I'll concede that T-shirts are not the most interesting fashion category to talk about. But since few spring/summer wardrobing pieces are as key to get right- I am weighing in on new T-shirt fit. I've recently done a few closet edits for private clients and it got me thinking about how easily we waste money on bad fitting basics. A T-shirt with great fit and current styling makes a high/low mix effortless. Too tight, short, sheer, sausage-armed or too big and boxy and your T -shirt will torpedo your look. Time to edit your T's. Edit ruthlessly. Let go of anything sprayed-on or shrunken, see through or vaguely '90's Baby T with capped sleeves that cut into your upper arm. These. Must. Go. Boxy shapes, stiff cotton and ill-fitting crew necks should also go on the donations pile.
Evolve your basics so they are as current as the trend pieces in your wardrobe. What looks new: a T-shirt with a skim fit and drape- a fit that looks easy under a good blazer or tucked into the waistband of a pencil skirt or a sleek trouser. Brands like T by Alexander Wang and Kain have been out in front of the 'new' T-shirt fit with shapes that are body-skimming. But if the thought of a ninety dollar T-shirt bugs you (it bugs me) there are brands offering the right styling and drape at various prices. Elevate your look. Spend as much as you can on a few very good quality T-shirts that will mix fluidly with tailoring and nice fabrics. Casual work wardrobe or weekends. You're covered.
A Checklist for 'New' T-Shirt Fit:
- Soft, thin cotton that drapes on the body from a combination of cotton mixed with fibers like Modal (bamboo fibers), silk and linen.
- A skim fit overall and a sleeve that hits at the middle of the upper arm is flattering.
- Ideal: a scooped neckline that hits about two inches below your collarbone. If you see cleavage, your neckline is too low. V-necks and Henleys work too. They draw the eye up and down so you'll appear longer and leaner.
- A hem that hits from your hip bones to just covering your bum. Look for a shirttail hem - a style that makes it easier to wear your T-shirt out for a smooth visual transition between your top and bottom.
- TIP: Want to expose less of your arms? JCrew's new Collection T-shirt comes in long sleeves. Look for long sleeve styles now -many are on sale. Take them to your dry cleaner and have them shortened to your desired length and coverage.
1. Club Monaco's Sunny T-shirt is $39.50. 2. Vince's high crew neck style is balanced by a nip at the waist and a shirt tail hem $78. Zara's T-shirts are all all cotton, good quality and $19. 4. JCrew's linen T-shirt has a nipped fit and more sleeve coverage. $42.
Images on home page from Vince and Zara.
Sometimes it's the trendlets- the smaller gestures - that transmit more about the way women are thinking than the extreme looks of the runway. So here's a subtle idea that's showed up at Stella McCartney (below center and right) Bottega Veneta and in contemporary lines like ALC and 10 Crosby by Derek Lam. Collars and cuffs. The look is sport inspired; body con and comes off best under light weight knits. Layering a shirt (and tucking the collar) under sweaters, knit dresses and lightweight wool dresses or tunics is a perfect way to layer right now that will look very "next season". Always good.
So how to pull it off without button bumps, bra lines or shirt ride - especially under tissue weight knits? Lightweight cotton voile is less troublesome than heavier weight cottons but often the collar looks wimpy. Try the solution I swear by- the SkinnyShirt I wear under my knits.
Think shape wear meets haberdashery. A knit body and long sleeves made of a breathable and cool combination of lycra and nylon smooth everything out. A cotton pique collar, v-front placket and extended cuffs create the right look.
It's funny when a basic like the cotton t-neck becomes a trendy layering piece as it has this season. White and cream t-necks served as modern layering in many collections. I like the way BCBG Max Azria (1) layered them under dresses. Phoebe Philo at Celine (2) used a cream t-neck as a kind of modernist anchor for a collection she described as inspired by the colors and materials of car interiors. At Bottega Veneta (3) Tomas Maier used the white t-neck to reinvigorate the kind of neat skirt suit Catherine Deneuve wore in Belle du Jour and at Ralph Lauren (4) the combination of a black t-neck under a red satin shirt, mixed with art deco-inspired jewelry is an effortless look for a holiday evening.
There is nothing I love more than an easy and wallet friendly update. These are not your standard issue cotton t-necks however. You want the lightest weight, second skin fit you can get your hands on. You'll find joy in cotton and lycra at H&M
for a mere $12.95 ( in cream and black). I have been layering these under dresses, jackets and lightweight sweaters. H&M also has a more deluxe version with a shapely skim fit thanks to strategic bust darts for $29. JCrew's
tissue weight turtle is also $29 and a version of BCBG's
runway turtleneck ( minus the cool black cuffs) is $68 at BCBG.com.
I've had this this tweet from M. Lagerfeld on ice in anticipation of writing about florals. While I don't agree with his assessment, Karl got me thinking about what combinations of floral pattern plus silhouette work for ladies who are not kids. Florals are tricky. If you can imagine a particular floral looking adorable in a child's size then keep pushing those hangers. Choose a sweet floral in a style that is too girly or Mad Men-retro and it's easy to look crazy (and matronly). Floral and mini lengths are a no if you don't want to look like you are clutching at youth. Not to mention that minis are currently in remission. Fashion loves longer lengths and this trend is only just beginning.
So what works? Simple silhouettes. Longer lengths ( at least knee length). Abstract florals with a modern-art sensibility. Black or dark backgrounds that look sophisticated and not saccharine. (Left- Right) Karl Lagerfeld's take on florals at Chanel combines an explosion of camelias with abstract clouds for evening. Computer designed florals animate Cacharel's silk tee and pants with a hip, op-art sensibility that looks right on city streets. Carolina Herrera's blown-up daisy print on black worn with a white shirt is a blue-chip-chic combination firmly rooted in reality. DKNY's mid-sized floral is as simple as an elongated tee shirt and the slimming property of a uniformly-sized, repeat pattern is a bonus. And note the sandals. They have presence which is the right counterpoint for a strong print.
And now for what doesn't work. Light backgrounds plus retro prints equals a resort or country club vibe that seldom works anywhere except at resorts and country clubs. (Left to Right) The sixties- irony of Dolce and Gabbana's wallpaper floral suit might translate as cheeky if you are under 25 but frumpy if you are not. The Heroines of the Prairie look from Anna Sui is for young things in the first blush of grunge. And the lunch-at-the-club look of Milly's floral dress and capris is an all too common trap for ladies of a certain age who are drawn to the kind of 'fun' prints they loved in college and in their twenties. The stylist for this show tried in vain to toughen-up things with glasses, turbans and statement necklaces lifted from Prada's and Marnie's playbooks but take away the window dressing and the patterns look more frumpy than fun. A woman is guaranteed to look upholstered in a pair of poppy printed capris.
Just for a minute, let's forget words like indispensable, timeless or classic when we think about a crisp white button down shirt. There may be nothing truly new under the sun in fashion but spring's new proportions make the white shirt look, well, new for spring.
( far left) Phoebe Philo's riff on the white shirt is all menswear slouch with a bib front and relaxed fit. Dries van Noten
( second and third from left) built his spring collection around the notion of shirt dressing and gave the white shirt a new look entirely with blown-up volume and paired with sophisticated, just-louche-enough satin jammy pants. And at Jil Sander
, Raf Simon's juxtaposition of white button downs (and white tees) with couture-inspired long skirts looked very hip. Fashion loved the look but naturally, red carpet pundits pilloried Tilda Swinton for her Jil Sander ensemble at the Golden Globes. I love her iconoclastic eye and for not playing the red carpet game.
Why the new spin on white shirts right now? Is it that fashion is searching for anything women will buy? Definitely. Jones New York
has devoted their spring campaign to white shirts and the new power dressing. Is it that the mix of masculine with feminine is forever appealing? That too. But the straight forward chic of the white shirt also speaks directly to what is next in fashion: a rejection of noisy, excessively blingy design in favor of a more stripped-down aesthetic. And in a season of brights nothing tempers a vivid colored bottom or jacket like a white shirt.
Freshen-up your own wardrobe with a new button down that's a little oversized (think classic shirt fit from the 80's). It looks newer whether you tuck it in or leave it out than something very fitted. Choose a traditional shirt collar ( have a look at Dries above). Longer collar points (versus a spread collar) combined with the three or four open buttons creates the all important neck-elongating line.
As for price, personally I never spend a fortune on white shirts. But I don't buy fast fashion cheap either. Flimsy cotton doesn't achieve the crisp look that's versatile enough to wear high and low, day and night. And watch out for more than just a touch of elastin in those no-iron styles. Too much and the cotton won't drape nicely.
New York City may be a frozen tundra but I spent last night at the beach thanks to Ann Taylor's LOFT brand.
In a photo studio decked out with cabanas, palm trees and music by DJ Mia Moretti, LOFT hosted an evening to preview their terrific selection for Summer ( May deliveries). Some highlights: water color floral linens, slouchy cotton sweaters and tees, seersucker jackets, batik shifts, wide leg linen pants and a range of great looking accessories including color blocked flat sandals, embellished espadrilles and metallic canvas totes. Standout necklaces featured a chic mix of rhinestones and turquoise. The best part? Nothing costs more than $100.
There is no shortage of interesting-looking bottoms on offer in stores. Whether it's a pair of pants or a skirt in a sheeny satin, a metallic brocade, taffeta or something in sequins like these pants from outnet.com
the best way to create a look for cocktails that won't appear overly fussed and trussed is to keep things simple on top. Of course, this is when the ubiquitous crisp white shirt comes in handy for a high and low mix but I like the casual drape of a dead classic cashmere V-neck or turtle neck worn with a statement bottom and some serious-looking faux gems. Try a set of cuffs one on each wrist like Ann Taylor's
Swarovski crystal-encrusted eye catchers and a pair of dazzlers at your lobes like this pair by Lee Angel
. Or fill in a low v-neck with a statement necklace. I will leave my Gaucho hat and sunglasses at home however.
One of the best strategies for cocktail dressing is to deploy the heavy artillery on the top balanced by something very simple on the bottom. Anything that I can pair with a pair of black pants is on my list. Tuxedo jackets are always a chic option but this season it's a cropped trophy piece of a jacket that looks really new. Something embellished and layered over a sheer blouse looks especially of-the-moment. The look doesn't have to cost a fortune. I've seen options in many price ranges including this embroidered black velvet number from H&M for $49.99. High and low ladies.
The reverse snobbery of fashion democracy is a wondrous thing and the collab of Lanvin and H&M just might be the most frantically anticipated example in the history of haute meets the high street. . ( Rumor has it that both Madonna and J.Lo have hit up the H & M press office for first dibs on samples.)
Lanvin is an exciting fashion get at this price because it is one of those indelibly, unerringly French collections that is utterly unaffordable for the average woman. And there is the appeal of Lanvin's createur, the charming and disarmingly down-to-earth Alber Elbaz who describes his collections as having something for the daughter and something for the mother. Merci, Alber.
Thanks to the wonders of the internet I got a sneak peak. This collection offers many takes on Lanvin signatures likes ruffled and draped short dresses, JUST-LOOK-AT-MY-SHOES statement pumps and elaborate neck treatments. All great but it's the sleek, wearable and ageless look of the faux fur pieces that are right up my street.
According to Women's Wear Daily this one will cost more than the previous H & M designer collaborations, ranging from $199 to $249. Still a steal in my book and I'll be lined up at 8 a.m. when stores open in the US and Canada to storm the gates for a piece (or two) of fashion history.
Wasp waists. Dirndle skirts. Ruffled, pushed up-bustlines. The late 50's/early 60's vibe of the hourglass silhouette inspired many fall collections. The mood was one part Joanie from Mad Men at Prada ( far right) mixed with one part Bardot in 'And God Created Woman' at Louis Vuitton ( far left). Marc Jacobs (center) used the below-the-knee a-line in combination with slouchy jackets and sweaters. Whenever hemlines drop below the knee, skirts and dresses with a strong a-line shape are the easiest to wear. Forget long, straight skirts. The look is strict and impossible to wear. The a-line is the fashion ally of curvy women everywhere. And the-throwback-to-the-50's use of wool flannel works for a sharply defined line because it's soft enough to drape and move with the body but firm enough to hold it's shape.
Key to the look is a smooth, pleat free waist. Pleats plus a-line equals wide on anyone but models. The Talbot's skirt below is seamed diagonally through the hips to further enhance the shape on the body. They pair their skirt with a ruffled blouse. Might be a very wearable nod to the Prada dress ( above far right).