As a team, we’re often fielding fashion-centric quandaries via Twitter, text and Instagram DM, so we figured, why not make it dot-com official? Welcome to Might I Suggest, the style advice column that solves your most elusive market searches and enduring style challenges. This week, Leandra answers the most popularly ranked question that came up on Instagram by community member, Steph:
There are two ways to go about answering this question. On the one hand, we can traverse down the rabbit hole of self-expression, first by looking in the mirror to ask, “What do I mean when I yearn for more than jeans and a top?” It sounds dramatic, but for a refreshing change, I assure it is not! The answer is often nothing more or less than an apples-for-apples alternative solution that hits the same notes jeans and a top do.
But what are these notes? Allow me to speak for you, but tell me to shut up if you must! Reliability. A contrasting combination of casual and put-together. An effortless appeal that doesn’t wreak lack of effort. A fashion contradiction. Think a knit cardigan with lightweight poplin boxer shorts and like, ballet flats. A sundress with chunky shoes. A utility jacket to cloak formal attire or simply the reverse of jeans and a top — jean on top, silk on the bottom. What we’re looking for, really, is expressive tension. Because within the crevices of this tension is where personal style flourishes, and who are we if not defined by the ways we choose to articulate ourselves? WHO THE HELL ARE WE? So here are some suggestions in the way of replacing jeans and tops with other garments that serve the same purpose:
But if you’ve retired the thought that you want to be more than your jeans, the solution I’ve found most useful is to dig deeper into them. Not literally, because the inseam will slice your vagina in half, but figuratively. Here you’ve arrived at commitment, surrender, absolute knowledge that jeans and a top are the pinnacle, apex, absolute tip of Mount Everest in the way of a dependable uniform. This does not mean you want to look the same every day. It doesn’t mean you’re less interested in getting more creative with your looks, to paraphrase Steph. So what to do? What to do? Wuht? To? Do?
First, I invite you to imagine yourself as a well-oiled machine. The wheels are turning, lights are shining, doors are opening and you’re not doing a damn thing to make it so. This is your outfit — the baseline reliable top and bottom that whether rain or shine just works. Once you have been able to not just recognize or embrace but celebrate this — congratulations! You know what you like! — you should feel some space open up and with this space, you can think around your outfit instead of about it. How could I make the jeans and top more interesting as opposed to what should I wear in place of them? Do you see how trying to solve the ladder forces you to revisit a square called A when you’ve already graduated from those quadrants?
Before adding bells and whistles, let’s make sure that you’re not yearning for a jolt of creativity because the actual garments of your uniform are registering as dated. What kind of jeans are you wearing? Might I suggest trying a pair that is mid-rise and either straight or wide-leg, but not cropped? The key is to be able to wear them with flat shoes, but not have to cuff them or let them sweep against the ground.
Addendum: This one doesn’t fit the rest of the prescription, but it is cute and on sale for $82.
Now with that covered, tell me about your shoes. Tell me about what kinds of bags you like. Tell me whether you’d consider leaving your shirt untucked, tying a sweater around your waist sideways so that the knot hits your oblique and you can create a sort of peplum with the material from your shirt hanging out below your makeshift belt.
Are you interested in layering a skirt or dress over your jeans? If you keep it knee-length, I think this could look really cool, either layered under your top or in place of it. You might also add a utility jacket or trench coat, or skip the skirt/dress suggestion all together and instead try a collarless tweed jacket with, like, a tie-dye shirt as the sandwich.
Now back to the shoes. My mom once told me that if I had the resources to buy only one nice thing, it should be an accessory, like a good pair of shoes. This was drilled into the fabric of my style which I say punfully. When we’re dealing in the currency of a simple top and jeans, I used to like to think that your shoes enable a go-big-or-go-home mentality. Lately, though, as a function of the way fashion is changing, I am more interested in quiet shoes. Not to scare the hell out of you, but I have been searching for a pair of kitten mule thongs on eBay. I think these will look great with jeans and that collarless button-down shirt, sleeves cuffed a la Jenna Lyons and necklaces dangling like leaves on a tree.
And that concludes this edition of Might I Suggest. C u next time!
Might I Suggest identity by Edith Young.