I'm not gonna lie. Lauren and I became fast friends because, well, we are both crazy cat ladies. It's true. But she also knows about all of the other important things in life (buffy the vampire slayer, david bowie, twin peaks, etc). Compound that with being smart as a whip and stylish to boot, she was the perfect lady friend to ask for a little shopping advice/help/guidance as I navigate the scary waters of returning back to work (at a new office) 3 months after having a watermelon sized belly....
(above: david bowie's mug shot circa a 1976 pot bust, via another. behold the power of a good suit.)
hello, fellow desert fete fans! i'm all kinds of flattered that jamie asked me to chime in on shopping for workwear, for as you know, she's a style ninja already and doesn't need my help. that said, ninjas are known for using their surroundings to become even more deadly, which...is where i come in? i'm going to let this metaphor go.
here is what i like: skinny slacks. basic button up shirts, not "blouses". thin-white-duke-type menswear with nice tailoring. plain, the only patterns i regularly go for is stripes. boring i know. but i try and keep it dressed up and cute with shoes (vintage heels in the summer or boots in the winter. i love skinny slacks with either heels or boots.)
in college i had a tempestuous relationship with a half-french guy. his french half quoted shakespeare to me on gushy postcards from vienna and dumped me on the metro in paris; his american half was really into 2pac and hated the fact that i smoked. i made a valiant attempt to quit, but one night he discovered me curled up in a stairwell on campus, reading a book of poetry and puffing away; i was so ashamed (and weird) that i threw away the clothes i was wearing when i committed my crime. this included a circa-1965 powder blue men's tuxedo shirt, and while i only think of the guy when i hear "to live & die in LA," i mourn the loss of that shirt every day, man.
the morals of this story are that 1) one should think carefully before making promises to french or even half-french people and 2) vintage menswear should be treasured. the cheapest and most interesting way to amass it is, of course, to stake out the nearest vintage (not resale - buffalo exchange, this is not your day) shop with a decent buyer and head straight for the men's dress shirts.
(who has two thumbs and never gets tired of The Big Suit? this girl. david byrne in stop making sense, 1984.)
the narrow shoulder and crisp corners you'll find in older pieces aren't quite right for most men these days, but they translate wonderfully to women - and because they aren't quite right for most men, they tend to be comparatively inexpensive. you should be able to get out the door with the good stuff (tuxedo shirts, old pierre cardin) for $10-$20 a shirt.
speaking of old pierre cardin, your other best friend when it comes to fine shirts is ebay. throw down a "steven alan shirt" search in the women's clothing category every few days and see what turns up; if you spot a reverse seam shirt in a pattern you like for less than $50, snap that thing up. that fancy seam (essentially an inside-out hem along your ribs) provides marvelous definition, and the twisted placket at your neck is a nice added bit of detail. steven alan's simple shirting is unimpeachable, and the label's more detailed pieces (you can find pleating and ruffles if you're so inclined) are interesting rather than sweet or fussy. if you find you need something with a bit more room while you're nursing the little bug and/or dealing with new mom boobs, SA's boyfriend styles are lovely as well.
okay, you say, but surely you don't suggest i wear old pants as well. in fact i do not, but pants shall have a post of their own. see you next week!
*aside: the one time i saw david bowie in the wild here in new york he was wearing sneakers and a hoodie. spiritually i think he was still in a suit.