09 April 2007

Spring Essentials (pt. III): short-sleeve oxford & dress shorts

Like the mid-length trench and the wrap dress, these two wardrobe components - a tailored short-sleeve oxford and a pair of non-denim, non-khaki dress shorts - can easily transition from the Monday through Friday work environment to the weekend brunch at Peacock Cafe.

Okay fine, for those of us not on "The Hills," dress shorts in the office may not be an obvious option, but honestly, just like pre-marital sex, how will you know if it's really as wrong as everyone says it is until you've tried it? Just make sure beforehand to perfect a believeably naïve delivery of the line, "I'm so sorry, I didn't realize it was inappropriate -- I just thought they were cute and since my legs are so toned and there are only men in the office, I don't know, it just seemed like a good idea."

These two choices may strike you as items most women already own, but from my experience in pawing through my friends' closets (that's actually what I'm doing when I excuse myself to use the restroom), I find very few own either piece. They may have the long-sleeve button-up oxford and a well-maintained pair of J. Crew khaki shorts, but frankly, like the good-looking guy on the treadmill next to me watching reruns of "America's Next Top Model" who takes frequent hydration breaks while never breaking 4.0 mph, they're just not good enough. Not nearly good enough.

Tailored short-sleeve oxford
There are few blouses capable of capturing casual-chic, polished-professional and prim-urbanite as well as a crisp, white fitted oxford. With jeans, an A-line skirt, a pencil skirt, dressy bermudas, and if you're indoors, nothing but a great pair of white cotton bikinis, this button-up, especially if it hugs your contours just so, heightens your look from typical Hill intern to K Street sophisticate.

What's the difference between a short-sleeve button-up and a rolled-up-long-sleeved version? Well, to start, if you already own the classic longer-sleeved oxford (which you should), you have every right - and my strong support - to take a few style liberties with its short-sleeved counterpart. I'm a tradionalist when it comes to the long-sleeved oxford; I like the pointed-collar, a fitted but not overly fitted cut, dart-free shirt with sleeves generous enough to be rolled-up in four-inch segments without cutting off the circulation in your forearms. For the short-sleeved button-up, however, I enjoy indulging in a bit more flair. I like the Peter Pan collar, pouf-sleeves, cap-sleeves, flutter-sleeves, pintucked detailing, ruffle-front, tuxedo-bibbing, subtle darting, and a much more tailored, shows-off-your-lady-curves fit. A modern short-sleeve oxford is just as much work-ready as it is weekend ready, and because of its neutral color and versatile style, you'll be hard-pressed to find something in your wardrobe rotation - clothing, shoes, or accessories - that doesn't pair well with this blouse.

For every woman at every size and every age, the white oxford button-up is an essential. You don't need arms like that woman who hosts "Dancing with the Stars," a stomach like Marisa Miller's or a face like Natalie Portman's to successfully pull off this piece -- you just need a good fit, a high-quality cotton fabric and a cut that fits your style personality.

Oh, and of course a keen eye to quickly identify and avoid the keyhole-effect.

Recommended short-sleeve oxford button-ups:
1. Elida luxe button-down by Theory ($175 at saks.com)*
2. Ferdie blouse by Difference America ($188 at nordstrom.com)
3. Allyiah stretch poplin blouse by BCBGirls ($68 at nordstrom.com)
4. Lawn Aniston blouse by Theory ($140 at shopbop.com)
5. Panel button shirt by James Perse ($144 at scoopnyc.com)
6. Keen & bright button-up by Odille ($58 at anthropologie.com)
7. Adrianna shirt by Elie Tahari ($268 at bloomingdales.com)
8. Talissa top by Tory Burch ($195 at toryburch.com)
9. Balloon-sleeve poplin blouse by Arden B. ($49.99 at ardenb.com)
10. Kacia silk blouse by Theory ($176.25 at pinkmascara.com)

*shown above right

Dressy shorts
I know, I know, you get it -- I like dressy shorts.

But until every DC fashionista has a nice pair of non-denim, non-khaki, non-nylon, non-canvas, non-capri shorts hung up in the 'weekend' section of her closet, you can expect a good deal more propaganda from me on the dressy shorts front.

Unlike the other items on my Spring Essentials list, this essential is limited to warm weather, post-work and weekend excursions only. Despite its restrictions, I still believe a pair of not-too-short, not-too-long, dressy shorts in a neutral color is just as necessary to have in your possession as a good lip shine with SPF or your monthly Harper's Bazaar.

The weakness dressy shorts demonstrate in terms of their seasonal and venue limitations is more than made up for in versatility. If you've splurged on a pair of black Alice + Olivia sateen bubble shorts, there's nothing to stop you from throwing on a Bread-N-Butta graphic tee with some Steve Madden flats for your long Sunday dog-walk to Lafayette Park, or, if you're going more for a night-out-at-Sequoia look, pairing them with a cute, fitted camp shirt and a simple pair of black peeptoes. You don't have to couple expensive with expensive or trendy with trendy, in fact, it's much more fun and imaginative to invest in one new piece and build around it with items already in your possession from past seasons.

Why are denim and khaki shorts unacceptable? Well, with denim, I really don't know what to say. It's like disapproving of those who chew with their mouths open or thinking Hillary Clinton is a shrew -- there's no real, put-your-finger-on-it reason, you just do and know it's right. Denim shorts, both short-shorts or the truly reprehensible stove-pipe knee-length kind, are trashy-looking, hick-looking, hippie-looking, and yes, suburban-Mom looking. Just don't go there. Ever.

With khaki shorts, there's a bit more of a grey area. As long as they aren't pleated or too long (i.e. over 4-inch inseam), they can be okay for certain occasions like barbecues, picnics, moving day and volunteer work.

Just like you aim to be classy and stylish during the week, why not do as much on the weekends as well? Dressy shorts are one of the gateway wardrobe items that ushers in the transition from college girl to professional coquette. In short, it is an essential.

Recommended dressy shorts:
1. Melissa shorts by Alice + Olivia ($176 at shopbop.com)*
2. Voluminous shorts by Laundry by Shelli Segal ($140 at nordstrom.com)
3. City shorts by INC International Concepts ($58 at macys.com)
4. Menswear shortie shorts by Lux ($19.99 at urbanoutfitters.com)
5. Madeline shorts by Frankie B. ($166 at urbanchiconline.com)
6. Corset shorts (£30 at topshop.com)
7. Check short (£25 at topshop.com)
8. Green short by Adam + Eve ($271 at activeendeavors.com)
9. Noir shorts by Catherine Malandrino ($89 at activeendeavors.com)
10. Gingham shorts by Johnson ($220 at daszign.com)

Check in tomorrow for a much longer than necessary persuasive argument for why you should love and rely on bronzer and round-toed flats as much as I do.

And just because this is too out-of-the-ordinary to not share with you all, I'm currently writing this with gloriously flat, gray, tundra-like mid-Michigan highway scenery (view and wireless connection courtesy of the Michigan Flyer airport shuttle) whipping by my right side while enjoying a William Shatner "That's me trying" soundtrack.


west coast devotee said...

Yes on the short-sleeved oxford.

A big Y-E-S on the dressy shorts, unless the lady's got biggun' legs. No need to show us those. Air 'em out in your yard if you have to -- I'm pretty sure the Food Network has commercial breaks.

And wow, that Shatner's song is pretty damn good. Who'd have thought?

What's with all this fashion talk lately? Where are the naked chicks and celebrity dish? I like both, but come on, I started to rely on you for my daily dose of boobtastic photos!

bff in chicago said...

I like these shorts better than the ones in the last post. These at least cover a few inches of the upper thigh region.

Which some of us need, thank you very much. Those of us who *admit* to eating Creme Eggs, you liar.

nyc admirer said...

love the song!

And the image of you on a bus in mid-Michigan. somehow it just makes sense.

have a good long run tomorrow morning, you motivated little thing :-)