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Dressing for the Dog Days
Khaki on khaki, white on white and print on print. Tonal style to the rescue when it's too far gone in the summer to think about getting dressed.
I’ve been planning this story for a while, but a slight pivot this morning, to start the day with a moment of silence for the great Jane Birkin who passed away last Sunday. She is a patron saint of taking men’s cotton separates, and making them uniquely feminine. Many great obits out there, but this tribute in the Washington Post by Rachel Tashjian discusses this well, if you’re so inclined.
I started this week thinking about what to wear when it is too hot for denim but you crave the ease of mind and utility of denim on denim. For me lately, it’s been a pair of drawstring khakis and a khaki pop-over, button down shirt. The tonal, pragmatic combo does the same thing as double denim, just breaths slightly easier. But wearing khaki in 2023 is not so simple. Just ask the new cast of RHONY (did you all watch episode 1? I’m going to give it a go…) They were befuddled at what to do when the dress code read khaki.
The thing is, khaki very quickly goes overly prep, overly costume-y (I assume most of you are not reading this from your honeymoon in the Serengeti) and overly J.Crew circa 2010.
Today, the best khaki is pared back, but with attention given to the details you only notice as the wearer, never as the passerby. Khaki can be the most elegant, easy-going staple if you can figure out the proportions. A mismatching top and bottom is a great way to go about your day in the fabric. Or similar colors in a different texture (silk and cotton, for example.) This creates a look that is straightforward, but isn’t bland. Really though, the most important thing to remember is: leave the neon accessories and metallic bags in your closet. Leave the safari hat in your beach bag. Less is more here.
As I wear full bod khaki this summer, I want my look these days to look just as at home pulling weeds as it would at Jones on Third buying gourmet granola, or dinner in NYC.
Getting back to this week’s point, I just don’t want to use my brain these days for getting dressed. My summer energy is fading into just…summer heat. But I do still want to feel like myself in my clothes. So I need a formula, an outline. A bumper. I started playing around with the idea of tonal dressing (without venturing into head-to-toe Crayola territory.)
How can we wear white on white in a way that feels fresh? How does this apply to prints? Below a few ideas and some great finds to put it all together (though, to be honest, you probably already have a lot of this in your closet, as I did. So get digging, and then breath easy.)
Above, we look at khaki in its natural, casual habitat. I think what works in this outfit is the skin on both ends of the outfit. The oversized, but not “FASHION OVERSIZED” proportions, making it feel utility and not trendy, and the simple shoe. For a minute in the early aughts khaki became this novel fabric to dress down cocktail-wear, but unfortunately that look feels a bit stuck in time now. I’m sure we will try it again one day, but now is not that moment. I also think what is working with this outfit is that neither of these pieces are exactly uniform. They are not the basic versions of themselves. What I mean is, it’s not a slim-straight khaki chino and Uniqlo khaki button down with no detail. Both pieces have points of interest, are made from fabric that wears well and hint at fashion in their proportions.
***IF YOU DO want to go for the simplest versions of khaki pieces, make sure to take a page from Jane Birkin and go for a men’s silhouette (size up and cinch that belt!) or something that doesn’t fit too true to form. The bunching and the slouch help create interest.***
Another way to create interest in the khaki tone-on-tone is to use texture to your advantage. Try a silk shirt instead of cotton. An espadrille in black, maybe? And a fancy little black bag. Sparkly earrings.
Below, some winners in these categories from around the web…if you (or your significant other) don’t have something similar already.
Moving on. In the white on white iteration of this, I gave myself permission to go a little more girly. You could do this with a simple poplin henley like Jane B., (this one is my all time favorite, I’ve had a similar style so many years its yellowing which might make it even better!) but I like the balance the doily collar and pleating gives my three-sizes-too-big-chinos.
If you're saying. Yea, khaki on khaki. White on white. I GOT IT. I’m here for a challenge! Let me introduce you to gingham on gingham. This is so fun. And so easy. Just make sure your ginghams are not the exact same size. That’s it. Just pick two different sized checks and put ‘em on!
This also applies to other categories of prints. Two different florals can be great when totally out of balance. Same with stripes. Give it a try!
And there you have it. A thoughtful take on summer layers, which in turn will hopefully enable you to think less on these weary July days. Lots of love.
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