Wednesday, July 06, 2016

T-shirts to blouses: In praise of the micro-makeover UPDATED

When I think of high school, specifically my time in high school, I think of gray t-shirts. V-neck, I believe. This wasn't like Mark Zuckerberg, with a gray-shirt uniform signaling a preoccupation with that which is more important. The gray t-shirt was, for me, a way of projecting invisibility. I wasn't making a thing of wearing gray t-shirts, and didn't only wear that color. It just seemed like the way to be clothed without endorsing a brand or asserting allegiance to a subculture (remember, these were the days when the worst thing ever was to be a poser). The gray t-shirt doesn't impose. It's so unimposing that it can go into the laundry with the whites or the colors. And you have to really try to find one that's expensive, which is another way of saying: they're cheap.

In more recent years - which is to say, I'm talking about items currently in my closet - I found myself intentionally embracing the same gray jersey-material garment. It seemed very Gwyneth Paltrow, or Parisian, or I don't even know, but it seemed not bland but classic, which is always dangerous to think when you're taking your aesthetic inspiration from GOOP, but there you have it. I would pair an Everlane scoopneck one (note the aspirational past tense) with some pale beige or pink nail polish, dark jeans, and ballet flats. A grown-up, sophisticated approach... that allowed me to wear the same boring shirts, but this time with narrow-cut jeans, rather than bootcut, because 2010s vs 2000s. Revolutionary.

(Crucial side note: While I've always owned a button-down or two for interviews and the like, I've never worked anywhere that wasn't gray-t-shirt-compatible, and between grad school and freelancing, have done a lot of work from home. And... maybe you shouldn't teach in gray t-shirts, in the abstract, but you can do things like pair them with black slacks and a fake-pearl necklace from the Kensington Market, or so I've heard.)

And then at some point over the last few months, it occurred to me: shirts. Blouses. I'm worth it! ("Worth" being key, as non-t-shirt shirts involve spending $30-plus rather than capping things at $20 but mainly staying at $10, as well as using the delicates cycle and line-dry approach; haven't quite made it to dry-clean-only.) While the same might not be true of Gwyneth Paltrow, who'd look good in an organic sweet-potato sack, I, at least, look a lot better in something dressier than a drab undershirt. It's the same level of improvement as lipstick or eyeliner. It's... effort. Which - and you wouldn't know it from the headlines - looks better than effortlessness.

I'm still experimenting with exactly which shirt-shirts this will be. In rotation - that is, on the days when I'm walking the walk - are the following:

-A blue long-sleeved Muji button-down with a white Peter Pan collar. Too warm for it now though.
-A white off-the-shoulder 3/4-sleeve from Zara.
-A pale-blue striped and slightly cropped (slightly) off-the-shoulder from Bershka at the mall in Rehovot.
-A sleeveless, also blue-and-white, part-peplum one that (bonus points!) buttons in the back, from Durumi, a Korean-brands boutique here in Toronto.
UPDATE: Forgot one! There's also a sleeveless white linen button-down, from Uniqlo.

As the limited nature of this collection would suggest, I have yet to truly take this plunge. But it's a start.

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