The Ones You Wear
Why the best things have staying power
Remember leggings, off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, stirrup pants worn with pumps, shoulder pads?
They’re all in the Trend Hall of Fame (or Shame) now.
Women are forever chasing the next big trend. Last year, Triangle shoppers filled their bags with satin cargo pants and ballet-ribboned shoes. What will you be indulging in this year?
Whichever new trends catch your eye — and there will be many — remember that some styles are timeless. These are the classic pieces that should be the foundation of every wardrobe.
A new book, “The Classic Ten: The True Story of the Little Black Dress and Nine Other Fashion Favorites,” by Nancy MacDonell Smith, takes a look at fashion’s most enduring styles: black dress, white shirt, cashmere sweater, blue jeans, suit, high heels, pearls, lipstick, sneakers and trench coat.
“These are things that every woman owns, or aspires to own, because they never go out of style,” Smith says.
“They are items that withstand trends because a woman will never feel silly wearing them. They each have quite a rich, involved history behind them.”
Take the white shirt, for example.
In the book, Smith writes that in the 19th century: “Ladies and gentlemen were known by their clean, white personal linen.
“Unlike the working classes, they could afford to wear fresh underwear and shirts every day; it was one of the marks of their high status.”
The white shirt certainly does have its fans.
Audrey Hepburn wrapped the tails of her oversized white shirt around her waist. Ali MacGraw paired hers with a long, black skirt at the 2002 Academy Awards.
As for the little black dress, Smith writes, “The term has entered our cultural lexicon.
“Say it, and everyone knows what you’re referring to: a dress that’s simple enough to appear effortless, yet elegant enough to mark the wearer as a woman of taste.”
Your collection of classics might vary from Smith’s depending on your lifestyle.
Suze Yalof Schwartz, executive fashion editor-at-large for Glamour magazine, agrees with Smith, but would add to the list a pair of chinos, a black blazer, fitted black turtleneck, diamond earrings, stiletto heels and a black pencil skirt.
“However, you don’t want to wear the classics from head to toe,” warns Schwartz.
“It is unbelievably boring. Use them as the foundation that you build your wardrobe on.”
For instance, nothing looks more chic than a bold-print dress under a classic trench coat.
Or, try pairing jeans with a crisp, white shirt and a Burberry scarf used as a belt.
“It’s all about how you mix the classics with trendier pieces,” says Schwartz.
The classics are constantly being reinterpreted by designers to make them more modern.
“Look at pearls,” Schwartz says. “Chanel made them a classic, but now women are wrapping these really long strands around their neck four or five times.”
Smith agrees that the modernization of classic pieces makes them even more desirable.
“A navy suit might be trendy one season and a purple corduroy one the next, but the backbone and the lines of the classics are always going to be in style,” she explains.
“They have already withstood the test of time, and that’s what style is really all about.”
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