March 15, 2010

My 10 basic pieces

One of my favorite bloggers, the delightful Garance DorĂ©, posted today with her 10 basic pieces, and so perfectly Garance they were. The whole idea of 10 pieces is the essence of the French wardrobe to me — way back in middle school, my French language teacher told us that Frenchwomen tend to own fewer clothes than Americans, but excellent-quality, versatile pieces that they can wear repeatedly and look super-chic. At the time, I was addicted to cheap mall clothes and lots of them, but as an adult, I've come to embrace this minimalist philosophy of dressing, and in fact I made it the basis of my FW10 collection.

Here, in that spirit, are my 10 basics. I could pack these in a suitcase and go on indefinitely without a problem. Well, as long as I had some underwear and socks, too...

1. A white wifebeater — I own a dozen American Apparel U-neck tank tops, bought wholesale several years ago. They're long enough to hide the worst plumber's, er, bicyclist's crack, and to add a nice colorblocking effect to my otherwise all-black or all-gray outfits. Better yet, they help keep my sweaters un-stinky enough to wear again. And again. (Yeah, I'm lazy about hand-washing. But not lazy enough to ruin my sweaters in the washing machine.)

2. Black trenchcoat. Mine is Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair, a layered, dashing, stand-collar design I fell in love with immediately at the store in Stockholm and wore around the store for about half an hour until the salesgirl took pity and offered me a discount.

3. Black riding boots, like these ones from Vogel. The easiest thing to yank on and off (okay, when they fit correctly), and they make every outfit look pulled together. I buy the real thing and have them resoled in rubber for city use; with a little conditioning and a lot of mink oil, they can last forever.

4. Grey skinny jeans with just a hint of stretch. Because they don't bleed everywhere like dark denim, and they don't show stains and cat hair as readily as black does. (Yes, I'm a messy eater. With cats.) And skinny jeans are great for biking, because they won't get chewed up by your chain. If they get to the point where they really, really need a cleaning, there's always the freezer...

5. An enormous sweater dress. Because nothing says warm like not having a cold gap between your sweater and your jeans (even if it's covered by an American Apparel tank), and nothing says cozy like an all-knit outfit of a giant sweater over thick winter tights.

6. Alexander Wang long-sleeve T-shirts. Alex gets what all girls know instinctively: that your sleeves need to come down to your knuckles to keep your hands warm.

7. My Yokoo cowl. It's like a sweater dress for your neck.

8. A short, poufy skirt with pockets. Like this waxed cotton one from my FW10 collection... It won't restrict your movements or flare up to display your undies, and you can load as much as you want into the pockets without looking lumpy and weird.

9. A bra that fits. More difficult to find than you'd think, but wearing a bra that pokes you, or one with a band that keeps sliding up, is enough to set your whole day wrong.

10. Hats. To keep your head warm, and make any outfit look jaunty in the process. I have a whole collection of vintage hats dating from the 1920s through the 1980s — most cost under $20 from eBay or various vintage shops across the country, although I shelled out $75 once for a fraying bowler that had come from a renowned New York hatmaker.

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