CHOICE, PARTICULARLY when it applies to wardrobe, is overrated. Who wants to stand in front of a full closet in the wee hours, or anytime for that matter, debating what to wear. How enviable my long-ago summer camp uniform of navy and gray shorts with navy and gray T-shirts now seems. Which got us to thinking—how could we decrease the time and the stress that are involved in this daily dressing process? We reached out to friends, family, colleagues and to the pages of the new Parisian Chic Look Book: What Should I Wear Today? from the quintessentially French Inès de la Fressange.
“It helps to find a uniform,” says Deb Waterman Johns, co-founder of Scout Bags. “The Prada fanny pack and Patricia Underwood knot hairband have been my wardrobe anchor for 25 years. I have a very casual lifestyle. I must have 40 black T-shirts from Petit Bateau” (which she buys for much less in Paris.) To those basics, Johns adds cargo shorts (black leggings in winter) and black Converse sneakers. It just helps to streamline, she says.
And streamline is exactly what my daughter-in-law, who’s a busy working mom, knows how to do. During the day, white jean capris from BlankNYC, a Madewell T-shirt and flats are her staples; at night she changes to longer AG white jeans and adds a heel and a silky sleeveless shirt.
To minimize the angst over “what should I wear today,” I’ve taken a page from my daughter-in-law’s book and adapted it. I’m a sucker for blue-and-white striped cotton T-shirts (the Gap, Saint James, Everlane, Theory, a wildly overpriced Marc Jacobs); I have a few white blouses (a button-down and a little boho one from J. Crew, along with other styles from Theory and Brooks Brothers) and a couple of oversize linen shirts in white and indigo. I own several pairs of Paige white ankle-length jeans but lately I’m more comfortable in looser, cotton pants from Everlane, Alice + Olivia and Joseph. And sneakers—or minimal sandals a la Jackie O. Speaking of the inimitable Jackie, who, although she didn’t need a uniform in the same way the rest of us do, favored black T-shirts and white pants in summer.
Summer or winter, the palette of MyLittleBird Managing Editor Nancy McKeon is black and white. A pair of Talbots cotton ankle pants (in photo above) for summer, Pendleton wool (full trouser length) for winter and stretchy Lycra-blend, ankle or cropped, for dog walks. Her blouses/shirts/sweaters/jackets vary by brand (from cheap-cheap to more-than-enough) and by fabric weight. What changes is everything but the look—the pants can be longer or shorter, heavier-weight fabric or lighter, the jacket sometimes more structured, sometimes more slouchy (see photo). Most of her six white non-iron cotton blouses have a winged collar, nothing fancy but very practical. BTW, McKeon, who composed the photo on her sisal carpeting, has in the process learned just how much of Jeremiah’s dog hair is embedded there.
Inès de la Fressange understands the value of keeping it simple. In her recent book, she advises on how to mix the ingredients you already have—blue or black jeans, a trench coat, a white shirt, boots, sandals. Wardrobe building blocks can be dressed up or down to suit every situation, from what to wear to work to having dinner with your ex. De la Fressange is big on accessories—embellished flats, a handbag in an unexpected jewel tone, a piece of statement jewelry.
Do you have a summer uniform? Send us an e-mail describing it, and please feel free to attach a photo.