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ESSENTIALS + ENCOURAGEMENTS FROM AN EX-FASHION EDITOR




THE PAJAMA SET

Posted on April 23, 2019


Valentine's 2014'
A campaign image from when we first launched pajamas, Valentine's Day 2014

I like to think I could sleep almost anywhere, as long as I have hot water for a bath before bed. I am devoted to my nighttime ritual, and it may in fact be my one true addiction. I have stayed in crummy small-town motels when I was squiring my daughters to remote soccer tournaments, and little rooms in cheap Italian bed-and-breakfasts off the beaten path while factory-hopping with Sid. I wouldn't want to live in any of them full-time... but for a night or two? They were just fine. Hot water is hot water... in the bath, you can close your eyes and pretend you're at the Four Seasons. We once had an old house in Connecticut where the water never got quite hot enough. To this day I am dying of embarrassment for not knowing that all I had to do was walk down to the basement and adjust the temperature on the water heater myself. In our head, we were still renters from New York, not naïve new homeowners. This particular house was actually from 1760, with actual tree trunks as beams in the basement. (Bark still on!) I am getting off track with the mystery surrounding our old basement, but the point is that I suffered through 18 months of "not quite hot enough" baths until I wised up. What a shame. Now I am more tuned in and, despite the warnings on the water heater manual, keep the temperature near scalding. And whenever we travel, my very considerate husband makes sure there is a bathtub for me.

I've made my point... I take bedtime baths very seriously. But the very NEXT best thing for me, after the water has drained, is slipping into crisp, fresh, clean cotton pajamas. It is the gift I give myself every night. I have friends who indulge themselves by pressing their sheets. I understand it – bedding is nice – but for me the pajamas are enough. Wrinkles don't bother me when the quality of the cotton is so nice. It may not be very sexy, but I have such strong memories from childhood of being tucked into bed while it was still light outside, wearing a pretty little nightgown or babydoll set. My grandmother used to give me a doll each Christmas wearing a set of pajamas she had sewn herself, with a matching set for me. So sweet. And then years later, my memories are of the nightly routine with my own little crew, getting all those freshly-scrubbed little bodies into clean pajamas, with their slicked-back hair wet from the bath. After a long day of mothering, it was a joy – they looked so sweet and smelled so good AND you would have a full 12 hours of peace while they slept.

But back to adulthood. The point is that a good night's sleep is heaven... and the wind-down before it can be heaven, too. For me, the happy cadence of routine is comforting. Life can be crazy and uncertain and often very challenging, but there is a sense of order that the bath and bed give me. And speaking of adulthood, the vibe can be a little sexier if you think of Brigitte Bardot in A Very Private Affair (1962) or Sophia Loren in The Countess in Hong Kong (1967), or even Jane Fonda in Barefoot in the Park (1967.) I say 'even' because that one's a bit of a stretch – she is in Robert Redford's pajama shirt, and it's only the top half. (And if you have not seen this movie, you MUST.) But proper pajamas do not have to be a little-girl thing at all.

Barefoot in the Park
Jane Fonda at the Plaza Hotel in Barefoot in the Park (1962)

I have such a thing for pajamas that it's one of the first things we started making... we've had them on the line since not long after we started making shirts. In fact, we just launched a sweet striped set today, just in time for Mother's Day. You want really, really nice cotton next to your skin. No stretch or synthetics – you will sweat to death. You want something quality enough that it looks just as great wrinkled, straight from the dryer or even the suitcase, as it would if you had bothered to press it straight away. (I am not a prompt ironer.) The shorts sets are great if you are a hot sleeper. (I love the old-fashioned Provençal print on this set.) Shorts or pants, you want something that you may be able to wear down to breakfast as a houseguest... or something to pad around the hotel room in. Saturday mornings are better at home if you don't have to put your real clothes on until noon. I just want to be dressed enough so as to not embarrass anyone. In my own house, when the daughters are around, we have a rule about attire outside of the bedroom. Bras are required on the ground floor! With a great set of pajamas, you can be lazy, but still look neat and chic. It is just considerate to others.

And it can be considerate FOR others, too. I have gifted a set of pajamas more times than I can count. We all have friends who may end up recuperating at home in bed - whether it is for the happy reason of bedrest when a baby is on the way, or the sad strike of illness. It is a thoughtful present. Pretty and practical and useful long after the time in bed has passed. And of course, it is nice for no reason at all... again, Mother's Day is coming up. (You can't go wrong with the classic white poplin.) I have quite a few sets, as you can imagine, but would still be delighted to get a pair from any of my girls.

And so, there you have it. Hot bath, clean pajamas made of very excellent cotton, maybe a good book for a few minutes of reading before you fall asleep.... Truly, there is not much else that I appreciate so fully. And just like that hot-enough water, it delivers every night. You need some pajamas. I promise.

Valentine's'


THE K. JACQUES SANDALS

Posted on April 9, 2019


k. jacques
Tower of power

It is still a little chilly here in Atlanta in the mornings, and being cold-natured, I keep my socked feet tucked into my boots well into spring, when others are sweating by 10AM. So we are almost halfway through April and I am just now beginning to look at our current lineup of K. Jacques sandals to choose the one new pair I will allow myself this season. All in all, I must have 25 pairs of these sandals. I know it sounds like a lot, but I promise you, I wear all of them. For me, they have always been the quintessential summer sandal, so I have carried in my shop since Day 1. We make our own chic sandals as well that are a bit more 'structured' and Italian in feel, but for me, there is no reason to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the classic French Riviera style that K. Jacques has been perfecting for nearly a hundred years. There are a few other coastal cities with their own iconic sandals — Capri sandals from Italy, Havaianas flip-flops from Rio de Janeiro, Jack Rogers in Florida — that perfectly represent the local style. Even if they can't take you to your destination on foot, they are evocative enough to take you there in your head.

But I remain fiercely loyal to K. Jacques. When we go to the showroom in New York each season, we have to gear ourselves up for a long and complicated (but fun) process... a feast of choice. There are thousands of permutations available to order. Each style starts with a choice of leather: classic calfskins, embossed exotics, neon patents, ponies, metallics, 15 different shades of brown. And then one upper can have three different stacked heels – block, wedge, or flat – which does not even include the cork options. Sometimes you can choose hardware or straps or combine multiple leathers on the same shoe. It is a challenge. I tend to gravitate towards the ones I always love... and am usually reminded (or chastised) by my head of design that we can't do the same thing AGAIN! (Being a true designer, she is on to the next.) I can't help it, though. I can just SEE my past self in the Ganges sandals, marching to the beach with my toddlers in tow... just as easily as I can see my future self in a pair of Rheas heading to a hopeful seaside vacation with Sid. There is something about these that makes me place myself in the PLACE before I place myself in the shoes. Anyway, suffice it to say, there is enough legacy and romance to this brand that I hardly need to elaborate. They've been made in St. Tropez in the exact same way since 1933, and everyone knows that we love a good family business...

ann in k. jacques
Two different vacations spent in K. Jacques

I once spent 6 hours straight on a flight to Milan gobbling up a miniseries called Riviera with Julia Stiles. It wasn't five-star television, but she looked so sexy in her little silk shirtdresses prancing around the Cote d'Azur. I am not sure there was any focus on her French sandals, or on her wardrobe at all, but I can tell you that if I were her, there would be K. Jacques on my feet. They are in every bag I pack for travel in the summer and there is usually a pair in the backseat of my car as backup. To me they are the perfect essential travel take-along. I always find shoes to take up the most space (and weight) in my bag. And if you can only take one pair, it has to be these. One shoe – multiple uses. The flat sandals can make their way to the beach (I don't bother with rubber flip-flops or soccer sandals; these are more versatile), down the streets of your favorite walking city (I prefer them to ballet flats), and then it can make it all the way to evening with low-key jeans or with the little dress you thought to pack. I have even worn them with a long silk shantung dress to a fancy wedding. They looked chic, although the flat sole meant I was not quite as tall as I would have liked. Compromise is key when you're working with a carry-on... but on the other hand, they were excellent on the dance floor.

The classic and original style is the Dionysos. I also adore the flip-flop-ish Tonkin and the delicate Actium. And we always buy one over-the-top style each season... this year it is the red suede Ficus Heel. It is a very bold, disco-looking wooden platform sandal that I adore. They remind me of Maggie Rogers, who I am crazy for... they would look fantastic with her high-waisted jeans. She may not be able to keep them on her feet with her incredible free-spirited dancing – I went to see her last week and she was in motion the entire time – but they are the absolute perfect proportion and look for her. The more classic block-heeled ones have a heavy presence in my own closet – it's amazing how they go with nearly every summer look you can imagine. They elevate a simple jeans-and-t-shirt combination (pun not intended) and they are a chic, casual, not-trying-too-hard solution for almost every dress or skirt you want to wear in the summertime. Silks to cotton and back again... again, as with my flats, you can even take them to a wedding. Sometimes, when it's hot outside and the days are so long, fancier materials can feel like they need something to tamp them down a bit. For me, brown leather and bright silk are a great yin and yang.

I will warn you – they are true leather on the bottom, and after three summers or so of heavy wear, you may need to retire them. The leather gets softer and forms to your foot the more you wear them, and they feel more like slippers, which isn't a bad thing for some! You can always demote them to "back of the car" sandals for emergencies. My daughters are particularly hard on their sandals. When I see them all soft and a bit turned-up in the shoe basket by the door, I smile a bit, thinking of all the miles they have been put through. (I wish I could adopt this same attitude about the wrinkles on my face – working on it!) But you will know that they have given you lots of service and beauty, and you can appreciate them for that – very Marie Kondo – and then treat yourself to a new pair to repeat the cycle. You need a pair, or two, or five. I promise.


Cute summer interns K. Jacques-d out


THE CAMO SHIRT JACKET

Posted on March 26, 2019


channeling Born Free
channeling Born Free

This spring, camo has become my new navy. I never got into hunting, and the closest I've gotten to anything military was lots of shopping trips to the army-navy store. (And, once, attending a very chic wedding at Valley Forge.) Even so, a camouflage pattern is both familiar and iconic to me. And yes, almost as neutral as navy.

So many of my style references can be traced back to high school, and in 1976, the fast kids would hang out and smoke cigarettes in the school courtyard, which was officially designated as the "smoking permitted" area. (Can you imagine?) For them, the coat of choice was a twill jacket from the army-navy surplus store... often camouflage or just solid olive drab. In the teenage social order, these guys were known as 'hoods', I think probably from 'hoodlum', and this term has evolved quite a bit over time, but this was the Midwest and that was just what we called them! There was the occasional girl hanging around, but overall there was a strong masculine, bad-boy energy in the courtyard. They scared me, although my brothers spent a fair amount of time out there, too. So I think in the deepest recesses of my mind, camouflage represents something a little cool... a little scary... and definitely for the outsider. (I was on the cheerleading squad and these were not my people.) Years later, when I first met Sid, he often wore a camo overshirt that he still wears to this day. I was pretty sure he wasn't a 'hood' by then, but he did indulge in the occasional cigarette, and once you're grown up, you never really know what someone was like in high school... this was also a surplus-store find, and it is so soft and worn that my daughters still take turns nicking it from his closet.

These are personal associations of course, but camouflage is definitely having a moment. Evidenced from the fabric shows we go to twice a year, the print is absolutely a trend - it was EVERYWHERE. Silk, Lycra, cotton, wool, felt, tulle, nylon, linen, leather... you name it... it was done up in camo. We saw camos that were truly camo, and then ones that were rendered in pops of neon or pastel to mix it up. They gave me some flashbacks to the 80s, when the the very cool Stephen Sprouse used this pattern famously and liberally. His neon versions are still burned into every fashion editor's collective memory. At the time, it was so fresh and fantastic. I’m not sure what his high school’s policies were on smoking zoning, but come to think of it, his own personal style was a bit 'hood' itself. But trends aside, I am telling you - you may need a little bit of this print in your closet, this season and always. We have always sprinkled camo into the line, but our latest iteration is in the safari shirt jacket. I have been wearing it nonstop since it got here. I wear it more as a shirt tucked in, but it is squarer in shape and can be worn truly as an overshirt à la Sid's. I feel a bit more 'safari' in this one than military (I think it might be due to the paler shades of green in the camo) and the tan one does scream Serengeti. It has the weight of a field jacket in soft cotton, and gives you the feeling that you could travel around in it for months and not wash it once.

And these are the magic words, because I am crazy about all things vaguely safari. I have never actually been to Africa (though I have sent a few of my daughters, who like lots of spoiled children, went to go and work in an orphanage in Tanzania.) I was envious, and thankfully, they were grateful, and I know my time will come. For now, the safari aesthetic is all in my head. I grew up watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom on Sunday evenings. Marlin Perkins would show up with his chic safari jacket and gentle voice and we would be transported. Even more present in my mental editor-stylist scrapbook are images from the movie Born Free - a sappy animal-interest movie ALSO probably viewed as a family on a Sunday evening. The actress (or was it a true story?) was blond and natural-pretty and so cool in her khaki 'bush' gear. I wanted to be just like her, and even BE her, cuddling Elsa and the rest of the lion cubs.

channeling Born Free
Virginia McKenna (and Bill Travers... and lion cubs...) in Born Free

Recently, I caught the tail end of the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Whitney when I was in New York. I had never seen his huge canvas of camouflage, but it was there in all its iconic glory, right next to the soup cans and all the other Americana pop art that is burned into our psyche. It was spectacular, even in its familiar pattern. As neutral and classic as a gingham.. but edgier... maybe that was what Andy was getting at. Or maybe I am just thinking of the hoods. Who knows. I was too impatient to read the museum placard... better to make my own story up... which, for the record, I think is fine to do as an observer of any art. Of course, it is great to go back and read about it later if it is intriguing... but there is nothing wrong with a plain old wow, I like that.

And so whether it's Warhol, or Mutual of Omaha, or the school-sanctioned smoker's lounge memory in my head, I love this shirt and its solid khaki sister and the way I feel in them. It's been chilly in Atlanta, so I've been wearing them lots with white jeans and suede boots, but I'm looking forward to shifting to sandals when it warms up. It's good for 'weekend' as a jacket over a white tee or tank, and I think it would be awesome over a navy stripe to really get some pattern play going. Again - camo really is a neutral – so you can throw it on with nearly anything. Just take the attitude (but perhaps not the bad habits ) of those hoods from Palatine High. Know who you are, and what influences you, and lean into it.

Warhol at the Whitney
Warhol at the Whitney


THE LIBERTY® PRINT

Posted on March 12, 2019


Sid and me
Sid and me in a very retro-looking Toria Liberty®

When I was growing up, we moved every two years or so. My mother had a little wooden plaque – that I am pretty sure she decoupaged herself – that said in cursive BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED with a little yellow blossom pushing out of its green stem. Very 70s looking. Every time we arrived somewhere new, it was the same. The plaque would go up, we would be sent out of the house to "go and make some friends," and she would begin the unpacking with us out of the way and out of sight. All of this moving was very matter-of-fact. There were no family meetings or extra hugs or books on adjusting. No one really asked us how we felt about all of it. We just went down the street and waited until somebody noticed we were there.

Though no-nonsense, my mother was also incredibly creative (see: the decoupage) and for her, the way to feel at home was to MAKE the home. She had the sensitivity to know that this would be important to us as well, so we were given total free rein to make our respective bedrooms our own. And since we had so many, we had a lot of practice. I had an all-pink room (the shag rug was called "Peppermint" and had three different shades) and a very sweet lemon yellow room with an eyelet bedspread, but the very best was the Swiss chalet themed room. I painted faux bois wooden beams and chose a tiny Provençal-printed bedspread that looked kind of French to me, and voila – I was in Megève. Of course I didn’t know the name at the time – I was 14 years old – the inspiration was more Heidi-movie-on-NBC than Conde Nast Traveler. But it was mine, and I had attempted it, and for the two years we lived in Indianapolis, I was in my own little ski lodge heaven. My brother Chris had his own theme going on that year, too. He was allowed to choose red shag carpeting, a faux fur zebra-print bedspread, and Fornasetti-inspired wallpaper with Grecian nudes. It was crazy. My mom was so proud, and would bring her friends upstairs to show it off.

But my mom had learned a lot from so much decorating, and I will never forget her taking me aside and telling me that if I was smart, I would choose one of the wallpapers – and she would show me exactly which ones – that I would not tire of so quickly. In retrospect, she needn't have worried... we would be out of there before that could ever happen... but the concept holds true. There are prints that you can see every day and never get sick of. The best decorators know this and steer you that way. This doesn’t have to mean white instead of color, or quiet patterns over big loud ones, but there are ways to make visual statements more classic than trendy, especially for everyday living. To me, the fabrics from Liberty of London are a great example of this. They have been on my line since day one. We had shirts and dresses in a couple of classics – Wiltshire with the berries, Thorpe floral, Bourton paisley – that were immediately recognizable. Sid has always used them as well – Glenjade with its tiny leaves is one of his favorites, and we always offer the miniature speckled Pepper for our men’s made-to-measure shirts. For nearly 12 years now, Liberties have shown up every season. We’ve done shirts... gently gathered shirtdresses... long full skirts... nightgowns... backless sundresses... track shorts... jewelry cases... makeup pouches... aprons... strings for bracelets... scrunchies for hair... It’s become a bit like the "put a bird on it" saying from Portlandia. "Try it in Liberty." We just love all of it.

yardage at the factory
yardage at the factory

The history of this storied fabric house and amazing shop goes back to the Arts and Crafts era, when Liberty & Co. opened up on Regent Street in London in 1875. It quickly grew into a department store known for sourcing interesting and colorful items from all over: rugs, furnishings, jewelry, accessories, gifts and, of course, fabrics. They set up their own line – Liberty Art Fabrics – that celebrated the same flowers and foliage that we still recognize as quintessential "Liberty-style" today. There were many collaborations – designer William Morris and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti early on, then brands like Cacharel and YSL in the 1960s and 70s. And here my husband would want me to mention that it is actually a Liberty print jumpsuit that David Bowie is wearing on the cover of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Clearly these prints have stood the test of time.

Sometimes a bold print is irresistible, and that’s okay too. You might tire of it, but put it away for a season or two and then pull it out after that little break and you will love it again. But for the comfort of every day, to me, Liberty means a happy, colorful, never-jarring print that is simply pretty. I have one daughter in particular who has great style, but is fairly unconcerned with her clothes when it comes to church on Sunday and she wants to sleep in until the last possible second. Her go-to is a simple shirtdress from the early days of the shop in a purple Thorpe Liberty print, and she throws it on ten minutes before leaving. And that is that. No matter how often she wears it, I never get sick of seeing those sweet flowers next to me in the pew.

We always pull some from the "classic collections," but every six months we go the fabric shows in Europe and pull swatches from Liberty’s seasonal collections, and they never fail to inspire. We mostly use the cottons – the wonderful Tana Lawn quality that is lightweight and soft and perfect for shirting – but their silks are amazing as well. This season we did our Anabella Dress in a Strawberry Thief silk (one of the original William Morris patterns) which is a seventies-feeling maxi dress and very chic. The men have done sport shirts as well, which I adore... very cool and more unexpected than a Key West style or a true Hawaiian print. The dainty flowers appeal to all ages, and just like with the wallpaper, how you hang it – or in this case, wear it – can totally change it up. I love how my daughters will take a sweet print and pair it with black jeans and a moto jacket and make a very London punk thing happen. My mother, on the other hand, looked smart and housewife-chic with the exact same blouse, just worn with a cardigan and "slacks." And I used to sew those same fabrics into little smocked dresses when they were babies... which is the inspiration behind so many of our Kid Mashburn dresses now. I can’t get enough.

This spring season, we really leaned into the Liberty thing and have an extra full line of prints. The Tomboy Popovers have been a runaway hit – the pink florals of Ros and Devon Dance are extra sweet – and I love the sportiness of a camp-style shirt like the Scout shape in Liberty. We even did a dress that mixes three different prints. All of them are just really fantastic... it turns out mother did know best. There’s actually a top this season that reminds me of her, not because it’s something she would have worn (it's a little too bohemian for her) but because the print shares her nickname... Jude. Even if you’re not a "floral person," you just might need a Liberty print.

pretty maids all in a row
pretty maids all in a row


THE BUCKLE SHOE

Posted on February 26, 2019


Paris 2016
Scuffed-up shoes and me at home by the Seine

This Christmas, our daughters gave Sid and me the gift of 23andMe. Having been presented with test tubes to spit in, set in champagne flutes the month before, we knew what was coming... but that made it no less fun when our results came through the World Wide Web on exactly December 25. So that morning, we crowded around someone's laptop in the living room and read the results together. Truth be told, it was a bit underwhelming, and definitely not as much fun as the family dog's DNA, which had been presented to us the Christmas before. Still, aren't we all a bit narcissistic at heart? "Tell me about... ME..."

I'm not sure what we were expecting, but there were no life-changing surprises. I had thought my family was predominantly English, but was thrilled to learn that I also had a healthy dose of Swiss and Nordic descent, a touch of Italian, and – the very best gift of all – a big smattering of French. NOTHING could have pleased me more. As I have written before, Paris affected me in a huge way when I arrived there at a very unsophisticated 22 years old. There is no shortage of incredible inspiration there... everyone in this industry loves France... and the history of fashion there, particularly through the 20th century, is unparalleled. Though at this point I prefer the food in Italy after so much travel there, I am in love with almost all things French. Every home I have attempted to decorate has had a dash of Toile de Jouy, and my lifelong go-to perfume was picked up at Bon Marché on that very first trip. The "French girl" trope has been a bit worn out in the last few years, but I really do identify with that "minimal makeup plus a swipe of lipstick" look that is so often attributed to the Parisiennes... at least on the internet. And when my daughters were very young, and I'd travel to France for work, one of my must-dos (other than working,) was to shop for baby and children's clothes. I found so much charm in the little multipacks of onesies and cotton underwear at Monoprix. They were nothing fancy – Monoprix is like our Target and so it was all quite affordable, but it all had sweet picot edging and foreign labels and I loved to have the reminder of a faraway place once I was dressing my own little ones at home. On the other hand... I can just barely tolerate all the cigarette smoke (though it does remind me of my mother) and I really can't speak the language well enough despite four years of high school French... still, France feels like a part of me, and now I have the genetic proof.

So j'adore our Buckle Shoe, and always have... even before I knew that I was a staggering 6% French. For me, the inspiration has its roots in 1960s French cinema. The classic Pilgrim Shoe was designed by Roger Vivier and worn most famously by Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour. Here, my film student brother Chris would cringe – it is not exactly a critically acclaimed movie – and from a feminist perspective it's a little depressing. I appreciate her enterprising spirit, but anything involving marital sneaking around makes me too anxious to sit still through. It does makes me appreciate the innocence of an earlier time, when you could be naively influenced by something without the ability to Google it and think... oh... is THAT what that is about???

Atlanta moodboard
Belle de Jour on our Atlanta shop moodboard

But subject matter aside, to this day, I have several stills of Catherine Deneuve in this movie on my inspiration board. As a style icon, she is impeccable. She looks so beautiful. The little suits, the box bag, the half-up-half-down hair that I copied for years... it's all great, but the shoes have become infamous. We have our own version, one that is a little less retro, with a buckle that matches the rest of the shoe rather than the shiny metallic ones as in the movie. Most of them are flat, though we also do a great midheel (also very French in and of itself to me!) And let me tell you, this shoe is just perfect. At 7/8", they have just the right amount of heel to wear all day on the streets of any city... and will allow you to hustle for just about as many miles as you can. The heel gives some support, and while they are not exactly orthotics, they are so much better than a true ballet flat. Trust me. Plus, just that touch of height, being a little elevated off the ground, makes you look like a lady who is making an effort. I love them with cropped jeans. The price point is such that you can justify multiples – the standard black and navy are good, but we just did a camel suede, which is always an amazing neutral. The pops of color can earn their spots, too. There's a metallic silver, a new denimish blue twill, and a kooky rainbow mosaic pair that looks very Italian eccentric to me, in the best way possible. I wear my old red ones surprisingly often, but my colleague Lizzie has a pair of royal blue ones from a few years ago. I am so envious and regretful that I passed on them when I see her clicking away on the streets of New York when we go up for market. Though there is a pastel blue suede that just arrived, and I'm thinking they may scratch that itch...

I have one last buckle-adjacent style reference to share. We are hardly the first to riff on this style, and as a young editor, I had a pair of navy pumps from either Ferragamo or Delman, with a shiny gold pilgrim buckle on them. I saw them as kind of chic and old-lady-ish, in a good way, and they were in heavy rotation as I was trying to develop my shoe game. I can remember being up at the Michael Kors showroom, and Michael clapping his hands at me. "I ADORE a pilgrim shoe... Ann, you look so chic!" At the time he was not quite as famous as he is these days, still deep in his business and not yet too important to be present for the appointment with the Glamour editor. Even so, the compliment was received just as greedily as it would be now... because he was Michael and he was amazing and he loves women and knows just how to make them feel wonderful. When was the last time someone clapped at something you were wearing? It feels good! You need a pair. I promise.

classic navy suede
classic navy suede


THE BELT COLLECTION

Posted on February 12, 2019


madrid 2015
my favorite zebra belt at the Retiro in Madrid

My belt collection, like yours, probably tells a good story. Because they take up such little closet space, you may not have edited out as many over the years as you might have done with those old 80s-looking, shoulder-padded jackets or acid-washed jeans. So as you open your drawer (I keep mine rolled up that way), or stare at the hooks in your closet, you can walk down memory lane. For me, belts don't date themselves as much as the clothes they cinch... perhaps another reason I have kept so many over the years.

I still have a fantastic wide patent leather one that I wore with a very specific Karl Lagerfeld dress, purchased – like anything good I got in my early career — for next to nothing at a sample sale. The belt remains, but the dress has gone on to one of my daughters, as I don't fill it out as much on top as I used to... nursing five babies is one heck of a minimizer. It has come in handy a few times - over a simple silk dress or to visually separate a skirt and blouse – but it will always remind me wearing it with that navy linen dress to a great wedding on a boat in New York Harbor. And then I have three amazing Ralph Lauren exotics from the late 80s with classic silver buckles, also purchased on the cheap. Miraculously, I had the foresight to skip a month or two of movies and drinks to be able to afford them (even discounted crocodile is still $$$...) and I still wear them to this day. They remind me of early motherhood, after I had quit my job at Conde Nast and moved out to Connecticut to spend more time at home and go into the city once a week or so to freelance. My everyday uniform was a knit turtleneck and men's Levi's jeans, held up with one of those belts. My girls wear jeans like that now – the awesome Levi's that are a higher rise and a straighter leg – and they look so cool. But on me, they make me look like I am wearing "mom jeans" – and when I look back at pictures from that time, I was!

1996
1997 uniform

The great thing about belts is how they can "theme" your look. I love my western-feeling tooled ones for when I am feeling cowboy... a black studded punk-ish one... and a thin, inch-wide one that's covered in satin that has proved just the thing for evening when I need a little shine at my waist. I picked it up at a thrift shop, which can be an excellent belt-hunting source if you are willing to sort through lots of rejects. I love the mix. Preppy ribbon belts, Kenyan beaded belts, 70s macramé, cloth-sewn obi styles, all coexisting happily together, like one of those old Benetton ads.

But here is the thing: what to do when you used to wear that belt above your hips (as I did in the 90s with those high-rise jeans)... and then you want to wear it lower with your mid-rise pants... and then the leather has that worn-in spot where the hole used to go? It's a problem. Most of the traditional buckle styles don't really allow for this kind of flexibility. You need to decide, when you make the investment, how you will wear it most often and designate it accordingly. Is it a high-rise waist belt? A low-slung hips belt? Somewhere in between? A compression buckle is a little better, but the perfect fit at your hips will still give you too much belt left over when you pull it up to your waist. I know this is technical, but I have been thinking about it for years, and I'm willing to bet that you have, too! I am getting to the point of the brilliance of the Conroy belt style... which I promise you need.

It isn't always the perfect size, but it is nearly so. It is designed so that you can adjust it easily for waist or hips, and you only see the elegant little post in the center. Brown, black, alligator.. we haven't done suede yet but I think that would be so chic. We do them in two widths, both of which have their usefulness. I know a belt is not the sexiest or most exciting purchase, but it pays back in dividends. Because a belt just pulls the whole thing together, look-wise. If you've got something that is a bit too big or blousy, you can grab that belt and fix it by emphasizing your waist and changing the proportion. It's a bit like a Swiss Army knife for your wardrobe. It can make just a t-shirt and jeans feel luxe (as it did with my toddler time uniform).

2019 uniform
... and 2019 uniform

Sid and I both have zebra skin belts and we try very hard not to show up at the office wearing them on the same day. Since they are real skin, the left side of mine has lost most of the hair, because it's the side that gets pulled through the most loops when I put it on. But I love it even more for its lopsidedness... proof that I have worn it so often and it earned its keep. It is the perfect thing with a preppy button-down and jeans. The buckle is just a big brass oval and I love it. Another favorite is my vintage 1970s SID belt buckle that I found at a cool leather shop in North Carolina. It is just the kind of novelty and humor that I love. This past holiday season, we riffed on this idea by designing our own HEY and LOVE belt buckles, crafted to look a little more modern and simple and not so retro. If I had a dollar for every compliment I've gotten on that belt, I could treat the entire office to tacos for lunch. The point I am trying to make is that a belt is a great investment. There is true longevity. The Conroy style I mentioned – that one, you will wear a ton – but even the ones that only come out once every few years are important, because they can transform what you already own and make it better.

When I was a harried and often confused assistant, I would unpack all the accessories at the beginning of each fashion shoot, carefully and speedily unrolling (and then later re-rolling at the end of the day) before laying them out on the table for the fashion editor to use for embellishment. I can see her now, eyeing the model on set before walking over to the accessories table full of belts, baubles, stockings, and shoes. She would dramatically grab a belt, walk over to the model, and skillfully and intimately wrap it around her waist. She had to be encouraging and gentle – there was usually a bit of cooing – because if the model did not feel beautiful, no matter how amazing the photographer and the clothes were - the shoot was destined for failure. A waste of money and time and a precious workday. So this moment of confidence building was essential. There was some pride involved in that belt grab as well – an editor would often want to deliberately mix up and even subvert the designer's vision of the dress so that the shoot would be aesthetically her own. I think back and it was like mental whiplash, watching all these characters on set. Dominance, pride, insecurity, creativity. But with the belt, it was like she was girding the girl for performance. By wrapping her up with that finishing touch, the swift and final editor's decision, she was saying "and now... you are perfect." This is a tall order for a belt, but I have seen it in action. You need a few, I promise.


THE CARDIGAN

Posted on January 29, 2019

Chris
Chris in 1987 (can you tell by the hair on the woman next to him?!)

A little-known fact is that one of my biggest style influences was my brother Chris. He was just a year older than me, and we grew up together as the middles in a family of six. He was more artistic than athletic, and like me, a great observer. We moved every two years, and quickly learned to keep our mouths shut upon arrival in a new city. Because if we didn't take the first few weeks to just quietly watch what to wear or say or do, we would be tossed out of whatever public school social scene we found ourselves in. I learned this the hard way when we moved to Indianapolis and I asked where the drinking fountain was by calling it a "bubbler" – holdover slang from Pier Elementary that was definitely not in the lexicon outside of Wisconsin. I was met with open-mouthed stares. It was not a good moment.

Anyway, Chris and I remained so close over the years that I followed him to college at the University of Colorado. He promptly ditched me to head west for film school at UCLA. And that was it for him – he suddenly became the coolest, most sophisticated older brother. He was busy creating his own world in Los Angeles, but after I graduated, I forced him to take a break and go to Europe with me. I knew how naïve I was and that I needed to see the bigger world out there to help me become me... and that he could help.

Every museum and park and pub was made better by his tutelage. We spent three months bopping between all the major cities, just observing and soaking it all up. It was far from idyllic – we were both trying to grow up, and we actually argued a ton – but I really did need the time away. And as much as Chris had grown out in LA, I think it was good for him too! I came back from Europe and immediately packed up and moved to New York. In the span of a few months, I went from being a clueless young woman from the Midwest to landing a job at Conde Nast... and no one was prouder than Chris.

As for him, he was developing his own sense of style, deeply influenced by his time as a waiter and bartender at Mr. Chow in Los Angeles. He spent a great deal of time chatting with and observing (that skill again!) the incredibly stylish Mrs. Chow... Tina. I know that is a tangled web of influence to sort through, but bear with me. Tina was famous for her understated minimalism (you can Google her and see) and her signature look at this time was a menswear-style cardigan sweater layered over a crewneck t-shirt and trousers. And before long, it became Chris's uniform, too. Of course, I immediately jumped on this look. A few of the older editors at VOGUE had the same idea... and thanks to him, I got the conspiratorial nod from them in the hallway. We were all tuned into the same channel.

Tina
Two of Tina's countless cardigan-and-t-shirt combinations

Style icons aside, it is an enormously practical look. In the thirty-plus years since then, I have amassed dozens of cardigan sweaters. In black, it is chic over almost any shirt – or t-shirt, à la Tina. And tossed over your shoulders, it will keep you warm at the restaurant, when you are wearing a bare little top or dress and the air conditioning is cranked up. Offices are another notoriously cold spot – I tend to freeze in mine – so I like to keep one hung on the back of my chair when the men at the meeting, usually dressed in wool suits, refuse to acknowledge the frigid air. Where else? It will go perfectly over that sleeveless dress you might wear to the wedding... sometimes it just feels more appropriate to have your shoulders covered for the ceremony, with all those saints staring down at you. And in navy, for me, it replaces my classic blue blazer (the jacket to cardigan switch made famous by the one and only Fred Rogers). It instantly makes me feel both polished AND casual, which is probably why Tina, and then Chris, adopted this look in the first place. There is no better place for this than California. Who needs a blazer in sunny LA where the lifestyle screams casual?

We typically have at least one cardigan on our line, and our newest one is made of a very lightweight fine-gauge cashmere which is the perfect thing to buy now, no matter what's going on with the weather where you live. It's got a soft v-neck, so it's menswear in style, but it is light enough to feel a little feminine... the mother-of-pearl buttons help with that, too. You can actually tie it around your neck as a sort of scarf to layer over another sweater or jacket. It's the perfect base to go minimal or maximal with accessories... you can see that Tina loved both. And if the style feels too androgynous for you (a very Tina look,) we made a very girly v-neck pullover in the same wonderful fine-gauge yarn. The sleeves bell out just ever so slightly, and it is cut close to the body to flatter your very un-boyish figure. And if you want to get really feminine, it comes in a pretty heathered pink. The cardigan is truer to the Tina-esque original (I have already snagged one myself!) but I think Chris would approve of this one, too. You need it, I promise.

Channeling Tina and Chris
Channeling Tina and Chis


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.

 
 
 
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A post shared by Sid Mashburn & Ann Mashburn (@sidandannmashburn) onOct 20, 2017 at 12:37pm PDT




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.

 
 
 
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A post shared by Sid Mashburn & Ann Mashburn (@sidandannmashburn) onJul 19, 2017 at 6:11pm PDT

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!

 
 
 
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A post shared by Sid Mashburn & Ann Mashburn (@sidandannmashburn) onSep 18, 2018 at 1:49pm PDT

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."