Your Classics Checklist
Classic #1: The Little Black Dress
The original high priestess of fashion Coco Chanel introduced the Little Black Dress—fondly referred to as the “LBD”—a chic but still functional dress for all occasions, in 1926. It has been a staple of women’s wardrobes since then because it is utterly indispensable—it works for multiple occasions, depending on what it’s paired with (sequined cardigan for holiday affairs, structured jacket for work, and so on), and of course it always works on its own. When you don’t know what to wear, just grab your LBD and it will work every time. In fact, the LBD is Kenny’s first recommendation for the classics a girl should have. As Kenny says, “It’s iconic. You can dress it up, you can dress it down.” What more could you want? Cross it off your list: Your LBD should be of a versatile fabric. Shiny fabrics like taffeta or satin limit your wearing options, so try to get a cotton or jersey dress to make it a truly indispensable wardrobe asset. Also, remember that some body types look better in certain styles than others. If you have a smaller bust, try a shift dress or a strapless dress. If you have a larger bust, choose a style that will support ‘the girls’, but will still show off a little décolleté (if you try to hide your bust, it will only look bigger), like a sweetheart or V neckline.
Classic #2: The Black Suit
No matter the changing trends in office attire, the black suit will always, always be in. A standard cut, wider-leg trouser plus blazer and blouse combo is absolutely infallible. What’s nice about the black suit is that it’s versatile, working as the suit itself, of course, but also as separates—the black trousers and the black blazer. It’s like getting three outfits in one. According to Kenny, “The pants can be worn alone with just a top (button-up, sweater, tanks, denim jackets, other color blazers) and everywhere you go you can wear a blazer. I think blazers are a necessity... because you can pair it with a dress, a skirt, t-shirt...” and, of course, jeans. Cross it off your list: You can try for a suit with trousers, or a suit with a pencil skirt, which looks good on everybody. Make sure you can close the blazer’s buttons, or the suit’s just not worth getting. If you can, have the suit tailored so you never have to worry about tugging and pulling to make it look good—you’ll just know it works.
Classic #3: A Good Pair of Jeans
A good pair of jeans is my personal godsend. They will always look good, and they will always be comfortable. It’s important to have a pair of jeans that are more ‘dressed-up’, like a darker, indigo wash, and a pair of lighter ones, perhaps even distressed if you so choose, so you can differentiate between ‘going out’ jeans and ‘going to class’ jeans. You can of course wear the ‘going out’ ones to class, but never the other way around. No hippies or farmers at the club! You should keep the jeans simple, as well. If your jeans must have embellishments like rhinestones, keep it simple and sweet. Bling all up and down your leg will only fall off and look cheesy. And remember, we’re going for classic. Kenny says, “Jeans are major in a woman’s wardrobe, mostly because you can wear jeans with anything. There are so many styles and so many fits it’s almost impossible not to find one that works for you.” Try on several pairs and when you find one you like, get two pairs. You’ll want to wear them all the time, and with two you don’t have to worry about them falling apart (right away, anyway...). Cross it off your list: Just like the LBD, different kinds of jeans look good on different body shapes. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone can wear skinny jeans, but everyone can wear flares, straight-leg, or boot-cut jeans. Whether you’re curvy or not, each of these jeans will give you a nice, flattering shape. And remember, jeans in a darker wash are multipurpose: they make your legs look longer and they easily transition from day to night with the addition of a few accessories.
Classic #4: The Uber-Chic Coat
Every woman needs a coat, unless you come from a way tropical climate. Being from South Florida, I never had to buy a coat until I went to school in Pittsburgh, but I got one that would go with anything and everything—a black peacoat. You don’t have to get a black peacoat, because camel and navy are also classics that go with everything, but the peacoat style will always be chic (and will always keep you very warm!). Another perpetually chic coat is the tan, belted trench coat, but not for snow since it’s thinner than you’ll need. Since you’ll have to wear the coat often, why not get something that goes with anything and everything? It will make your life easier in the long run. On coats, Kenny says “After all this, you need something to keep you warm. No matter what kind of coat it is, it has to be fabulous. When you dress up, try a trench, or a great fur or faux fur. For a jean, a peacoat or a leather bomber jacket.” Cross it off your list: Make sure the coat covers your bum (for extra warmth), but doesn’t touch all the way to the ground or cut off your leg line—if the coat hits you in the middle of your shin, it’s going to make you look shorter. If you’re looking to spend a little less, a great place to find a coat is a vintage clothing store. There will be innumerable styles and fabrics, probably ranging from faux fur to fur to leather to wool and so on, so give a vintage store a shot for a coat with a some extra flair and personality.
Classic #5: A Crisp, White Shirt
Also known as the white oxford shirt, it adds flair and structure to any ensemble, whether jeans or the black suit. And it’s white, so it goes with everything. It reminds me of the great leading ladies of the 1950s, like Grace Kelly, who made this traditionally masculine element of clothing so feminine with high-waisted skirts and pants. Pair it with sweaters, with denim, with cardigans, with anything to add an extra classic element where there might not be any. A crisp, white shirt is just another essential, versatile, perpetually chic element that should be in every woman’s wardrobe. Cross it off your list: A long-sleeved oxford is the only way to go! Also make sure it’s cotton so it can be washed and worn again and again without falling apart. You might even like to try a no-iron shirt which, as the name suggests, never ever needs to be ironed! So there you have it. The Classics. Kenny says, “You’re never going to go inside a store and not find these things. You’re not going to walk down the street and not see a person with one of these things on. They are must-haves and if you don’t have them, you’re missing out and you should really think about trying to get on that. If you have just these key things, you can survive in any city at any time of the year.” Why chance it and get something in a trend you don’t know much about when you can have the Classics and look chic all the time? As the saying goes, make new friends but keep the old—try out new trends, but don’t forget the originals. They’ll always love you and they’ll always be there for you, just like old friends.
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(Photo courtesy of LaurenV)