An Old-Timey Catalog Kind of Holiday
We're entering peak nostalgia, with the holiday season and 90s catalog inspo colliding at just the right moment.
Before we start, huge thanks to Alex Mill for sponsoring today’s newsletter. If you are not familiar with the brand, Alex Mill was founded by Alex Drexler and is now a joint effort between Alex, his father Mickey Drexler and designer Somsak Sikhounmuong. Mickey Drexler’s name you may have heard over the years - he brought you the eras of Gap and J.Crew you remember warmly. The Simplicitycity era, as I refer to it now, since it’s so perfectly captured by one of my favorite Instagram accounts.
Alex Mill speaks to me for many reasons. The product is grounded in functionality, their fabrics are great for the price point and they get proportion. They also aren’t trying to create “menswear inspired” pieces for women that just fall flat. They honor us ladies with the same rich color options and silhouettes as the gents and many of the items are truly sized and filed as unisex. I could go on of course (and will throughout) but it’s a brand I check in with for new arrivals often, knowing they will have perfect versions of whatever it is they are offering to give my closet the utilitarian balance I so crave when getting dressed.
But now back to that old catalog lifestyle I was talking about…that heyday of holiday garb shot next to a rustic barn or in a field of wheatgrass overlooking a bay. I live for it! The chocolate lab by her side. Extended family all perfectly accessorized and smiling at the same time. We all could use a little fantasy this time of year, amirite!? Beyond this nostalgic imagery, the clothes were good! Perfect rollnecks, dusty colors, nothing screaming from the page. Really wearable stuff!
Those are the feels that came to mind when trying on the Alex Mill collection in research of this letter; Dissecting the pieces and determining which would work hardest in my closet were those of flipping through an old-fashioned holiday catalog. And yes, you are all going to be horrified by the idea that I’m calling the 1980s and 90s old fashioned because we are old enough to remember those decades first hand (not to mention the Boston Baked Beans J.Crew would send my cousins for Christmas because they spent THAT much there, MAIL ORDER!)
Today's outfits, while rooted in getting dressed for the here and now, all started with a hint of retro, and that’s what makes them feel on point! I went full holiday ham in some with red and plaid and bows and sparkles to go around. And 90s minimalist in others. Imagine a Julia Roberts meet cute in early December, 1997: Shiny carrot pants, slim ribbed turtleneck, envelope clutch. And finally, we’ll work in some preppy classics for some easy (but not boring) ways to get dressed for every type of event you may have in the next month. ENJOY!
A Chalky Blue Fisherman Sweater
The right fisherman sweater is harder to procure than one might think. The proportions must be masculine, but not so masculine that it’s broad at the shoulders and too tight at the hips. Thick enough that the knit is not transparent, but not so bulky you can’t actually wear it. I have a breathtakingly beautiful Aran sweater from Alexander McQueen. It is SO bulky it takes up half a drawer, I can’t bend my arms in it and I’ve literally never worn it. (I can’t seem to part with it, but that is for another newsletter.) THIS fisherman hits all my notes.
When I was chatting with Alex (Drexler) at the holiday collection review, I asked him what outside of Alex Mill he buys. I figure, if it’s your collection, it probably takes a lot to get you to shop elsewhere. He mentioned he loves Visvim. And THAT’S when I knew we were in sync. The Japanese brand that is obsessed with Americana (but perfecting it in ultra luxurious fabrics) is meticulous. It was clear that they (the AM team) are just as obsessed with the little things as I am.
These winning little details of this particular sweater include the weight (described above), the slightly loose rollneck and the almost grey blue flecked yarn. It’s the exact color of my eyes so I am especially fond of it, but for the rest of the world, it’s just a great non-neutral neutral. It also comes in a classic cream, if that’s more your style. I plan to wear her lots this winter.
A REALLY Good, Wear Everywhere Pair of Black Pants
In the winter, I veer away from denim (except for evening, maybe we should get into that next week!?) I find jeans hard to style with sneakers and they get so cold! Lately I’ve been swapping my denim for black pants. I like the juxtaposition of a “work pant” with casual or super dressy items, taken out of it’s uniform heritage. I’ve been searching and searching for a black pant that checked almost an impossible number of boxes to create this vibe: slouchy and cool. A decent looking and feeling suiting fabric. Durable enough to actually wear in place of jeans for quick switch mom/presentable lifestyle. And on top of this, they also had to fit of course. Guys and gals, I LOVE these. I kept them long and bunching because…that’s the look. Don’t shoot the messenger! But they will look great hemmed to the ankle too, I’m certain. *I’m wearing a size 2.
A Tweedy Blazer
A tweedy top layer is such an easy and excellent way to break up hero pieces, know what I mean? No longer does your statement skirt walk into the room before you do, because it has been tamed! I particularly like the extra old-manishness of this one. It has straight sides, a slight boxy fit and patch pockets. I’m wearing a size small. The silky lining of the sleeves is dreamy. The body is also fully lined for warmth in a light cotton, but to be honest, I’ll probably cut that part out.
A Seemingly Simple Turtle (But of course…there’s more than meets the eye)
The ribbed turtle. Such an important element in a winter wardrobe. Yet if you get claustrophobic with things touching your neck (like me) or are sensitive to itch (like many of you!) it’s not so simple. We need something fitted, but not so tight it rides up at the hips. Something that feels luxe but ultimately can be worn again and again on the daily. I am here for Alex Mill’s take, the Christy. It is super soft. A weight that can be worn solo or under bigger layers. And with a body shape that is ribbed but not elastic. Then there are the finishes: the little slit in the back of the neck so it can sit high high up without getting tight (which also allows it to roll over into a fold easily if that’s more your style) and little rolled edges at the end of the sleeves. No detail left unturned. Now to the outfits:
De-Charming A Charming Little Cardi
This cardigan. It’s practically vintage. IDK if you’ve ever bought vintage knits but…the smell is unbearable. It’s the one category I almost never buy second hand. So I was immediately drawn to this little tart. BUT, the thing about this extremely adorable little cardigan is, it’s the kind of thing that I really really like at first glance. And when I like something too quickly, I have to take a pause. It usually means it’s obviously girlish or preppy. And styles that so immediately give off those vibes can look too earnest on me. It’s why I can’t really wear Simone Rocha. I LOVE it so much, but on me I truly just look like a third grader. Are you following? Anyway, I thought it would be fun to present a challenge for our last piece. I wanted to make this sweater seem anything but school-girlish. Let me know how I did?
And a final thought - a brilliant idea (if I do say so myself!) - should you want to gift any of these items to a deserving friend or family member, send them the link to this letter! It will be like two gifts in one: what to wear AND how to wear it! You could also send them a gift subscription…but now I’m just getting greedy.
Welcome to December everyone! Don’t drink too much! :)
P.S. Because this is an equal opportunity 5 Things, and because I LOVE the holidays!!, here is a bonus list of five gift worthy Alex Mill pieces for your dad, brother, brother-in-law, cousin you picked for Secret Santa, nephew, etc. The five most dashing men’s pieces on the site that he will wear, and you can steal!
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