Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What Women Were Wearing in London, or the Four Black T's

If you want to blend into the London crowd, the first thing you need to buy is black tights! And a pair of very sensible low-heeled black shoes... We walked for about 26 miles over the 2 days that we were in London (yes, I'm really happy that we work out so much!) and about half of the women we saw were wearing either black tights or black trousers, with shoes in which they could easily walk. Many ballet flats...

And I saw a large number of women who had paired their tights or trousers with a lightweight top in black. Thus is born the Four Black T's: tights, tee shirt, trousers and turtleneck! (mnemonics help me remember things!)



TightsAsos, tee – Lands’ End; pants – Lands’ End; turtleneck – Lands’ End

In my ever-mathematical mind, this immediately translated into four possible combinations. Yes, you will have to wear something OVER the tights!

TightsAsos, tee – Lands’ End; pants – Lands’ End; turtleneck – Lands’ End

There were a LOT more skirts being worn in London than I ever see in Chicago. Well, to be perfectly honest, the people in London were among the dressiest I've ever seen, overall. Dressier than New York and Paris, even! Lots of very slender men in beautiful suits, and lots of lovely women wearing their black core items with a wide range of skirts, in all sorts of lengths.

It bears remembering that opaque tights do not give you carte blanche for a painfully short skirt. Opaque does not mean invisible; your thighs might be happier with a bit more cover. And any time that your skirt does NOT show below your coat or jacket, reconsider. We saw some women that, at first glance, appeared to not be wearing a skirt at all! Not the kind of attention you want to attract.

TightsAsos, tee – Lands’ End; black pleated skirt – J. Crew Factory;   
tweed skirt – J. Crew Factory; floral skirt – J. Crew Factory
geometric print skirt – J. Crew Factory

My favorites might have been the trim, casual skirts in denim or variations thereof. (maybe because I was on vacation!)  Black tassel loafers were often seen in these ensembles. 


TightsAsos, tee – Lands’ End; olive waxed cotton skirt – Simply Be
black denim skirt – Dorothy Perkins; linen wrap skirt – Alberta Ferretti
denim skirt - Frame

And London definitely got the memo that revived the midi skirt! Ballet flats or something very similar were always the shoe here. 

Something I noticed - if you love plaid, raise your standards, and get really picky about construction. I saw some otherwise really nice plaid garments that were rendered... weirdly off... by the failure to match plaids. I know that they can't be matched everywhere, but the middle back seam? Please...


TightsAsos, tee – Lands’ End; plaid skirt – Etre Cecile; black flaired skirt
 – MICHAEL Michael Kors; red skirt – Topshop; vine print skirt - Topshop

The other snazzy items that were seen consistently with the black core were cardigans and blazers. We saw everything from very subdued tweeds and solids to very bold prints.

turtleneck – Lands’ End; pants – Lands’ End;  tweed cardigan – McQAlexander
 McQueen; black swing cardigan – Magaschoni; camel cardigan – EnzaCosta;
 striped and dotted cardigan – Comme des Garcons

One item that I saw a LOT that I didn't like particularly was fur vests. I'm not a fan of fur particularly, and the vests just looked oddly proportioned. Big fluffy torsos, with skinny arms and legs. But a well-cut blazer always looks nice...


turtleneck – Lands’ End; pants – Lands’ End;  tuxedo jacket – Tonello
camel jacket – Alexander McQueen; floral jacket – Sachin& Babi
herringbone vest – Minimal To

I wonder how many of the women that I saw actually own this variation of the Monday Morning Wardrobe?


TightsAsos, tee – Lands’ End; skirt – J. Crew; cardigan – J. Crew;  
 pants – Lands’ End; turtleneck – Lands’ End; jeans – Lands’ End


Overall, I was happy with what I had packed, although it seemed a lot to haul about when we changed locations. More and more I find that if I have comfortable tights and shoes, dresses are the easiest way to get dressed, and give you that appropriateness that feels so nice when touring churches and other destinations where a respectful appearance is thoughtful, or when trying to talk your way into a really nice restaurant without reservations!

That said, we did quite a bit of climbing about on castle and abbey ruins, which required true active wear. 

And I promised that I'd report back about my experience with Smartwool vs Icebreaker wool athletic shirts. Bottom line - buy either one - they were indistinguishable in terms of wear, washability, and comfort. Sierra Trading Post often has them on sale...

love,
Janice

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35 comments:

  1. Welcome back, it's lovely to hear about your UK experience! I live in London, but my favourite area for holidays is Suffolk, so am very curious as to why you visited that area, and what aspects you enjoyed. I do hope you tell us more.

    I think you have accurately captured the London style formula. My favourite variant is black top plus black tassle loafers, and then coloured trousers, such as light blue denim or plaid cropped pants. Maybe for a future post?

    Alice

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  2. Ha, I'm probably one of those women you spotted in a big fur vest! They are very practical for this time of year, not quite a coat, but warm and cosy nonetheless.

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    1. I'm really happy that you enjoy it! Always remember that my opinions are ONLY mine, and only opinions; everyone should dress in a way that makes them feel comfortable and beautiful.
      Thanks for sharing,
      big hug,
      Janice

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  3. From Margie in Toronto - so glad you had such a wonderful time in probably my most favourite city in the world. The one thing I would recommend most for Linda (and most European cities) is that comfortable, low heeled shoe that you can actually walk in! NA tourists often seem to either be in something too flimsy (sandals or heels) or white running shoes! A nice flat or ballet slipper just seems so much more appropriate - comfortable, yet dressy enough.
    Thanks to your posts I've managed those core sets of basics and with my low heeled shoes can now wear some very nice pairs of socks - comfortable, fun and much longer wearing than nylons. I'm also going to look for some opaque tights and try on some skirts - now that I've lost some weight I'm feeling brave enough and love that look of the dark tops and tights with a bright skirt - we'll see.
    Welcome home.

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  4. From Margie in Toronto - that would be LONDON not Linda (have work on the brain at the moment - that's the boss)!!!

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  5. I couldn't agree more about the level of dress in London. The men! Their beautiful suits! I couldn't get enough of them when I was there last spring. There is something so satisfying about seeing the result of people dressing with care.

    I love that row of top & tights with the print skirts. You are giving me great ideas for outfits until the snows begin to pile up here outside of Boston. Mine will be navy though!

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  6. I do have to say additionally that walking in ballet flats would be perfect torture for some of us. I can't even imagine...a sturdy pair of Oxfords is really the only way I can manage more than one block. I have to leave ballet flats to the young and limber!

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    1. I agree about true ballet flats, but there are lots of other "ballet flat-ish" shoes that are much more substantial. Most of the outdoor shoe brands now offer styles that look completely at home with a skirt and tights. Look for Merrel, Columbia, Keen, as well as old faithfuls like Easy Spirit. Here's to happy feet!

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    2. Yes! I find that a chunky low heel (an inch or two) is by far the most comfortable. My spine thanks me for it.

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    3. Agree on ballet flats - not so much for comfort (that too) but my feet would ned to be a lot slimmer and daintier to suite them. Smart oxfords or loafers are far better on my wide feet! thankfully there are lots around at the moment, and they can look very trendy, especially with good socks and ankle pants.
      Alice

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    4. From Margie in Toronto - while I love my Ecco walking shoes - I find that my ballet flats don't do too badly for city walking. Of course they are UK HOTTER shoes (that's the brand) and they are fairly substantial with a good leather padding so I think that makes the difference (especially with tights or socks to add a bit more padding for the toes).

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    5. ABEO has a great variety of very comfortable flats with special options for different kinds of foot (knee, leg, hip) issues. They are available at the Walking Company. I have 3 pair of their Mary Janes.

      Because most of my trips involve somewhat difficult terrain (including cobblestones), I normally wear Ahnu Montara boots with Sockwell graduated compression socks. That combo will get me through 6+ hours of walking and standing.

      I switch to the ABEO flats at the end of the day. They are a comfortable and more fashionable alternative to the boots, but if I decide to have a meal on the way back to my hotel, I have no problem with wearing those boots into any restaurant I would choose.

      Comfortable and supportive shoes are the most important thing for any trip.

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  7. I love travel fashion reports thank you so much!!

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  8. It's good to hear that you were happy with your packing abilities because if you couldn't pull it off then there's no hope for me. I'm another one who finds regular ballet flats are not suitable for a long day of walking but I've purchased shoes from Munroe and they're well constructed, comfortable and stylish.
    I'm curious to hear how the weather was and what outer wear you needed.

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  9. Thank you Janice for talking about tights & reinforcing that the look is still a good one! I can no longer show bare legs but love dresses & skirts. All too often fashion blogs don't address that key part of dressing for une femme d'un certain age. Would love to see more! Thanks again for your inspiring posts.

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  10. Thank you Janice for talking about tights & reinforcing that the look is still a good one! I can no longer show bare legs but love dresses & skirts. All too often fashion blogs don't address that key part of dressing for une femme d'un certain age. Would love to see more! Thanks again for your inspiring posts.

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  11. I'm always puzzled by whole places, or cultures, where black is the predominant color. Black isn't universally flattering. I look awful in black. Partly it's my coloring and partly it's age (as we get older, black can be too harsh). I would have a hard time fitting in those places.

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    1. I'm with you Ellen. I see the practical side of black and love it for pants but makes me look about 100 if I wear it near my face. So when we go to a big city (they all seem to have the same black uniform) I wear my usual soft-coloured tops under a grey coat with a cheerful or pastel scarf. The grey coat with black pants and shoes makes me feel that I fit in enough. And in summer, without a coat, I just don't fit in!
      Years ago, I had a bright red coat, which my husband loved because he could find me in a crowd (I tend to wander off, accidentally). I wore it while working in Seattle as it was the only coat I had, but there *everyone* wore black or very dark navies. An elderly usher at the Benaroyal Hall complimented me one night, where I was the only person among thousands to be wearing an actual colour. 'That's a beautiful coat,' he said, adding, 'You sure can't sneak around in that coat!' I've moved on since then to subtler colours but it still makes me smile.
      Robyn in Tasmania

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    2. I don't get the black thing either. My observation is that it is definitely a uniform and almost a strictly urban thing. Not only urban, but also favored by people of a higher economic level, those who perceive it as the only appropriate color to wear and those who want to hide (fit in). It looks great on some people and funereal on others. Unfortunately, many see only the clothes, not how they look in them.

      My husband looks great in black, but he refuses to wear it because it gets dirty so easily. Every spec of lint and dust shows up. He believes black shows just as much dirt as any other color. It's just a different color of dirt.

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  12. I have two midi denim skirts and alot of the black essentials you mentioned, so I am feeling quite stylish this morning. Thanks, Janice!

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  13. All of the basic black pieces are in my wardrobe and I'm inspired by the skirts. I see another sewing project in my near future. Thank you for this insightful look at the fashion in London. I love ballet flats and find them very comfortable for walking in. My current pair are Joseph Seibel and have a comfy cushion in the sole.

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  14. I'm interested in wearing a dress so bought one for the first time in many years and wore it this fall. Found it a bit chilly even with a good pair of tights. Since my climate is similar to yours (Toronto) I thought I would ask for some tips. I would love to take a dress or skirt on my next trip but need to sort out the wearability question first. Thanks.

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    1. Look for fleece-lined tights - they look exactly like regular opaque tights, but have a layer of fuzzy inside, which amps up the warmth considerably. And a boot with some warm lining makes a difference too. But at some point, you might just not love cold enough to wear a dress all year. I'm a bit of a freak, in that I don't mind being cold!

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  15. I completely endorse your view of London! You can never go wrong with black there. I always feel uncomfortable in a bright coloured outfit there. I saw young women in black throughout the summer, but wearing white skirts or dresses with black coats or jackets as well. It could be the light quality that makes bright colours seem wrong.

    Of course, black is incredibly practical for those travelling on buses or the tube, which is quite a grubby environment.

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  16. Laughing at your suggestion that we need to wear *something* over those tights. I was walking behind a young woman yesterday [aside: I sometimes think if we could all walk behind ourselves now & again, we'd make a few changes to our wardrobe] who was wearing what I think were jeggings with a short jacket. The jeggings were a black lace pattern on a nude background, and a less attractive sight I can't imagine. She certainly turned more than a few heads, but it was a horrifying sight (especially from the rear). Which has nothing at all to do with your post, which I loved because I love black & wear it all the time (& I'm in my early 60s). So glad you had such a wonderful time in London, and thanks for the fashion update!

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  17. Love the J Crew metallic skirt, the linen wrap, AND the denim. I'm with you on dresses being easy to move in and mostly appropriate. I've found that for climbing, etc. put on a pair of jazz bottoms or booty shorts (Nike has 'em) :-)

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  18. I visit London at various times for work and find the sea of black exceedingly boring. I show my provincial nature by wearing colours, particuarly since I discovered black is NOT in my palette of flattering colours. (I live in Derbyshire not far from Chatsworth house!)

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    1. I went to London from work today. In the end wore black tights, balck dress, black boots, pearl necklace and a grey jacket. Ironically I was dressed almost identically to one of my co-workers who is based there. I can do the London look if I try.

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  19. From Margie in Toronto - an article from today's Guardian (in reply to yesterday's article) about the wearing of black tights! Very appropriate. And the link to the original article is in the first paragraph.

    http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2015/oct/20/in-defence-of-black-tights


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  20. Hi, did Icebreaker discontinue that wool shirt? Photographer friend is still working on her travel wardrobe. On my recent trip I packed mostly black and tan, like I did for Paris. My sister commented she didn't understand why people wear black. I traveled with a standard 21 inch suitcase whereas hers was about a 23-24 inch, for a long weekend. Enough said.

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    1. Icebreaker churns through designs like any other company, but I'm happy to let you know that they've opened a store in Chicago! on Walton Street, near Burton and Patagonia. More "faux" activewear for people who don't do anything active...

      But I really recommend that you camp on the Sierra Trading site and watch for pieces on sale, or look at the Smartwool offerings at L.L.Bean. These wool pieces are blindingly expensive, although they eventually pay off. Also, there's a wonderful site called steepandcheap that runs daily sales on hard-core outdoor clothes. Their site changes daily, so you have to watch it like a hawk, but there are some excellent markdowns there.

      hugs,
      Janice

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    2. Unfortunately neither Smart Wool or Icebreaker has figured out there are people who would love to buy their products but just don't fit into their limited size offerings. I did a little research and found Minus33.Com that carries a few more size options for merino wool shirts if any of your readers are interested. --Photographer Friend

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  21. I love the black tights and tops with the colorful skirts. I have my eye on a purple/plue/black plaid skirt for this fall. But what else could I wear with the skirt besides black? I'd like to get more than one outfit out of it.

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    1. Send me a photo of it, or a link to it (theviviennefiles@gmail.com) and I'll take a look. Does it have any white in it? That might help...

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  22. Hello Janice! I completely concur with your observations re: London - was there about a month ago and even though it was warm - black was still out in force! Any advice for tops to go with those darling skirts that don't need to be tucked in? As I am short waisted (with long legs) that just isn't a good look for me!!!

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