My birthday’s coming up,…

My birthday's coming up, and every year, I buy myself something indulgent for it. The best purchase was the $200 pair of silk pyjamas, which looked fabulous on me, were super-comfortable, and which I wore *constantly* -- I pretty much lived in those. I think I'm going to go for clothes again this year; Nilofer and I are going designer thrift store shopping this afternoon. If that fails, I may splurge at Anthropologie, but I feel that I should try the thrifty approach first.

Kevin and I watch Project Runway sometimes, and I'm quite fond of Tim Gunn, their designer coach. This is his list of wardrobe basics every woman of any size, shape, or age should have. Notes after each item are his. [comments in brackets are mine, and I *starred the ones I actually own]

  1. Basic Black Dress - The basic black dress has been around for a long time. It is often called the "Little Black Dress", and it's true that shorter skirts on the basic black dress,when they hit you in the right place, can be more flattering than a long black dress. [I don't currently have a basic black dress that fits me; I think I have one in a size 10 that's okay, but it's below-knee, and I think above-knee would be better. Plus it's got spaghetti straps, which means I need to wear a shrug with it to hide my bra straps, which is annoying. (Strapless bras do not work on my Rack o' Doom, trust me.) Maybe it's time to find the perfect basic black dress.]

  2. Trench Coat - The trenchcoat is one of the pieces that is both classic and currently a hot fashion item. Most any store sells this piece now. It is great for fall and you can pick it up in a wide range of lengths. [well, I have a long black raincoat which is sort of in trench coat style, I think? But I almost never wear it, because I love my short silver raincoat so damn much. I'm not feeling the need for a trench coat right onw.]

  3. Classic Dress Pants - Although it doesn't say black, this is probably what you want to look for. Black is flattering on all figures and goes with everything. [I had a great pair of brown maternity dress pants, and another in a khaki pinstripe, which I wore all the time, but I mostly don't own or wear dress pants. A consequence of living in jeans or dresses, I guess. But maybe I should invest in a pair.]

  4. * White Shirt -The white shirt is a definite classic. But it can also come in many different styles to make it look trendy and not dated or like a man's piece of clothing. Find one that accentuates your best attributes and minimizes trouble spots. For example, if you have wide shoulders, stay away from large collars. [I adore white shirts, and usually own 4-5 of them, in each size I regularly wear. I get very distressed when I don't have a white shirt that fits me.]

  5. * Jeans - Everyone hasa pair of jeans, but does everyone have a pair of jeans that make them look great? The wider leg, low-rise jean style has been popular (and still is) but a narrower leg is coming back along with a higher waist, which eliminates the unflattering "muffin top" look. [I have discovered that the Gap 'Long and Lean' jeans actually make me look longer and leaner, and they fit me perfectly. LOVE them. Own two pairs. Perfect with aforementioned white shirt.]

  6. * Cashmere Sweater -This is one item probably not many people own. But including it forces people to buy a piece of clothing that is high quality and that is also a luxury item. Having a cashmere sweater in your closet is like giving a gift to yourself. And aren't you worth it? [I found cashmere sweaters a few years ago, and now will not do without a few of them in my closet. Usually I have khaki, black, brown, and then one or two colors. Sometimes I can afford the higher-end cashmere, but even low-end cashmere is not too shabby, and you can often find it at after-Xmas sales for $40-50.]

  7. * Skirt -If you need dress pants then you also need a skirt. A skirt is womanly and can be flirty or business-like. Nowadays women do not wear many skirts or dresses, which makes a lot of them fall into a rut of dressing sloppily or like men. See number 8. [Love skirts, have tons of them. My current favorite is a knee-length cotton skirt from Target; it's got a hip big flower pattern in light brown and grey-blue, but more importantly, it has pockets. Pockets!!!]

  8. * Day Dress - Women also are not wearing as many dresses anymore. It was certainly liberating to go from the '50s when women wore dresses every day to wearing more practical pants for gardening, exercising, and so forth. But the dress does not have to be abandoned altogether. They can be very flattering, and there is nothing wrong with "dressing up" for daytime. [My favorite recent day dress is a white lined dress from the Gap, found on sale last week -- again, astonishingly, it has pockets!]

  9. Blazer - The blazer sounds very masculine, but when you get the right one with a proper shape it is not. Women's blazers should follow the silhouette of a woman's body and accent the hourglass curve at her waist. It is also a perfect piece to put with the skirt or dress pants, and white shirt. Or make it casual with a pair of jeans. [Hmm...I think I have too much chest these days to want to add another layer on top. I wore blazers occasionally in college, but I think they're not for me right now.]

  10. * Sweat Suit Alternative - As mentioned before, women wear fewer skirts and dresses these days. But some women have taken casual to the extreme and spend days on end in sweat suits. It is possible to be casual and comfortable without looking like a slob. Find a comfortable material (that's why this doesn't say jeans again  denim is not as comfortable as a nice soft cotton) that you would want to wear every day. It could be khakis,cords, a cotton dress, or much more. [I do live in workout shorts and t-shirts at home, because I am lazy and they are comfy. But I don't usually go out in them, unless I'm walking the dog early morning or late at night. I do have a cotton dress that I throw on for outdoor comfort, but it's a very bright print -- I think what he's recommending is something more casual (but not *too* casual), that you can wear frequently. I have a pair of cotton cargo pants, but I could use a few more items along those lines.]

  11. Bonus: One Indulgent Trendy Item [hmm...I think the aforementioned cotton dress qualifies. Although that's actually pretty rare for me; I don't usually do trendy. Classic is just easier. Or ethnic. :-)]

    So I get six out of ten. How do you do?

2 thoughts on “My birthday’s coming up,…”

  1. Yikes, I don’t do very well on this list! No trench coat, no skirt, no cashmere sweater, no day dress….

    But I have the perfect little black dress. Just the right length (above the knee… maybe mid-thigh, actually), can be worn with boots or heels, and best of all, machine washable and I can roll it up in a suitcase and not have to iron it. I could literally stuff it into a backpack and carry it on a plane.

    I hope that dress never wears out, or I’m in trouble.

  2. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    That dress sounds fabulous, Amy! Part of my problem with the black dress I have is that it’s too fancy — it’s got a bunch of sparkly black sequins on it. I’d love a machine washable, non-iron option! But I’d settle for one not sparkly — just neat and clean and simple.

    Cotton, probably, or silk might even be okay, if it had no fancy extras. I love the feel of jersey, but it sadly tends to cling to all the bulgy bits.

    Maybe I shouldn’t go to Anthropologie after all; I think Banana Republic is more flattering on me in general. Anyone have any other suggestions for good places in Chicago to get a nice dress? ($50-$200 range okay) Somehow I run out of ideas once I’ve hit Gap and Banana Republic and Anthropologie. (Ideally, without having to go downtown; somewhere on the north side would be better.)

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