Saturday, July 03, 2010

Happy 4th of July and Summer Essentials

Okay, so I’m not completely back as far as regularity of posts. But at least I’m enjoying weekends again, and something else I’ve missed -- shopping! Lately, I can’t seem to get enough of 3 items: summer dresses, boatneck tees, and all things nautical.

Dresses have been the biggest surprise and addition to my wardrobe as I finally realized (maybe later than all of you) just how easy they make summer dressing. Classic shifts with a defined waist are very flattering to my body type, so these have been a worthwhile investment as they go from office to happy hour to summer functions – and well into fall and spring with a cardigan.

But the real surprise is the sudden invasion of strapless dresses and halters – not so long ago completely shunned from my closet. Granted, this is not a practical work solution as I frequently need to lose the jacket/cardigan when spending time outside with clients and feel, well, inappropriate bearing so much skin. As soon as a whiff of weekend enters, however, all I want to do is pull on a strapless number and head out for dinner, drinks, brunch, or just to the store.

I’m not sure what caused this transformation in taste or the sudden desire to go strapless, but I like the effect. I feel less restrained somehow and more summery. Maybe it’s a subconscious desire to show off an unusual duration of color on my arms, shoulders, and back, unusual in both its perseverance and its arrival in the first place. While I normally content myself with brief episodes of sun during a weekend here or there spent outdoors, I was fortunate to get a head start on summer sun in early May, further enhanced by a good deal of subsequent walking through the city with clients during sunny hours. This has resulted in the persistence of a sunkissed glow and a splattering of freckles that have taken up permanent residence across my back, shoulders, and chest.

Ann Taylor Plum Halter Dress

My husband seems to be enjoying the dress infestation as well, remarking often that he always thought I looked good in dresses. Which I must confess to using to my advantage as I’ve snuck in more than a few dresses in recent months, like the plum halter knit dress above from Ann Taylor. The color is genius on me and it looks divine with both silver and gold accessories as well as pearls and ivory. I’m also loving the comfy Pique Strapless dress from the J.Crew outlet shown in the top photo (special thanks to jadorethesestores at blogspot for modeling the dress in the photo which I borrowed since this style came out a couple of years ago).

Perhaps another product of my pre-summer excursion to the Florida shores has been a re-discovery of all things nautical, which you may have noticed in my previous post. I say re-discovery because, let’s be honest, nautical has been around for centuries and reappears in stores like clockwork each February as a harbinger of summer to come (or, more likely, a getaway to some resort destination).

While navy has been prevalent in my wardrobe, well, forever – navy is my black, after all – the specific manifestation of navy in nautical themes has injected a beachy feel into my ensembles. Navy stripes, gold buttons, and accents like ropes and anchors seem so fresh right now. Like a waft of cool ocean breeze penetrating the humid swamp-spawned summers that Washington D.C. is known for. Particularly when paired with white and punctuated by bold splashes of reds, corals, and hot pinks.

I was especially inspired by the adorable First Mate blazer I picked up from Anthropologie on sale for about $40 (originally retailed for $128) upon my return from Florida in May. This cheeky jacket comes in a dark navy twill and is embroidered with a red and white grosgrain belt and finished with a gold-toned life preserver clasp. The sleeves come with 3 gold buttons and the lapel are adorned with both a starfish and a seashell brooch (I generally leave off the seashell one). Initially I had a little trouble figuring out how to wear it to work since it's a bit unconventional and is slightly more casual than it appears online. I first paired it with a crisp white skirt and white shell, not wanting to upstage the unique details. Then I discovered that shades of red/rhubarb looked really sharp against it and it also played well with certain carnation and salmon-shade pinks. It looks just as smart on a pencil skirt as it does with jeans and a tank.

Somewhat related to the need for nautical – and possibly an urge to suddenly expose my collarbone – is a newfound obsession with boatneck tees. It started with last spring’s J.Crew Baby Stripe Navy on White tee, which I wore whenever possible. Wanting something that could span the seasons with three-quarter sleeves and a slimming fit, I set out to obtain more.

The first 3 Perfect-fit Boatneck Tees of this year arrived during a large pre-vacation order, which I justified in two ways: we never go on vacation, and I purchased several items for hubby. Both had the unexpected effect of appeasing him (usually these ploys don’t work as he has long since wised up to my tactics). I wanted to hate them, really, I did, but as soon as they came out of the box, I fell in love with all the colors I ordered: Vintage Orange (predictable), Pale Buff (a favorite for the past year), and a fresh new shade called Light Flamingo.

As I soon saw how flattering the boatneck shape is to my bustline (my bust is wide and expansive rather than centered and cleavage-forming, so to speak), I couldn’t get enough boatnecks in enough colors. So naturally, when I came across the newest incarnations, the Perfect-fit Stripe Boatneck Tee in white on navy and gray on white, I had to have them. I also had the good fortune of plucking a Ralph Lauren ivory boatneck tee with thin gold stripes and smart nautical buttons along the collarbone from the sale rack at Marshall’s (I swear I just went in to buy soap).

Now, the fit of a flattering boatneck is tricky. I prefer mine long and lean. Fairly close to the body rather than loose and flowy is ideal. On the other hand, a boatneck that’s too fitted at the bust creates a ring of boobage that’s not terribly flattering, sometimes in conjunction with a potbelly following meals. So getting it to cling in the right places is key.

I find that – as with the rest of the Perfect Fit kingdom (and some painter/ringspun varieties) – sizing up does the trick. While I wear the smallest size possible in blouses (which always seem to run big except for the slim-fit button-down shirts), I almost always do best with a Small rather than X-Small in tees. This has been my experience with polos over the years as well. Now, this could be a result of my aforementioned expansive-shaped bust, but if you have more of the cleavage-producing variety, I would imagine that sizing up is equally important if you’re self-conscious. Plus, even with the best laundry habits, it’s rare that something made of cotton doesn’t eventually shrink, even just a little.

Anyway, I’m excited to see more boatneck sweaters and hope this is a trend that continues. As for dresses, I fully intend to populate my closet with more and get as much wear out of them as possible into the fall.

I wish you all a happy and fun 4th of July and a swell rest of the summer!

P.S. I should probably add that I have yet to find anyone who does boatneck/bateau better than J.Crew. I grudgingly accept this because I’ve tried less pricey alternatives (and also more pricey ones) but always come back to the crew. It’s that perfect balance of long and lean that I just can’t find anywhere else. So I’ll keep buying them if they keep making them!


LPC said...

I really like these outfits. The gray, blue, and gold, in particular, along with the pink!

3-Penny Princess said...

Thanks, LPC! I know you can relate to the navy obsession too:). Happy Independence Day!

Anonymous said...

Love all these outfits! So glad to have you back!

3-Penny Princess said...

Thank you, Rosa! I'm sorry I missed Friday's get together. I love the Facebook photos though!

Anonymous said...

I hear ya on wearing dresses and skirts in the summer. It's just too hot to wear anything else!