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ESSENTIALS + ENCOURAGEMENTS FROM AN EX-FASHION EDITOR




THE CAPE

Posted on December 4, 2018


at the louvre

I have spent my fair share of time sitting on bleachers. Not all of my girls remain athletes, but they all played at least one team sport because I really loved all that goal-oriented bonding, especially among girls. (Of course, it is a little vicarious as I vividly remember life pre-Title-XI and would have loved the opportunity to run around with a field hockey stick... I am biased.) You name it, someone played it. Soccer, basketball, golf, volleyball, and thank goodness only minimal amounts of swimming because THAT is a real commitment.

So I've spent a lot of time as a spectator, and through all those years, more often than not, I was doing it wrapped in one of our lambswool capes. It can make it that much more comfortable to watch your child play. (Or adult, for that matter; I used to go and watch Sid play basketball in a gym occasionally when we were in our early twenties, but it was so crazy to watch all the men get worked up and yell at each other that I had to quit it. It was fairly routine male aggression but I lived in fear that a fight would break out and I just couldn't wrap my head around all that intensity.) Anyway, the cape. If I needed some extra padding on the aluminum of the bench seat – and if my shoulders could spare the warmth – I would fold it into a little pillow to sit on. It's first and foremost a fashion piece, though. I have a few, in plaids and solids, and throwing one on makes me feel instantly chic. At the first hint of fall, when the ends of the days get chilly, I will wear my grey one over white jeans and a t-shirt. Even if I am still in sandals! Very California looking. It's low-commitment outerwear. And the black one serves as my evening coat to throw on over anything fancy. (Nothing is more of a buzzkill than trying to stuff an elaborate sleeve into your everyday overcoat.)

Capes have been on my mind not just because of the weather, but because I came to the rescue with one fairly recently. My daughters have asked my advice over the years (some more than others) and this particular request was for packing help for a weekend wedding in New York in September... and at 10pm the night before she was to leave, which, to be fair, was just about the earliest I could get to it, too, so being a last-minute person myself, I didn't lecture. It runs in the family. The temperature was going to range from 75 on arrival down to 40 on the day of the ceremony, which was on Governors Island, and OUTSIDE! I can usually toss out advice at the drop of a hat, but I was at a total loss here. It wasn't stockings and covered-feet-at-all-costs weather yet, but the usual solve-all sundress was NOT an option. And no one wants to show up at a wedding in a parka. It took us a couple of hours of pulling clothes out of the closet, throwing them on the bed in piles, sighing dramatically, questioning who would ever choose to get married in 40-degree-weather... but we figured it out. She ended up wearing a floor-length dress in black silk (a relic from junior prom and still so chic!) with heels and my blackwatch tartan cape. She was both dressy AND warm... and looked like she could be the lead in Outlander. It is one of my favorite success stories to date.

tartan cape
in front of a garbage truck; very glamorous

I can hardly say enough about how essential this piece of clothing is to me. Not quite the security blanket of my early days – but nearly! I take one on every Europe trip in September and February. If I don't use it as a coat, it will have served me well on the plane, either rolled up as a pillow or something more substantial than that slinky little blanket they give you (in coach, that is...) If you are having a really bad time of it, it's big enough to put over your head and hide out under, a little tent to tune out until you wake up in another time zone. New beginnings...

I love them in every length. The long is more dramatic, but not too much for my five-foot-two frame... though I can feel a bit like Drosselmeyer from the Nutcracker if I'm moving fast enough to make it catch the breeze... and that may not be a bad thing! The shorter ones are simpler, and if you don't enjoy the feeling of being wrapped in a blanket while driving, it's probably a better length for you. (Though my youngest daughter enters the passenger seat every morning with a big, synthetic "cozy" blanket made of horrible furry fleece wrapped around her legs like a sarong underneath her school uniform skirt... the cape is a major step up from that.) The lambswool ones are wonderful and sturdy, but a cashmere one is to die for... and you will never regret the extra money when you feel it. It can also get folded up and draped over your couch at home, truly multi-tasking as a fashion AND home accessory. The taller women in the shop wear it belted in the center for wearing inside, and it looks amazing. It becomes more of a poncho, which is also a look I love. I haven't gotten Sid to borrow it yet, but it worked really well on Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Maybe worth a try? So now it is for you, your home, and any male in your life. You just might need one.

cape town 2013
we've been making these for ages - this is an email campaign from 2013


THE THANKSGIVING

Posted on November 20, 2018


leather apron

Thanksgiving could very well be my favorite holiday. I think the last time we traveled for it was over a dozen years ago – we were usually given a pass since we had so many to fly or pile in the car – so it's become the default for us to stay at home. It's one of those holidays that doesn't suffer too much if it's down to the wire, and I am a real procrastinator at heart, so… it's the best. In the years since we started our business, it's been my tradition to head to the Publix supermarket around 5pm on Wednesday night. Sid usually brings home tacos for dinner so that everyone can stay out of my way while I begin to cook. I'll have some wine and roll out pie crusts and my girls will drift in and out and chat with me. The Midwest/Mississippi differences between me and Sid are never more clearly defined than at Thanksgiving. I will make sure we have pumpkin pie (pecan would have been at his table growing up), my sausage-and-sage stuffing (as opposed to his cornbread dressing,) and the turkey will be roasted and not smoked because I cannot imagine not filling the house with the scent… which we all know is the biggest emotional trigger of all.

All the time at home, but especially at Thanksgiving, I am dressed for movement and comfort – and the star of the show for me is the apron. It defines you as the cooker… the boss for the day. For years I had a sweet Pierre Deux printed one with pockets, and a few years ago we made some in Liberty prints as an update. But THIS year I am thrilled to be wearing my dream apron… in leather! This is so very French country – who wouldn't want to look like Mimi Thorisson??? It might seem over-the-top and luxurious, but is actually so practical to me. Leather gets better the more you wear it, and each splatter of grease will improve it, just like all the speckles and water stains on the pages of your cookbook. You've earned them! You're a true cook! Under the apron, I will probably wear a pair of jeans, driving moccasins and a t-shirt, but it's nice to have a costume change for dinner once you're finished cooking. It marks a transition. I'll slip into some navy cashmere jogger pants, put on a clean white shirt, and arrive at the table both comfortable and chic. We are all very casual in our house – but I promise you these pants actually flatter, so if we go over to someone's house for a drink after dinner I will put on a pair of heels and it will look even better with some added height.

We have all been bombarded over the last years with food-based "content" – cooking shows, celebrity chefs, and, oh my goodness, most of the Instagram feed is filled with pictures of what everyone made or ate or perhaps just photographed. For me, it can be a bit much. But the truth is that food does stir up such powerful feelings, and I think on this holiday more than any other, since it is so deeply tied to family. In our own office, at a recent meeting, my head of production shared that she will be creating a new tradition and making a road trip to a restaurant out of town, as it is the first Thanksgiving without her father. The turkey and her dad were knit too closely in her head, and thus, the car trip to Birmingham… plucked as a destination simply because it's not Atlanta. Ruth Reichl weaves her own stories and memories into her food writing, and to me she's unmatched. She is sensitive and wise and has excellent taste, and I love her way with words almost more than with food. (If you haven't read any of her books, you need to, I promise.) In a very favorite passage, she talks about the simplicity of putting butter and sugar and chocolate together at the end of a long day… because suddenly, with a pan of brownies, you've accomplished a goal. Sometimes that's all you need – to make something delicious out of a few ordinary ingredients. I have a page torn out from Gourmet magazine around 1990 where she listed her three go-to dishes. Vegetarian chili, a weird kind of bread that had no yeast, and the aforementioned brownies. That was the year I taught myself to cook in my tiny kitchen in New York. I made those dishes over and over and over again, and while my grandmother may have taught me to bake – it's her pie recipe I'll be making on Thursday – Ruth has influenced the way I FEEL about cooking and serving and sharing, more than any other. She just gets to me.

Content or not, cashmere joggers or not, we all know that the whole point of Thanksgiving is to spend time with others, enjoying the very simple pleasure of good food and being together. Especially for my own family, it is the last real exhale before the rush of the holiday season kicks in and we are all in overdrive til December 26th. Whether you are going strong on years-old traditions, or creating some new memories to change things up this year, happiest Thanksgiving to all. And you should try my pie recipe… it's even better eaten cold for breakfast the day after.

recipe
"Libbys or Del Monte"

pie


THE WHITE SHIRT

Posted on November 6, 2018


Italy
Sunnier times

A white shirt has its place in every closet. My very first one (that I can remember wearing, anyway), was at my fifth-grade band concert. The universal uniform of anyone who's ever played a musical instrument – for me it was the oboe – or waited tables. This visual never goes away for me, which is why I have to try so hard to make my white shirt look amazing and feminine and sexy... something that I actually WANT to wear. Because "coming to refill your water glass" is not usually the first impression I'm going for.

Though I have to admit... it's who I am. I worked in restaurants before I scraped up enough cash to move to New York, and have a real soft spot for that kind of environment. When we are hiring, I am always drawn to people who have worked in food service because it is truly the BEST work experience no matter your role. They're my people! I am more comfortable entering many places through the back door. And when I am extremely tight in my shell and stressed out, my go-to fantasy is to be sitting in the back of a restaurant kitchen after-hours, eating at the stainless steel prep table, rather than being served in the dining room with everyone else. Once a waitress, always a waitress. I digress.

From a fashion perspective, the white shirt – for me – is a cross between Audrey Hepburn looking sweetly feminine in a masculine getup, and the always-polished Carolina Herrera, who is practically synonymous with a crisp white shirt. I once ran downstairs wearing one tucked into a long taffeta skirt, running late for a fancy dinner, and my youngest daughter proudly announced that I looked like "that girl on Stardoll." She raced to the family iMac to pull up the internet game she was obsessed with. And there she was! A cartoonishly-illustrated avatar of Meryl Streep as a paper doll, with clickable, draggable white shirts hanging up next to her. I guess, to a 6-year-old, this was the older woman "uniform." Not quite waitstaff, but also not the compliment I was looking for. (Though I do adore Meryl Streep.)

Meryl Streep in Stardoll form
There she is!

I have made what seems like a hundred white shirts that can evoke lots of different personas, from gamine to sophisticated, from blue jeans to black tie. Silky ladylike blouses, shrunken collegiate button-downs, the scaled-down version of a men's oxford. There's a beautiful trim-but-not-skinny version for a workday made of the best-feeling stretch Italian poplin, and a long, dropped-hem version that always makes me feel like an artist... or at least a gallerist. It's not really the season for it now – unless you live at the beach – but one of my favorite places to wear a white shirt is over a bikini, tucked into a pareo. That's what I'm wearing in the photo above – a white popover that was probably on its second or third day of wear. You're ready for lunch in the pool restaurant, and it looks kind of sexy a little wet and buttoned as low as you want, because who cares if you can see your bathing suit? You're on vacation. Last year, I was so proud to get my first placement in VOGUE's September issue with one of the very first things we made, our white Icon Shirt. It was worn by Cindy Crawford – herself an icon! And for me, it was a sweet little coincidence as I was the harried assistant on her very first VOGUE shoot in 1985. And finally, later this week, we are rolling out a made-to-order shirt program in our stores with 6 shirt silhouettes (plus a classic shirtwaist dress.) Out of the 40 fabric swatches, there are – believe it or not – five different whites, each having its own reason to be. It is kind of like stocking your pantry with pasta... it's always perfect and ready when you need it. (Olive oil and cheese help too.)

VOGUE September issue
September issue and all

And here's the very last white-shirt anecdote I have. There was a very fancy party a few years ago for the brilliant Pilar Guzman, who had just signed on as editor-in-chief for the relaunch of Conde Nast Traveler. I thought long and hard about what I might wear before packing my suitcase from Atlanta – Anna Wintour in attendance and all. It was THAT kind of party. I decided on a tie-neck blouse in a heavyweight white silk. Smooth and rich and really beautiful. I threw it on over perfectly-cut black pants and simple alligator slingbacks. Grown-up, not trying too hard, dressy but not too formal (it was a weeknight, after all.) I felt good. Maybe even amazing. The party was a lot of fun. And after just the right amount of chatting and a cocktail, it happened: another smartly-dressed guest looked straight at me and asked me to get their coat. Waitstaff. It never goes away. Even so, you still need a white shirt... probably a few of them. I promise.




THE COWBOY BOOT

Posted on October 23, 2018


this fall in Milan
This fall in Milan in the very rock-star blue python

Recently, I was very flattered to chat with fashion historian and journalist Nancy MacDonell about cowboy boots for the Wall Street Journal. Her piece was about them as a trend this fall, but for me they've been an ALWAYS thing... year-round. We opened the doors of the women's shop with the classic Lucchese boot in roughout suede... in fact, it may have been one of the first shoes we had. And until I could rustle up (cowboy talk) a factory to design my own version, it fit the bill beautifully.

"Why do you love them so much?" was one of Nancy's first questions. I explained that the fashion editor in me is guilty of romanticizing the whole western thing. In that job, we created stories and designed shoots around pieces of clothing in an effort to give practical context, but also to stir up emotion through the images. Because it's not just a shoe or a sweater... it's the feeling you get from wearing it. We have all just celebrated Ralph Lauren's 50th year in business (maybe you saw it on Instagram?) who was truly the master of this. The 1980s were – to me – his decade of excellence when he dominated the whole aspirational lifestyle thing. His vision of the American West filled the front section of every magazine I looked at for years (there were a few other themes, too... English gentry... Ivy League...) There was a particular model who appeared in a lot of those ads, a regular, who was the subject of a huge adolescent crush for me. And believe it or not, I eventually crossed paths with years later in NY. It was soul-crushing. Without the perfect chambray shirt and chaps, he was just... a regular guy. And the faraway, dreamy-eyed look in his eyes was probably more about THC than romance... because the only thing he asked me that night was if I knew where to buy any marijuana. The illusion was shattered. And just another great example of how what's in your head is often better than reality. Ouch.

full collection
Gang's all here.

So for awhile, I had this grand, RL-fueled vision of the Wild West and all I wanted to wear was turquoise jewelry and tooled leather belts and ripped-up Levi's 501s. I had a single pair of cowboy boots I had scored at a thrift shop in Denver when I was in college, but my friend Doug helped me expand my collection. He worked alongside Sid at Ralph Lauren. (Yes... rejecting the stoner model was the right move... my future boyfriend-then-husband would actually work there!) Doug was incredibly talented. He sourced and bought all of the vintage western wear for Ralph himself (and a million other things) and had a knack for sniffing out this stuff. He hooked me up with one of his contacts, who sent me two pairs of perfectly worn-in boots in a kraft-paper-wrapped box from a random PO box in San Jose. This was long before eBay, and I hid her information carefully in my Filofax, knowing what a gem she was.

It's been a couple of decades, but I am still totally into the cowboy aesthetic. I occasionally throw a western shirt in my line, and I collect old rancher-style belts that can push a look over the top. The big ruffle trend right now pairs really well with this. It's a little Petticoat Junction, or Katharine Ross in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. You can do it on a smaller scale, too... tie a piece of velvet ribbon around your neck and you can look like the pretty saloon owner! A couple of lines really lean into this idea – we carry Isabel Marant Etoile in Atlanta (the French are crazy for the American Western thing) and Ulla Johnson does this look really well, too.

But my very, very, very favorite expression of this is a Chelsea-ish cowboy boot. I love this so much I wear it 9 months out of the year – and it'd be 12 if I were lucky enough to be out west all summer. This version has been going strong in my line for four years now. To me it is classic and edgy at the same time. It is the BEST for support and walking. I always bring a pair on our big twice-a-year Europe trip when we visit factories and trade shows and walk 12 miles a day. The Cuban heel gives me a little height, which I appreciate, because sometimes, counterintuitively, a truly flat shoe isn't as comfortable for distance walking.

I have lots of skins – flat leather, suede, and both the brown and the blue python – but the suede is my favorite for the practicality. You can hit it with a suede brush after it rains, so it's the perfect travel shoe... because who wants to pack a pair of rubber wellies? The black can go a little more rock-and-roll (great with that Miss-Kitty-style choker) and the brown is a little more straight-up western. But day-to-day at home, I wear them most often with jeans and a very simple cashmere cardigan or a button-down oxford. I'm wearing a pair right now as I type. It just adds a little rough-and-tumble-ness to a preppy-feeling look. For weekends, I'll do a simple t-shirt with a thick western belt and boots. I've been more into the pared-down look lately. So whether you're like me, fantasizing about riding a horse and gathering water from the well (in fact, horses scare me a little,) or you just want to look cool... you need a pair of western boots, I promise.

Last summer in LA in the aforementioned go-to look...


THE BOYFRIEND SWEATER

Posted on October 9, 2018


weekend wear
true weekend wear

I love a slouchy boyish cashmere sweater nearly all year-round. I didn't grow up wearing cashmere – I am sure my practical midwestern mother would have thought it too "luxury" but once I moved to New York, I started collecting sweaters at thrift stores and the occasional sample sale. I liked how it felt against my skin, and the way it felt like an investment. I got a really good hand-me-down from Sid's best friend Lyons when I was just "the girlfriend." I took it as a compliment – thinking he must have thought I was a keeper for Sid – though I think it was just his brother's and a smidge too small for him. (Good life lesson. Usually boys are not thinking as much as you think they are thinking.) But whatever his reasons, Lyons handed it off to me – a thick, densely-knitted charcoal v-neck from Ballantyne of Peebles in Scotland that has seen many, many, many days. It is probably close to 50 years old.

I wore it again and again and again, through pregnancies and winters and just hanging around the house, but truth be told... it was not so flattering. The thing is – anything made for a man will never fit you the way you imagine it in your head. It’s a sexy idea, sure, and seems very insouciant and cool and devil-may-care to wear a castoff from your boyfriend’s closet. But I know from my days as an editor and stylist that in all those wonderful pictures of the girl on the beach running around bare-legged in an oversized sweater, there is a big plastic clamp in the back, so that the neckline goes to the right spot and the shoulder seams fall right and she doesn’t look too bunched around the middle. I would know. I was the one running in and out of the frame adjusting it! And that’s how I looked in Lyons’s sweater. Bunched and, frankly, chubbier than I was.

Lyons's sweater'
Lyons's sweater... good as new!

And so today, my crackerjack design team – who know how to make things fit and flatter and own their spot in your wardrobe – made a sweater to look like it could have belonged to your boyfriend (or in my case, his best friend), but to fit the way you imagine yourself looking in it. Which is to say – all feminine. We have made a V-neck (that dips just low enough) in the “boyfriend” fit for years, but I adore this year’s crewneck update.

A trim, tight one has its place too, but the luxury of MORE material is what I love about the boyfriend style... the way it drops and folds as you push up the sleeves feels so luxurious to me, and it’s long and oversized in a relaxed, weekend kind of way. My daughters have been stealing from that tennis-sweater pile in Sid’s closet for years. They can afford to look more bunched-up and sloppy; their youth is working double-time. But they’ll probably love this updated one even more. I’ll wear it with jeans and driving mocs on the weekend, or over a pencil skirt at the office... they’ll look cool with it layered over a long full skirt and sneakers. You can pile loads of jewelry on top as it is so simple – or classic little pearl earrings are very Upper East Side chic.

And by the way – cashmere doesn’t have to be fancy. Sid wears his to play football (well, once a year at Thanksgiving) and tennis. With proper care (and keeping the moths away,) it will last longer than you. I machine wash mine on gentle and lay them flat on a towel to dry. No need to dry clean – though they do come out looking all pressed and pretty – but a quick hit from the iron will achieve the same effect at home. If it’s too late and the moths have struck – as they did for me last summer – just darn up the holes and enjoy it as a TRUE weekend sweater. It is kind of like that funny sense of relief when the new leather couch gets a stain or a rip... it’s not perfect anymore! Now you don’t have to live in fear!

I throw mine on every morning when I am doing the school run before a shower and work – even in the summer because the air conditioning can hit you hard after you've been under the covers and haven’t moved around enough to warm up. The grey and navy are essential — but we also made the most terrific day-glo orange. Trust me, though; it isn't too much... super flattering and a lot of fun. And maybe it’s time to return that sweater to Lyons. He has a 14-year-old son now, and I think it would fit him beautifully. Maybe he can give it to his girlfriend.

last year's V-neck; this year's crew
Last year's V-neck; this year's crew


THE PULL-ON BOOT

Posted on September 25, 2018


my own back-to-school pic
My own obligatory back-to-school photo on the doorstep

I am not crazy about my legs. They are fine. They could be worse. They get me where I need to go, but they are just slightly too short – in my opinion – for the rest of me. But because I will never be the long-legged girl of my dreams, I am grateful for the boot that I have sold for years. All winter, I can wear shorter skirts with these, and the proportion just works, even with my shorter legs. I am nearing the age where 'short' for me isn't 'short' for most... but again, the boot helps, and a pair of tights will dissolve any doubts about age-appropriateness. So if you are young and firm in the leg, enjoy it! And know that you can wear them even when you're not. (Once, when I was young and, I thought, still quite firm, my oldest daughter, who was 6 at the time, asked me "why is your skin not wrapped as tightly around you as hers?" It was a good thing I loved her dearly enough to be more struck by her articulate phrasing than by my own 'loose' skin. Can you imagine????)

Anyway, these boots are perfect. They will never go out of style or look dated. Based on a riding boot, but sleeker and trimmer through the toe box. They are stretch suede so they won't squash more athletic legs, and they travel well because they fold up nicely in your suitcase and, surprisingly, don't weigh much. The flat-ish heel makes them wonderful to walk in if you are exploring a new city... there is a rubberized thing on the bottom to help with a wet sidewalk. They look great over jeans (thanks again to the stretch suede)... with a trim skirt and sweater you will have that 1960s go-go boot thing going on... and it is very 1970s YSL with a longer skirt or dress. But honestly, costumey references aside, they are neutral enough that you won't grow tired of them — I own all the colors and wear them several days a week. The black and brown are the originals, but last year we did a small seasonal run of Bordeaux suede which I adore.

But the real reason I am pulling these out right now, even as we are still sweating in the 85% humidity in Atlanta, is that it is September. Official fall as of Saturday. And in my head this will always mean "back to school," specifically the early September shopping trip that I waited all summer for, where my mother would march the four of us into JC Penney, where we were allowed to get exactly five new "outfits" and one pair of shoes. My father worked for this company his entire career, and our 15% discount meant it was the ONLY place we could buy anything. On top of being thrifty to a fault — 15% is NOTHING! I wanted to go to Marshall Fields like my friends! — my mother was NOT a shopper. The trip itself took about two hours, but after we'd gotten home, I would spend ten times that amount over the next several days deciding which "outfit" would be the one for the actual first day. As I got older, the decision-making got more fraught – adolescence moves everything into high gear and more is at stake.

And it continues into adulthood. When I first started this business and spent so much time on the floor in my shop, I noticed women coming in around this time of year and asking when we'd be getting our shipment of fall boots. (It took me a full year or two to get on top of this and actually have them delivered earlier!) Because a new pair of boots — and a new purse — were what they "allowed" themselves to buy for the new season, with no guilt or sense of excess. It was their own little back-to-school ritual, timed perfectly for when they had already photographed their own children smiling on the doorstep with their backpacks (or at least seen everyone else's on Instagram.) Or they may remember, as I did, their own memories and emotional triggers of that back-to-school shopping trip.

... Or maybe they just want a new pair of boots! Which you actually, truthfully, could start wearing right now. Half the world wears boots year-round, even in the hottest months. Gauchos... construction workers... rock stars... the policeman who parks his motorcycle on the side of my street and lives to give tickets to anyone who goes even 5 above the 25 mph limit. (It is SO hard to maintain such a slow speed!) So start wearing your boots whenever you feel like it. Just pair them with something a little lighter on top, otherwise people will start to perspire in sympathy. There is nothing worse than hearing "aren't you HOT?" – and it is so irritating to defend yourself! But if you can give yourself permission, get them now and hold on to them until the temperature drops, or put them on right now with a t-shirt. Chic, timeless, and easy. You need them, I promise.

Back to school 1971
Back to school 1971 with the neighbor kids in Brookfield, WI... my brother's shirt is also very YSL!

One of my favorite shots from this fall's campaign




THE PRINTED TRACK SHORTS

Posted on September 11, 2018


track-short-a-palooza
A wrinkly sampling of just a few of the track shorts in my house

It’s September, and most students are back in school, or even well into it. Many of my friends have just returned from depositing their children at college. The kitting-out of the dorm room has turned into a terrific business — the featherbed topper for the standard-issue mattress... the matching quilts with the roommate from Cleveland — every coed’s own personal episode of Extreme Home Makeover. It is a long way from my own mother sending me off on a plane to Colorado with a single trunk and a “good luck.” (I had never even visited the school before). I don’t remember much, except that my roommate was from Wyoming, on the ski team, and a big tobacco-chewer who spat occasionally into Coke cans. I spent the entire year wasting unfinished sodas, too frightened to pick up a can after I’d put it down. Wow.

One of my favorite things that we make was actually inspired by my very first college dropoff as a parent. Because if you haven’t visited a college campus recently, I will tell you that the dominant style is a far cry from Love Story. No Shetland sweaters, no camel hair coats... just a sea of girls in enormous event t-shirts and nylon running shorts. The exact brand will vary — it has been mostly Nike for the last decade or so, but you might remember it as Soffe or Umbro depending on the year. (The Ali McGraw look has been gone for awhile.) And honestly, for a college girl, I adore the idea of dressing for comfort. You’re on your own for the first time, and if you want to roll out of bed, pull on a pair of elastic-waist shorts and run straight to class, fine! It is your time to do so! But couldn’t I make something a little cuter for my own girls to do it in?

We recreated those classic track shorts in Liberty prints, and they make the BEST gift to send to your near-and-dears who are suddenly far away. Same piping, same pull-on waist, same easy fit (though no built-in underwear, which is probably for the better.) Just nicer fabric, which makes all the difference. They’re not too precious because they’re just cotton — can definitely go through the washer and dryer in the shared laundry room — and they’re inexpensive enough for a “just-because” gift. If you feel like really being a mother and including some unsolicited advice, suggest that she pair them with something a little smaller on top for proportion. (A cropped sweater, or at the very least, a tee that isn’t sized for an adult male.) Throw in a pair of Tretorns with some candy stuffed in the toe as a shock when she tries them on. She will love you for giving her a slightly elevated version of what she’s already wearing. Usually the magic formula, right? Not WAY out-there... just a little better.

Each college dropoff was monumental for me. They would be home for Thanksgiving in no time, but the symbolism of LEAVING them there was heart-wrenching. I’ve done this four times, and it has never gotten easier... though it kind of feels good to be hit so hard. One particularly hot August, my 8-year-old daughter, the baby of the family, openly wept with me as I sweat and cried and pumped gas on our way out of town after dropping off her older sister Louisa. I let her get as many Mini-Mart snacks and bags of licorice as she could carry. The comfort of sugar was all we could think of, and maybe the chewing would help?

We have at least a dozen pairs of the little track shorts in our house between all my girls. They are not so much for me — I wear them only occasionally to pad around the house — but I can imagine many gorgeous legs coming out of them. (My old boss used to look at me slyly and say, "you know... the legs are the last to go...") They are a bit less age-specific with loafers and an untucked white shirt. Very weekend-chic. I love to see my daughters in such happy little florals. And they use the little matching pouch for headphones, medicine, charger cords, gum... I like to think I have stepped up their game a bit, on campus or off.

Sils-Maria 2015
Two of my girls hiking in their track shorts.

leader of the track
One of my favorite-ever email campaigns when we first released these


THE ANYTIME WHITE JEANS

Posted on August 28, 2018


Nantucket 1992
Definitely post-Labor Day... note the sweaters

When I was very young and first working in magazines in the 80s, we had tear sheets as our main point of influence. There was no Pinterest, and no Instagram, just pages ripped straight out of magazines and tacked to a bulletin board. A favorite, for me, was French Elle, which at the time was a skinny little weekly publication that would arrive (from France!) to my desk at Conde Nast. I would drop whatever I was doing to devour it. Truth be told, I loved the ads as much as the fashion... all the glass-jarred yogurts and working-girl prepared foods (boeuf bourguignon in tiny plastic packages, single-serving haricots verts) were exotic enough to make it onto my board.

But in this one particular photo, Ashley Richardson, blond and buxom and long-legged, was leaping across the page in stone-colored jeans, tan cowboy boots, and a Dutch blue shirt. For me, this was the ME that I wanted to be. At once French chic and all-American, tomboy-sexy and simple. I was on the hunt to recreate it. Believe it or not, white jeans were not a "thing" in 1986. I wandered the streets for several weekends and finally came across a stone-colored pair of Wranglers in Modell's, the old sporting-goods store near my apartment in Tribeca. I bought two pairs and wore them nearly every weekend for years. Tip: when you find something you love, buy two. I should have bought four, because they finally fell apart after the rips in the back just wouldn't stick to the iron-on patches anymore. And as you can see, they were such a big part of my life that I had to keep a pair for the symbolism, disintegrated denim and all.

thrashed old Wranglers
the thrashed old Wranglers that I couldn't bear to throw away

Now I sell — and wear — white jeans all year round. In the early days of my shop, I witnessed women who were still on the fence about how late in the season they could wear them... the words of their mothers echoing in their heads telling them no white after Labor Day. But if I'm honest, I wear white jeans more often in the cooler months myself. It will, in fact, be Labor Day this weekend, which marks the unofficial end of summer. We are all sick of sandals and novelty prints and wispy tops, and while it's not cold enough yet to seem like the end of the season, we are all dying for fall clothes. White jeans make the perfect transition base. Switch out your sandals for brown driving mocs or tan flats and layer a lightweight cashmere sweater over your t-shirt. It'll prove useful in the air conditioning, but it can go over your shoulders and give you the fall colors you're craving when you walk back outside into the 80-degree weather. And if you need more inspiration for later on in the season, Tonne Goodman at VOGUE is a great example of the cold-weather white jean. This is another tearsheet that lives on my board and made a huge imprint on me. They styled the model to look like Tonne in her signature camel coat, black turtleneck, and white jeans. It's an amazing shot. And if you want to look as much like Ashley Richardson as I did, a pair of cowboy boots is fantastic too.

You need this, and I hardly need to promise because you probably own a few pairs of white jeans already. We sell lots of them, but our newest is from my own label. The perfect trim, straight leg. Tan pocketing that won't show through. And thick-enough denim that you don't see every bump on your backside. Levi's makes a good cream pair in nonstretch denim that feels a lot like those original Wranglers I got at Modell's. And there's a great pair of cropped flares from M.i.h in a stretchy optic white. And as for that Ashley Richardson photo... the original inspiration? I went down a rabbit hole trying to find it on Google Images to share here, only to come up short. The picture will just have to live in our imaginations. It might be even better that way.

Atlanta moodboard
more inspiration from the Atlanta shop moodboard... Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair


THE VERY CROPPED JEANS

Posted on August 14, 2018


Standing in front of my favorite Louise
Bourgeois spider a few summers ago
Standing in front of my favorite Louise Bourgeois spider a few summers ago

Necessity is the mother of invention... or rather style in this case. While I definitely didn't invent the cropped jean, its permanent place in my wardrobe came from having no other choice... and maybe a little bit of thrift. Standing just over 5'2", I have been hacking off my jeans since college in the 80s, when I didn't want to waste any of my ski-lift-ticket money on a trip to the tailor.

And to this day, the wardrobe item I wear more than absolutely ANYTHING else is a pair of jeans that hits well above my ankle. I love a long-long-long flare on tall women, but for me, it just makes me look shorter. So I just leaned into it. I have no idea when I started to wear them REALLY short (maybe it was a mistake in a hurry with the scissors?) but I grew to really love the proportion on my short-legged frame, and the way the raw hem curled up into a fray after going through the wash. I'll have them hemmed when I want them a little more polished, but most of the time it's just a pair of craft scissors and a steady-ish hand. It works with flats, boots, heels... and it's especially good with ankle straps and "special" shoes that you want to show off a bit more. This is nothing new, and we have loads of styles available to get this look, no matter your height. Even if they don't come cropped, it's a pretty DIY (or tailor job if you prefer an original hem.) I get my own jeans hemmed a few inches, and for a little more of a kick flare, I love the J Brand Selena as a ready-made version... they're perfect length on me from the get-go. If you like patch pockets, the Lord Jim style from Seafarer has a chic nautical thing going on.

But aesthetics aside, the real reason I love these so much is that they conjure up one of my sweetest memories. Often your favorite things have something going on in your psyche as well as in your closet... and these are no exception. My oldest daughter was in middle school in the early 2000s, the era of tight, flared jeans that puddled at the bottom and completely hid your shoes... the longer the better. (My personal hell!) And because she grew UP before she grew OUT, the only jeans that would fit were fine in the waist, but hit way above her ankles. Just the way I like them, of course. (She still has very long legs... a gift of course but she hated it.) She was self-conscious and awkward and in hindsight I could have been more sensitive to that. But the stylist in me was just agog at how cool she looked! This was very much my look and I couldn't say it enough: "sweetheart, you look amazing, I promise." During some back-to-school shopping trip, I forced them on her with a flip "you're FINE... it's these or nothing" followed by a frustrated "oh, by the way, do you REMEMBER that I am actually not only your mother but a fashion editor???" Trying to convince a 13-year-old that you are both cool & smart is a lose-lose (though I kept trying) and she would trot off to school LOOKING fantastic but feeling terrible. Truth be told, the middle school audience probably didn't appreciate all the outfits we were concocting in her mint green bedroom (even if I did) but even after she grew into her legs, it was a great lesson. No matter what someone says to you about how you look, no matter how many compliments and "you look amazing"s you get, you KNOW how you feel and that trumps all else. How we feel in our clothes can't be separated from how we feel in GENERAL...

Which is actually why — fast forward to today — I end up in my cropped jeans so often. They are like the security blanket of my wardrobe. My team at work knows I am having a tough week when I show up 5 days in a row in my trusty J Brand Selenas and a menswear-style shirt or soft cashmere sweater. I may be feeling down or overwhelmed with the 60 million things I have going on, and I just don't have the energy to think of something fantastic to put on... I go for what I know and love and can move freely in. Putting on clothes that make you feel like yourself can be therapeutic in that way. You can focus on everything else. And if I feel like running away, well, these are soft and stretchy enough to sprint in!

(By the way, that daughter wears her jeans short now too. Just saying.)

Same jeans, winter version
Same jeans, winter version


THE CHIC (OLD) LADY SHOE

Posted on July 31, 2018


ladylike shoes
A daughter & me... two generations in ladylike shoes.

My love affair with this type of shoe began in my very early twenties... Straight out of college after a 6-month stint waitressing & living at my parents' house in Richmond, I took off for Europe with my brother Chris. We hopped around a few countries, but spent a full month in Paris at a friend's apartment.

All day, every day, we would leave our temporary home in the 9th arrondissement to walk the streets and roam from museum to café to museum. We didn't have anywhere to be, and so we had lots of time to just observe. The chicness of the French women there made a huge impression on me. Very simple clothes, maybe one accessory, and always a chic shoe. A shoe you could walk in, but one that still had a little heel... not a stiletto, but also not a tennis shoe. A shoe that was traditional and ageless... Chanel-esque. We'd walk past old women in their seventies, still clicking away on the cobblestones to the market to pick up their meat and bread. More often than not, paired with a straight, knee-length skirt, sensible cardigan, and Hermès scarf. Et voilà. And then, around the corner, we'd see a gorgeous twenty-something in the EXACT SAME getup. Perhaps the scarf was around her ponytail instead, and the sensible cardigan had nothing underneath it, and the skirt was above the knee and not below. But the shoes were the same. Perhaps the younger girl's were passed down from her mother... but if not, the streets were lined with tiny shoe shops all selling this same style of ladylike walking shoe. If they had a heel, it'd be sturdy (all the better to walk in) but many of them were flat.

And so began my love for what I would call (affectionately) an old-lady shoe... and actually, with this whole look. For me, being a little tomboy-practical, it was so easy! I wear this kind of shoe most often with jeans... the more worn the better. Worn this way, it's the attitude of "oh, yeah, I know this may look a little frumpy, but I will own that & make it cool." But when I do pair them with a pencil skirt, I just make sure it is tight enough to channel the insouciance of that young French woman (though my hair is moving towards the 70-year-old!) to make it a bit sexier. We just got a couple of slingback styles that are kind of perfect for this. I got a very chic taupe and black pair with a really good little cap on the toe. And my daughter, who is in her twenties, raced to get a pair of two-tone pointed flats that I will almost certainly be borrowing. See... multi-generational! (Though the buckle shoes absolutely fall into this category, too.)

I love these shoes. Trust me – your workday or everyday errands will be better in them (even if you're not grabbing a fresh baguette,) when you feel that you could have inherited them from a cool grandmother or might pass them down to a daughter someday. You need some, I promise...

jeans + slingbacks


THE AFRICAN BEADS

Posted on July 17, 2018


a couple of strands doubled up in
my closet.
Piled on with my favorite white shirt.

Since day one we've had African beads in the shop... lots of them. We call them "African" because the occasional batch will come from Mali or Togo or Kenya... but most of them are made in Ghana, which has such an amazing history of beads that they were actually once used as national currency...!! It is a third-generation family business for our vendor, who visits our office every few months with heavy plastic crates full of them. They smell of patchouli, each strand strung simply with raffia cord. He lays all the bundles out on the floor and it is such a feast of color and shapes that it's like I'm instantly transported straight to the outdoor market in Accra (no vaccination shots necessary.)

I love to wear them in multiples... they can take something simple and even preppy, and transform it into something personal and offbeat. You can layer them normally, but I like to shorten them into a choker and make them sit at my collarbone by folding them in half and tying a small ribbon around the back. (A trick I learned from my styling days... ribbon and leather cording was NEVER to be left out of the prop kit... along with smelling salts... but THAT is another story...) Just one strand doubled up is a bit refined, while piling on four or five can look excessive in a fun, glamorous sort of hippie way. They are especially great to take on trips, when I tend to pack and dress more simply and monochromatically. They aren't valuable enough to merit a trip into the hotel safe, or to worry that someone might nick them out of your checked bag. And they take up no room at all in the suitcase! I've worn them with a simple black sheath to a black-tie event... on the weekends with a graphic t-shirt... to the office with a crisp white shirt and trousers... blue jeans and a chambray... Now that I'm thinking about it, what haven't I worn them with? I will mix the colors in ways that feel a bit "off" – all brights, all blues, the big chunky ones that remind me of the pop beads that my girls played with when they were small...

I will share one other sentimental thing about these beads... the smaller ones especially. When I first met Sid, on the beach in Long Island in 1985, he was wearing beads with his swim trunks. I saw him from afar – and was worried they may be puka shells, yikes – but they turned out to be Mardi Gras beads. I cannot remember every detail, but his Mississippi accent in describing the provenance of those beads (as well as his ownership of his own provenance!) is all mixed up in my mind along with the color of the water and the way he ran along the sea wall. He still wears beads around his neck, but these are a couple of steps up from those plastic ones that I fell in love with (along with him) that day. And I even have a sweet picture of my dad wearing a strand on a boat in Wisconsin in 1972... the proud wearer of the fruits of my bored summer spent bead-stringing. So for me, they are unisex (though not for every man.) They may not pull as many strings in your head as they do for me, but they will always feel timeless and sentimental and a bit quirky to me.

1985
Sid & me on the beach in 1985... faded on the left, but the beads are there..


THE CROSSBODY BAG

Posted on July 3, 2018


Terontola 2018
Hands-free travel from this past weekend - the top is actually a little girl's dress from Bonpoint tucked into jeans

We make lots of bags that I love... but the practicality of a crossbody is just the best. The one I've been carrying nearly nonstop since February is the proto of the new Clara style that just came in. The size, the shape, the color (actually think the new browns may be a bit more wearable than my red sample!) ... it's all perfect. As a matter of fact, the scale of this one just may be my gold standard. It holds just enough to keep you edited just as Marie Kondo taught us to do which means it's not big enough to apologize for as you're squeezing your way into the window seat on a flight. (And the weight light enough to not make a dent in your shoulder skin!) Accordion pockets make it not such a black hole... it is a dream to dive into and just grab what you need.

I had a great architect explain to me once, when Sid and I had the complete treat of building a small house together, that you can cut corners on a few things, but the items that you TOUCH every day -- doorknobs, sink fixtures, the wood underneath your feet -- on these things, you should spend as much as you can afford, and it will give back exceedingly. He was right, of course... and for a purse, this translates beautifully. (I feel the same way about shoes and coats - but that is for another day!) It is a delight to touch the leather, see how perfectly your wallet and keys and pouch and lipstick are tucked in there and so easy to find! This is the thing about a great bag. It is a little gift you give yourself several times a day.

I think it's this practicality that I love so much. Hands free. What could be better? For so many years, toting so many girls around and trying to keep track of them all, my default mode was one of slight panic. What am I missing? What (or who?!) did I forget? My daughters are grown now, but that sense of panic will be hard-wired into me forever. And so a crossbody like this one gives me a sense of security. It can always stay on me (is it like the Baby Bjorn of purses??) I never have to take it off, or set it down in the taxi, or put it on the floor at the coffee shop. It just sits at my side like the best little child or lap dog.

And maybe this sounds like a lot of fuss over a simple crossbody, but of course, a bag isn't just a bag. It signifies womanhood, having your life together. And at least when I was growing up, it was a rite of passage. No one really used backpacks, so when you got your period, all of a sudden you needed something to carry your tampons around in. I can remember that first one very clearly from junior high – the saddle-ish shape very much like the Clara, actually, with flowers and a little snap. (I believe Julie the 70s-era American Girl doll has a very similar one, which kind of tells you all you need to know...) There was not much else to put in it. Bonne Bell Lip Smackers... some dimes for phone calls... the lunch card that they'd punch holes in at the cafeteria. But it didn't matter! It was about having this grown-up thing that held all of your belongings in a neat little lineup. You had this purse, and you were a woman. It is a real joy to have a beautiful bag, to have a place for all your things, and to take pleasure in the carrying of it.

Milan 2018
Proof: I've been carrying this since fur hat weather.


THE ESPADRILLE

Posted on June 18, 2018

Closet Situation


Hands-down my favorite summer shoe. I have at least a dozen pairs collected over the years. The higher wedge ones proportionally kind of work with everything – skirts, jeans, trousers, dresses — you still look casual, but with some height. (A million times more practical than a stiletto.) For me, they signal the start of summer, so I don't put them on til May, and then by the end of August I am finally tired of them and ready for boots. I have flat ones and medium and a very few that are very tall. (2, 4, 6, 8 – this is the number of layers of woven jute the shoe sits on.)

Our brand of choice is Castañer – a Spanish maker that is nearly 100 years old. In Spain, the flat ones sell for next to nothing (you just need to buy the plane ticket...) so if you are lucky enough to go, stock up! Not just for the economy of it, but for the memory you get every time you tie them on. Even here in the states, Castañer actually brought their prices down last year, just as a business strategy... so the value for something so chic and versatile is fantastic.

While I love the way they look (and they're very cute on kids), the slip-ons tend to fall off my feet, and I am all about the romance of the ones that lace up like a ballet slipper. I have thicker ankles (athletic legs! built for running!) but the ties are still pretty flattering. A bright color or a stripe is especially great when the rest of your outfit is neutral. Trust me on this – it'll throw you off the first time you look down ("all I can see is my feet!") but take a few steps back from the mirror so you can see your whole self – squint a little – take in the proportion – and see that actually, they're just the right amount of splash. Cropped khakis and a white tee... safari shirt and white jeans... lots of options.

The simpler, darker colors can take something fancy down a notch... and when I wear them with jeans on the weekends, it makes me feel like I've made enough effort to want to be noticed at the grocery store. I may even spend some extra time wandering in the herb section and imagine I am at a European market...


Summer 2018


THE BLUE SHIRT

Posted on June 5, 2018




I started my own line in 2010, three years after Sid's, and kicked it off with the ONE thing I needed in my closet. The idea was - how do you look like you're wearing a man's shirt without actually wearing a man's shirt? I had been nicking Sid's for years, but I wanted one made specifically for a woman, without too much fabric around the waist and a button placement that would show enough décolletage to be a little sexy.

You probably know by now that we made it. Maybe you own one. Maybe you own twenty! It's my holy grail and I own far too many. But then again... maybe not enough? We use the same factory, fabric, buttons - all the same ingredients as Sid's shirts.

I wear them wrinkled on the weekends – often crisper for work – with a pareo over a bathing suit – under a blazer for the airplane with a tank under so I don't get cold – truly, EVERYWHERE. I have some in exactly my size, some a bit larger because I want it to look intentionally oversized when I undo that extra button. If you are smallish in the bosom, this look works perfectly – tomboy sexy, like Charlotte Rampling in Three. If you happen to be a C cup or above, just wear a camisole underneath so that you can unbutton it enough to show some skin without exposing your real lingerie and embarrassing anyone (sorry; there's a time and a place for everything!)

The one I like the most (and this is a bit like picking a favorite child) is the Icon Spread Shirt in sky blue roxford. It's got that very menswear spread collar, just scaled down a bit. (And if you want to take it up a notch, there's a handmade version that's extra luxurious and worth every penny.) Back to the roxford though... it is in every suitcase I pack, in every load of laundry I do, and my children will remember me most in it.


AN INTRODUCTION

Posted on May 25, 2018




After ten years as a fashion editor, with a long stint of motherhood, I opened a shop and started my own line, Ann Mashburn. And in those early days, I spent every day on the floor. I got to talk face-to-face with the women buying my clothes. It was so much fun.

Ten years later, I spend more time at our headquarters, running the company with my husband. And that's exciting, but I sometimes wish I could spend all day in the shop again telling women what they need and why. It sounds bossy, I know, but I've been around awhile! Truly, though, I spent the early part of my career amidst tearsheets and photo shoots, with top-top-top fashion editors bossing me around. I picked up a few tricks over those years - how to fill your closet with just the right ratio of basics (not boring) to special (not weird), how to find the fantastic among the just so-so, or even how to wear a puffed sleeve without looking like you're at the Renaissance Faire.

My hope here is to give you that bit of encouragement - yes, you totally need that! - that I end up saying every single time I'm on the shop floor (and countless times to my five daughters.) I can't help it! It feels great to look great. I'm just here to help you make it happen. Here's where I'll share the items that I'm feeling lately... some brand new hits of specialness, some since-the-beginning favorites. This is just a bit of what and why around the things that make me know, "you just may need this - I promise."