Shopping for Classic Style

"This one is really young and fun, and perfect for spring... but I could see myself wearing this one so much as I get older," I debated, staring at two identically-priced dresses. Just a few days before the "black-tie optional" wedding I recently attended, I still had not decided on what I would wear. It was 9:00pm and the store was closing, so I had to make a decision. One dress, a silky black and floral cocktail dress with a cut-out back and higher hemline, was a high-end designer label on "super sale" (as my mom would say), making it hard to pass up. The other dress, a classic and more conservative navy blue sheath with a hemline below the knee and an illusion neckline, was pulling at my rational side. Although I felt the first dress would be flirty, fun, and perfect for the formal spring wedding, I couldn't see myself wearing it on many other occasions, and certainly not past my twenties. The cashier, patiently awaiting my decision, chuckled to herself as I processed this all externally. 

It may have seemed silly to the salesperson that I—a young twenty-something—was basing a purchase on whether I could wear the dress into the next decade. However, long-term re-wearability and "cost per wear" are always serious factors in my shopping decisions. If a dress is perfect for one big occasion, but I never wear it again, it has poor cost per wear. Rather, if I purchase a dress  like this Illusion Dress from Maggy London and wear it many times over the course of years (or decades), it has great cost per wear.

But how do you know if you will wear it for years, even decades, you ask? Well, personally I look at what my style icon—my mom—sticks to. When I asked her what she shops for, she replied just as I suspected she would, "Clean lines and neutral colors will never go out of style. I usually shy away from bold patterns because they often date the clothing." Her advice played out in my dress debacle: clean, simple silhouette in one neutral color, or a trendy shape with a floral pattern? The "clean lines" and "neutral color" of this navy dress proved to be an elegant combination that will pass the test of time better than my other option. 

 We had to do a style shoot together since we were matching in classic navy dresses!

We had to do a style shoot together since we were matching in classic navy dresses!

While I have Mama T to gather inspiration from, others may be left wondering to whom they should look for style inspiration. "Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O (Kennedy) had style that carried through the ages," my mother suggests. If you look up images of what they wore back in the 1920's and 1950's, chances are they still look good today. Similarly, if you think of yourself wearing the item of clothing 10 years from now, would it look foolish or fashionable? 

Timeless, classic (and classy) styles usually are modest in nature; anything too revealing is usually too avant grade to stay stylish through the ages (though there is a time and place for that!). However, classic clothing by no means needs to look "drab" or frumpy. Classic style can be just as sassy, sultry, or even "minxy," as my best pal and classic-style aficionado, Erin, likes to say. Erin expounds, "I love to show a little ankle and a little collarbone," which has the same effect as the illusion neckline of my dress. In fact, classic style is all about being subtly minxy and confident, without overexposing oneself. This navy dress portrays that combination well; its hemline falls below the knee and has a high neckline, yet there is nothing boring or unflattering about it. The winning combination of conservative yet alluring is the epitome of classic styles: something flattering and well-fitted, yet modest and moderate. While there is no flashy or loud print, the color and fabric are crisp, rather than boring. 

 Looks like Grace doesn't need my "classic style" tips... she's already got it down! 

Looks like Grace doesn't need my "classic style" tips... she's already got it down! 

 My husband hops in the photo shoot for a James Bond moment!

My husband hops in the photo shoot for a James Bond moment!

style tip:

Keep classics looking modern and updated with accessories, "Throw on a jean jacket, some lipstick, and a fun necklace or scarf to add a little flare," Erin suggests. My mom often layers multiple necklaces atop a sweater and a button-down. Here, I opted for glitzy, glamorous heels, statement earrings, and a bold lip color, such as this potent purplish-pink.

 

With a little grace,

          Kelsey