Piece of the Week: The Sheath Dress

teaching-classy-dress

ModCloth Teaching Classy Dress in Flower Silhouettes, $64.99, available at modcloth.com

Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman”- Coco Chanel

Nothing exudes more self-assurance than a woman in an exquisitely tailored sheath dress.  Sharp, smartly detailed and endlessly versatile, a sheath dress can transform you into a serious scholar one minute and a stunning glamazon the next.  Personally, I adore this darling version by ModCloth.  A charming floral print and side pockets make you a delightful sight, while a demure, pleated neckline and structured fit keep the look adorably professional.  Add a pop of bright pink coral in the form of a cinched belt and you’ll be getting As in style.

Ways to Wear

The Mad Men Maven

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The glamor of 1960s women always dumbfounds me.  How did they possibly find the time to create the perfect smoldering eyes and set their hair every night?  Watching Mad Men, I find myself nostalgic for a simpler time, a period when women-like Betty-wore ladylike ballerina skirts and it wasn’t laughably stiff to wear formal elbow length gloves to dinner.  Such women embodied a dignified poise, a cultivated refinement lacking in our era of sweatpants and tee shirts.  We might not be able to teleport to the age of bouffant big hair but we can resurrect some of Miss Betty’s tasteful femininity with a sheath dress and bright scarf this winter.  Simply find a patterned scarf, tie it around your neck (or channel your inner Jackie O and wrap it elegantly around your head) and viola: you look bewitchingly put together.  If your sheath is a more neutral color, pair with a bag in a bold hue to give the outfit interest and texture.  I especially like the turquoise suitcase (Modcloth It’s Not Pocket Science Bag, $54.99, available on modcloth.com) pictured.

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The Scholarly Over-Achiever 

You’re a 3rd year college student diligently studying for finals.  The library smells like mahogany, old books and espresso.  As you hopelessly search for a seat in the crowded main stacks, the marble floors clink beneath your feet.  Overhead, the ivory white ceiling curves to form a half dome.  A bookish intellectual in Oxfords and horn-rimmed glasses leaves just as you pass his table, so you quickly steal his seat.  You unload your composition notebook, your tattered copy of Paradise Lost and some pencils.  Studious and ambitious, you’re ready to (once again) earn all As on your exams.

Even if you didn’t graduate at the top of your class, you can still take inspiration from Ivy League academics.  Couple your polished sheath dress with a cozy cardigan in rich beige and you’ll be sure to ace even your toughest finals.

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Piece of the Week: The White Tee

 

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Uniqlo Supima Cotton Tee

Just as learning the alphabet is fundamental to the mastery of a language, so is a closet of basics crucial to a stylish wardrobe.  Essentials like the white tee form the basis of your closet, so invest in high quality material.  This fall, I recommend you luxuriate your senses in this classic white tee by Uniqlo.  Made of the world’s finest cotton, this iconic piece is so superbly soft you’ll want to wear it everyday.  These divinely comfortable tees come in several colors and cuts, so be sure to stock up! 

Ways to Wear:

The Tough Girl Fashionista 

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Who said basics had to be boring?  Edge up your crisp white tee with a gritty, over-sized denim jacket.  Distressed denim provides a hip counterweight to the neatness of the white tee while skinny black jeans, big sunglasses and coral-colored nails nicely complement the rebelliousness of the jacket.

If you’re in the market for some tough girl denim, look no further than the iconic Levi Strauss & Co.’s boyfriend trucker jacket in sunshine indigo.  Made of the highest quality stretch mid-weight denim, the boyfriend jacket is a modern update on a classic piece. Relaxed but never sloppy, the Levi’s trucker jacket takes a cue from the punk rock vibe of your boyfriend’s denim.  Absolutely adore the color (not to mention the name…who wouldn’t delight in a color called “sunshine indigo”?)  Light and slightly bleached, its unconventional shade makes the jacket effortlessly cool while the distressing details give it a one-of-a-kind feel.  Personally, I prefer lighter shades for denim jackets: a crisp dark wash (though sophisticated for a pant) seems too uptight for this greaser staple.  If you want a less expected alternative to the traditional blue, opt for one in black or charcoal.

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The City Strolling Hipster 

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Whether you’re grabbing a cappuccino in Greenwich village or thrifting on SF’s Haight street, pair a simple white tee with rock n’ roll cut offs and a leather jacket for a look that’s charmingly defiant, maybe even a little too cool.  Add a cozy burgundy scarf and darling polka dot tights and you’ll be ready to navigate the urban jungle.

The Chic European Debutante 

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Imagine: you’re leisurely pedaling through the idyllic cobblestone streets of Copenhagen.  The reassuring smell of pastries wafts through the autumn air.  As the splendor of the midday sun streams across the brightly-colored buildings, you can hear the hushed murmurs of friends chatting beneath pin-striped umbrellas on a cafe plaza.  Like Audrey Hepburn, you are a European debutante: the embodiment of elegance and grace.  Though there’s nothing particularly dazzling about either her 3/4 sleeve tee or her trousers, the refinement of Miss Hepburn’s ensemble derives from this very simplicity.  Polished and minimalistic, a black tee looks stunning with an impeccably neat (and, may I add, perfectly tailored) pant.  Tie your curly hair into a messy chignon and slip on some adorable ballet flats this fall and you’ll look similarly chic.

Practicality or Aesthetics? The Sphinx of Style Solved

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At its most basic, style is not luxury or labels-it’s being comfortable. Even the most stunning dress looks dreadful if you’re tugging at the hem or adjusting your bra straps all night. Looking beautiful begins with confidence and you can’t feel confident if you’re constantly fussing with a too short skirt. Good style is practical. Which brings me to my most crucial point: when you’re shopping, the most important things are the basics: material, comfort, fit.

Does the dress sit nicely just above the knees or is it a little short? Do the jeans fit snuggly around your hips or is your ass hanging out?

No matter how darling a spring ensemble, you’ll never wear it if it bears your butt every time you barely bend down. So no matter how strong the impulse, do not sacrifice functionality for aesthetics.  Practicality must come first.

The 1940s: Timeless Glamour for the Modern Woman

1945.

World War II had just ended, war vets were returning home, and most people felt a vague uncertainty about the road ahead: could peace, Americans wondered, really last?

Tensions with the U.S.S.R. were rising and the Cold War, not far off in the distance. This was a time of hope and affluence, but equally an age of fear and apprehension.

1940s fashion embodied this uncertain spirit. Fabric rationing ended shortly after Allied victory, and fashion houses like Dior made striking comebacks with luxurious textiles and extravagant furs. Women were tired of sacrificing for the war effort and, in 1945, they no longer had to- America was embarking on an unprecedented age of prosperity and wealth.

The world may have changed drastically after WWII, but the fashion did not. Gone were the days of Rosie the Riveter and disrupted gender roles; Americans wanted to return to the “real” life demolished by war. Pencil skirts, hour-glass silhouettes, pin-tuck blouses: all of these trends nostalgically turned to an earlier femininity unadulterated by bloodshed.

We all can learn a thing or two from the classic demure 1940s aesthetic. After all, who hasn’t left an Old Hollywood film star-struck by the glamor and effortless femininity of its actresses? With spring on the horizon, here are some tips to channel the 1940s elegant, ultra-girly spirit.

1. THE HALTER

Natalie One Piece by Anthropologie
Natalie One Piece by Anthropologie

In times of trashy reality T.V., exposed cleavage and fashions so revealing we have to wonder whether they can qualify as “clothes,” we often forget the profound (if overstated) truth of “less is more.” Leave something to the imagination this spring and wear a prim (but equally sexy) halter one-piece. I especially love it in black; classy and elegant, a little black number is alluring without being obvious. Plus, the perfect cut and a solid neutral will flatter any body type.

2. THE FILM NOIR TRENCH

Richard Mitchum and Jane Greer in Out of the Past, circa 1947
Richard Mitchum and Jane Greer in Out of the Past, circa 1947

The setting: a corrupt small town. The mood: grim. Dangerous, thrill-seeking women; the straight-shooting, good guy detective: this is 1940s film noir. Your life may not be as bleak or unpredictable as these Old Hollywood movies, but you can still channel your inner femme fatal and look as jaw-dropping as these chicks. So if you find yourself facing breezy March winds or a surprising spout of April showers, opt for a timeless trench like this one by Marc Jacobs…you’ll look like a temptress, I promise.

Marc Jacobs Trench
Marc Jacobs Trench

3. THE PORTRAIT OF DOMESTICITY 

The Best Years of Our Lives, circa 1946
The Best Years of Our Lives, circa 1946

We have come leaps and bounds from the portrait of woman as homemaker; however, we can still take some pointers from the 1940s housewife aesthetic. Minimalistic and wholesomely coy, nothing is more chic than a blouse paired with a pleated skirt. Buttons give the look an adorable quirkiness, while a structured shoulder keeps it from falling into unforgivably girly territory. Add a belt to define your waist and you’ll look marvelously lady-like.

Button Down Blouse & Pleated Skirt  Both by American Apparel
Button Down Blouse & Pleated Skirt
both by American Apparel