March 26, 2012

Picking through The 100

Since I'm thinking about wardrobe improvement these days, I checked out The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own. Coletterie had recently posted about this book, asking about what 100 pieces would be in readers' personal essential collections.

First off, what's with the word "stylish"? Every person has a "style" - maybe it's trendy or sloppy instead of classy or elegant, but it's still a style. How did "stylish" come to mean "style worth copying"? Why is "stylish" associated with looking as though you have nothing better to do than drink cocktails and inspire people to wonder how recently you last had sex?

I do appreciate author Nina Garcia's note in the introduction: this shiny silver book of 100 items is her list of 100 must-haves, and other people's lists are probably different. Since I sincerely doubt I can come up with 100 fashion-related things I couldn't live without (and I'm not sure I would like myself if I could), I am instead viewing this list as a list of suggestions, things I might consider as part of my Wardrobe Improvement Project. If I want to get out of my rut of faded jeans and floppy shirts, perhaps the Must-Haves of a New York fashionista can be the perfect source of inspiration.
1. A-Line Dress: Something to think about trying. I don't think I've ever worn one, since I like to highlight my waist. It's also a common profile in dresses for toddlers and preschoolers, so I'm a little concerned that this profile isn't appropriate for me. Also, I'd probably want it a little longer than is properly "stylish". Maybe it's something to look for on those rare occasions I find myself shopping.

6. Bangles: I've always liked the idea of bangles, ever since the popular girls wore loads of plastic jelly bracelets in fifth grade. Still, I'm not sure I'll go shopping for bangles. Maybe I'll luck into some nice ones someday.

7. Belts: Since my waist is a part of my body I'm not trying to camouflage, it's perhaps surprising that I have only three (strictly functional) belts. I did just discover that A Fashionable Stitch sells belt kits, though, so maybe more may be in my future.

10. Black Opaque Tights: While mine are probably not as opaque as Ms. Garcia would recommend (since I can't bring myself to spend $80 on a pair of tights), these are my choice for leg-exposing cool season outfits.

11. Blazer: I had one in college. Loved it. It's gone now, and I've no idea what happened to it. I'd like to replace it, probably with a more fitted version.

13: Brooch: I'd like one, if only to keep shawls from automatically falling off 30 seconds after wrapping them.

17. Cape: I have one, and I made it. It almost never comes out to play, though, since in Seattle, cool enough for a cape is almost always also too wet for this particular cape. Perhaps one day I'll make a new one, in something less likely to soak up every tiny raindrop.

18. Cashmere Sweater: I'd love one, thanks! Not that I'm sure how it would fit into my life (how does one wash cashmere?), so I don't really see this as an upcoming purchase.

26. Denim Jacket: Somehow I made it through the 80s without acquiring one of these. Still want one, though.

28. Driving shoe: A "more fashionable option to the loafer". I have two pairs of black 8 hole Dr. Martens (one for yard work, one for everyday), a pair of black pumps, a pair of black knee-high boots with minimal heel, and a pair of walking sandals. Once upon a time, the Docs were all I needed. These days, I'm thinking maybe I should branch out a bit. Perhaps a "driving shoe" could be an option. Only if they come in black, though.

36. Gloves: Someday, I'll have a pair of properly fitting leather gloves.

38. Hobo Bag: Would this "Go Anywhere" bag work?

42. Jeans: The foundation of my current wardrobe. And since I'm not going to throw out something that's working, jeans will probably remain a key piece of the clothing puzzle. I plan to try making my own, since I'm officially tired of jeans (like everything else) being too short.

45. Knee Boots: I love tall boots, but finding them without a sky-high heel is hard. Maybe if I wore high heels more often, they wouldn't hurt so much. But this is one of those areas where comfort is going to outweigh fabulous. I simply cannot feel amazing when my feet hurt!

48. Little Black Dress: More versatile than the Evening Gown (# 30), even I know about the importance of the little black dress. Doesn't mean I own one, though.

53. Man's White Shirt: I stole one from Ian years ago.

62. Pajamas: These are are my Make Someday list.

65. Pencil Skirt: Like the A-line Dress, I think I might want to try this, just because I never have. Push my edges a little. Just because really full and really long has been the standard skirt for me doesn't mean I might not be stuck in a rut and in need of a little shake-up.

73. Robe: Before I went to college, I asked for a robe. My grandmother, bless her heart, bought me a green terry cloth robe, size small. On me, that means that it's just past my knees, with 3/4 length sleeves. Someday, when I'm a grown up, maybe I'll have a robe that fits.

97. Wide Leg Trousers: Much like the pencil skirt and A-line dress, I'd like to try these just to see how they look on me. I think I need a digital version of myself I can dress up, so I can try these things with minimal up-front investment.

98. Wrap Dress: See above.
So there it is. Twenty-one items that appeal, seven of which I'm likely to work on (belts, blazer, bag, jeans, LBD, pencil skirt, trousers). The list didn't include basic tops (I can't really count cashmere as a basic), and my project definitely includes these.

Raise your hand if you think I'm biting off more than I can chew!


  1. melinda12:13 PM

    A cape!? The list has a cape!? Somehow a cape just does not seem essential, but what do I know, having never owned a cape. I don't have a brooch either. Or driving shoes, but I'm counting stylin' bike shoes for the purpose of this exercise.

    Don't confuse A-line with empire waist; I don't like empire waists myself, but with a waist in a reasonable place, I'm a big fan of A-line dresses.

    I'm a big fan of wrap dresses and pencil skirts, personally. The former because they will fit me well without needing alteration; the latter because they show off some of my better *cough* assets.

    1. Capes are especially good if you want to appear just slightly intimidating. They are also melancholic and vaguely romantic and really cool when worn on evenings with a enough wind to make them billow.

      Most of the pictures I've seen recently of A-line dresses don't have a waist at all. They fall from the shoulders or from a yoke that's somewhat above the bustline. So, not high-waisted (which would probably look weird on me since I'm technically short-waisted) but no-waisted. If you've got a different definition, please share!

  2. "a digital version of myself I can dress up, so I can try these things with minimal up-front investment"

    ..Nordstroms has an amazing (and free) personal shopper program where they hear you out on what you're looking for and what you're willing to spend (including "only things on sale and under X dollars") and fill a dressing room full of impractical things just at the edge of your comfort zone for you to try on. It's not quite digital, but it has the potential to be a low investment day of exploration slightly less annoying than Pinterest. I've only ever bought one thing (overpriced on-sale wide leg trousers that I never ended up wearing), but the experience and the free Perrier was well worth it. Worst case - it'll influence a new category of patterns to research.

    1. Thanks for the tip! I've been so busy swearing off shopping that it hadn't occurred to me to use a store like Nordie's as a information gathering resource more than as a resource for the clothes themselves.

  3. Threads magazine did a great article about making your own croquis:

    Wish I knew how to insert a working link in to a reply.

    I have brooches (pins) I love and used to wear all the time, but I haven't worn one in ages. I gave away the cape I made when I wore it on a cold day to pick up my kids back when they were in grammar school and one of the students asked, "What are you supposed to be?" Sadly, I had to give up my favorite pencil skirts because they constricted and altered my walking stride and that made my back hurt. I do have several black dresses and love each one. I count anything as A-line if the silhouette makes an overall impression of an A, whether it falls from the shoulder, above the bust or just below. If an empire bodice had a nicely draping A-line skirt attached, I would count that. It's the swing about the knees I'm looking for in an A-line dress. Nina Garcia would probably call my closet a "hot mess" and be right.

    I don't think you're biting off too much. It's fun to do a wardrobe update once in a while and really think about how you want to dress and why. It does make you feel good to dress up a little and it's even more satisfying when you've made the clothes yourself and they suit you and say what you want them to say to the world when you wear them.