Image: Special Correspondent Kat in black & white

|| 19 March 2023

Kat's Black & White Wardrobe

Our Chic & Slim Special Correspondent Kat volunteered to share with us her black and white only wardrobe. To keep the pages with photos to reasonable length I have organized her text and photos into 3 pages with links to take you from one to the next. Merci to Kat for her photos and text and wardrobe advice.

Wardrobe Part 1.

|| 10 March 2023

Comments On Basic Black

In the previous Nouvelles I quoted from a Wall Street Journal fashion article on including black pieces in your wardrobe. In that Nouvelles, I mentioned that our Chic & Slim Special Correspondent Kat wears only black and white. Kat responded with comments and clarifications:

Just read your latest Nouvelles. I agree that, for many women, a few basic black pieces in the wardrobe would not go amiss. But I would add a word of warning: for some people, black is the kiss of death! I’m not talking about that old Get Your Colours Done thing (the one that restricted black to “winters” like me, and ignored the glory that was a Hitchcock blonde in a little black dress, or a flaming redhead in black anything) but people like my mother in law and a certain friend of mine, all of whom black turned into a version of Mrs. Danvers.

I think the key is contrast. I look good in black (and pure white, but not off white or cream) because I am very pale, with (originally) dark hair. The ladies I referred to above all had quite muted colouring, soft brown hair and eyes, medium skin tone. Black leached whatever colour they had right out of them. Muted people need colour to bring them to life.

As to the prices I pay for my clothes, yes, I have been known to shell out major money, but only for items I will wear for years, such as coats, cashmere sweaters and leather pieces, which, if you buy classics, as I do, will never go out of fashion. I don’t spend seriously on summer clothes (which tend to die in the wash after a season or two): an example is the white cotton Cos dress in the photo I sent you last summer. And, while my black velvet shirt dress is from Marina Rinaldi, it is my one and only dressy winter dress and it was half price in the sale! If something looks good on you, why wear something different every time you’re out on the town?

In short, I practice what many fashion consultants preach: buy less, buy better. It saves you money in the long run: believe me, when you are making a major investment in a winter coat, you think long and hard before finally handing over your cash or credit card.

I learnt this lesson the hard way. Fell in love with a Jaeger belted camel coat many years ago. Camel does for me what black did for my mother in law, and belted anything makes me look fat. Nonetheless, I wore the thing for many years. It was too expensive to replace. I still wince when I think about it!

AnneNote: When Kat mentioned that her purchase of a camel coat did not turn out as well as she hoped, I remembered my own camel coat experience.

In my 20s, I thought a camel coat was the ultimate in coat chic. When I visited Afghanistan in the early 1970s, I bought a beautiful length of camel’s hair wool and took it back to India planning to have my little tailor there make me a camel coat. Before the coat project got started, the tailor had to be put to work on a maternity wardrobe.

With pregnancy, then baby, the camel’s hair wool was never made into a coat. Twenty years later, my son took it and used it for a (very warm) blanket/bed cover. I was saved from ever looking in the mirror and seeing a chubby hamster. Instead, my last-a-lifetime coat investment was a dark brown leather trench coat. Much more slimming. And with my skin tone and hair color, dark brown works better for me than black.

Kat also commented on the length of time one can wear a good quality/expensive piece.

As your Nouvelles refers to the length of time one can wear a good quality/expensive purchase, it may be of interest to know that my black leather bags (purses) are all over 25 years old, as was the black leather biker jacket I have just replaced. I have a sheepskin lined leather duffel coat which is over 40, still looking good, but the coat is living in France because a bit too heavy for town wear. My “good” shoes and boots are all over 30, and serving me well, after being regularly re-soled and heeled a few times.

As for my coats,(two full length, a short “teddy” coat, a wool jacket, two leather jackets, a waxed jacket and a raincoat) well those are quite new, (apart from the leather with a big wool collar I bought in Athens 35 years ago) but likely to be the last coats I buy!

|| 5 March 2023

Has the Basic Black Dress Disappeared?

The Wall Street Journal requires a subscription to read articles. But a 4 March article by WSJ writer Christine Lennon asks the question: Has the Basic Black Dress Disappeared?

Here are some pertinent points from the article.:

As many women are realizing, however, finding timeless styles today is a challenge. Blame Instagram. Fashion brands must turn heads on social media now, and black sheaths don’t snag eyes like pink ruffles.

Elegant ebony basics have almost vanished and most of the available black clothes come riddled with dubious cutouts or functionless zippers, their fussy shapes more suited to Gen-Z TikTok stars.

Also contributing to the dearth of options: the rarity of events that call for chic, dark outfits—civilized dinners out, formal business meetings.

“Reasonably priced, unboring, gimmick-free black clothes? Good luck finding them,” Christine Lennon warns. But she adds, "Any woman’s closet could benefit from a few black essentials: a suit that can be worn as separates, a dress, a knit turtleneck.”

The first place to look for these classic basics is, of course, the back of your own closet. You might have pieces that you have forgotten in the long Covid lockdown when you lived in sweat pants and your bunny slippers.

As for finding new, you can find them today. But you may have to spend more time hunting than you did previously. However, our Chic & Slim Special Correspondent Kat only wears black and white. I know she has found new pieces in black in recent years because she has sent me links so that I can view them on their company websites.

The prices of Kat’s purchases are beyond what many of us usually pay for new clothes. But if you think in terms of “cost per wearing,” paying a higher price may be a good investment. For instance, if you buy a jacket and wear it often for 25 years, you can afford to pay more than for a lesser quality that won’t hold up for more than three or four seasons.

be chic, stay slim — Anne Barone

|| 7 February 2023

Retinol Creams

Oh dear! I am looking old.

Partly this is the fault of my wretched cat who has taken to waking me up hourly during the night. By 3:30 AM, I have exhausted my ability to go back to sleep after these disturbances. Not only am I not getting enough hours of sleep for good health, but the quality of sleep I do get is poor. Kitty is soon to be sleeping on an electrically heated pad in a “cat tent” on the back patio.

Partly I am looking old because I am only a little over a year away from being 80. But, happily these days we have so many products to help counter Nature’s signs of ageing.

Since 2019, retinol, a type of retinoid, a derivative of vitamin A, has been available without prescription in various creams, gels, and other products to help with the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and with skin texture and color: those signs of advancing years Nature bestows on our faces.

The website healthline has conveniently provided us with a list of 14 Best Retinol Creams of 2023. Banishing Kitty to the back patio and improving my sleep will help counter the toll poor/lack of sleep has taken on my face. But a retinol product might be helpful in countering Nature’s ravages.

14 Best Retinol Creams of 2023

be chic, stay slim — Anne Barone