Basics Stepping Up – Who Knew?

The fall catalogs are rolling in – mostly from the other  part of my life – the part that involves the purchasing of t-shirts, polar fleece and the other not-quite-as-fashionable items that come with living with and dressing Mr. Commando.  Ah yes, the all-American steadfast and true retailers who use terms like “outfitters”, my good friends LL Bean, Lands’ End and Eddie Bauer.

Now these are GREAT resources for my beloved boy’s everyday wear – shorts and t-shirts that are “long enough” and will hold up well, khakis hemmed to order, and proper oxford shirts that are cut for real men with real necks, arms, shoulders, and (ahem) tummies, instead of being cut so narrowly they only fit ultra-skinny hipsters.  Better still, while there have been a few missteps in the quality department, generally these guys have kept a pretty steady level of quality and dependability through the rough economic times.  Hey, even Nordstrom has had a few issues in the quality department as cost-cutting has pushed almost all retailers into selling garments that would have previously not met the mark. 

I am also a big fan of these stores for my own cold-weather and boating basics.  Here is where I look for reasonably priced layering turtlenecks, polar fleeces, and even cashmere sweaters.  Good basics like pima cotton t-shirts or the occasional cardigan that won’t rock the fashion world but are classic everyday building pieces.  And then, every once in awhile they will surprise you with a super find like a cashmere sweater in an amazing color – oooh yeah.  

Can you tell I am fantasizing about cold weather?  Yes I am!  So, while it is still 100 degrees out I thought it would be fun to see what they outfitters are up to for fall.  Over at Eddie Bauer it’s pretty quiet so far.  But they do have a corduroy Workwear jacket in a trendy vintage yellow that with it’s layered collar and short cut could be very fun in a northwesty way and would make a nice change from the same ol’ denim jacket.  They also had some cords with flared legs in tangerine or fennel that I think are a great riff on the colored denim shown everywhere.  There are also some good high heeled oxfords and boots, but not much else that is rocking just yet.  (Psst –  if you are a skier or other snowbound type there are some jackets and layers like their down shirt that are great technical gear and fairly fashionable – well worth checking out.)

Speaking of oxfords and boots – I simply LOVED the Cap Toe Boot and Spectator Oxfords in LL Bean’s Signature collection – very nice!  The Signature collection is intended to appeal to the young, hip crowd who buy J Crew, and while the individual pieces are a bit higher quality (and price) most of the trendy comes from how the pieces are styled together – definitely a step up.  But not every piece is basic, there is a structured Seersucker jacket that is really pretty fab – with clever seaming giving it a modern edge.  And the Linscott dress is a basic sheath but in a funky mod print of grey, cream and mustard.  They show it both worn alone and layered as a jumper with a mustard tee.  This piece clearly has a bit more ummph and will be a great transitional piece this season.  I also like the silk/cotton/linen slub textured boatneck top with exposed zipper in steely blue – actually kind of edgy and chic, in a basic sort of way.

Moving on to Lands’ End, imagine my pleasant surprise upon opening their Plus Size catalog to find a much more fashion forward collection than I think they have ever managed before.  Now much of this, like LL Bean, is attributed to good styling – they definitely stepped it up accessorizing with bold necklaces, lush leather totes and satchels, pretty scarves and cool belts – triple wrapped in colored suede, funky ringed in saddle brown.  And among the tarted-up basics there were a few really fun and almost truly fashionable gems in there!  First up are colored chinos in modern cuts and fits – think boot cut or wide leg with a lower rise or a true skinny cut, all in modern colors well beyond khaki – I thought the  Raspberry Wine and Dijon gold especially fun and I know the bolder among us will just adore the red.   

Lands’ End didn’t stop at modernizing their chinos either, they showed a boot cut denim pant that is definitely not from their usual mom-jean repertoire.  Also well past their usual fare are the leopard print pumps and driving mocs – yes, you read that right, leopard print – and a heeled ghilly that is really quite sexy.  Have you ever put sexy and Lands’ End together?  Yeah, me neither.  Wow.  For me the two must-try pieces are an on-trend knit blazer with twill tape trim and a lace tee.  The jacket is particularly snappy in heather grey with contrasting navy that I am itching to play with and see where I can take it.  As for the lace tee, it comes in aubergine or bittersweet with its own matching cami and if the reviews are anything to go buy, it’s a winner.  Lace from Lands’ End?  Who knew?   

Now I am off to take advantage of their 25% off everything sale and giving a few garments a try and maybe that triple-wrap belt in purple suede, too.

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