I have the most incredible, unlikely story to share this morning. Yesterday, on my normally unremarkable walk home from work, I stopped dead in my tracks when a man came sprinting down the street with what can only be described as fumes coming out of an oddly-shaped backpack he was wearing. One whiff left me coughing and eye-watering for five minutes, and I was instantly hurtled into a strange interior monologue involving wild speculations about the man as a terrorist of some sort and myself as an unwitting victim. I was terrified that I may have ingested some sort of toxic spray — when I noticed a cluster of police cars and officers busily communicating with one another by the bank up the street. I stopped one of the officers and explained the strange occurrence, and to my surprise (!), a number of the cars took off in the direction I’d pointed! Apparently the bank had just been robbed and the “fumes” I described were from a dye pack stored in the safe and designed to debilitate robbers! (The dye pack was nothing worse than pepper spray…phew.) I was high on adrenaline for the remainder of the evening, patting myself on the back for my participation in the hunt for the criminal. I was a proto-Nancy-Drew — a Sherlock Holmes-ette. And I needed a fantasy wardrobe to outfit my new fantasy career.
I decided to begin with the basics: a classic trench. Burberry is the ultimate in the detective-wear staple ($995, Net-A-Porter):
You can find a trench nearly anywhere these days — the look is back in a major way (or so I realized on a recent girls’ trip to NYC when 3 out of the 4 of us wore a classic khaki trench the entire weekend). Check Theory, APC, TopShop, and Rag&Bone for uber-chic alternatives to the Burberry standard. For a more literal Sherlock Holmes look, I’m in love with Opening Ceremony’s cape trench ($472, La Garconne — it also comes in classic khaki at the Opening Ceremony eBoutique):
If you’re after the look for less, you can snap up a comparable, heavily discounted version at Max Studio ($128, Max Studio):
Just be sure to sport a doctor’s bag and some patent leather kitten heels to complete the look — this Brahmin brand “Adora” bag is the perfect update ($325, Brahmin) to the handbag classic, while these pointy-toed Stuart Weitzman kitten heels are endlessly wearable (“The Poco,” $275, Zappos):
The satchel should be roomy enough to fit all of your gumshoe gear, including your moleskine notebooks — Hemingway used ’em to compose his masterpieces, and they’ll suit your needs as well ($10, Green Chair Press):
And of course your horn-rimmed magnifying glass ($52, Jayson):
When you retire to your study after sleuthing around for a few hours, you’ll need some requisite Sherlock-Holmes-tweedy-British-library decor. First: stack after stack of vintage books. This lovely dog-eared set of Scandinavian classics can help you get your collection started ($40, Jayson Home and Garden):
You’ll also need a larger magnifying glass (for less fascinating endeavors, it also doubles as an interesting paper weight in a masculine study — $90, Barney’s):
Don’t forget an adequately plaid bed for your crime-sniffing dog, Dr. Watson (or maybe you prefer the moniker “Professor Plum” from “Clue” — $50-$90, Orvis)?
Meanwhile, store your secrets in this darling “stack of letters” porcelain box ($22, Jayson):
If you’re headed back out on the town for some more clue-searching, slip into some Nancy Drew-chic heeled loafers — this Shoebox brand pair should do the trick (on sale for a super-low $64, Shoebox):
…although I’m more inclined towards these kicky Manolos ($565, Bergdorf Goodman):
You could pair either with a tidy tweed suit or a grandfather sweater with piping ($88, J. Crew):
A comparable style in an argyle print would be just as fetching, although I’d probably opt for structure when dressing with either of the shoes above. You might, for example, sport the grandfather cardigan over a fitted sheath dress and throw a thin patent leather belt around your waist. Alternately, this darling cropped and aptly named “Secret Mission” khaki coat caught my eye ($84, Mod Clothing):
Though I’m cautious with headwear — hard to de-costumize millinery — I think I’m slowly coming around. And these little trilbies are everywhere this season (though more commonly in a straw or white variation). Just check out Topshop’s hat selection: trilby after trilby. Or open the pages of any celeb mag: everyone’s wearing them. Reese looked particularly pulled-together and detective-chic in her own black version a few months ago:
If that’s not enough to inspire you to test the trend, I don’t know what is.
For quirky-cool add-ons (or centerpieces!), I love this funky little canvas camera case ($16, Toss Designs):
I think it’d be cute as a button worn as a clutch along with a simple black strapless dress and some strappy flat sandals. If you’re really loving the whole “spy-chic” getup, you might consider going the extra mile with Korean designer Jacey Chae’s Shutter Speed Bag ($299, Mod Cloth):
How eclectic-cool is that?! I’d tone down the hipster element with some oversized, uber chic sleek black shades (like the Burberries above) and a somewhat prim remainder of the getup — maybe a black sheath and low kitten heels?
As a bibliophile, graduate-degree-holding student of literature, and number one childhood fan of the Bobbsey Twins series, I’m absolutely nuts about this recycled-book clutch, designed by Rebound Designs ($115, Etsy):
I mean — how clever is that?! I can’t get over it. I almost feel inclined to buy it and display it on my shelf, storing meaningful keepsakes and little trinkets in it. If you’re similarly disposed, you might want some other display-only items to add to the aesthetic. How about a set of old-school smoking pipes, or these awesome vintage binoculars ($95, Jayson)?
Alternately, pour yourself a tall one to unwind after a stressful day of mystery-solving using this houndstooth-etched bar set ($39 for four low-ball glasses, $95 for decanter — both Ralph Lauren):
And if you’re really going for the Nancy Drew look? (Which I may…I read every single one of the Nancy Drew hard covers and then the “Case Files.” Ned Nickerson = my first crush.) You’ll need a yellow shirt dress or femme-style coat — she almost always wore yellow or green on the covers of those awesome vintage editions.
This Mod Cloth dress (an affordable $45!) is currently out of stock but you can ask to be alerted upon restock.
In the interim, Tahari has a similar version in summer linen ($128, Nordstrom). To complete the look, flip the ends of your hair out and add a ladylike tank watch — the covetable Cartier classic is heirloom-worthy ($2,300, Saks):
Jackie wore one. Need I say more?
Anne Klein has a far, far less expensive imitation ($55, Macy’s) if you love the look but can’t envision digging that deep into your savings.
Don’t forget about my online Stella & Dot trunk show, which is still on-going!
For access, go to:
At the top right of the page, click on “Can’t Make It to the Show? Find Your Hostess” and type in first name: “Fashion” and last name: “Magpie.” Shop away!
Read my “It’s a Magpie Mini Market” post for styling ideas.