I was pretty much a white shirt woman, in my working days. Casual environment meant a white tee. Semi-casual, a very good white tee. Formal, a white button-front. (Did you know that the term “button-down” refers to collars, and what we usually mean is a button-front? You are welcome.)
When my brother got married, last month, the families hosted three events. On Thursday, dinner for the immediate family; Friday, dinner for out of town guests at my father’s house; Saturday, the wedding.
I wore Narciso Rodriguez to the first event, and this to the wedding. So what to wear to the dinner at Dad’s? A dinner to which 70 people had been invited, in the early evening, in Northern California? Informal, familial, but given the setting, still fancy?
Why yes. A white shirt. What we can call a Modified Carolina, as in Herrera. Substitute fairly voluminous trousers for Herrera’s trademarked taffeta skirt, add good jewelry and some pretty shoes, and you should be all set for informal, elegant dinners.
I wore this white Audrey Talbott, a pair of navy linen wide-legged Armani trousers, and my quilted Manolo flats. Also pearls at my neck.
The photo above, from Ian Londin photography in New York, reminds me mostly how moved I was, sitting wistful in the sway of hope and promise. Clothes are just clothes, after all.
On the other hand, I couldn’t help but also notice that the shirt was wrong. The idea? Yes. The implementation? Not quite. A corporate white shirt, perfect for conveying a certain crisp authority, can’t quite man up for festivity and life’s heart.
Off I went in search of the right version for this phase of life. Apparently retired, I have time to focus on the non-essential. In this phase, it’s OK to sparkle and confess to collarbones. I drove up to San Francisco, and stopped in at Naracamie, a perennial favorite for blouses, but nothing spoke to me. I walked down the street to Anne Fontaine. The voices sang out.
Although this portrait collar is tame – even matronly – for some of us, it makes me feel rather like a burlesque dancer. In a good way. The buttons, in front and on the cuffs, have a little crystal in the middle. The fabric is stretch cotton, both comfortable and slightly risque. Remember, it doesn’t take much to make some of us feel like we’re crossing over to the wild side.
In situ, the shirt makes me quite happy. Notice how my corporate shirt emphasized my broad shoulders, and this retirement/date/old lady gone wild shirt emphasizes, well, the rest of me?
Once a white shirt girl, always a white shirt girl. For those making a sartorial transition, from grad school to work, from work to stay at home motherhood, step back and take a look at your closet. If there’s a category of items you depend on, consider how that category can evolve and follow you to the next stage. You choose the clothing that you come back to, over and over, for good reason. Trust your instincts. Assume you know something. You’re probably right.
Note: Ian Londin Photography did all the photos for my brother’s wedding. They were a complete pleasure to work with and the images are gorgeous. Friends of my brother’s new wife, from forever.
Note: As requested, I have ceased to Photoshop my forehead;).