True-blue essentials

J. Crew pea coat
 Some pieces are true-blue friends: useful, simple, uncontrived. If you leave one on the overhead rack of a train, you have to replace it.

The item is not fashion-y; when you purchase it, you may not feel like it's "something new"– but you will reach for it again and again. 

It's the secret workhorse of a wardrobe, and gives outstanding value. You might have scorned it a decade or two ago. But now, you see a friend's and think, "I could use that". 
(Above, J. Crew Ever pea coat, $225)

Below, six more nominations, with an emphasis on cold weather items.

Pendleton cotton shirt
Pendleton No-Iron pintuck cotton shirt: A shirttail hem with side slits, hard to find. Just enough room to glide, but not one of those dropcloth smocks. 

Three-quarter sleeves to show off your bracelet. In sapphire or white, $78.

Bean velveteen jean
Velveteen pants: Classic 5-pocket straight leg jean. The jeans have stretch, not bulk, and come in this uncommon Purple Night and a rich Chocolate as well as navy, black and taupe. Washable. Just dressy enough to be 'more than a jean', and only $50 from LL Bean. In petite, regular and tall sizes up to 20.

Cashmere ribbed shawl bolero: indispensable is not always cheap, but why mess with low-end cashmere? Here's a worthy investment, graceful yet functional. Six-ply cashmere in Raven (shown), Charcoal or Cocoa. From Brora, £289.
Brora bolero

Talbots down vest
Women's down vest: Warms like holding a puppy. Wear when visiting a friend's drafty farmhouse, rooting around an unheated market or just writing at your desk. Version #1 is by Talbots, with a smart extended collar; available in interesting colours like olive and blush, $89.

Version #2, a sportier snap-front, is $34.50 from Land's End; many colours. Both companies make the vest in regular, petite and womens sizes, and both are machine washable.

Land's End down vest

Eric Bompard cashmere gloves
Cashmere gloves: Squash into a coat pocket. Fit over those big rings. Warm enough for all but the mightiest storms. Hand wash or machine-wash in lingerie bag. 31 colours, one size; €44 from Eric Bompard.

Gold earrings make your essentials sing.
Halleh 18k studs
Plate looks fine for awhile, but solid gold (or silver, if you prefer) lasts forever. Don't pass by the pair you can wear with anything.

Shown, Halleh 18k stud earrings, about 1cm/.5 inches wide, $595 from Net-a-porter.

What are yours?


Anonymous said…
Barbour olive Bedale jacket. I live in it from October through March. Throw it on over just about anything, with Hermes scarf tied loosely around the neck, and you can't go wrong.
Susan B said…
I'm with you on the velveteen 5-pocket pants. In fact, I'm planning to replace the pair that's now too worn to wear.

I love your choices here...good solid workhorses but with a little gleam in their eye and an arch in the neck.
Tish Jett said…
Bravo for the Brora, I can see wearing it forever and the perfect pea coat in camel. Everything here, real investments in lifetime style.

I like clothes that make me forget about them once I'm in them -- mostly the more understated, the happier they make me feel. That's probably why in the past I have bought, more or less, the same things over and over. I still regret my camel hair coat, but I did wear it to tatters.
I like every piece here and love that you have given a high and low cost choice.
I have a winter white down vest by Eddie Bauer that is a staple for our winter weather.
The Brora sweater looks sumptuous...I bought a cranberry cashmere sweater very similar to that several years ago at Talbots and it is still going strong.
Toby Wollin said…
Black pencil skirt. I wear mine all the time and it's a 'go-to' when I get a last minute call to go to something dressy. I throw on a fancy top, sheer black hose, my best pumps and I'm ready to go. Also: black boots. Worth the money to get ones that actually fit in the calf and have a good solid heel. Also: solid water resistant tough fabric jacket with a hood for outdoors, walks in the country, etc. The number of times I have brushed up against something in a down jacket or vest, gotten snagged and a hole are legendary in my house. Canvas or Cordura - that's the ticket.
LPC said…
Now I just want some aubergine velveteen pants:).
Susan said…
For me, a soft black turtleneck is an essential. I have several different types. Some are soft and stretchy cotton with a bit of synthetic, others are sweaters. They look great with jeans, certain skirts, black pants and various jewelry.
Susan said…
Also, Duchesse--I like the Pendleton shirt.

Would you discuss Pendleton in general? Quality? Style?
Duchesse said…
Anonymous: Barbour jackets, absolutely!

Pseu: Even workhorses can be pretty!
And almost thru this "Express Checkout", washable pants have earned new respect.

Tish: We have very similar taste; "the more understated the happier I feel" says it all.

hostess: Brora's will be thicker, but thicker is not necessarily better, all depends on how warm one needs it to be.

Toby: Those are all worthy nominees, thanks! (I don'twalk where the flora snags my down vest, maybe a city park :))

LPC: Can definitely see you in them.

Susan: I have discussed Pendleton in this post:
Susan said…
Thanks Duchesse. That was an excellent post about Pendleton. I have such difficulty discerning true timelessness from just plain stodginess. I would love to read your current favorites in their 2010 line.

I do own a 49er jacket from about 8 or 9 years ago. If I recall correctly, it is also in a vintage plaid. I haven't ever belted it and probably won't. For me, their sizes on that jacket ran large. By measurements, I ordered a Large and then had to exhange it for a Medium as the Large swallowed me. How I love buying a clothing item that stands the test of time like that one has.

Sadly, a Pendleton blazer matching pants set was recently rejected by my upscale consignment shop here in Dallas---as not currently fashionable enough. I was surprised. I had just worn enough that I didn't want to continue. But, I didn't think it was unfashionable. Just a reminder that I can't always tell those things.
Frugal Scholar said…
Those pants are tempting me too. LL Bean is currently giving a 10 dollar gift card with every 50 dollar purchase!
Duchesse said…
Susan: Consignment shops know they can move the really trendy stuff, and love to give the impression that they have all the latest gear.

re specific pieces, much depends on the entire ensemble. For example a pair of their tapered wool slacks can look great or boring.
Demi-pointe said…
I am here to register my vote for those all ready in the running!... cashmere gloves, neutral pencil skirt, neutral turtleneck, and I live in my down vest. I also wear my v-neck cashmere sweater all the time and a pair of black suede boots with a low heel (I also, still, wear my cowboy boots. And frequently. Individuality is an essential too!) I think a Barbour - type jacket would be very useful.
Duchesse said…
Frugal: That and free shipping make them a steal.

Demi-pointe: Cheers for your additions, and for the notion of individuality. These essentials are all enlivened by the personal touch.
Rubiatonta said…
I just bought a pair of black velveteen jeans from Talbots -- my old ones are worn and sit too high on my waist to be comfortable or stylish these days.

I agree with the nomination of a black turtleneck sweater -- mine's a silk blend from Chico's, as I tend to boil in wool that far up the neck. If I had the dosh for a lightweight ribbed turtle in cashmere, I'd grab one... but haven't seen any, reasonably priced or otherwise, so will go on dreaming.

A couple of other ideas -- a pair of "Chelsea" boots goes with everything (even skirts if you've got the legs for them), in all but the most vile weather. And I adore a black quilted nylon jacket that I can wear to everything except for the dressiest affairs.
materfamilias said…
About 4 or 5 years ago, I finally put a pair of fabulous velveteen 5-pockets -- a paisley print in chocolate brown, grey, and a hint of gold -- in my give-away bag. And I've wondered why, ever since. Still looking for their perfect replacement! I did pick up a pair of slim black velveteen, not-quite leggings, the other day, which will almost do the trick on a cold winter. . . And yes to the pea coat!
Duchesse said…
materfamilias: Aargh! Printed velveteen is hard to find, if I come across any wil let you know.
Rubi: Talbots and Garnet Hill's velveteen jeans are more expensive but fit counts too. With your boots and jacket, and others' ideas we are building quite a hall of fame.
Belle de Ville said…
Six ply cashmere, I would love that. And the pea coat is a classic.
My true blue essential is a long sweater coat by Michael Kors in navy. It is the perfect weight for keeping me warm when I don't want to wear a coat.

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