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Channeling The Grande Dame For A Semi-Fancy Late Holiday Lunch


Last week my husband and I had our Thanksgiving at the Taj Campton Place Hotel restaurant. It’s small, elegant as San Francisco goes, and recently received a second Michelin star. We reserved for late lunch/early dinner at 3pm, in San Francisco, The City Of Jeans. What to wear?

Not a dress. Mine are all evening, or summer sorts. My pencil skirts feel like work. Not jeans. Although the restaurant wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at denim, I’d have regretted the celebratory feeling of some good fancy pants. And I noticed, as I pulled clothes out of my closet, a distinct desire to channel my vestigial Grande Dame. Tradition will out, come holidaze.

What Grande Dame tricks did I dig up? (All links are at the bottom of the post, BTW)

  • Cashmere, cashmere, cashmere. The peacoat is cashmere and wool, the cardigan cashmere and silk, the muffler, well, just cashmere.
  • Pearls, pearls. I rarely match my pearl and diamond studs to my pearl strand but here it felt right.
  • An unexpected mix of candy colors. The key. The cardigan is a coral-pink, the muffler a bluer shade, their mild clash against the powder blue peacoat cuts the sugar in half.
  • The unlogoed luxury of Bottega Veneta. Say no more.
  • Textured silk pants and smoking slippers. I cannot tell you how many East Coast gatherings I attended where women wore dupioni silk something or other. Sometimes with a slipper. OK, so patent leather isn’t traditional for women, but we ask, why not?


I did add some modern twists.

  • Long gray hair in a simple ponytail. The Grande Dame would dye, or at the very least tease and spray. No way I was going to leave my hair down with so much food to get into my mouth, but I don’t updo like Faux Fuchsia do.
  • The Apple Watch. Unseen here, but nothing says 21st century like Apple. Remember when they were Apple Computer?
  • Simple white UNIQLO tee, in place of structured shirt or shiny blouse.
  • Unpolished nails. OK, so that’s not modern but it’s Sturdy instead of Grande. Sturdy Gals always find one small detail to drive home our task-oriented rebellion against formality. As though we might don gardening gloves at any moment and pull a carrot from the sidewalk.

In retrospect? I think I might have carried a black bag instead. I have a vintage old Coach bucket that looks like this Mansur Gavriel, for example. Nothing conceptual tells me so, only my eye wants to balance the shiny black pants and shoes. And I might have worn, if I had them, thicker-framed black glasses, also for balance. But my hair shone, the pants did so less, indoors.

I got by.

This Look Is Pretty Easy Albeit Pricey, Links To Similar Goods

And A Visible Widget Of Similar Goods (Trouble Seeing This? Turn Off Your Ad Blocker, Or Try Enabling Javascript?)

We do have to wonder, however, why are simple black silk trousers suddenly so hard to find? Briefly, the thought of Smaug the Dragon comes to mind, curled somnambulant on a bed of hoarded simple tailoring. But probably that’s just a fever dream, we may safely ignore it.

EDITED TO ADD: Neiman Marcus has a Cyber Monday offer that gives you a $500 gift card for a purchase of >$2000. The Bottega Veneta bag, maybe? They also offer smaller gift cards for smaller purchases.

Links may generate commissions for clicks or purchases. Thanks to Une Femme for surfacing the widget visibility issue.

75 Responses

  1. You look very well turned out for a lovely brunch. Hope by now that you are feeling better.
    Why is it black pants are so difficult to find?
    I spent 4 hours looking for black pants! Crazy if you ask me.

  2. You looked great. Only suggestions I’d make are:
    a. agree about the glasses
    b. a smaller, “going out” bag – the color of your BV is great with your outfit, but I think the size is wrong

    I’m home sick now too. What a disgusting virus this is!

    1. @Kathy, Thanks. So sorry you are sick. All of California seems to be succumbing. I’m on the mend, but still honking and tired;). The black bucket I have isn’t a “going-out” bag, but it is smaller and would have worked OK. I didn’t want to carry an evening bag, it was only 2:30pm when we left for the restaurant.

    2. I meant something like your small BV bag in another color. Not evening bag. But the BV bag you carried looked great too.

    3. Like the brown BV but in hot pink or gray? Because I wear mostly jeans, and seldom vary my outfits, it’s the only thing I ever do to make my outfit more “restaurant ready”. I think (judging from all your outfit posts) that it’s sort of a missing item in your very well curated wardrobe.

    4. I LOVE it and it would be great year round. I think Loewe makes great handbags, this one has just the right touch of festive whimsy.

    5. @Kathy, I think you have hit the issue: it’s the size of the bag.
      The outfit is superb. A great way to deal with the casual culture that prevails most places outside of New York and DC.

  3. I adore this outfit – I’m so glad you are doing the odd outfit post now and again, I really like your style!

    1. @Patricia, Thank you! I am determined to keep them coming, at least every few weeks. I’m sparing you my sickbed rig of pink plaid flannel pyjama pants, striped shirt, and blue cashmere beanie:).

  4. This is perfect San Francisco Grande Dame. Agree about the black bag and glasses, just to “ground” the top half a bit against the color and pastels. Love that coat on you!!

    1. @Susan (une femme), You are so right to tag this “San Francisco Grande Dame.” There’s something ladylike/non-edgy about how we dress up old style. Good to know, also, that you agree about the need for more black. I hope these discussions are helpful for everyone, to hear how the finessing of an outfit plays out. I didn’t have my other bags available when I finally got dressed, having packed my clothes for SF but not another bag. I often do my final polish in the mirror just before I leave;).

  5. I love your outfit.You look great!
    I’m searching for classic black silk trousers for years,bought one pair but this is not it. Is it not possible to make them or are they making us just crazy?
    I wear black patent Tod’s loafers so I’m ok with it.
    I like to see little nice clutches or little purses,but IRL I have the most beautiful purses with no space for even my car keys ( the keys were smaller and there were no mobile phones long time ago ), but wear pretty big evening purse or don’t change it at all . And I like a little rebel touch myself.
    So,you are perfect ( and healthy I hope)

    1. @dottoressa, LOVE black patent Tod’s, so snappy Italian and sporty but soigné. I’m still under the weather, wearing a cashmere beanie now:), but better and better every day.

  6. This is the classic example of the less-is/more-understated-elegance look. Love it, but your sick bed outfit really cracked me up.

    Also glad to see outfit posts. Really like your style.

  7. It would be so interesting to know what everyone wore for Thanksgiving Lunch Brunch/Dinner. I suppose it depends on the venue. i wore a black knit dress with a wide embroidered belt (black and ecru). It felt right. I was appalled to see some in shorts (this was very nice place), others in t-shirts, and still others dressed what I deemed to be appropriate dress. I would love to see a post on why it is important to dress appropriately.

    1. @Susan D., I’ll gladly write this post – although I may have a lot of thoughts on what we might mean by appropriate. Basically it comes down to consideration, to me. I’m guessing you feel the same. But I will expand at a future date.

    1. @Theodore Bouloukos, Thank you sir. The correctness is quiet not because I am quiet, per se, but rather because correctness is so deeply, deeply ingrained. The pleasure of this blog has been unearthing, deconstructing, understanding, following the underground seams, if you will. I appreciate your company.

  8. Lovely outfit. The blue coat looks fabulous with black pants. Beautiful shade of blue on you. Very nice with your complexion.

    Pearls (my favorite) always add a great finishing touch to the total look.

    Does the Taj have a dress code? I’m curious. In Boston, The old Ritz Carlton is the Taj. The Taj Boston has a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with many courses. Spectacular.

    1. @Susan, Thank you! Glad you like the blue – me too:). No dress code at the Taj. I know we have some places here with codes, but I don’t know which ones off the top of my head! I have heard often about the Ritz in Boston – some day with any luck I’ll go for lunch.

    2. @Susan, Many years ago I was in Boston and my new SIL wanted to take me to lunch at the Ritz. They wouldn’t let her in because she was wearing jeans. She tried to explain that they were her “good” pants, that she had just bought them to wear to the opera, but no. The next day she wore her regular, worn and scruffy chinos that she wears in her lab and they had no choice but to let her in. Remembering still makes me smile.

  9. Great outfit! I love the colours. How was the meal?!
    ‘Cashmere cashmere cashmere’ and ‘pearls pearls’ pretty much sums up my recipe for any social occasion above ‘sitting on the couch watching jeopardy’ but below black tie…
    I second the suggestion for a post/ discussion on what people wore for Thanksgiving. Or perhaps what they plan for family gatherings at Christmas etc?

    1. @IonaK, OK. Will think about outfits and family Christmases. I will say few pearls at my family gatherings unless we are really putting on the dog.

      The meal was AWFUL! They had booked too many dinners and we were seated 45 minutes late to rushed service and overcooked food:(. Ah well. A dreadful Thanksgiving now and again builds character.

  10. Beautiful outfit & wonderful coziness & textures! I’m on a budget, so I appreciate that you give options at different price points. That Uniqlo cashmere scarf would be a great budget-friendly option I’d snap up if I hadn’t happened to find another budget-friendly cashmere scarf in a soft aqua that works with the blues & greens I tend to wear, & adds color to denim & neutrals. You look wonderful in the coral/pink intentionally mildly clashing. I like to sort of clash blues & greens–makes me think I could be on the right track there. Those pearl & diamond studs are gorgeous takes on a classic I’d wanted to find at a wallet-friendly pricepoint, & I’m happy to report I found a nice vintage pair of freshwater pearl & white sapphire studs in white gold on Etsy. Thanks, & glad you’re feeling better!

    1. @Megan, Happy to provide multiple price points whenever I can. And if you’re clashing blues and blue-ish greens, you might want to put a bit of a reddish hue somewhere in the mix as contrast. Good find on the earrings!

  11. Love, Love, Love you in that outfit. And not least of all because I would b perfectly comfortable in something similar, although I’d wear my thick blue/purple glasses and be far less the grande dame.

    I’m sad to read that the meal was awful. Campton Place has long been one of my favorites, although I admit I’ve grabbed a bite in the bar far more often than I’ve eaten in the restaurant.

  12. Talbots still offers a black silk doupioni ankle pant at a price that won’t break the bank. Flattering side-zip, flat front. Saves $$$ for the cashmere up top!

  13. Lovely outfit! Just one small remark: you seem to have the label still attached to the left sleeve of your coat. You know that those are supposed to be removed once you bought the garment, right?
    Sorry, but it always make me smile whenever I see somebody flashing the “100% cashmere”, or worse the brand label, in real life…

    1. @Kate, No apologies, I’m glad to know. I didn’t like the label showing, a definite annoyance, but since I worried I’d hurt the cashmere taking it off, I assumed, in my ignorance, that I had to leave it on. Permission to go without logo granted. Hooray! Now I just have to snip very, very carefully.

    1. @Murphy, Thank you! I don’t wear pink often, somehow it doesn’t fit my character all that well, but it fits my hair and skin so it’s great for playing dress up

  14. So I have a question. I’m told there is no such thing as a stupid question. (And I did check to see if it has been covered. Sorry if I missed any references.)

    This is your outdoor outfit. What did you remove, if anything, when you were indoors eating? Coat? Scarf? (I’m sure you did something with the bag; I’m not concerned about that.)

    When I care enough, I realize that I may have the indoor outfit down or the outdoor outfit down, but getting both to work is often tricky for me.

    1. @Cathy, Not stupid! In fact I planned the outfit to work as layers. Inside I took off the blue jacket and the scarf, so I ate in gray hair, pink cardigan, white tee, pearls, and white-strapped big-faced Apple Watch. I name all those things because absent jacket and scarf, with pants and shoes invisible, that’s how I’d be seen. Kind of decorous, but, as I said, I was in the that mood.

    2. @Cathy, Oh, the pearls. I forgot about them. They finished the look.

      I love the way you count your hair as an accessory. My hair is genetically still brown at 61, but if I ever go gray, I hope it’s as classy as yours.

  15. So, Madame, I got to wondering when it became acceptable for a lady to color her hair? Babe Paley was a renegade in the 60s for allowing her white streak to stay, but certainly in the earlier part of the century, only floozies dyed their hair…I think of those dowagers in 30s films–all gray hairs.

  16. You know what? I loved the whole look. It’s so unlike the way people are dressing today. It’s refreshing to see so much class on one person. I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d just drool and say Bravo!!!!

  17. A seam ripper should take care of the label on the sleeve. It should just be basted on, like the basting stitches inside pockets.

    If you come to Boston, I will take you to the Taj/Ritz. It’s the best bar in the city. And we can walk through the Public Garden and let the sun bounce off our gray hair!

    1. @Patsy, A seam ripper. Would that I knew what that was! I think I’m brave enough to try my nail scissors. Yikes. And I would LOVE to go to the Taj/Ritz with you and let the gray hair shine.

  18. So many great handbags in SF :)

    I’ve had bags made by Specialty Dry Goods in Santa Monica also – she uses the most beautiful leather. May be a bit casual for you –

    For something a bit more elegant I really love the YSL bags – and Chloe :)
    Stella McCartney makes pretty cool bags as does rag & bone

    Il Bisonte, B.May

    I could see a simple leather tote for a nice brunch also :) though the blush Chloe bag would be really pretty

    – have you heard of 49 sq mi – they are gong through some changes. I’d love to see their shop in South SF – you can find samples etc there. They are now under the umbrella of the Rissetto Co.

    Of course BV is awesome – I just find them a little bulky at times.

    1. @susan, 49 sq is new to me, thanks! And I like the YSL clutches for evening – there are a few brands who to me have elevated their logo to an element of design and done it well – YSL is one of them.

  19. I’m sorry to read that the meal was not up to par with your perfect outfit. Oh well, at least we got to enjoy the outfit :)

  20. My mother often traveled with my father on business. Some of his colleagues had, shall we call, young wives. So my mother, pretty sturdy but looked like Grace Kelly, same age as my father and married for over 40 years developed a habit of checking out the nails of the women on these trips. She buddied up with the women with the “worst nails” reasoning they had interesting lives. And they did. They were the women who wanted to go to the museums instead of shopping. Who wanted to see the gardens.

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