Merry casual dress-up, for Marlene

Marlene called in a panic to say she had received an invitation that specifies "Casual dress-up". "That is an oymoron", she complained. She added, "I guess it means stuff you wouldn't wear to work."

For me, the request conveys something special, a piece to wear for brunches, open houses or informal dinners among friends.

She could, of course, wear a pretty dress, but in my city, that requires door-to-door transit and the assurance that she won't be seated near a drafty bay window.  

Also, since party attire is not likely to be worn as much, she does not want to spend major bucks. Though a dress it-up-or-down piece is the holy grail, let us agree Marlene will not buy yet another pair of dark pants. 

She also specified, "No red, no green, no snowmen." As if, girlfriend.

Hip and relaxed: a pieced Fair Isle sweater-jacket with a fur-trimmed portrait collar from Myco Anna. (The fur is recycled. Price, $215.) Not as heavy as it looks, with the collar opened and the neckline unzipped to the collarbone. They sell out of these every year and I can see why; the back is as merry as the front.  

I dutifully trekked to the Montréal boutique (what a friend!) and can report the cut is normal, not skinny like the photo shows; it must be pinned on the mannequin.

When I look for someone, I can end up buying! For daytime brunches and  country evenings, I chose J. Crew's jeweled Donegal sweater which was deeply on sale. It's surprisingly soft and though has to be dry cleaned, I wanted that sparkle.

Marlene could choose unusual pants and a simple top, of which she has "about four dozen".

The term "party pants" in my mind conjures clowns and balloon animals; however, I liked J. Crew's gold jacquard pants. (Sorry to say the gold ones are s/o in many sizes, but there are others on the site.) You'd think they might make you look bigger, but the idea, similar to an over-all print swimsuit, is to keep the eye moving, so they are surprisingly figure-friendly.

Marlene rejected them but said they got her mind open to something (as she put it) "kind of wild for me."

Glam in a quieter key means a subtler pattern like Boden's teal jacquard Bistro trouser, available in both a full and crop length (and up to size 22). These are lighter-weight cotton-poly blends, but washable. So wear tights if you live in the snow belt, and open the bubbly!

Price will depend on model, and ranges from about $65-$100 (plus shipping and applicable taxes.) The style is made in plains and patterns from wild to mild, but hey, live a little!

Some women will not wear this much embellishment, ever, and I respect that. 

But you still want to look festive, not like you just nipped in from the dentist's. For that woman (and I am one except for three weeks of holiday season), I suggest Poetry UK's Neat Fitting Velvet Jacket, on sale for about $220. (I'm looking at the UK site, which serves Canada; there is also a US site.) 

I see the jacket with Marlene's many dark trousers or a skirt, and masses of pearls, some on loan. The slate blue glows like moonlight on a Victorian roof, and the slate green is beautiful too, a colour that conjures a choir, holly leaf and verdigris candlesticks.

This is the top end of her budget but, since it is not as indelibly memorable as some of the other suggestions, she could wear it for a long time.

Whatever she likes, she has a day or two left to decide, as the holiday post is slower, and her parties begin in less than two weeks.



I love that blue-grey jacket!
LauraH said…
Since it's -9C in Toronto this morning, I'm very impressed that you went to the store to check the sweater! The blue grey jacket looks elegant and very wearable. Might have to think about checking out the UK sites you've been using on your posts.
I am not a party pants kind of gal but I'd wear the jacket for a long time.
Darla said…
Seems like the jacket is going to be the winner here. I already own items it would go with and it looks very festive/holiday to me but not so much that you couldn't wear it at other times.

materfamilias said…
I managed to grab a pair of JCrew silk brocade ankle-length pants in a rich colour-mix of deep-pink-burgundy-brown-navy-ish. As you say, they read much less crazy on. The cut is clean, they're easy to wear, they pair with a silk blouse or a cashmere or merino sweater easily, and they make me feel festive and sophisticated at once. Since I picked them up on a 30% sale day, from the table at the back of the store, I think I got all this joy for under $100. . . Sounds as if you did something similar with the sweater you picked up. . . perfect for adding sparkle so many occasions.
Wendelah said…
I love the sweater jacket and would buy it if I could but I'd need the next size up to accommodate my bust and probably my arm length, too.
materfamilias said…
Too funny -- I just went to look at those J Crew pants in my closet, and I've completely lied to you about the colours. In reality (and I've actually worn them, so not sure how I got this so wrong) they're bronzey-gold with cream and black in an overall tie-print geometric! Even more funny, I've described them elsewhere as being quite pink-ish. Hmmmmm, what's up with that!
Duchesse said…
lagatta: When I saw the colour, I thought of you!

LauarH: I should admit it's a 20-min. walk (or with wind chill of -17) a short bus ride.

hostess: Maybe try them sometime- even if in a change room- they are so much more festive than neutrals.

seeyou: I am very impressed with Poetry UK's pieces but have not ordered anything yet.

Wendeleh: The largest size is a 5, which in their system is around a 14-16. The sweater has a lot of 'give'.

materfamilias: That is funny! And they sound fantastic. IMO J. Crew is often pricey for the quality. Double markdowns bring many of the items into decent price for quality. But then, I remember J. Crew of 25 years ago, much preppier but also better fabrics and construction.

Lorrie said…
I love those jacquard pants - the dark turquoise ones. I could see myself wearing these.Or the jacket. Great picks.
Cornelia said…
I am not wild about part pants, and really don't have a good reason, but that Fair Isle sweater is beautiful. But classic, tailored me would be all over that velvet blazer. Simple and chic.
Anonymous said…
Oh, yes, the velvet jacket. Lovely!
frugalscholar said…
There's a lot of v reasonably priced velvet on the Lands End site.

(Love that first sweater!)
Duchesse said…
Lorrie: Marlene says she will order pants though postage from Boden (who insist on shipping to Canada from UK, not US) is high.

Cornelia: Decided that, if she does not buy sweater, I will, as have a loyalty card I can use there.

Anon@ 6:51: Mar likes the jacket best, too, but is also ordering the pants, which, as it turns out, will also be good for a winter cruise. She said, "You are too good a shopper for me!"

frugal: I saw that LE velvet; suppose you could dress it up with accessories but it just didn't inspire me.

Duchesse said…
Cornelia: Back to say it is Mar who is slightly sensitive about friends appearing at the same party in the same garment, but there are other patterns of that sweater available, so...
Eleanorjane said…
Ooh, that jacket! I had a similar one in a muted turquoise but because it was silk velvet it was pretty fragile and any drop of water marked it.

A sturdier version in cotton velvet (maybe in a nice berry colour) would be lovely for the festive season!

I might do some hunting online, but I'd need to try it on as my hourglass shape and plump arms are tricky with most jackets.
Duchesse said…
Did you see this? Not sure of colour for you but sleeve looks reasonably generous:
Speaking of grey, I adore this béret: (I have a big head and a lot of hair). A male friend of mine, who is a good 15 years older than me (yep, in his 70s now) and has a bigger head still, though now not so much hair, wants a béret for a large head, so I'm sending him the website and hoping he'll order from it and I can give him the $$ for my order...

I found a Jones New York black cotton velvet jacket for $10 at Le Chaînon, looked never worn. Though Parisian grey would be nicer still...
Beth said…
Love these personal-shopper posts! For some reason, I hardly ever mail-order shop anymore - maybe I got sick of it as a country-dweller for so many years. It seems so much more fun to shop in the city stores, and be able to try things on. But I do often like things in the Boden catalogue, this velvet jacket being one. Gorgeous! Yesterday I downloaded two knitting patterns, one a shorter version of the same basic shape. I have two of these Japanese-inspired swing sweaters already that I wear often. Thought of making something similar in luxe fabric: maybe black lace with wide black satin trim.
Beth said…
p.s. I have a pair of Betsy Johnson raisin-colored satin pants, very skinny, in my closet -- picked up at thrift long ago -- but am afraid to try them on!
Duchesse said…
Beth: I was not satisfied with Boden's quality in a shirt and knit top I ordered once, but women seem happy with those pants in reviews. And I am annoyed that they insist on fulfilling Cdn orders for UK, thius incurrng high mailing costs.

Btw, he velvet jacket is Poetry UK, not Boden.

Good luck with the Betsy Johnson- that line is cut very juniory!

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