Suzy Menkes wrote a short piece, "American Beauty" in the New York Times' T Magazine's Holiday 2009 issue, lauding the golden age of clean, clear sportswear from the 1980s; Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan.
She also lauds their roots, the impeccable designs of Claire McCardell, founding mother of functional, stylish "work clothes for the city" in the '50s and '60s.
Today's Calvin Klein, under the leadership of Francisco Costa, has veered into a more recherché look, and Menkes calls Donna Karan's clothes today "far more complex", not intended as a compliment.
".. there is something weird about the way American fashion has turned its back on its heritage, while in Europe thoughtful women designers like (Celine's) Phoebe Philo are embracing it.
British women in the 1960s turned their backs on the Burberry trench coat, the sweater set and the kilt because they seemed like symbols of an old, class-ridden society. Yet when it comes to choosing an outfit, aren't women the world over more likely to find fashion comfort in a skirt and jacket than in a statement dress with built-in bra?
Perhaps it is time for America's designers to revisit a not-so-distant past when easy pieces were fashion staples that offered women that holy grail of fashion: wardrobe solutions rater than design challenges."
Amen, Suzy, and I would like you to lead me to these, at perhaps a gentler price point than Philo's spare masterpieces.
Who might fulfill Menke's wish?
Judging by this vivacious pink coat with tall boots and an outrageously good-looking bag, he seems poised to step up. But a look at his website was discouraging, too many skimpy junior styles.
I've avoided Lauren for years, there's a tough edge, rather than grace, in his department-store boutiques.
But some pieces are softer, more thought-out. This Blue Label pea coat delivers the absolute American ease that puffs Suzy's pompadour.
This belted Slide Dress (from Bergdorf Goodman online) is a perfect example of something that dresses, but does not wear you. And at $1,395 I hope you'd wear it a lot.
Maybe the answer is to stop pinning hopes on a single designer and just look for quality clothing. This Pendleton featherweight merino double-face jacket with McCardell sensibility, is on sale now, $199, reduced from $278; US shipping only.
Chloe black cotton belted cotton tunic dress, $1,515 at Net-a-porter.
Zac Posen canvas day dress with ecru trim, $890 at Bergdorf Goodman.The details make a simple dress memorable.
Lela Rose coral silk-linen coral sheath dress, $895 from Bergdorf Goodman. A delectable backdrop for a necklace!
The real deal: Wool jersey dress, lined in blue silk, size 6, by Norman Norell, $425 from Swank Vintage. In excellent, new condition.