The Look of Today

Posted by Laura
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Everything in this photograph can be read as a symbol...for Lauren Hutton, read: modern American woman, good-looking, hard-working, together. For the clothes, read: 4 pieces that belong in every woman's basic wardrobe—shirt, sweater, pants, unlined coat. All we're going to tell you about them is that they're in tones of one neutral color (read beige, grey, black, brown, navy—depending on climate, preference, et cetera); that they're narrow in line and classic in feeling. It's why they not only add up to a look, but why you can pull the whole thing apart and make other looks with other pieces—they are planned for versatility, which is the key to building a basic wardrobe out of separate pieces.



Everyone who knows me is aware that my closet is a riot of ruffles, ribbons, lace and furbelows—a maximalist romantic fantasy—yet most people probably do not know that there is a part of me that sometimes wishes I could be the kind of girl with a capsule wardrobe of classics. The kind of classics worn by Faye Dunaway in Network or Lauren Hutton in this editorial—sleek, lean separates in a clean, crisp palette. There are always designers who do this type of dressing during any given era (look to the success of Phoebe Philo at Celine and The Row for recent examples), but my heart lies with the mid/late-'70s version. In 1976 Vogue published a one-off special to "Real-Life Fashion", which cleverly broke down every aspect of a modern woman's wardrobe (from the three bathing suits you need to how to pack a suitcase to what to wear on a date). This editorial opened the guide with it's crisp, inviting images of the ultimate icon of American beauty, Lauren Hutton, and detailed explanations of how to mix-and-match a capsule wardrobe of separates. Though these photos are in black-and-white, just picture Faye's camel raincoat and sweater, pale grey crepe blouse, beige trousers...


Lauren Hutton photographed by Francesco Scavullo for Vogue's Real-Life Fashion Guide 1976. 


It starts with a coat—an unlined coat. Meaning warmth without weight. Meaning seasonless. It can be jersey, thin flannel, thin gabardine, knitted cashmere, woven cashmere. And the color, any neutral that blends with what you're going to be wearing most. In this case, the coat is navy, and it's worn over pale-grey trousers and pale-grey sweater—for which, read: any shade of grey, any shade of beige, camel, all white in summer; all dark, all light. The point is, when you're dressing in pieces matching tops to bottoms is what keys your look to city/day...and, with a little switching-around of accessories, gives you a perfect base for easy evening. Here, for instance, where you'd use touches of luggage-color leather for day, think metallic for evening—a narrow gold or silver belt, a bare little gold or silver sandal; and a pretty jewel instead of a tailored scarf at the neck.



Whether it comes as a package or in pieces, there should be in your wardrobe a matching jacket and skirt that work as a suit—and also work separately. Again, think neutral colors, soft fabric—the softer the jacket, both in fabric and in tailoring, the more movable (more versatile!). The ideal is an unlined, unconstructed jacket, thin as a shirt. By day, you'd wear it, as here, with a pale crêpe de Chine shirt (the basic city suit-look!) or with a matching shirt or T-shirt or sweater for the feeling of a jacket and dress. Or it's a little covering to slip over a printed silk dress. Or at night over a satin pyjama...And if you want to play it really smart, at the same time you find your jacket and skirt, you'll buy yourself a pair of matching trousers...and another two-or three-dozen different looks.



In addition to your basic sweater and trousers, there also should be a matching shirt and skirt in your wardrobe—they have the presence of a dress (without the feeling of being sealed in), and with all the modern attractiveness and versatility of a shirt and skirt! The key is to own them in the same classic neutral color as the sweater and pants (we did it all in tones of pale grey, with the unlined navy coat), so you have four matching pieces—they move around effortlessly with each other And the shirt—pale, soft, collared, perfect—moves with everything! You can wear it as a jacket over a sweater or over another shirt, as a cover for a bathing suit, as a top for an evening pyjama, all the time—it never stops!



Unless you live in the Sahara, you need a raincoat. A simple, classic raincoat in a classic British-tan color that swings over anything, anywhere, anytime it's raining. It's what you pull over your little soft, smooth crewneck and matching trousers on wet days in the city. It's what you wear for country weather, when a rougher Shetland turtleneck in a contrasting color would look great tucked into your trousers—and they would look great stuffed into soft leather boots! It's what you wear when it's raining, period. (P.S. If you were going to add just one more country/casual thing, make it a little tweed hacking jacket—warmth and dash under a raincoat!)



A pyjama—a soft, silky top and matching pants—symbol of easy glamour. It's the modern way to dress for a theater opening in New York, in Milwaukee; a benefit dinner in San Francisco; a black-tie party at someone's house. The key: an alluring fabric (thinnest satin, crêpe de Chine, matte jersey) and the best color is a dark one—black, navy, grey—it will take you more places than a pale color (save this for a warm-weather resort). Add a touch of sparkle, a touch of gold; a bare, high-heeled sandal.



Everyone needs a beautiful short dress to wear out at night in any city in the world, whether it's a restaurant, a convention dinner, the theater. Think covered, but sexy—a pretty neckline, pretty sleeve. Thine crêpe-satin, crêpe de Chine, thin silk jersey—fabrics that move well on the body. But it can be any solid neutral. If you're a beige person, think cream, ivory, pale grey; otherwise burgundy, navy...black goes without saying. So does a pretty shoe (and pretty leg—meaning: stocking and shoe toned in).



The secret of easy at-home dressing is charm. Your base can be the trousers you wear for day, but you need something really delectable to wear with them. It can be color—the pale-flower or sherbet color of a soft top—sweater or blouse—and matching chiffon scarf to wrap at waist. It can be the fresh flower you tuck in the scarf...a pretty jewel...an extra-alluring makeup...all the little touches that give charm to your look and turn it for evening.

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