The Standby

Do you ever have days when you just don’t have the energy or mental fortitude to pick out any outfit? On such days, it’s useful to have a uniform to fall back on.
Mine is grey pants, white blouse, grey sweater vest. Like this:

The traditional, in charcoal
The traditional, in charcoal
The hip version, in light grey with cropped pants
The hip version, in light grey with cropped pants

Dotted Swiss tuxedo blouse
Dotted Swiss tuxedo blouse
When I came out wearing the second version, my husband said, “Is this a different outfit?”
Is this a different outfit? (Directrice’s eyes spinning in opposite directions.) They are wildly different! In addition to the variation in pants styles, the blouses are made of different weaves!

The sweaters are different knits!
Cable knit sweater vest, poplin twill blouse
Cable knit sweater vest, poplin blouse

As I said at the outset, this is the outfit that requires no thought.
But there is one simple way to dress it up.
Introducing The Beautiful Thing.
A thing! It might be called a neck-warmer, but I think  "green delight" is a better name
The beautiful thing might be called a neck-warmer — but I think these extraordinary yarns transcend such a drab description

The Beautiful Thing was a gift from a dear friend — and frequent commenter who goes by the handle “Desh” herein — who could not have bestowed this transcendent neck-warmer on a more appreciative object.
Light and dark greens, all acidic
Light and dark greens, all acidic
Come closer to see its many wonderful fibers and colors.
With a little orange and purple mixed in
With a little carrot orange and orchid purple mixed in

One more thing to share: new penny loafers!
Though they look very substantial, they are feather light. The uppers are leather, so the manufacturer must have used an incredibly light material for the soles.
The Directrice waiting while Photographer adjusts his settings; note the lightstand in the background
The Directrice waiting while Photographer adjusts his settings; note the lightstand in the background

Lug sole; you know I dig that
Lug sole; you know I dig that
Topside view
Topside view

Do you have a standby? An outfit that can step in and carry you through the day?
All clothes are from JCrew (past season), except for the poplin blouse, which is from Talbots; Black flats: Coach Noella Flat; Penny Loafers: Carlo Pazolini from YOOX; Bag: Coach Nomad Hobo on sale in other colors
Look at this perfect person -- Harper, not me!
Look whose curiosity brought her within arms’ reach — Harper!

9 thoughts on “The Standby

  1. Great post and great point. I realize my fallback outfit, which also for me checks the box of “cozy and not too far afield from the pajamas I’d rather be wearing” is fitted long-sleeved t, solid-color long drapey cardigan (wool or cotton depending on the season, usually in a jewel tone or black/grey), complementary colored skinny jeans, knee-high or ankle leather boots, and, like you, a “beautiful thing” — for me it’s a big swoopy scarf that ties together the other colors in the outfit. If I get inspired enough I may add in a pair of earrings (hoops or pearl studs) to try to make the whole thing look more intentional.

  2. I really like the scarf. Is it an infinity one, pull over your head and wear around your neck? And if you don’t mind my asking you a question, how many purses do you have? I isually only get winter and summer purses per year but every outfit you show seems to be accompanied by a different purse. Thanks!

    • Hi Sheila — The circumference of the neck warmer is smaller than an infinity scarf. Those are usually big enough to loop around the neck more than once. But the style is the same — it’s a closed circle. How many purses do I have? My husband asks me this all the time and I generally evade specifics. (He could always just look in the closets and count, so perhaps his is a rhetorical question.) For 3 season use (fall/winter/spring) I have 5 serious work bags (i.e., briefcases or satchels that I would carry into court or a business meeting), 5 casual big bags (that I do use for work, just not business attire) and 6 small handbags. I have a few bags that are exclusively spring/summer. Oops — I forgot that I have a few Orla Kiely laminated handbags that I have collected over the years. Perhaps this seems like a lot, but I have had a number of these bags for years. Some are 10 or 12 years old, and I expect them to last even longer.

  3. Naturally our Directrice will have two completely outstanding versions of the standby outfit! Each is lovely, though I am a big fan of the darker, charcoal version. Do you think Mr Directrice would have noticed any difference at all between the two versions (substantially different) prior to becoming the photographer for this blog? This role must surely encourage an enormous education. The Beautiful Thing is a winner. I adore your description of its flashes of colour (carrot and orchid). I have some scarves/neck pieces that I have given names to too, being the Furry Piece/Thing, and the Inky Blue Thing! I love these things.

    • Thank you, Justine! Happy New Year! I’ve been thinking about The Guide to Elegance lately, and a forthcoming post on hats and scarves.

  4. You know, people miss obvious changes all the time. There have been experiments where one of the experimenters approached a person on the street and asked for directions. While the subject was giving directions, two handymen walked between them with a door. The sneaky part: while the door was going past, a different person stepped into place. And a large percentage of the time, the person giving directions never noticed they were talking to a completely different person! It’s called inattentional blindness: I suffer from near-total inattentional blindness while photographing The Directrice because I’m focusing on the shot, not on what she’s wearing. I’m thinking about where the light is falling, I’m thinking about aperture and shutter speed, and I’m usually also bobbing in all directions to get the framing I want. Although if one of you readers suddenly stepped into the frame and pushed her aside, I think I’d notice that…

    But yes, I have learned about a ton about clothes! And I love my Directrice in anything she’s wearing.

  5. The penny loafers are perfection. The outfit is exactly right. Slightly androgynous – which is my signature. The bag and scarf are beautiful and your favorite color, non? A combination of greens I would not have thought possible. And there they are, living in harmony.

  6. So, as I’ve enjoyed your posts over the past several months, I’m left wondering what’s a lovely lady lawyer supposed to wear to keep her ankles warm in winter? My observation is that your ankles usually appear to be bare, dare I say “naked”. That must be very cold in the coldest months. This lady lawyer lives in the Midwest and is in sore need of advice on appropriate ankle attire. Help?

    • Ha! It has been an unseasonably mild fall and early winter in D.C. When it’s really cold, I wear thin trouser socks with Mary Janes or a pair of fabric loafers from Taryn Rose. Or, if I am wearing a dress or skirt, I wear tall boots (i.e., riding boots). I am a huge fan of tall boots and they really make dresses a feasible choice in cold weather. If I am wearing a dress that does not work with boots, I do wear nude hose, which help a little. When it’s unbearably cold, I wear snow boots, carry my shoes in a tote bag, and change at the office. I think the bigger challenge in a cold climate is precipitation, snow banks, and rock salt — all of which will ruin shoes; I don’t wear nice shoes outside in those conditions. You may want to check out boots by Le Canadienne (I think that’s the correct spelling), which are very stylish, but all-weather suede. My best friend lives in Minneapolis and has a beautiful pair.

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