Fashion & Beauty

Choosing Closet Essentials

From left to right: J. Jill linen pants, Talbots Textured Dot Shirtdress and Lafayette 148 NY V-neck T-shirt.

By Janet Kelly

SUDDENLY, it feels like summer. Maybe just a tease. April is nothing if not fickle. Still, this spate of warmer weather and more people getting vaccinated is a siren call for a wardrobe refresh. As if balmy weather weren’t enough, those relentlessly happy-spring catalogues and email alerts are flashing tempting new-season clothes.

A wardrobe overhaul is not in the cards, but as for buying basic T-shirts, linen pants and an easy shirt dress, I’m in. Here at MyLittleBird world headquarters, we’ve been sizing up the options from five brands —Talbots, J. Jill, J. McLaughlin, Eileen Fisher and Lafayette 148 New York—asking ourselves what would make us buy Talbots ankle pants as opposed to J.Jill’s or a T-shirt from Lafayette 148 New York rather than from J. McLaughlin? As we prep to return to our pre-Covid social lives, how do we choose an item of clothing —quality of fabric, construction, style, available sizes, comfort?

Or do we buy a brand we identify with—one that speaks to the person we see ourselves as or the one we want to be?

Preppy, conservative, boho?

Below we’ve compared and contrasted some basics from the aforementioned brands. We’d also love to hear from you—why do you choose one brand over another? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

LEFT: Compared to its competitor’s T-shirts, Talbots Classic 100% Cotton Crewneck Tee ($29.50) is more structured and fitted. The label’s Tees are also more colorful; in addition to Blue Sky above, it’s available in 12 other hues, including Vivid Pink and Lemon Chiffon.

MIDDLE: Eileen Fisher clothing can be slightly droopy around the shoulders, but this Organic Linen Jersey Short-Sleeve Tee ($118) is fitted on top and then relaxes at the hem. Shown in popular-this-spring olive green, it’s also available in black and white.

RIGHT: This Pure Jill Scoop Neck Elliptical Tee ($49, J. Jill) in 100% pima cotton is everyday easy with an A-line silhouette and a hemline loose enough to hide under. The scoop neck sits high enough to comfortably cover and also flatter your assets. In addition to black it also comes in white, dusty pink and a floral print.

LEFT: The Kasey V-Neck Linen Tee ($68) from J. McLaughlin, made of 95% linen and 5% Spandex, has a more relaxed fit than the Talbots version but is not as forgiving as J. Jill’s. The curved hem in the back is a nice touch. The vibe is Palm Beach preppy.

RIGHT: At $148, this hip-length Modern Cotton Jersey V-Neck Tee from Lafayette 148 New York is a pricey staple. If you’re a stickler for construction and luxurious materials, though, Lafayette 148 New York may be for you. Note the finished hems around the neck, hem and hip. Score quality at a discount during the label’s online semi-annual spring warehouse sale (May 21-May 31) when prices are marked down up to 75 percent.

LEFT: Lafayette 148 New York’s Sedwick Shirtdress  ($598), made from organic, sustainably grown cotton fibers (also available in white and coral), makes one-and-done dressing even more effortless with its clean lines, crisp collar and cuffed elbow-length sleeves.

CENTER: With yarn-dyed woven linen in navy and cream stripes, three-quarter sleeves and patch pockets, J. Jill’s above-the-knee, relaxed Linen Striped A-Line Shirtdress  ($119) will take you everywhere by itself or layered over a contrasting tank.

RIGHT: Eileen Fisher’s Classic Long-Sleeve Silk Shirtdress ($348) looks flowy and comfortable in a generous boxy fit. You can dress it up or down with accessories and wear it as a dress or a tunic over pants. Maybe more spring-like colors are on the way.

LEFT: A fuller skirt and defined middle are the attractions of Talbots’ slightly-below-the-knee Tie Waist Textured Dot Shirt Dress ($139). The comfort factor comes into play with an elasticized waist.

RIGHT: J. McLaughlin jersey dresses are a more sophisticated, subtler, more tailored version of Lilly Pulitzer shifts. This Brynn Dress in Block Geo ($228, J. McLaughlin) comes in a choice of coral or light blue. Both are almost sold out.

LEFT: The fun factor for these J. Jill Linen Slim-Leg Pants ($89) is that the legs can be rolled up and tabbed with a button or left unrolled for a longer length. An elasticized waist checks the comfort factor while a wide tone-on-tone side stripe adds contemporary style.

CENTER: These Linen Lantern Pants ($158) in medium-weight organic linen from Eileen Fisher are curved through the leg and slightly tapered at the ankle. They also have front pleats and an elastic waistband.

RIGHT: Tailored for a slim fit, the mid-rise Manhattan Slim Ankle Pant in Jophur ($348, Lafayette 148 New York) with side slits is made from a Swiss stretch cotton with a crisp but lightweight feel and smooth finish. For those who like the feel of linen but not the look of wrinkles.

LEFT: Talbots’ slim-leg Perfect Crops Gingham ($89.50) are made of cotton with a touch of Spandex (2%). The contrasting button detail at the hem is adorably preppy. For the small-waisted with bigger hips, there’s also a Curvy Fit option.

RIGHT: A combination of mostly nylon and 9% Spandex ensures that these slim-leg, fitted Newport Capri Pants ($158, J. McLaughlin) will travel from shopping in Georgetown to hopping on a plane for Nantucket, looking fresh and polished.


MyLittleBird often includes links to products we write about. Our editorial choices are made independently; nonetheless, a purchase made through such a link can sometimes result in MyLittleBird receiving a commission on the sale. We are also an  Amazon Associate.


7 thoughts on “Choosing Closet Essentials

  1. Damianne Fischer says:

    Why do we still have this awful trend of above the ankle pants?

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      It’s not universally flattering, but because it has endured for at least a few seasons now, there are definitely women who like the look.

    2. Nancy McKeon says:

      We of stubby legs approve of the ankle- or slightly-above-the-ankle trend for two reasons: 1) it makes us (we hope) seem less nailed to the floor, which is often the effect with longer-length pants, and 2) they may be above the ankle on the rest of the world, but on us of lesser limb the length is perfect, just grazing the top of the foot!!!

  2. Nancy G says:

    Love linen. I don’t know if it’s because it just reminds me of summer, or what. But give me a great linen shirt and pair of slacks, and I’m good to go.

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      I’m with you!

  3. Carol says:

    I’ll take one of each please. I’m contemplating a new spring dress…
    I choose Talbots for pants and jeans as I know the fit, I can buy a 12P without the dreaded fitting room. Also the Annapolis store usually has some nautical wear. I have not tried JJill but have a friend who swears by them.
    Always love Anthropologie but need to go when a sale is on. Linen is my love for spring and summer nights, shirts, shorts, pants, tops, the linen of today only needs a quick press unlike the linen of the past. Why is that? Thanks, Janet

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      I think medium-weight linen doesn’t wrinkle as much, at least I’ve found that to be true. In general, I don’t mind the wrinkles.

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