I walked out an hour later, not swinging a shopping bag and wondering how I was going to explain that to you. I have long admired strict clothes, and COS is a temple of quiet/cool nonchalance. Among hundreds of items, there were exactly three discreet abstract prints, and a peppering of stripes.
COS, owned by H&M, is Eileen Fisher meets hip Swede-with-a budget. It's the sartorial equivalent of a Hotel Costes playlist: calm and assured, with a few tiny upticks of excitement (leather dress, audacious fringed linen top).
I understand COS's aesthetic and am open to unconstructed clothes, but something was slightly off in quality and cut. I tried a dozen tops and jackets, and found the fit oddly constrained across the shoulders on pieces that nethertheless looked boxy, giving a disorienting sense of being in too small and too large at once.
The quality was better in shirts, but too many trouser hems had a telltale wobble. (Aside to women who would rather be lashed than look 'so 2014': there are no full-length trousers among the cool girls.) The store was full of these:
Petite women might be able to double-purpose the piece below, wearing one as an oversized shirt or a dress: I wear jeans and brogues all the time, so why was this not working? Maybe because I'm not 22?
But I loved the speckled denim fabric (livelier than it looks here) of this "trouser skirt", which playfully bridges Bermuda shorts, a skirt, and culottes:
My sole shopping list item was a spring-weight top, so I crossed the street and chose, at ça va de soi, this substantial Egyptian cotton knit. It fit neatly, and made me look, I must say, like a woman with a good figure. But I paid twice the COS price tag, so only one item.
The ça va cut isn't for everyone, either, and there's the key: if you find a brand or two that fits you, whether Gap or MaxMara, that ennobles your bust and gentles your hips, whose trouser rise gives enough room whether standing or sitting, whose skirt length is right without alteration, grab on and try to be a loyal customer, even if the price inflicts moderate pain or you sit out some years because the colours aren't your palette.