What not to buy in early '11

For fun and edification, I cruised the January sale racks at the better shops, not to buy, but to see what has been relegated there.

The waterfall or cascade cardigan is the single item conspicuous by its presence, in cashmere or cotton, on sale racks.  If you love yours, wear it but don't buy a new one for spring.

Also taking up rack real-estate were cropped biker or moto jackets, as the style suits only a tiny (pun intended) percentage of women.

Women prefer jackets that do not demand a tucked or cropped top, and have discovered that the high, tight armhole, so flattering in the dressing room when it's over your lingerie, looks sausagey when worn over even the thinnest sweater.


Danier's classic lamb trench, below, (now on sale on their web site, $299) offers infinitely more mileage, and thinsulate insulation keeps you warm. (Kisses to Danier for making it in XXS to XXXL!)

The recession has affected fabric quality, noticeably eroded in all price points, from the elegant heights of Holt Renfrew, where everything was marked down drastically in the Armani boutique but just didn't have that luxury plushness, to a favourite local designer's offerings, once refined, now limp.

In a recent New Yorker profile of Bottega Veneta's designer, Tomas Maier, suggested that a woman buy less in order to afford one luxe piece like BV's ombre cashmere and silk scarf, $470 at net-a-porter

For some of us that's still serious dosh, but I endorse his point.

In 2011, my wish list includes:
- straight-leg cotton pants; finer than khakis or jeans, but washable
- doubleknit wool 3/4 coat in an opulent spring colour, with real pearl buttons (even if I have to sew them on myself)
- knit linen twin set with details, not too conventional; I could use this for work and also 'real life'. (No longer want separate wardrobes.)

Where might we find pleasing pieces to fit real women, on a realistic budget? 

Eileen Fisher cropped trench
Talbot's teases with their retro-tinged Spring Lookbook, but in store some styles turn up less sharply-tailored. Maybe the newly body-conscious Eileen Fisher?  See the back detail on this cropped cotton trench, $338.

What's on your list? Where will you look?


Susan B said…
I agree that the very literal moto jackets will probably look dated soon, but I'm happy to see the asymmetric styling has bled over into more standard pieces. In December, I picked up a longer, knit asymmetric jacket from EF that's just divine, super flattering and easy to wear. I'll be posting about it soon.

The cascading cardigans with a lot of volume wore out their welcome with me several months ago, but I do like a leaner, more fitted version that drapes well and hits at the low hip.

Talbots has been hit-and-miss with their fabric quality lately. The few jackets I've looked at were stiff and looked cheap up close. That chrysanthemum skirt you posted turned out to be a velveteen rather than a smooth texture, and while it was nice fabric, I could just picture myself sticking to everything.
I will probably buy some new pants...and shoes, a few white tees...hopefully Eileen Fisher can help me and Holt Renfrew has many tempting pairs of shoes...a trip must be actioned first!
Susan said…
I will keep my eye on the Neiman Marcus "essentials" catalog and peruse their local store here in Dallas.

Eileen Fisher is very hit or miss for me. Some of their fabrics are too thin, in my opinion. Their dresses have never fit me. I do have an Eileen sweater which is a go to casual piece.

I will be shopping the summer trunk show of Worthny.com, so far only their spring things are up. I bought a few basic items for spring---a pink shell, a sweater that coordinates with pants I already had, and some new classic black pants.

I've noticed the same thing Deja Pseu mentions about Talbots. Such promise, such disappointment. I may try their new denim jeans selection, but will have to order as they don't carry the long length in their stores.

I would love to buy a couple of easy to wear casual, but stylish summer dresses.
LPC said…
I'm just thinking about what length shorts I ought now to be wearing:). And whether I will buy a summer dress or two. 20 years in trousers, I don't know if I can go to dresses. We shall see.
rb said…
Oh, I bought one of those moto jackets. Not quite as cropped, but same idea. I think I wore it once. You are right that it's only for certain body types - straight up and down, I think. I am quite the opposite.

I have this idea that I'm going to wear some caramel toned beiges this spring/summer but I have taken myself down this road before and have always reached for my black instead when actually getting dressed. I wish navy were easier to find, as I'd do that instead, in a heartbeat.

My list is small at this point. I'd like a casual spring/summer dress that can be dressed up for nice dinners or an afternoon wedding, but is casual enough to actually get some wear out of. I saw the Talbots catalogue last night, and I like the idea of the flutter skirt linen dress, but I'm not sure why they insist on making it in a denim-look fabric. I do'nt want to go to a wedding in a denim dress!

Last, I think I want some gorgeously colored sleeveless woven tops to wear under my otherwise neutral work wordrobe.
Mardel said…
I noticed the ubiquitous presence of the waterfall cardigans in the sales racks as well as the more extreme of the short moto jackets. I'm all for buying styles that flatter and compliment one's personal style, and I love my existing waterfall sweaters, but passed on more.

Too much of a good thing only tends to end up looking dated, and I am thinking it is good to update the favorites with new items.

Generally, I agree with Thomas Maier on buying fewer pieces and saving for one or two special items, but what is special to most people never reaches the heights of Maier's goods. That said, I am far more likely to regret a cheaper piece that I purchased as a consolation or on a whim, than one good piece I truly adore.
Duchesse said…
Pseu: The cascade looks best short (high hip), to me. Motos: it's the criped, tight part of it that's demanding. People forget the true moto is a technical garment; as one of my friends says,"the only skin you can afford to leave on the road."

hostess: The transition from black to white or light pants is always a happy moment, and here in Ontario-usually not till May.

Susan: Yes, I remember you like Worth. Talbots irk me for their insistence on linen as "dry clean only"!

LPC: Oh yes, there is this garment called "shorts". Quite archival for me :)

rb: The moto cut does look good on the long, narrow body. Mature woman look best in leather jackets when cautious of studs or straps and should forego unisex models like the Schott Perfecto (unless they intend to look very butch). I love a touch of fur on leather, trench styles, colour, softness.

Like you, I admire camel and cream but reach for black or that bitter brown with black in it, every time.

Mardel: I avoid cardis that do not close as look better in one layer.

Tomas Maier dropped the "h" in his first name b/c he thought the name scanned better without it. Now that's design sense, even altering one's name. It's a good thing BV dresses do not go above a 10 (their 12 is cut like a 10 on a good day) or I'd be broke.
Rubiatonta said…
I've declared a halt to the purchase of any more winter items. I have so many sweaters now that even being back to teaching four days a week, I'm going to be hard-pressed to rotate through all of them.

That said, I have bought a few things on sale to put away for the warm weather (whenever that turns up -- we just got another 20 cm of snow!), including those dratted linen pants from jjill that caused me to descend into back order hell last summer. But she who shops in January laughs last. I think they were $25!
Duchesse said…
Rubi: Big grin for $25! I returned my Bompard order, sleeve too tight and body to wide. I can usually call it better than that.
SewingLibrarian said…
New eyeglasses! I just ordered them today, and I will have them in two weeks. They put a considerable dent in my budget, what with my bad eyesight/prescription requirements, but I will have something modern and fashionable on my face. At least I hope so.
Duchesse, good luck on finding cotton pants in a fine fabric and linen twin sets. Both seem hard to find. I need cotton pants also and some capris for summer. I'm not a shorts person. I like skirts for summer.
Darla said…
I keep searching for a white shirt style blouse that doesn't GAP between the buttons and has a finished bottom edge that doesn't have to tuck in.

A white, v-neck, 3/4 sleeve tee shirt would be nice too.

Any shopping clues?

HB said…
Oh those cascade cardigans - I purchased one from Inhabit last year and haven't worn it all that much (also not impressed with the quality of their fiber). I succumbed to the implied message that those of us who wear shawls and cardigans would like it. Nope - frumpy, really, and covered up the one bit of shape I do have. To contrast with something far more versatile, just today I wore my new Brora cropped cardigan and a trim tee underneath (Caslon from Nordstrom - good for basic shapes though their fabrics have gotten a bit cheaper in the last couple of years). Over that in our chilly office a simple black pashmina. Perfect. I will not buy another cascade front garment.

I've worn Eileen Fisher separates for years. Something I am not thrilled about in their "new" incarnation is the inconsistency of fit and the lack of a wider legged pull-on trouser. I have two pair that I wear every week; one in the rayon blend knit (washer and dryer!) and one in the wool crepe. My favorite black skirt is the a-line gored lightweight knit from two years ago. I hope that I find replacements soon to refresh that part of my daily wardrobe. Then there is the wool crepe open front jacket. All essentials.

Isda has some good silhouettes usually, although I haven't been able to find them locally and try to avoid a lot of online purchasing unless I am dead certain on the cut. They do lovely skirts.

I look to some of the "edgier" designers on sale racks for one or two pieces every year - often a skirt or jacket. Rundholz, Lilith, Sarah Pacini and Crea are all favorite lines. A pant or skirt like that and a simple cardigan or tee top with a good scarf and I am done. Hoping to find something good in the next month but it's been a dry year for good pickings.

Other more off-the-beaten-path lines I look to for inspiration are Fog Linen and Matta. Another case for something special worn with my black "uniform" pieces. eg: I have a Fog Linen long tunic I wear with black trousers in winter or bare legs and wood soled shoes in the summer. It works both ways and the fabric is a nice quality.

Funny that you mention those moto leather jackets. I have a beautiful and elegant Marc NY jacket I purchased years ago - concealed snap closure long line blazer that I have worn to death. Recently I purchased a scuba style to update thinking the other was too worn to wear around clients and haven't really been able to make the new one work. I own a vintage 70s Harley Davidson perfecto jacket which is the 'real deal' functional garment and the warmest non-down-filled jacket I own. Butch? Perhaps. Although I am enough of a girly girl that it hasn't given me pause - I never leave the house without a nice scarf around my neck and most of my wardrobe is softer lines which offer a contrast to the heavy lines of the perfecto. I do agree, though, that it can be a difficult look to pull off.
AN said…

100% off topic but I want to say thanks - I read your pearl buying tips and am now the proud owner of a pair of gold South Seas drop earrings & a similar Tahitian pair.

And you were right - they did sing to me:)

Also bought some inexpensive but eye catching pink CFW pearls in a torsade meant for my friend who is about to be a 1st time Mum!

So, merci beaucoup!
Duchesse said…
SewingLIbrarian: Pendleton (good quality, some nice styles) have exactly the pants I want in cotton sateen, but will not ship to Canada. I might order c/o a friend in New York.

seeyou: See HB's comments below for brands you might like, she has nailed it. Your white v-tee should not be so hard to find; LL Bean, J Crew come to mind or James Pearse if you feel spendy- but the blouse will be a challenge as so few finsish the bottom anymore.

HB: Wow, BIG thanks for the details, many will benefit from your sources.

I'd wear your wardrobe happily (except Perfecto, I'm too big to add that bulk). EF pants are cut too short for me and the skirts I've bought often too wide, but I applaud their making so many clothes you can wash, and like EF on many women, especially when broken up and lifted by jewelry.

Rundholz, Lilith, Crea etc.: I've posted on "arty" brands, and again, they look best when combined with more classic pieces, to avoid the "walking craft show" look, which i am sure you do :) I'm a big fan of Isda, they tread the refined line b/t arty and minimalist.

AN: Feeling a glow of pearly happiness to read this. You certainly did ramp up your pearl wardrobe, and I predict you will wear them with pleasure, every time. The pink torsade is a delightful gift; mothers to be can feel ungainly and unattractive, so this will really make her feel special and beautiful.
Cybill said…
Hi Duchesse,
I hope its not too late to wish you a Happy New Year!
There is plenty of things I want on my clothing wishlist, as usual all of them impractical, a tulle skirt springs to mind. Unfortunately, the clothing shops here are full of drab uninspiring pieces, its depressing to go look around the stores. Hopefully they'll pick up their game or I'll be doing a lot of internet shopping this season.
Duchesse said…
Cybill: A tulle skirt signifies a light heart! Hope you find it, and I too would like one- so if online let us know where! Happy New Year to you, too!
HB said…
Tutus you say? I've been trying to figure out how to incorporate a black one into my wardrobe.
Etsy to the rescue:

Duchesse said…
HB: Tulle does not equal tutu, at least on the 5'10. size 14-16. 60ish Duchesse. But saw fab Lilith skirt, black cotton fine knit with tulle layer forming about an 8" hem. that wss absolutely perfect. Eyeing the upcoming sale.

Younger women might go full on tutu, but they forever remind me of the adorable five year old I saw at the circus in Paris, attending in a bright blue tutu.
HB said…
I should have clarified before hitting "publish" - both the sellers I linked to do custom work and I think it would be a simple thing to order in a cool as opposed to tutu way. I totally agree that tutu gives a bit of the bridal or burning man aesthetic - a net or tulle skirt, however, can be a wonderful piece.
RoseAG said…
I like the sweaters with the big cowl necks but I think I will not add more to my wardrobe.

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