… the J.Crew catalog.
Several months ago, a woman in her 90s swung by a book signing event to ask me what she should be reading to keep up with the current fashion trends. She was just as stylish as she could be in a multicolored tweed blazer and burgundy Chanel flats, and CLEARLY needed no help from me. But she wanted my input. And she didn’t do Internet, so blogs were right out. I told her to take a peek at More Magazine, Real Simple, and to sign up to receive the J.Crew catalog. Now, I know full well that a 90-year-old gal is unlikely to be ordering a French hen intarsia sweater and cropped polka dot pants for herself. But as I told this lovely woman, it’s not really the clothes in this catalog that matter, it’s the styling. J.Crew stylists do four things amazingly well:
Some outfits are a little over-the-top, with a tee, flannel shirt, cardigan, and blazer all piled onto a single teetering model. But most are re-create-able and inspiring. Shirts under dresses, pattern mixes with paired tees and cardigans, even cropped pants over opaque socks. Loads of layering ideas are crammed into all but the summery-est of catalogs.
This is the J.Crew catalog team’s true forte. Again, a few combos will look a bit outlandish in real life, but most work outside the photo studio. This company prides itself on using and mixing loads of colors, and their spreads show it. Neutrals and neons, jewel tones galore, primaries and pastels, combinations you might never have dreamt of yourself show up in every new catalog. Look for color-on-color outfits that work with your own palette and style, and pay close attention to how these folks do chic monochrome mixes.
Even if the skinny patent belts and rhinestone-laden necklaces don’t appeal, look at how they’re used. Layered over cardigans and under button-front shirt collars, bracelets piled onto wrists, contrasting and patterned shoes implemented in surprisingly chic ways. Note scale and placement, and re-create the looks using items from your own wardrobe.
Look at HOW garments are worn and styled: Cuffed and scrunched sleeves, contrasting hosiery and socks, popped collars. Few catalog outfits are left alone and untouched, and the subtle finishing touches and adjustments are what make them look so amazing.
And although the company has limited petite and tall offerings and zilch in the plus department, there’s still a lot to learn from the catalogs. I wear some J.Crew myself. Not loads, but some. Even if I didn’t, I’d still get the catalogs. (Remember: You can find sartorial inspiration everywhere!)
Do you get the J.Crew catalog? Feel like the styling is interesting and inspirational? Or does it veer so far from your own tastes that you just don’t find it helpful?
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