Winter 2006 – Wardrobe Essentials

1. A Pair of Tall Boots. If you do not own a pair now, this is the season to purchase some. Kitten heels, flats, high heels, laces, suede, pointy toe or flat, they all seem to be stylish and in stock at every store.

Boots may seem like a major purchase as that most real-leather styles start around $200. The thing is, boots, if good quality, do not go out of style. If they are babied (keep them protected, stored properly, get them reheeled and resoled before each season) they will last you a very long time. My mother has a pair of boots that she purchased in 1962 and still wears (and still receives compliments on them!). Do not settle; it seems that every clothing store, shoe store and department store will have at least a couple varieties.

If you find that tall boots are too tight on your calves, do check out the stores I have listed in the sidebar for fuller figured women. Many offer high-quality boots in varying calf sizes. Mainstream stores like Naturalizer and J. Crew have also realized that not every woman has a 13” calf and also now offer larger calf sizes.

As for color, consider your wardrobe. I personally only own black boots as that I wear mainly black, bright colors, white and silver accessories. My friend who is blonde and prefers neutrals and pinks found a dark camel pair appropriate for her style; my coworker who has dark auburn hair and has a bit of a vintage feel to her J. Crew and Banana Republic staples recently invested in a chocolate brown leather pair with a wood stacked heel.

2. A Slimmer, Darker Jean. No, I am not telling every woman to toss her jeans and buy a pair of skin-tight black stovepipe jeans a la Kate Moss. These thin jeans do not look good on most shapes. What I am suggesting is a darker, cleaner jean. Less whiskering, bleaching and distressing, and no crazy flare, super low rise or baggy leg. These jeans are almost shaped like pants, they are straight or with a very slight boot cut, they are clean, maybe creased and they look expensive (even if they are not).

Tuck them into your boots and wear with a sweater for a jaunt to the mall. Wear with sassy heels and a blouse for a night out on the town. Pair with boots and a velvet blazer for a smart Casual Friday look. Stretch is acceptable, but do not confuse stretch for allowing tight. A stylish woman will not have painted-on jeans, no matter how fabulous her figure. Tight is trendy, tailored is eternal. Stretch will help the jeans keep their shape and be more comfortable. This also helps jeans keep their dark wash. Consider letting them hang-dry to maintain the color and size. A bit of distress at the seams (or crease, if there is one) can add to the personality of the jeans, but the holes, tears, rhinestone appliqué and zipper embellishments can be left on the rack.

3. A Work Dress.
I know I mentioned it before, but I have to mention it again. I have not seen dresses be so flattering, so acceptable for all situations and so plentiful in stores in a very long time. Dresses can make bumps turn into curves, boy figures into goddesses. A great dress can transcend trends and become a staple for many years to come.

The shirt dress has come back, and luckily in many variations. A heavy jersey fabric will glide over curves, a stiff poplin will create curves for those who are lacking them. A style just at or above the knee will make a woman look taller, a style hitting at the calf will make a tall woman look less leggy. Wrap styles whittle a waistline, skinny belts accentuate a small waist and wide stretchy belts with leather or suede buckles define a figure.

Not only shirt dresses are popular. Jumper-style dresses nod to childlike fashions of the 70’s and look great over turtlenecks and blouses. Kimono-inspired dresses hide a multitude of sins and look feminine and elegant. A-line, tent and bell-shaped styles are very modern and fun on slight figures. There is a dress (or five!) that will look great on every figure. This dress will work at work, at church, for a social occasion or a night out with the girls. Pair with boots or pumps for work or strappy heels for play.

4. Your Own personal “It” Bag. I am not telling you to go out and get a Fendi, a Marc Jacobs or a Balenciaga if your budget cannot afford it. You don’t even need to invest in a Coach, Kooba or Kate Spade; or a Kenneth Cole, DKNY or Fossil. I remember last winter my sister sported the coolest looking purse. It was a dark teal color with contrast stitching and silver hardware. She received raves from all her friends about how cool it was and such a great color. Where did she get it? Payless Shoe Source for $14.99. Point is, an “It” bag does not have to be dripping with logos or cost more than your home.

So what IS and “It” bag? It’s a bag that makes a statement. It’s a bag that has as much oomph, personality and style to look amazing just sitting on the table by itself. It is a little bigger than what you may be used to, but that’s so it is noticed.

Oomph and personality do not equal gaudiness. Pass on the fringe, studs, embroidery and patchwork unless you have a true designer bag. Brass or silver hardware is fine, as long as it is regulated to buckles, zippers with purpose and clasps. The bag should be big enough to hold your planner or a book or a larger water bottle, but not all three. We are not looking for carry-on luggage, but a daily handbag that can stow your essentials without overpowering your frame. For a petite woman, a bag that is 12” in length and 7” in height may be appropriate. Just realize this is not the season for a wallet on a string or the traditional crocheted Le Sak. As for fabric, leather is on all the runways, but suede is popular, canvas mixed with leather is seen often, and if you cannot afford or stomach leather, look for stylish pleather. Some washed PVC and faux croco bags look just as authentic as the real thing and hold up much better during inclement weather. Unless you are a Kate Spade devotee, it is time to give your microfiber bags a vacation. This is a season of luxe, and a square techno-fiber bag is not appropriate.

As for color, almost everything is acceptable, as long as it is not pure white (ivory and winter white is acceptable), metallic (that is last season and too “bling” for this season’s looks) or a bright shade. Black, brown, camel, olive, dark red, dark purple, plum, mallard blue, mustard and charcoal are all very popular this season. I personally have invested in a dark camel leather hobo-style bag with brass hardware for my daily “It” bag, feeling that it is a nice contrast to my wardrobe of red, blue and purples and doesn’t conflict with either brown or black shoes. My mom purchased a dark red pleather bag with contrast stitching, a more traditional shape and a silver buckle holding the main flap in place. My dear friend found a fabulous large framed bag in a very dark glazed berry leather with dark silver hardware and is sporting that and a brown suede hobo with no trim but a gold-capped suede tassel from the zipper pull. All are larger than last season, more substantial and have more charm and personality than the diminutive bags or blingy giant totes of previous seasons.

5. A Great Pair of Trousers. This is the season of trousers. These are a bit more than your standard Editor pants from Express. These are pants that make an outfit. That can be worn with a simple sweater or shirt but will be an OUTFIT. Be it Audrey Hepburn or Katherine Hepburn your channel, the look is defined and a bit retro. Full legged tweed trousers with a cuff and defined waist with a feminine ruffly blouse, skinny black cropped pants that are paired with ballet flats, winter white fluid pants that stand out against a black jacket and heels, high-waisted pinstripe menswear-inspired trousers with a crisp white shirt. These pants make a statement.

Consider your shape and size when you consider these type of pants. High-waisted full-legged trousers will not look best on a petite zaftig frame, and skinny cropped pants may just look a tad shrunken on a long lean figure. If you are afrais to shy from your standard flattering cut, consider a different fabric, print or color. Winter white is big this season and pops against black, brown and the dark romantic colors that are in the stores. A conservative tweed with a surprising ribbon of green, pumpkin or salmon can look fresh added to your current wardrobe of blouses and blazers. A basic black trouser updated with a tuxedo stripe will freshen up your standard white shirt and black pumps.

6. A White Shirt. Be it a standard crisp cotton button-down, a tuxedo-inspired version with oodles of ruffles, a silken one with princess sleeves and pearl buttons or a stretch poplin wrap style with French cuffs, all are hot for this season.

Shirts with a bit of lycra will refrain from wrinkling through the day and will be less likely to tug at the bust and shoulders. If you are short waisted, no matter your height consider a petite version (do you find your shirts often bunch at the lower back? Try petites – Ann Talyor carries up to a 16 petite in many of their shirts). Many brands like Rebecca and Drew now offer sizes according to bust-size, preventing gaping at the buttons.

White shirts do not need to be tucked in. Curved hemlines and tailored shapes are made to be worn untucked and can look elegant with trousers, jeans and skirts. Accessorize with pearls, gold chains or a beloved scarf. If the shirt has detail (ruffles, pintucks, decorative buttons) minimize the accessories and let the shirt be the focus.

7. A Wool Coat. This is not a wool jacket, this is a COAT. A jacket that is anywhere between thigh-length and calf-length. It is a stylish, elegant coat that works with jeans as well as a cocktail dress. This coat is a necessity unless you live in warmer or tropical climates (where I would recommend a trench in it's place).

The cost should not be the focus this season, this season is about luxe details. Find detail in scarves, gloves, bags and shoes. Your coat should be a canvas for the rest of your look. Consider single-breasted, this is flattering on most shapes and elongates the body. Look for a more tailored shape, no matter your size a heavy coat will be more flattering if it glides against your shape instead of hiding it. Wrap styles are better for trenches and lighter-weight fabrics so look for a more simple style. To help reduce bulk, look for high-tech linings like Thinsulate that will add warmth without the padding.

As for color, black and brown are safe, classic choices. Like purses, dark muted colors are neutrals this season. A camel, deep plum or ivory coat can look quite smart. Do not get too trendy with this coat; a coat should be able to last you for many years. Because of this fact, look for quality. Lower end wools and wool blends often are lint-magnets and get balled up under arms and places that are rubbed often. Places like Burlington Coat Factory and TJ Maxx often have wonderful quality (and often designer) coats at reduced prices.

9 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    September 21, 2006 / 4:40 pm

    What a great blog. I love thinking about building a wardrobe and what looks good on individual people. Here is my personal wardrobe plan for Fall 06 in New York City: A ton of dresses (mostly vintage and H&M but one good one), two flats and two boots, and two pair straight-leg jeans. By the way, the a-line minidress look is huge here right now.

  2. September 21, 2006 / 8:04 am

    Wow, this is a great article , I’m so sick of people trying to follow trends blindly and not taking into account that the trend might not suit their shape.

  3. September 18, 2006 / 3:21 pm

    Dilly, I love you!! I actually made a list of the things you suggested last time and went shopping until I had found every one. Now you have just provided me with a new list and a new excuse to shop! I have a question though. I have some tall, black boots from 9 West, but the toe is a little squarish. Do you think these are still ok? And what should I wear them with? I never know what they look best with and so I dont wear them very often, but I would like to. Also have you seen the new Real Simple with all the pieces you need in your wardrobe? Its a good article.

  4. Anonymous
    September 15, 2006 / 5:21 pm

    Any chance you could do a post on the makeup trends for fall/winter ’06?

  5. Anonymous
    September 15, 2006 / 4:38 pm

    “Blingy giant tote” — LOL!

    I always get excited when I see a new post from you on Bloglines.

  6. September 15, 2006 / 1:22 pm

    Knowing her, some random little boutique on a less-traveled road in DC or a city on the outskirts of DC. She never buys from chain stores, mainly boutiques, online and thrift stores. When I went to the beach this summer, there are many vintage and quirky boutiques there qand a huge assortment of amazing bags. Not as helpful as a link, but often boutiques have the best variety of unique bags. And who wants their “It” beg to look exactly like the bag of the girl in accounting, the lady int he checkout line and your jerk of a next door neighbor? 🙂

  7. September 15, 2006 / 1:16 pm

    Sorry — posted in the wrong place below. The burgundy frame bag you mentioned; where did your friend find it? I’ve been searching high and low for one, to no avail. Same for a quilted frame leather bag (that isn’t a stam)

  8. September 14, 2006 / 12:54 am

    again, so true–I have a classic black wool coat my mom bought for me MY SENIOR YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL, in the spring, on sale for less than a hundred dollars. I’ve had the lining replaced, had it cleaned a few times, and it’s still hanging in my closet ready for another winter.
    glad to hear you finally found a bag!

  9. September 13, 2006 / 8:47 pm

    so true – i purchased an Isaac Mizrahi long black wool coat 8 years ago at TJ Maxx and it still looks new. i always get compliments on it! i think it was $50.

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