my perfect wardrobe.