Fashion & Beauty

What’s Your Summer Uniform?


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.

—Janet Kelly




6 thoughts on “What’s Your Summer Uniform?

  1. Joanie Ballard says:

    My go-to summer uniform is basic and not really from a designer line but actually from Chico’s. I work every day in my shop & gallery and need affordable, comfy, easy-care, easy-movement basics while still looking a little pulled together. I open boxes of shipments and do lots of displays, so I need comfort above all. I switch out my white LIA no-iron shirts with blue and grey tops, but always love leggings and slim jeans in either black or white. Why white as a basic? I get asked that a lot as it seems that white would get dirty easily, however I swear by Oxiclean and stay calm when I accidentally spill my morning coffee on anything. I have several long necklaces and earrings that I interchange to get a different look, all I have had for years. Love my new watch from TAKI. And my summer shoes? I found the most comfortable heeled sandal ever just a week ago. It’s from aetrex and called Naya, and I feel like I am wearing sneakers.

  2. alice kresse says:

    Right now I’m wearing black yoga pants, a black T-shirt and a light grey hoodie. I’ve been and the black and white train for years now. When it gets a little warmer, I’ll take off the yoga pants and hoodie and put on black shorts. I work mostly at home or in an art studio so that’s it. I swim several days a week in the summer. I’ve had the same style Karla Colletto bathing suit since 2009. I really liked the black one I bought back then, so I got a red one too. When the black one died and the red one got a broken underwire, I bought the navy version, then the grey one. I want to wear this style suit forever – imagine never having to go bathing suit shopping ever again!

  3. JAN KAUFMAN says:

    Great ideas, but even once one has decided on a uniform fit I always find that fit is a problem for me. I like nice white tee shirts and black jeans, but even when I order them from the same places, the fit & material always seem to change.

  4. Bonnie Kogod says:

    My day time look is white or pastel cropped Paige jeans with either a white or pastel linen or cotton shirt. I must have at least 15 white shirts – all of which I wear. For evening, I adore my Dolce & Gabbana black jacquard ankle length pants with either a great white cotton off the shoulder top I found at Zara or the chic Lavin white silk chameuse deconstructed tuxedo jacket I found at a final sale.

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      That’s a lot of white shirts. Where do you buy them?

  5. Violette says:

    Nancy, moi aussi j’aime le sweater cotton Chanel et aussi toute la suite de l’uniform: “McKeon’s uniform: , a winged collar shirt and cotton, ankle-length pants”. / MyLittleBird photo.

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