Rethinking The Style Classics
Getting a jump on holiday dressing with J.Crew
This post is brought to you (and me) by J.Crew, one of my favorite brands for timeless essentials. Long time EE readers know, I’m a J.Crew gal at heart, and thrills me to no end to get to play with their new Holiday collection.
One of my many vain traits - sometimes I imagine I’m interviewing myself. And one of my most popular self-interview queries is, Laurel, could you please define your style? I think about it all the time, even though I generally bristle at defining one’s style, or giving trends cute names, etc. I think about it more in the sense of what does it mean to feel an affinity with a certain look, and how do I think about the ways I want to portray myself to the world.
One key element I keep going back to, besides the 90s (which coincidentally was the subject of my last letter in partnership with J.Crew), is prep. Do I fit the classic mold of preppy style? No. I have a lot of tattoos, sometimes I like things that are kind of goth, or severe. But there’s a classic-ness, practicality and durability to timeless American style that I find massively appealing.
That said, I went to a New England boarding school in the early 00’s, from Texas, and was so overwhelmed by that category of New England-ness, and felt so clearly not that that I almost felt personally wounded by it. I was obviously privileged, but there was a code behind that style that I felt pointedly excluded from. I didn’t get it, and never would. I tried to wear what they wore, and it never quite worked. It felt wrong on all levels.
As an adult, I’ve learned not to take things to such extremes, and I’m definitely not aiming for a certain look (though if I am, it’s this). I’m not just preppy, not just trad, it’s an individual take on those things that’s sincere, and intuitive. It’s instinctive. It’s me, which makes it hard to write letters sometimes - because what works for me might not work for you, or you might hate it - but it’s also part of what makes this fun. Taking a closer look at the why’s and how’s of these things.
Anyway, I don’t want to over-intellectualize it, after all, this is really about getting dressed for the holidays, playing with classic pieces, and rethinking how I approach preppy style, but those were the thoughts I had while playing dress. Here’s what I put together.
AN OUTFIT THAT REMINDS ME OF JULIA ROBERTS PLAYING A “MOM” IN THE MID 90S
I’m not referencing a specific role, more like an idea of Julia Roberts playing a “Mom” (like full on flustered rom-com stereotypical “Mom”). This is a running around on errands outfit - super practical and polished, and also mega familiar.
The angle of my camera/phone isn’t really doing me any favors, but what I like about this is…. everything. It feels so appropriate, so grown up and responsible on me, that it kind of makes me laugh. IRL, I have such a potty mouth, so little ability to hold anything back that dressing like a Connecticut WASP feels subversive.
That Connecticut cosplay aside, it’s a fucking great outfit. The sweater is a peach colored brushed cashmere polo neck. It has a mohair like texture and it’s unbelievably soft and cozy, and as a base layer it’s just insanely snuggly and comforting. It’s the perfect thing for running around on errands and looking polished without tryhard. The jacket, meanwhile, is such a throwback (a leather blazer!) that it looks like the perfect vintage thing you always hope to find but never do. The leather is mega soft, and can read very trad (like it is here) but could also be super sexy (worn buttoned with nothing underneath and a pair of black trousers). The trench gives it an extra frazzled woman feeling, which I love, and I think adds quirk without being an absolute curveball. I don’t love novelty for the sake of novelty, so unexpected elements work best, in my opinion, when they’re part of the same family.
Then, the jeans are a great substitute for the Wranglers I always wear, especially if you have curvier hips/butt than I do. These have the look of non-stretch vintage denim, but do have a hint of stretch. They’re super comfortable and very soft.
I tried this with a gorgeous little flat ankle boot, but ultimately they also felt too much out of left field (even though they were the same color as these loafers). I think loafers here are the only choice because they’re so predictable with this look. I also haven’t moved on from the early 2010’s habit of showing ankle skin, and I know it’s kind of dated but I feel good like this.
So here we are - fully leaning into the trope of Americana via a potty mouthed 2023 stoner-mom lens. It hits all the cultural touchpoints, but still feels very me, and very polished and minimal.
NANTUCKET REDS ON STEROIDS
Yall. Nantucket Reds! Talk about culture shock as a Texan in New England. I totally didn’t get the whole thing, but I liked the concept. That said, it’s 10000% wrong on me. This is much cooler.
So the real “Reds” are a sun-bleached chino. And these are not that. This is a full-on red suit, and I just love it. I have kids in two different schools right now, and there will be lots of holiday activities for both. For that kind of thing, I want to look cool, but pulled together and responsible. The moms at that school already know me, so I want to look like myself, but festive. I feel like one of my high school friends’ moms, but in very contemporary silhouettes.
The jacket is made in wool, and is an exact match (color and material) with the trousers. It’s actually a tux blazer, rather than a suit blazer, which makes the suit even more interesting and festive. The trousers have the same trim along the waistband that the jacket has along the lapel. One of my pet peeves is a suit that’s not quite a suit. Not an exact match. It either has to be completely different, or identical, and this one is identical. The sweater is cashmere, which is obviously a very different material, but the color is the same. I love how tonal it all is, and also how bright.
I thought about sneakers with this, and they would be cute, but again, to me it feels a little bit too silly. You know? There was a moment in the mid 2010’s where every styling trick was like, Try it with sneakers! And it reminds me of that. Sometimes (often) a beautiful shoe does the job better. These are the same loafers as above, except done in shiny black leather.
Finally, instead of a clutch, I’d go with a crossbody phone bag. A clutch felt too formal for something like a school holiday party or holiday concert, whereas this gives a more practical, casual feel - which says something considering it’s being worn with a bright red tuxedo.
RUST & NAVY (NEUTRALS!)
Rust and navy…. and gray cashmere. Heaven. And extremely classic! But this is a much more interesting version.
And now! When I want to PARTY! I love these colors - the rust and the navy together is so beautiful, and such a rich combination. This skirt would be totally different if it were all navy or all rust. It would be beautiful, but not as special. And that specialness is what I’m after in this pursuit of revisiting my attraction to New England style. If you look at the style icons of that region, most of the really good ones have a kind of unexpected element that flirts with novelty, but isn’t ironic. Think of Jackie O and her oversized sunglasses. Not a normal choice (at the time), but also not a joke. Same goes for dual colored fringe.
Anyway, the skirt would look great with the leather blazer from above, but I like it best for a party with a snuggly cashmere turtleneck. The turtleneck is fitted and sexy, and would be gorgeous if you have a bust, and feels right for a party. Especially! With the gold curve heel wedges. They are PAR-TY, and so excellent and contemporary. The whole look would be very pretty with a pair of single sole pointy pumps, but with the fringe, I like to match energy with energy and go for something like this instead. A straightforward pump would feel, to me, like dumbing this down, rather than really wearing it.
So here we are. I’m not sure if any of this connects to the top part of my story, but to me, this all feels like a continuing conversation with my impressions of American style from my teenage years, through the filter of (thank god) mid-30s self-confidence. Right? Or no? In any case, three excellent outfits for the holiday season.
But while I’m noodling around in J.Crew world, I can’t resist also swinging by the kid’s section, Crewcuts. I, personally, do not love when little kids (mine are 3 and 5) are dressed too much like adults. Let kids be kids! I like bright colors for them, but also more or less let their own personal style go free. When it comes to the holidays, I like to let them feel festive and special, but I don’t want anything too precious or fussy. Basically, classics, but filtered through their own POV.
My three-year-old daughter is such a girl, which is hilarious to me because we never gave her girly things, but one day she woke up and would only wear pink and only play with unicorns.
This sparkle knit sweater will blow her mind - it’s pink, soft, AND sparkly. Meanwhile, she already has one of these little metallic pleated skirts and almost never takes it off. It can’t hurt to have a backup. Every year I like to get her a special Christmas dress, and this one will do beautifully. She likes dresses that “twirl” and this one has a very nice poufyness to the skirt. The shoes are a no-brainer for her - her number one criteria for shoes is that they make “clippity clop” sounds when she walks, like a horse, and these are also metallic and red, so win, and finally, a sweet little sparkly purse for her to take extra special care of and feel like “a lady who owns it,” as she says. I don’t know what that means exactly, but that little purse is a perfect gift for a girl.
My son, who is 5, has surprisingly old-man style. He likes plain wide-leg pants (hates tight legs) and soft sweaters. He does enjoy a weird shark or dinosaur thing though, so there’s always a kind of off element to him. He’s perfect.
Neon yellow is his favorite color, and we are planning to go see family in the midwest for part of the holiday, so he’ll definitely need a good beanie. The shark slippers are just A++++ Ellis. He loves slippers, and is obsessed with sharks, so here we go (these also make a great kid gift). He’s similarly obsessed with Star Wars despite never having seen it, and not having especially Star Wars enthused parents…but I’ll indulge him with this shirt. Then he really likes soft things, so a cobalt cashmere sweater is perfect for him, especially with mega cozy grandpa pleat-front corduroys.
That’s us for the holidays!