Evening penguins. Much like yourselves, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about formalwear. Honestly, I think you guys take it too far, what with the tuxedos on every minute of every day, but I really thought of all animalkind, you would really understand where I’m coming from.
So, a classic wardrobe. There’s usually a story in every other issue of every magazine that lists the 10 must-have garments. Trench, white button up shirt, dark wash jeans, brightly colored cashmere cardi, blazer, black trousers, little black dress, cocktail dress, khaki trousers and black pencil skirt.
[all images from google image search]
Ah. Guess we need to add vest and tie to the list. Not that I could carry off the menswear look…
As much as I love the must-have wardrobe checklists, and the simple style of Jackie O and Audrey, most of the items on these lists are difficult for me to wear. I’ll be revisiting this off and on over the next few months, looking for the perfect style, fabric and pattern to create each garment on the checklist. First, I’ll outline what I don’t like about each of these ‘classic’ styles. This is shaping up to be a very negative post! My perspective is very much informed by years of haunting the womens and plus sections and dealing with the small offering out there in my size. That being said, I suspect that lots of girls have trouble fitting these simple styles – whether they are a size 4 or a size 20, A cup or double-D (oh, let’s be honest, I need to man up and get a bra fitting. I suspect I am more than a double D…)
Let’s start with the classic trench.
I love that she’s apparently only wearing the coat. Prepare to see more of this in my ever-evolving preferred blog-model-poses.
OK, the trench. As lovely as this looks on Jackie, there are so many things that don’t work for my full busted self. The double breasted style stinks, the epaulets look ridiculous on my narrow shoulders, a tie belt at the natural waist does nothing more than make me resemble an ill-made snowman, and finally the raglan sleeves aren’t the best sleeve style for me (although I encourage you to click on the link to examine the shoulders on this coat on super-zoom. they are super-cool.)
The white button up
The white button up. You know who rocked the button up shirt? CJ Craig (from the West Wing, if you don’t get tv in your penguin huts.) That woman looked awesome in her endless collection of silk button blouses. Of course, she’s stork-like and not so blessed in her bosoms as I am.
The problems with the button up are numerous. In order to get one that fits my bust, the shoulders are giant and stand up and away from my body. They’re never fitted enough to wear under sweaters. They’re usually too long. They’re stiff. They require ironing. They’re bunchy. If I tried to tuck one in, I’d again achieve a faintly snow-person shape. Sigh.
Dark wash jeans
I always think of Stacy and Clinton (from What Not to Wear) when I consider the proper cut for jeans. I will admit to making some progress on getting a better pair of jeans, but I’m still a bit unsure about the best cut for my shape. When it comes to RTW jeans, the fit is awful (lots of gaping at the waist) and the ‘bootcut’ style in my size (RTW 20) is laughably super flared. While Stacy here has a great amount of flare in her jeans, it becomes a bit more problematic getting the shape to balance well with larger thighs and hips without looking like bell bottoms. No wonder I’m partial to tucking my jeans into boots – the boots provide a good amount of balance to my hips!
BTW – Don’t you love her Buffy the Vampire-like peek of tummy showing?
Brightly colored cashmere cardigan
The cashmere cardigan. As you know, dear penguins, I love me some brightly colored sweaters, and who doesn’t love the coziness of cashmere? I’d literally kill for a simple coral crewneck cashmere cardi like this one. But I have never seen one in the wild that would fit me. I can usually fit a RTW XXL, or even an XL, depending on the brand, but cashmere seems to run small. And the cashmere sweaters that are available in my size are generally in the Macy’s women’s career section – totally Jones New York with the accompanying horrifying ‘womens’ style – long, large and vaguely tentlike. Double. Ugh.
[image white and warren]
OK. Blazers aren’t that problematic. I just donated most of my suit-wardrobe to Arc. What I had was fine. All the jackets had the run-of-the-mill giant shoulder issue that I usually find in fitted RTW garments that fit my bust. But they were OK. Making a blazer should be one of the easier projects in my classic wardrobe project. I am having a hard time finding a pattern, though. I’d prefer something with a peplum and a full inset waistband and there’s nothing in the new pattern books that fits the bill. There are a few options, however in the out of print patterns that Hotpatterns is selling on their Etsy site.
My main problem (other than my strangely boxy crotch curve) with trousers is that hip to thigh to hem width proportion issue that I mentioned regarding dark wash jeans. I really like the Inside Out Style, a style blog that has lots of information about dressing for your body type. Of course, I can’t figure out which body type I am, but I think I might be an ‘8’ – the high hip hourglass (note the resemblance between a snowman and the number ‘8’!) So 8’s are supposed to stick with straight or bootcut trousers and stay away from wide of flared styles. When you get into larger sizes, straight legged trousers are also wide legged trousers! I think my thigh is probably 25 inches or so at its widest point – a 25 inch wide hem in a trouser is quite floppy indeed. And if I ease in to keep them from being that floppy, they start to sport the dreaded womens-section-trousers-with-elastic-mom shape.
[image Ann Taylor, archived in my Pinterest account]
Little black dress and cocktail dress
[black dress unknown; pink cocktail dress jewelry101]
You didn’t think I’d get all the way through this without invoking Joan, now did you?
I’m lumping the little black dress and the cocktail dress together because I have the same issue with both of them. Getting the fit right for a sheath dress in larger sizes can certainly be problematic. Like the pencil skirt, which we’ll visit shortly, there is a lot of potential for the stuffed sausage look. Cut poorly, the sheath dress will be too tight across the hips and hang straight down from those tightly encased hips, giving the wearer a terrible blocky dress, old person vibe. I have this problem with most RTW sheath dresses. However, I’ve found that properly fitted, the silhouette is one I really like for me.
No… the problem I have with sheath dresses is all about sitting down. I, like most penguins, prefer my skirts to hit just below my knee – rather a long length for a skirt considering that I am also a huge fan of much shorter mid-thigh length skirts. But when I sit in that length of skirt, the fabric rides up to a shocking degree. To a don’t wear in polite company, at church or in the workplace degree. Also, Spanx or any other leg covering that has the darker, more supportive material that goes down past the hips are strictly out of the question – it will definitely show when sitting. And there’s no chance of crossing my legs, even if I do manage to sit without flashing the world entirely too much thigh.
I think the problem has to do with my rather rounded and substantial rump roast. When I sit, the fabric hikes up from the waist and just needs that much clearance to curve around my haunches – leaving me contemplating the best brand of self-tanning lotion and thanking the great good lord that my leg hair grows in so light as to be nearly invisible. I’m not sure the answer for this fitting conundrum. Obviously, fuller skirts get rid of the problem, but I really don’t think fuller skirts are that flattering on me! I’m also contemplating separates that are so well tailored they will appear to be a sheath dress, but will ease off the sitting issue. I’m not a huge fan of that solution, though – especially for the cocktail dress, which incidentally I will likely never wear other than for modeling!
The khaki pant
I have never, ever, not once in my long life come across a pair of chinos that were in the least bit flattering. Never. I suspect this may have more to do with my general dislike of the style and less with the problems of a size 20 girl trying to stuff herself into a pair. Even though they’re somewhat related to jeans (they’re the slightly more wealthy cousin of jeans?), I don’t like how they look when they’re tight (who does) and all other versions just make me feel like an ankle exposed clerk at Target. Or a phy ed teacher. Or a variety of other practical types of stereotypes that I don’t find enjoyable. Valet comes immediately to mind. Icky tassled loafer wearing men at happy hour downtown. The carryout kids at my grocery store.
The only ‘khakis’ I like are straight up suburban-housewife-art-fair-subaru-driving crops; slightly wider legs, lots of pockets and zippers. A possible drawstring at the waist and a for sure drawstring at the hem, which is usually just south of the kneecap. Those I like.
[image Banana Republic]
The black pencil skirt
Ah, a true basic. As long-time readers may know, I have a love-hate relationship with black. I love it so much, it’s pretty much all I wore through my 20’s. In a contemporary Banana Republic way. not in a goth way. I’d have been better having gone the goth direction!
No, it’s my white dog that makes me hate it so. That being said, I’m always up to putter with another pencil skirt. Once a style I wouldn’t be caught dead in (see my earlier comments under sheath dresses regarding stuffed sausage looks), I know see that properly fitted, this is a great style for me. So many details – waistband or not? What length? Lined? Vent? Proper hip curve? Fabric? I suspect that the perfect pencil skirt will be the work of the lifetime, but we will see!
[image Banana Republic]
So that, my pretty penguins, is that. I have problems. I will find answers, patterns, and high end fabrics and construct myself a ‘classic’ wardrobe from styles that flatter. Am I missing anything? Do you have a classic wardrobe? Do you wish you did?