Jenna Lyons, I love you, but you’re bringing me down
Written by Mattie Kahn.
It’s only taken me about three years, but I’ve finally come to accept the fact that I do not look good in capris. I am now reasonably sure that—deep breath—I never have. Worst of all, I suspect our incompatibility has been fairly obvious from the start. At 5’2, I’m not exactly the target demographic for a clothing item that deliberately slices my already pint-sized limbs in two. This seemingly obvious logic notwithstanding, I’ve probably tried on well over a hundred pairs. In observance of pastel-hued resort seasons gone by, I’ve dutifully experimented with stiff cotton ankle-grazers and stretch denim skinnies. On particularly adventurous occasions, I’ve whisked printed silk styles back to low-lit dressing rooms—only to be hopelessly disappointed. Just last week, I slipped into three neon versions of the same questionable cut. They looked predictably horrendous. Year after year, my frame and I are forced to face the same dispiriting conclusion. The cropped pant is not the pant for me.
Or at least it hasn’t been since I graduated pre-school.
I hate to point fingers, but there’s only one person to blame for the hours wasted in search of this would-be platonic pair of pants. Jenna Lyons, I love you, but you’re bringing me down. Or perhaps, more precisely: your catalogue is.
My relationship with the monthly J.Crew catalogue began innocently enough. I first subscribed to it on an early visit to the retailer’s Columbus Circle location in New York. “It’s sort of like a magazine,” explained some bespectacled saleswoman. “We can send it to you, if you’d like.” Given that—as anyone who has ever been fifteen can attest—there are few things in life more thrilling than mail that arrives with your name on it, I did not hesitate to give her my home address.
In truth, I have always liked catalogues. I can only suppose affection for them—and their promise of orderly commercialism—served as my own minor rebellion against the resolutely mismatched décor of my Upper West Side apartment. My alternative father—not merely “artsy,” but actually an artist—had always rejected the upholstered dining sets and coordinated flatware characteristic of my friends’ homes in favor of flea-markets finds and antique-store acquisitions.
Once, when I asked him to buy me an area rug for my room so that I could curl up on the floor to read, as my best friend did on her I’m-straight-from-page-18-on-the-Pottery-Barn-Kids catalogue, he picked up a street-fair-issue carpet that somebody had probably died on. After I told him how jealous I was of the Tiffany’s Elsa Peretti bean necklaces that all my friends sported, my father bought me an old jade necklace that weighed as much as a plate. In protest, I put myself on Limited Too’s mailing list. (By the way, when I finally rediscovered the jade necklace some time ago, Zoe Saldana stopped me on the street to ask its origin. Ugh, parents. Am I right?)
And yet, despite my enthusiasm, I have only vague memories of those early years of J.Crew subscription. Were it not immediately disposed of, the brand’s “magazine” was likely most often relegated to my family’s multipurpose “arts-and-crafts” drawer. What I imagined I’d someday do with a stack of then-more-CPA-than-CFDA glossies is anyone’s guess. When I finally emptied that drawer on one of my manic cleaning benders, I discovered a collection so great that I could have easily gift wrapped my entire apartment in twinset-laden wallpaper.
Under Jenna Lyons’ matchless supervision, the twinsets of yore have since been replaced by a preponderance of chambray and sequins and somehow winningly ironic taffeta. Lumpy blazers have been excommunicated, Lulu Frost reigns supreme, and I’ve spent more money than I care to admit on olive green outerwear. And while I’ve never pasted the pages of the J.Crew catalogue onto my room’s walls, I’ve pinned more than a few to my corkboard. There’s a moody black-and-white image of a girl perched on a seaside cliff wearing the kind of one-piece bathing suit that I’d never be caught dead in. (Polka dots? Not my thing.) There’s the cheery bridal party grinning in orange-pink lipstick and paler pink gowns. (I don’t even want bridesmaids.) And then, of course, there’s the J.Crew catalogue circa Summer 2012.
In it, a Parisian-looking character rides a leather-trimmed bicycle wearing a pair of—what else—micro-printed capris. I was in love the moment I laid eyes on them. But more even than I wanted the capris—and, oh, did I want them—I wanted to be the girl outfitted in them on page 47. Did it matter that I didn’t own a Dutch-style bike and that when my hair was frizzy it never looked so unintentionally chic? Did it matter that I looked jaundiced in orange lipstick?
Since its transformation into high-street icon, J.Crew has been celebrated for its accessible, on-point offerings, but I’ve come to realize that it’s not merely the J.Crew wardrobe I crave. It’s the lifestyle. The truth is I don’t want to buy J.Crew as much as I want to live in its perfectly proportioned universe (which is to say, fishing lobsters, on a boat, off the coast of New England). And I don’t need capris for that. A certain citron-hued yellow shift dress, however, is an absolute must according to a bespectacled someone I know.