Privilege Blog

Real World Statement Pieces And How I Loved Them

I do have jackets that get me dressed. Not flocks of them. They do not swoop from my closet like swallows leaving a barn. No flights of fancy. But I have all I need. Which is to say, two.

The first I bought 10 years ago. I had gone back to full-time work in 1997, after a few years as a stay-at-home mom, and then a few more years working part-time. By 1998 Silicon Valley was flushed and feverish. Money was pouring into our coffers from optimistic and fool-hardy investors. I was at Sun Microsystems. We made servers. The providers of Internet infrastructure bought servers. We were flush, as I said. The crash of 2000 was waiting just over the horizon, but we pretended not to know.

I got a bonus. My first non-sales bonus ever. Not banker-scale, but enough that I couldn’t spend it all in one try. Enough that I was, to my way of thinking, justified in buying myself something significant. So I did.

I wear it to this day. It’s gotten too old to take me into corporate battle completely confident. Too many threads escaping. But give me a pair of jeans and a t-shirt? Or a lace tunic and my son’s graduation? All set. I don’t think I need to explain why this works as a statement piece, but I might be wrong. That’s always possible. I don’t mind being told so. Could the best part be the little gray chain that weights the hem? Always possible.

The second jacket is less photogenic. It’s made of stretch wool, so, lacking a person inside, looks rather like a rag on the hanger. I promise, it’s perfect on a body.

It was made by the inimitable Mr. Armani. Qualifies for statement status because, a) the stretch wool helps in the wearing-a-jacket-but-looking-like-a-girl process b) the apparent crinkled messes around the neckline and hem are actually discrete ruffles c) this is the fabric.

It’s navy blue. Trust me on this one.

Last year we had as a client one of the best-known institutions on Wall Street. I’d been working in the California casual culture for years. My Chanel retired from battle, I needed clothes that could take me to New York with my mental and emotional capacity intact. I wore this jacket, wide-ish legged navy blue linen pants, a striped, fitted, Brooks Brothers button down, pearls, more pearls, and a Rolex Cellini man’s watch. I felt my clothes were telling everyone I was secure, conservative but stylish, a person with stature – whether of course all that was true or not. I felt no anxiety about my clothes or what they said. Which was good, as there was more than enough anxiety to go around in the commercial situation. Work is like that, at a certain level.

The value of clothing, in my opinion, depends on what gets done in the wearing. How your clothes support you in what matters. Of course, sometimes you may need to do some dancing, or some glittering, or some flashing of colored feathers. But sometimes you need only to get through the day unscathed.

My statement pieces have helped me more often in battle than in recreation. When I’m playing I am mostly content to look like me. Occasionally too content, perhaps. But then I’m 52. It’s about time. I’m passing on the baton, along with what I know about baton twirling.*

*Yes, I know that the idiom, passing on the baton, refers to relay racing. I think it’s fitting to think of working women twirling the baton and racing all at once.

20 Responses

  1. Oh that first jacket is perfection! I would wear it all of the time- it is so versatile!

  2. What interests me most in this post is that I recognize the need to contextualize the cost of your Chanel jacket. While my rationalization happens at much lower price points, I assume it stems from the same anxiety about being judged for spending "too much," and I'm also assuming it wasn't part of the original High Wasp territory, although perhaps I'm wrong.
    It's exactly the kind of thinking and rationalizing that's missing, for me, from Vogue and any other magazine that shows people buying and selling items far, far out of reach of 98% of us. . . I believe that such a purchase costs all but the extremely lucky few at least a moment's doubt, and I appreciate you giving me a glimpse of that. It's part of what I come here for.
    And I know the jacket would have been worth every penny, and obviously still is. Both of them are fabulous!

  3. Those are amazing pieces; they truly transcend season or context to be worn most anywhere. You have an amazing eye.

    Oh, how I miss the days when I dreamed of corporate life and the requisite wardrobe!

  4. I love this post. I love that Chanel. And I love how you describe how you felt wearing the Armani to the meeting. You give a great deal of insight into how women view themselves.

  5. I love the Armani jacket. Will I ever buy one? I've been a happy homebody since I've been married, but if I ever get the itch to do something out in the world, I'd love to get some classic and timeless pieces like that.

  6. For one year only I took a position of a senior manager in a school. I bought some suits, quite quirky, but very different from my normal garb. The feeling of empowerment was tangible. My job was half done before I opened my mouth. That is what I love about suits, they speak before you do.
    I no longer crave the managerial limelight, but every now and again if I need a boost I have a lovely Chanelesque jacket by Nicole Farhi which does the job.
    I particularly like the forgiveness of the Armarni jacket,but that Chanel one is perfection. I sadly have children instead, sigh.

  7. I always feel a bit more confident in the corporate setting when I put on some extra pearls, plus I like to think they make it look like I mean business!

  8. So interesting that a good corporate wardrobe seems to have meaning even when we're doing something else. I have also been thinking about fashion magazines recently. I used to read Vogue religiously. No more. Hmmm. Must muse.

  9. Pearls and a good jacket… they go the distance.

    I had a jacket similar in cut and style as your Armani. Gave away all my suits since I quit the corporate life… *sniffle, sniffle* IF I ever go back, I have an excuse to buy me some more!

  10. My mother was a real baton-twirler in high school. I keep meaning to get her to show me how to do some fancy baton tricks. Until then, I will focus on swell-fitting jackets.

  11. I can see why you can get more mileage out of both pieces. Chanel is just gorgeous, even at a distance!

  12. Absolutely fabulous investments Miss LPC, they are just outstanding. Of course, this is written from the perspective of one who worn a madras jacket acquired *at least* 20 years ago last evening.

    And you select simply exquisite pieces.

  13. How perfect. Try as I might I can't get on top of finding work clothes that have the effect that you describe. It doesn't help that they have to be work clothes that look smart and are scrabble-around-on-the-floor worthy.

  14. If you ever start to feel weighed down by that lil Chanel number I'd be happy to relieve you of your burden…XXOO

  15. One of my mentors said, "I buy my clothes so I have to speak less."

    She wore the most beautiful couture tweed suits.

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