first you shop, then you return, then you re-shop, then you re-return

I'm in Christmas shopping recovery this week, and I'm hoping that the to-do list du jour will soon cease to feature the words "return," "take back," "send back," and the like.
I put an end to one on-going excuse for neurotic hand-wringing today, I sent back the 2 Everlane silk blouses (gray, navy) in size Small. Everlane does not pay the postage on returns, even though I was technically exchanging the Smalls for the Mediums (which so far I'm keeping, more on that in a minute.) So I packed the Smalls up and printed out a Priority Mail Flat Rate label, insured the blouses for another $3, and handed the completed package to our long-suffering postman. That's that. You can see a discussion of the blouses in this post.
Anyway, definitely keeping the navy blouse, but the gray has unidentifiable undertones that don't tone in with any of the other gray things that I already have - gray tweed pencil skirt, gray slacks, other gray slacks, darker gray slacks, other gray pencil skirt, longer gray a-line skirt -- you can see why I don't want to buy this blouse another gray bottom. Nor does it work all that well with the one thing I thought was made for it -- the black/cream (read gray) herringbone hacking jacket, which was a new purchase this season also. The fabric of the blouse is too thin and floppy to look good with the heavy and very very slightly hairy fabric of the jacket. A pity, because the jacket fits perfectly. But the jacket doesn't go with any of my grays either! Annoying, because many of them are from the same merchant - guessing they were manufactured in various different provinces of Our Great Creditor To The East. I don't like the jacket with the peculiar green double-serge pencil skirt, the jacket's fabric is too itchy to wear without some kind of collar or turtleneck at the neck which leaves out all my cashmere tees and shells... I really have enough jackets that I can wear with chambray shirt & chinos, or jeans and white shirt. And that seems to be the extent of the socialization of which this jacket is capable. I'll be returning it. With a sigh.

Which brings me to another moan.
"This will work until someone
invents a really great white
shirt!"
If you've been with us for a while, you might recall that I regularly become  annoyed when still another hopeful publisher blesses the style-seekers with still another instruction manual on how to look like A Parisienne. A Parisienne, I might say, who lives within a very small defined area of Paris and works, if at all, in one of only a few very small defined areas of endeavor. A Parisienne, I might say, who isn't easy to fool. But you buy this latest book anyway, and what does it tell you to do? Buy a white shirt! Buy a white tee! Buy a black tee! These can be worn with jeans! It's enough to make me want to crawl back into my cave and hibernate until a new generation of Intergalactic Explorers tempts me out with goose liver. Doesn't everyone have these items? Yes, you want to try several manufacturers, several fabrics, etc., etc., but please. Enough.

White shirts, of course, have to be replaced from time to time, and so in one of the last great pre-Christmas sales, I ordered two of the same white shirt from J.Crew. They are going back. The fabric has no body. The collar flops. The front band is a wrinkle magnet.
Imagine my surprise - no, can't say I was surprised. In a recent Message from Beyond the Black Hole that Terrifies Venusians, our favorite Intergalactic Stylist showed a Look We (well, she) Love. I like the look, too, I just don't see how you get it with the merchandise she claims she used.



 OK, around here "crisp" means, when applies to items of clothing, "holds a press" or "holds its shape." The white shirt that the Look (above) links us to is this one:




This is the shirt I sent back because the last word anyone with fingers would use to describe it is "crisp." And although I would never admit this to anyone of the male persuasion, I am a pretty good ironer. Of women's clothing, all those seams and reinforcements and detailing of men's clothing defeats me. And I am also familiar with starch, now known as spray-on finish. It's about $6 a can around here, and you'd need half a can per wear. Nuh-uh.

There's this ongoing thing with my sister and a velvet jacket that I sent her in early November, the idea being that she'd have it in time to enjoy for Christmas parties. She doesn't live far from me at all, I sent it so I wouldn't have to discuss the pricetag with her. I was a little extravagant because she's celebrating another milestone at WeightWatchers, which is a very celebratory group of people, bless their skinny little hearts. Perhaps we celebrated a little early, because the size she admitted to was too small. It went back, and a larger size that fit "just OK" arrived. She thought it was a different jacket. Why? Because the other one had a tighter waist. This one just looks different, she told me. I could have said maybe that's because it fits, but I am a Good Sister. "Look," quoth I, "why don't you take the store credit and we'll hit the sales together after Christmas?" So that's where we are now. You probably have relatives of your own, most of you, so I'll spare you the updates.

Meanwhile, January and February cruise wear approaches,
and so, too, does the Copywriter From Space. That bathing suit doesn't look risk-free to me. Unless you like to wear adhesive tape to the beach.

Update:  My friend Yippee insists that the shirt in this picture is the Platonic ideal of a white shirt.
It's a great picture. I still don't get what you wear with it besides narrow pants. Oh, well.


44 comments:

  1. Bless you Fred - your experience with the JC white shirt is the same as mine. One big disappointment! I am going to check out Brooks Brothers in March in NYC.

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    1. Don't forget to try on the Boys' shirts, tailored cut, smaller than the Men's.

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  2. WFF, I feel your pain on that Herringbone Hacking Jacket. The cut is almost identical to my old riding jacket. I have the green one from last year and I wear it with button-down shirts, skinny jeans, and boots or flats (i.e. riding gear), but that's pretty much the only way to wear it since it makes skirts look dowdy and it's just slightly "off" with dress trousers. I kept it mainly because I loved the color.

    I have that white boyshirt as well, and you're right about the fabric - the weave is just too open for it to ever be crisp. I don't mind the slight rumpled look, so I get a lot of wear out of mine, but I have yet to find that holy grail of white button-down shirts. I know that the inevitable answer is to buy a men's dress shirt and take it to the freaking tailor, so I don't know why I'm fighting it so hard.

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    1. ETA: Now, J.Crew also sells that boyshirt in the Thomas Mason fabric for $148, but I cheaped out and got the regular one. Maybe that's my answer and I just need to pony up the cash....

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    2. OK, my experience with Thomas Mason (which is an invention of Dear Leader, btw) is that most of the TM fabrics are also floppy. I just finished directing Wendy (above) to the Boys' Department T Brooks Brothers, and I recommend you go there and play too.

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    3. Yes, I agree that the the TM white shirt is almost as bad as the regular plain old JC fabric. Don't do it!

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    4. I don't know if there's a boys department on the planet that will make shirts large enough to cover my stupid chest, but I'll definitely go to Brooks Brothers the next time I visit Lenox Square in ATL.

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  3. Ah the White Shirt which should be in every women's wardrobe but for some reason I look like wait staff every time I wear one. My sister and I always give it a try and we both can't pull off the look. I am having a major love affair with the Liberty Print from JC and really like them on, maybe the colors who knows. Thanks for a great post.

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    1. I'm fine with a white silk shirt with a nice collar and inobtrusive cuff. I do tend to look like I'm getting ready to hose down the garage floor if I try for the flow-y white cotton shirt over destroyed jeans look.

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  4. That jacket looks great - shame you have to send it back. I just don't get what's so great about white shirts. I wore one almost every day to school between the ages of 4 and 18, and that was enough. I refuse to let my Mr. wear one - ever. I recoil when I see grown men wearing white shirts and red ties especially. I will never be able to fake it as a Parisienne, now!

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    1. Well, I can understand that revulsion, Sulky! My friend spent her school days in slightly too long pleated skirts - First Cellist. After she got into the college of her choice she dropped the cello and swore off pleated skirts forever.

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    2. Love men in white shirts with suits, Sulky.

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  5. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Excellent writing! I don't really do button down shirts, mostly because I refuse to wear things that have to be ironed unless absolutely necessary. And because they never fit me off the rack. Hmph.

    May I also recommend the Land's End no iron button downs? They even come in petite and tall! The fabric is nice and they aren't too expensive. Their return policy is awesome too - return anything at any time for any reason!

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    1. Thanks, J.CrewJD! I think fit is key. I have a few LE pieces, when the returning and sending back is finished, I'll look over there again.

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    2. I have the Brooks bros no iron shirts in pink and white; not bad, not floppy but nothing you would highlight.

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  6. so the suppressed premise of the comment is that clothes are offered for sale/purchase by merchants, not issued by the clothing authority, and we are free to buy what makes us comfortable and content, right? Agree.

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    1. Sulky's comment, that is. I'm just agreeing.

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  7. I was wait staff in white shirt/black pants so I avoid the white shirt and rightly so. Why do I want to remember serving up all-you-can-eat-shrimp every Tuesday? I do own one in that TM fabric, it's the tuxedo version and it's okay, I was thinking I would use it as a bathing suit cover up this summer.
    Hmph I have a big return box getting ready to go, some new items from J Crew arrive tomorrow to try on and then I'm guessing I'll send it all back. Then I plan to cancel my account, I must stop this madness!

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    1. Funny, when I was a little kid only stage crew and waitrons went around in all black. A black dress with pearls was for grown-up ladies going out to dinner. Now sometimes it looks like the whole city's at a wake.

      I don't get why the white shirt is the one thing that is constantly pushed. It's fine in its place, if I had a great one, I'd probably wear it to death, but meanwhile, is there such a surplus in the Great Warehouse in the East?

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  8. I fell in love with a white buttondown that was worn by Angelina Jolie in an editorial shoot. Was it the shirt or the wearer? I searched and searched for the shirt. CalvinKlein.com could offer no guidance. I kept searching and finally the shirt appeared in one of the flash sales for a pittance. It is The Shirt. The cotton is crisp and yet somehow has a pleasing drape. The fabric, while fine, is not transparent. The seams are single needle. Wait, it shall return to the flash sales and I would say it is a buy in every definition of the word.

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    1. and you're going to post it here, too, right? who loves ya?

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  9. http://www.smartologie.com/2011/10/angelina-jolie-vanity-fair-october-2011.html- this is the best I can do-scroll down and you will see the shirt. I think I bought it from ruelala or ideeli for $39. It is as the fashion bloggers say 'old', but I cannot find similar 'here'.

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    1. the link didn't work for me, but I did a search for AJ October 2011 Vanity Fair and came up with a pic of AJ in a white shirt, can't tell too much, it's all teeth and hair.

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    2. Please copy and paste the link and scroll down, the image of AJ alone at her desk is amazing. I believe you found the image of AJ with the shirt with a child.

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    3. What a surprise, you sleuthed and embedded the image. The shirt makes me feel great each and every time I put it on and it just seems to enhance whatever I wear. I am happiest when I find well fabricated minimalist designs. I will admit that from time to time I seem forget this minimal penchant when I am on the prowl. Thanks for the posting and the shout out.

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  10. That is too bad about the jacket. The concept is lovely but the execution fails. I wasn't too impressed with the Everlane blouses but I couldn't feel them so was comparing to the Equipment silk blouses that I have, which look nicer to my eyes but as always, hard to tell from a few photos. I love a white button-front shirt and have a few good ones but none are recent buys. I bought the Laura Femme Fit from J.Crew circa 2006 that is crisp cotton and nicely fitted to accommodate my bust while nipping in smartly at the waist. It was an anomaly to find such a cut at J.Crew in those days, their garments seemed to favor those who could jog braless and the Laura's were a real score for me. I bought two striped and one plain white. They are still holding up but I wear a white blouse less often as the dress code has relaxed at our office.

    The swimwear has really gone downhill. I used to buy at least one new suit a year but the fit is a crap shoot now so I just don't bother. Definitely not risk-free!

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    1. Hi, xoxo, oh I love the Equipment shirts. Hm, now I wonder if the other Everlane shirts should go back.

      It's early in the year but I've already returned two bathing suits.

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    2. Equipment shirts are pretty much the only shirts I ever buy now.

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  11. I found once the perfect white shirt at RL (on sale!) and I let it go, it was the Sacred Graal of the white shirt. To me is the collar, more than the fabric, that makes a white shirt THE shirt. Collars are often too overwhelming, or too pointy, or too rounded and small. I agree the boy shirt is unironable and is far from "crisp". I have a white shirt from the Gap that is probably my favorite one, in soft oxford cotton and long enough (another pleague that affects the white button down is that they are often too short to be comfortably tucked in).

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    1. Oh and I agree on the jacket, I ordered the pants and couldn't find a single thing to wear with them except for a white shirt!

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    2. Hi, Ema, absolutely agree that the collar is key to how the shirt looks. Also the placement of the buttonholes on the placket - I've taken shirts in to have an extra buttonhole added so I can leave the collar open without looking like I'm asking for trouble.

      I wonder if too-short shirts are to blame for the half-tuck.

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    3. And I just re-read the post and decided I have too much gray stuff.

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    4. Noooo, never too much grey.

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  12. I really love your commentary (especially because I aspire to be, but never am, witty)! LOL on keeping your ironing skills a secret from males ;) Sorry to hear about the items that didn't work out, but I am now fascinated about the tailored shirts for boys! I've purchased a couple of boy shirts before, but found the sleeves to be a little billowy in the biceps (for those manly guns in training?).

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  13. Thanks, SewPetiteGal! I read that in the 50's many women bought their button-downs, tailored chinos, Bermudas etc in Brooks Brothers boys' dept. I've had good luck with some things, RL boys' flannel shirts made from real flannel, for instance, so I think people should consider this as another alternative.

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  14. I don't do the "crisp white shirt" either, it is always being pushed as a must have in a wardrobe, why??

    I don't think white is particularly flattering on me and it's boring. I will use a white tshirt under something and that's it

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    1. I don't know why the look is pushed - because it fills in the gap in a list or column, maybe?

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  15. I love this look in theory! Unfortunately, my bust is nothing much to speak of and a tucked-in button-down just makes it look like the Great Plains up there. Additionally, almost nothing stays "crisp" on me for long. About 5 hours in I look like a wilted fast-food salad. I will say that my mom has had great luck with the Liz Claiborne no-iron shirts. I'm not sure where she buys them (I used to get them for her from the Liz Claiborne Outlet but the one near me is gone) but she has probably 10 in various colors and wears them all the time. She looks crisp even after a 10 hour day in and out of court, which is saying something.

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  16. Agree that while great in theory, the slightly rumpled look does nothing for me.

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  17. Hi - new to your blog, but found you through Dani BP and Bourbon and Pearls. Always love your comments, and I really like this post. I'm soooooo tired of the Parisienne chic thing, I want to puke already. I had been buying from J.Crew for many years, I still have some workboots that I wear that are close to 25 years old. Since they've become more inclined to be trendy (which is not the original J.Crew concept) the quality has gone so downhill.
    I can't believe their shirts - always a mess. For the price, the jackets/blazer can be OK, but really with jeans only. They just don't work with skirts.
    Anyway, glad I found your blog.

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  18. Welcome,Kathy, and thanks! I'm glad, too. From the general tone of the comments, it seems that a lot of people aren't buying Into the "white shirt's all you need" thing. Your workboots remind me of my beloved Joan and David boots, which still draw compliments. And the Hacking Jacket went back today for just that reason - only went with jeans. Sad.

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  19. Happy New year , Fred! We have Jill McGowan up here; she has been discovered by M Stewart, but her thing is white shirts. They can be very nice but a bit pricy as white shirts don't "last", as we know. I have a couple though , and they are really nice and made here.

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  20. Happy New Year, Lane! I just checked out those shirts. You are an enabler. We used to drive up to Maine for Memorial Day Weekend regularly, for the opening of the lobster pounds... we should get back into that.

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