Ohmygosh, I’m in love. I’ve found my new “It” bag — the bag I’ll be saving for until one day I decide I’ve hit an important enough milestone, and run out to buy it. (When I submitted my thesis for my M.A. program, I giddily zoomed across town to the Louis Vuitton in Chevy Chase to snap up my Neverfull.) It’s the Chloe Marcie hobo.
It’s the world’s most perfect leather bag — the shoulder straps are just long enough to fit under my arm; the leather is rich and warmly red-toned; it’s structured yet casual. And my favorite fashion maven — Rachel Bilson — owns one.
Don’t you love? The fact that she’s wearing a classic jean jacket is no surprise (it’s a staple in her wardrobe) — but it’s the perfect segue into today’s theme: denim. And I don’t mean jeans. While denim has been an American classic for centuries (Levi Strauss established his workman’s clothing company back in the mid 1800s after realizing that workmen were literally wearing through their poorly-fabricated cotton alternatives and needed something with a bit more heft), retailers are truly capitalizing on its iconic status this season. It all started when Christopher Decarnin — the new creative director for old French fashion house Balmain — sent his models down the runway in military-style denim jacket and super-skinny ripped jeans for the 2009 spring/summer season.
Almost over night, the market was painted blue. Fashion houses from Gucci to Louis Vuitton were all over it, and the look slowly trickled down to us consumers. And I’m thrilled about it! I have had a “dream” outfit in my mind for months — and it all centers around a denim utility shirt (you can find them anywhere, from Gap on the cheaper end to Current Elliott on the higher end of the spectrum). I like the J. Crew variation ($78, J.Crew):
I’d wear it with sleeves rolled up and some skinny cropped white jeans (these are J. Brand):
And then you absolutely need some aviators — the classic RayBan versions are always a hot commodity, but I’m also really into this bronze-framed Tory Burch set ($175, Nordstrom):
Then all you’ll need to do is slip on some unfussy brown leather sandals, like J. Crew’s “Tabitha” ($88, J. Crew) and grab your oversized brown leather bag (sigh — I am daydreaming about the Chloe Marcie…but this Foley & Corinna is pretty hot, too — $495, MuseTen):
If it’s a rainy/cool day, I love the idea of piling on a military green anorak or utility jacket. I’ve already banged on about my J. Crew caprice jacket (on sale for $89 at J. Crew — I get tons of compliments on it when I wear it), but what about “The REAL McCoy”? An authentic Barbour hunting jacket ($379, Orvis):
The Bedale in sage is hands-down Barbour’s most popular style (shown above), but there are variations you might check out. I gave my fiance this coat (obviously from the men’s section) and he wore it virtually every day in the winter. (He was particularly excited that it had a “game pouch” in the back — not that he hunts; he just thought it was cool. Oviously we have different priorities!) Rag&Bone has come out with a similar, uber-chic style — the Ohara ($520, Shopbop):
I’m into it. But back to the matter at hand: denim. I never thought I’d be saying this, but I’ve seen tons of adorable denim/chambray dresses. I know, I know — the thought of a denim dress conjures images of a poorly-made Pepe Jeans tube style accompanied by tacky Candies faux-wood and plastic-accent clogs. (No? Too far? OK, maybe it’s just me.) This season has totally changed my mind. Consider this ridiculously luxe-looking, sexy backless dress — again by Rag&Bone (on sale now for $182, Shopbop):
Not the denim I was expecting. Alternately, check out this sweet little thing by Shoshanna ($319, Melly):
Nothing could be fresher for spring, and it could easily work as a day-to-night look with the addition of some awesome neutral wedges — speaking of which: I literally spent hours poring over strappy leather wedges. I had a vision of what I wanted in my mind but everything looked too clunky or cluttered when it came down to it. Then I discovered these awesome and affordable Nine Wests — can you believe how chic this label has gotten ($79, Piperlime)?
Right on the money. I’d just as readily pair it with a loose white dress and cropped denim jacket. The white dress below is Marc by Marc Jacobs ($268, Nordstrom) and it reminds me of that little dress Reese Witherspoon rocked last year — she was all over the tabloids in it. She looked cute as a button — and so will you!
As for the jean jacket element, I’m thinking you can’t improve on a classic — check out the timeless Gap version ($68, Gap):
7ForAllMankind’s “Tomboy” denim jacket is also a good option ($235, SevenForAllMankind — it appears you can save 20% by friending them on Facebook or following them on Twitter).
But if you’re as eager as I am to give the denim dress look a try, here are my thoughts: go for structure in a dark wash to look tidy and ensure that the dress is as versatile as possible. Adam has some gorgeous denim dresses out this season, including this deep-v dress ($345, ShopAdam) and this pleated-waist variation (on sale for $209, ShopAdam):
Both would look lovely with a statement necklace — I’m especially loving this Milly tortoise-shell disc version ($235, Bergdorf Goodman):
(You can find them for around $550 at Bluefly.) If, on the other hand, you were more into the combo Shoshanna dress above, take a look at this luxe, dressed-up Alexander Wang version ($465, La Garconne):
Hard to believe the denim works there — you’d think the pleating and formality of the skirt would make denim an impossibility, but it looks just lovely. The same goes for the Fendi denim bag — you’d think denim would make the bag too dressed down to be worn to the board room or ladies luncheon, but think again ($2,660, Nordstrom):
In fact, designers have gotten so savvy with the heavy cotton twill material, I’m confident you could wear it to work. Consider this Harvey Faircloth “Serape” dress ($395, Harvey Faircloth) or this DKNY dress in a work environment — both are structured, put-together, and tidy (and only $79 — DKNY):
And, in lieu of the Chloe It bag, imagine pairing the look with this awesome, eclectic-looking FleaBag canvas-and-leather tote ($440, FleaBags):
Adore the shape — what a statement. And even though I’ve been featuring dark-wash denim, you don’t need to be afraid of chambray…just look to the luminous Kate Bosworth for inspiration:
With hear easy-breezy aesthetic in mind, consider a mix-and-match grab-bag of the following denim-centric pieces for your summer wardrobe: first, a white boyfriend blazer to layer over a casual tee and some dark jeans. This one is by Central Park West ($152, PiperLime), but the best one EVER — I managed to snag it while it was out — was by Madewell1937. You may be able to find it in stores if you’re lucky. It’s the perfect weight, length, and style. I’m planning on throwing it over mini dresses with killer heels or pairing it with a casual skinny-jeans look this summer.
(Shopbop also has a house label brand that looks appealing and right-on-trend — $198, Shopbop). Mix in some tailored, pressed-looking jean shorts — this Rogan brand pair is perfect ($180, LaGarconne):
I like the idea of pairing them with a voluminous yet starchy summer blouse — a crisp Harvey Faircloth will do the trick. I’ve been loving the styles they have out this season ($295, Harvey Faircloth):
Make room in your summer denim wardrobe for a cool wooded bib necklace, like this affordable one by Robert Rose ($34, Lord&Taylor):
You could pair it with a little denim summer dress — maybe this sweetheart neckline style by NeedSupply ($52, NeedSupply — but save 20% off by typing in code PEOPLE through May20)?
or all-whites and a jean jacket. I’m also convinced that these wicked cool nude Loeffler Randall Mathildes would be a good companion piece for denim-heavy looks. In cool weather, tuck your skinny white jeans into them with a denim utility shirt and some aviators. In warmer weather…well, guess you’re out of luck. ($664, RevolveClothing.)
Et voila. James Dean cool.