Privilege Blog

Dressing Well Without Chanel: Missive 2

Progress has been made, in my campaign to dress well in a semi-retirement/working from home mode. Khakis form a key component of the strategy, as do white shirts. But not just any khakis, and not just any white shirts.

You are always quite kind in your requests for more photos. Perhaps to help you deconstruct what on earth I’m nattering on about. So, responding well to authority as is my habit, I unrolled yet another enormous piece of cream colored paper, had my son help me tape it to the study shelves, set up a tripod, and performed the complicated ritual in which I:

  • Put my reading glasses on so I can see the camera controls
  • Try to remember which button hides the remote timer function
  • Press the right series of commands
  • Take glasses off
  • Run round and stomp all over enormous piece of cream colored paper in an attempt to get my feet in the right place
  • Smile
  • Run back, put glasses on, check results, try again

The point of said flapping and bustling being to show you these Karen Millen ankle-length khaki-colored pants, a new James Perse linen and cotton jersey paneled shirt, and new Remonte Derndorf “Vanessa” sandals.

Oh, and my watch. It’s a man’s Rolex Cellini, white guilloché face, brown alligator strap.

The khakis fit well, and their finer fabric satisfies my textile standards. The shirt adds a little rumple, a little cling at the waist, to an otherwise classic safari look. Don’t worry, not so much cling that our little midlife tummy friend is revealed. The sandals are, as promised, very comfortable. (Thank you to rb, who suggested these in a comment.) And I often rely on the over-sized watch to uplevel an outfit, just a tad.

But I must reveal to you the depths of Sturdy Gal love for comfort. If I’m just running to the grocery store? Out the door in flip flops and a tee shirt, Costco sunglasses in hand. Sure, I dangle two diamond solitaires from a thin neck chain, wear lavender-gray pearl and diamond studs in my ears, but still, comfort is the focus. Sturdy is contagious, even precious stones susceptible.

Now, about the flip flops. As I’ve said, I’m a Havaianas fan. Their rubber is so squishy, so bouncy. You can order slim straps, for a little grace in the look. These are a very matte gold.

The white tee is from Banana Republic, and has a saga all its own. I’ve always worn crew neck shirts. They worked well in the days of broad shoulders, a narrow waist, and nothing much in between. As I age, I put on weight, some of which seems to have gone to my bustline. As a result, v-necks look better.

Don’t think I didn’t have to work at leaving the house showing chest skin. The High WASP heritage, reinforced by years of corporate life, has left me shy of a body reveal. Maybe now that I’m old enough to be many men’s mother, I relax my guard. Or maybe I’m inhabiting myself with more confidence.

In making the change from corporate life to one less formal, and from child-bearing years to midlife, I have found doors opening on beyond the one I thought I was going through. Like the long castle hallways we dream about. This is probably true for all transitions, or campaigns, white-shirted or otherwise.

60 Responses

  1. Such a classic, confident look — each element bringing its own quiet joy to both wearer and viewer, and I think that’s so important. And your hair is marvelous — it’s growing out beautifully!

  2. I have that James Perse shirt in white, pale gray, pale khaki, and a slate blue. I wore all 4 all over Italy this summer – they’re the best. Very cool, and I love the way they curve in bit at the waist, as you described. Not frumpy. Those are the nicest khakis I’ve seen, may give them a try. And yes, a man’s watch always ups any outfit – especially such a beauty. You look wonderful.

  3. Wow, do I love these pictures, I can’t believe you are able to do them at home! The Karen Millen khakis are *fabulous*, they look great on you. Both the white shirt and white tee are perfect as well, you just seem radiant, very happy, comfy, and chic. I actually just purchased two pair of khakis at Talbots and love them both.

    Sending you Thursday smiles,

  4. This is delightful. Love the idea of upgrading a basic outfit with a man’s oversize watch. I’ve got ’em. My hubby never wears any of his… so onto my wrist they are going.

    Great photos. You done good. ;-)

  5. LMAO!! Oh, the process of self portaiture. Last time I did that, I set up on a stair landing measuring about 6’X6′. One wall was drapped in dark fabric. Within the abbreviated space: a chair (with a sheet of paper taped to it on which was printed a letter in an extraordinarily large font, bold, for focusing the camera), a tripod w/ camera and long shutter release cable, an easel with an artists lamp (for fill light), an ironing board (on which was placed a cylinder lamp wrapped in black construction paper to extend the cylinder and create a tight “spot” light), lots of extension cords for the lights, and 2 curious dogs (one 135# Weimaraner and one 35# fuzzy mutt). I had painstaking done my hair and makeup prior to set up (silly me) and by the time I was ready to shoot, I had melted. The heat of the lamps…the intricate fussing of the set-up…the herding of curious animals around ground wires and cables….all conspired to thwart my efforts at looking (and acting) really put together. Result: the best photos of me ever! Softer, more sultry, with a humorous twinkle caught on film.

  6. Thank you for your demo, which is a very good one.
    I find myself staring with envy at your sandals ( and the Rolex strand ). But I realize, that I would not be able to wear the sandals. The summer is so short and all the sand and mud over here.
    You are wearing colors sparingly and looking great :).

  7. Great choices. I’m looking for the right white blouse and haven’t found it to be an easy quest. Most are either too small (and gape) or too large and frumpy. I tend to be in between sizes.

    Love your hair—probably because it is looking more and more like mine!

  8. You bought the shoes! I love the whole look with the woven shirt and khakis. I am trying to convince myself to wear more woven shirts in my casual wardrobe but so far my no-ironing-on-weekends sloth is winning. You have convinced me to try again.

  9. Thanks for going to all that effort for us Lisa, it paid off…it’s so fun to actually see the outfits, and you! All very relaxed-chic…and very comfortable looking.
    I’m traveling to Cal. next week and need new warm weather clothes desperately (it’s spring and fall here in Seattle just about all year round), so this is the perfect inspiration as I’m going shopping today!
    xo J~

    btw- you and your ‘new’ hair look fantastic!

  10. Those colours really suit you, and you look elegant, dignified, and with more than enough self-confidence not to need these admiring comments of ours at all. The watch is a perfect touch: it gives a subtle hint of ‘don’t mess with me’.

  11. I second everyone else, being able to see the outfits is great! I love the watch… I have a silver Navajo cuff that often fills the same role, but the watch seems less Artsy and more professional. Plus now I have more khaki styling ideas. I confess, they’re my bugaboo. I can never seem to get an outfit to quite come together if khakis are involved.

  12. You look so natural and photogenic + you set it up yourself!!!!

    Those are my daily colours for errands I do find it difficult to find fitted shirts must google JP.

    Is that your usual length hair? looks good. Ida

  13. I thought you were a great writer with wonderful common sense and good taste; I just discovered that you are also a good photographer, a great model and a truly beautiful woman!
    All in all: FANTASTIC!!!

  14. You look great! Love the shoes in both pics and you look so very classy! Dressing without Chanel, but not without Rolex, right? ;-)

  15. Great photos – you look fantastic. I bought a James Perse top last time I was in NY and love both the shape & the quality. Think I need to smarten up a bit – I’ve been working from home all summer and have practically gone feral!

  16. Thanks for the photos! The clothes are wonderful, but it was your beautiful hair that knocked me out. Well done.
    Aka Muffy

  17. You look fantastic. I have total watch envy. And I wish I could wear white …

    And thank you for the sticker. Spouse won’t let me put it on the Jeep so it’s in my office and when people (my family) annoy me I just point to it.

  18. Lisa you look great, very trim and together! I love your work from home “uniform”. Very comfortable and confident!


    Art by Karena

  19. More of these photos! I especially like the second look. But I’m admiring the sandals in the first. If the son can rig up the paper, could he be the photographer as well?

  20. GIRRRRRL. Bar the doors! YOU ARE DANGEROUS in that color combination…you’ve FOUND your color niche. And I’m a jealous wreck….if only.

  21. Thank you for going to all that effort for the pictures! I do appreciate actually seeing you in your new uniform :) The last photo is especially lovely of you. The khakis and shirt fit perfectly and show off a very slim figure! Rock the v-neck proudly!

  22. You look like you are at the same fashion point I am………….clothes for working from home. It is certainly a change from my 20 odd years of wearing designer duds so all my design clients would think I had taste that was transferrable to all the parts of my life…………. Personally, I never understood badly-dressed designers, what did that say about their talent? I have gotten off topic here, now it’s Eileen Fisher (score on sale) and wear it to death. Then I add in a few Italian frocks from my favorite store and I am set. One good thing, this is an easier and less-expensive…………and much more comfortable. I manage to still look somewhat stylish I hope! Good post and you are a brave lady to put yourself in front of the camera. Good for you and you look fabulous. Happy weekend. XO

  23. You look great, Lisa! Thanks for sharing. I will soon my retiring and putting away the suits and dresses, so your posts are so inspiring!

  24. Dear Skye Peale,

    Can I just say you look excellent? I love your hair! And I love the Neutral Look. Nice watch. Rolexes are Key I think. Mine is my favourite accessory of all time. It matches Old Mr FF’s. Because that’s just how we like to roll.

    Can you do a post about WASPs and Gardening?

    Best wishes from the Antipodes,

    FF x

  25. That’s so simple and chic! And as for “chest skin”, go ahead. You have advanced to the stage to be OK with womanly.

  26. Lisa, you are in perfect shape! The WASP-life-long-dieting is obviously worth while.

    Was it a decision to let the hair grow long?

  27. *standing & clapping* You’re an inspiration, as always. Those work / life “uniforms” couldn’t suit you better.

    I’m still in the stage of debating what those are for me, but I’m inching closer, overall feeling more at home in my style skin with each year.

  28. I love your photos, Lisa-poo. You are lovely in everything you do. Love the Vanessa sandals also (Vanessa is my daughter’s name :)’s). Great post informing all of us about the right white shirt & khaki pants. Love you !

  29. “…old enough to be many men’s mother.” That is a great line.
    I love khaki with white. It is such a clean ulilitarian look, but chic. And I love your hair in the longer length.
    You look great and kudos to you for the body reveal. The way I look at it, I have only a limited number of years to reveal chest…or any other skin….so I might as well do it now. And so should you.

  30. Thank you everyone. As you can imagine, the process of learning to post self-portraits at my age is fraught with all sorts of conceptual and emotional landmines. You are very nice people and I appreciate your support enormously.

  31. I am finally getting a chance to respond and see you already have a new post about doubting your choice to show such a low-key outfit.

    Though I am not at all a “white T and khakis” person, your coloring + (as you noted) the great fit + the V neck (natural and created) + something besides sneakers on the feet you look very womanly and pulled together. And the longer hair really suits you!

    With a T and pants/jeans the devil is definitely in the non-boxy/oversized details….

  32. You are making me rush to purchase a James Perse shirt, which I’ve waffled over for a year now. And, frankly, what I want to know is this: what on earth do you do to stay so fit, trim and feminine? You look fabulous! MamaP

    1. Thank you. I fidget a lot? In truth, I just pay attention and was fed with discipline as a kid so I never got into the habit of eating certain foods, I think.

  33. I hope you get contacted by the Nate Burkus show. I gave them a suggestion to have you as a guest. We have a lot to learn from/with you. Thanks!

    1. Well that would be pretty funny and wildly enjoyable. Since High WASPs aren’t supposed to decorate, only have their houses spring fully formed from their heritage, Mr. Berkus would be prying family secrets from my grasp:).

  34. Hola, love love your style and I´ve been wanting for a long time to stop coloring my long curly hair and you are such a great inspiration to do this!!!
    hugs from Chile

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