In an earlier blog post, I delved into the history of women’s classic styles, and listed tips for how to wear them. As I did research about little black dresses, ballet flats, pumps, and jeans, I was so surprised by how many classic styles have been around for decades to centuries or have origins in military and men’s clothing. I hope you enjoy reading how these fashions began and learn a different trick about how to wear them. Keep reading to find out about 4 more classic styles that all women should own (read my previous post on the topic here).
A fashion designer that I’ve always admired is Coco Chanel. She believed in simplicity and that less is more. Women do not need ostentatious attire that puts the emphasis on the clothing. With classic looks, the emphasis is on each woman’s individual beauty. Many French women also believe in the same philosophy when it comes to style. Solid colors, neutral colors, and stripes make this look elegant yet understated. In this post, you will read about 4 more classic styles and their histories (a well-tailored blazer, white dress shirt, trench coat, and knee-high boots).
A Well-Tailored Blazer
The blazer has 2 conflicting stories of origin. In the first, Queen Victoria had decided that the crew of her ship Blazer needed uniforms for the Captain and his men. The uniforms were navy jackets with brass buttons, and were named after the ship. In another story, the blazers were worn by rowers at Cambridge University’s Lady Margaret Boat Club. The name “blazers” came from the blazing red color. Blazers were commonly worn for boating and rowing, but eventually spread to other sports, such as rugby, soccer, and croquet, and were worn around university campuses. It became a widespread style in England, and was worn for work and leisure.
The trend then came to the United States and was sold by Brooks Brothers. They became a symbol of the elite, wealthy class, and were worn as the school uniform at many Ivy League schools. In the 1960s-70s, mod blazers were worn by both women and men (lots of bright colors, think “Austin Powers”). In the 1980s, oversized blazers were paired with destroyed jeans and boots, and power suits with padded shoulders became the “it” thing. Even today, blazers are worn in both formal and casual ways
Tips for Styling Blazers
(See my previous post about 8 Ways to Wear Blazers here)
Wear as a layer over a dress (a cool alternative to a cardigan)
Pair with a graphic tee and jeans for a casual and stylish look
Dress up a plain tee with a blazer, boyfriend jeans, and heels (then accessorize with a classic leather purse, scarf, watch, or statement necklace)
White Dress Shirt
White dress shirts are another classic look that can be traced back to men’s fashion. You’ve probably heard of the terms “white collar” and “blue collar.” These terms originated in the Victorian Era, during which time, a man’s shirt color was a sign of his wealth and class. A white collar worker was typically a businessman or some type of clerical worker, while a blue collar worker was someone whose job entailed manual labor. Eventually, by the late nineteenth century, the simple, classic white dress shirt was adopted by all as a symbol of masculinity, as opposed to other ruffled, frilly, and high-collared styles that were popular at the time.
Eventually, wealth and class became unrelated to the color of men’s dress shirts, and they were worn by all to important places such as church. White dress shirts were seen as a symbol of trustworthiness and moral uprightness by many, and some businesses were insistent on having white dress shirts as part of their company uniform for men. In the 1960s and 1970s, white dress shirts changed again (think Austin Powers again…lol, and Jerry Seinfeld’s puffy pirate shirt) in a variety of different ways. In the 60s, something called “unisexing” took place, during which it became acceptable for women to wear many different traditionally male clothing styles, including button down shirts, and men adopted longer hairstyles.
Tips for Styling White Dress Shirts
(See my previous post about wearing Button-Down Shirts From Work to Dates here)
Wear a white button-down shirt under a long-sleeved dress for a formal look.
Pair with a cardigan, scarf, skinny jeans, and flats for a more casual look.
A tweed jacket and white button-down shirt looks so elegant with dark jeans, heels, and a structured bag. So simple and so classic!
Wear a looser fitting white dress shirt (perhaps your boyfriend’s!) with destroyed jeans, clutch, and pumps. You are ready to go out for a night on the town!
The trench coat goes all the way back to World War I. At the time, British and French soldiers wore a greatcoat, a large, heavy overcoat made of wool. The trench coat was designed as a lighter alternative to this, and is said to have been created by luxury designers Burberry and Aquascutum. “Trench coats” were named by soldiers on the front lines (and in the trenches), were waterproof, and had large pockets to carry maps and other supplies. The coats became fashionable for civilians as well- both men and women. In World War II, trench coats were also adopted by other countries’ militaries as well. They were typically double-breasted, in a khaki or black color, and large enough that one could wear them over a greatcoat. Trench coats were typically not warm, just waterproof, and therefore had to be layered over other coats. In everyday life, people typically belt the front for a more casual look. In fiction, detectives tend to be depicted as wearing trench coats and fedoras (think “Roger Rabbit” or Humphrey Bogart from “Casablanca”).
Tips for Styling Trench Coats
Wear a neutral colored trench coat casually, with a scarf, white t-shirt, jeans, and loafers or oxfords.
Belt a colorful trench coat and wear over a slip dress (let your trench coat be the star!). Add some ladylike heels and a structured bag, and you are all set!
I love a neutral trench coat over an all-white outfit, such as a white blouse and white jeans. Make it funky with some leopard print pumps.
Bottom line…you can wear it with anything!
Knee High Riding Boots
Knee high boots have been around forever… they may not be the type that you think of today. In the earliest hunter-gatherer societies, people wore boots made from the skin and furs of animals that they killed for food. As with all other forms of clothing, boots that were more ornate and elaborate coincided with higher rank, power, and wealth of the wearer. Sometimes even the height of the boot would denote a person’s rank. In the 15th century, men wore thigh high brown leather boots. Even though this was an appropriate style for men, it was inappropriate for women. Apparently Joan of Arc wore them, and this cross-dressing was one of the main charges against her when she was put to death.
In the 16th century, boots started appearing like the ones we know today. The boots had a leather straps on the instep and under the foot, which would keep the spur in place during horseback riding. This style was mainly worn by laborers, soldiers, and avid hunters and horseback riders. In the 17th century, knee-high boots began to be worn mostly by the military. The stiff leather offered protection for soldiers’ legs and feet. Tassels and braids first started appearing on boots at this time.
In the 18th century, true English riding boots were created that were closer fitting to the leg and folded down under the knee for better mobility during horseback riding. In the 19th century, Wellington boots were popularized and featured an even closer fit and stopped at mid-calf. These boots did not have the trim or tassels of earlier boots, and were worn by gentlemen for hunting, as well as jockeys, grooms, and butlers. Women had begun wearing boots in the 18th century that were largely masculine in appearance, but in the 19th century, women’s boots took on a more feminine twist, with laces, high heels, and pointed toes. In the 1860s, the knee high boots were neglected for the shorter, ankle height style of boots, but in America, the Wellington boots contributed to the design of the very first Cowboy-style boots.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, hemlines of dresses and skirts started going up. As an alternative to baring their ankles and calves, women adopted the knee length boots once more. Boots again fell out of favor until the 1970s, when they became mainstream once more. Boots now had platforms, worn with stockings and tights, and again became knee-high and thigh length.
Tips for Styling Knee-Length Boots
I love knee-high boots with a geometric dress, trench coat, and a leather bag.
I wear them with just about everything, but especially skinny jeans and striped top.
You can also style them with leggings and a tunic top or loose blouse.
A sexy date night outfit would be a blazer or leather jacket and a flared mini dress or skirt with some boots.
Which of these classic styles is your favorite? Let me know how you style them below!
Until next time…