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


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


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.

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


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.


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


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.


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."