Design that endures is making a comeback this season, and for good reason: With a flatlined economy, spending on pieces that have staying power is the smartest way to shop. And by classic, we don’t mean old-fashioned. Thanks to subtle tweaks—a rounded toe on a spectator pump, a trench in an unexpected color, a canvas tote in a graphic print—the style looks haute, not has-been. Case in point: this bucket bag. The shape is familiar—but rendered in one of the season’s hottest colors, the bag is modern. We say, resist all those sexy insta-trends. (Pink gladiator sandals? No, thanks.) When you go classic, you’re safe from buyer’s remorse.
A traditional style, but in a fresh color:
BGBCMaxAzria leather bag, $348; bcbg.com for stores
The ABC anchor exudes classic but contemporary. As you can see (left), she favors traditional shapes, such as pencil skirts, and an elementary color scheme of black and white (cuh-lass-ic). But she also understands the power of an update: Her sweater looks current (and sexy), thanks to the off-the-shoulder styling.
Here’s who’s designing today’s most sophisticated styles, from sheaths to slacks:
Jil Sander Leave it to Sander (her design, far left) to combine a classic print (paisley) and a familiar shape (the sheath) into something that looks brand new. Best buys: cotton shirtdresses, flatforms.
J.Crew Combining great color with traditional styles (center), this is preppy cool. Best buys: bright pencil skirts, striped tops, ballet flats.
Banana Republic Our top pick (near left) for classic workwear, in sizes up to XL. Best buys: khaki separates, floral prints, pleated skirts.
Left to right: Courtesy of Jil Sander, Courtesy of J.Crew, Courtesy of Don Ashby
The LBD, Now and Forever
Ever since the ’20s, the little black dress has epitomized chic. How to wear it now:
The virtues of an LBD are manifold. Trend-proof? Yes. Appropriate for any occasion? Absolutely. Slimming? You betcha. This season, look for designs with pretty details (like lace insets, mixed fabrics and embellished trim). For maximum wearability, choose a length that falls just below the knee. We love this one by Ivanka Trump.
Ivanka Trump polyester dress, $195; Lord & Taylor, 800-223-7440. Sizes up to 16.
Designed for British soldiers to wear in (yes!) the trenches, this coat became standard issue for American GIs in World War II. What got this true classic off the battlefield and onto the backs of urban professionals: its compelling combination of everyday usefulness and inexhaustible style. Our favorite this season (left) is infused with color but still sturdy enough to stand up to the elements. The versions we like feature traditional styling (belted waist, buttons, shoulder loops and the easy-to-wear knee length). And did we mention the color? OK...but it bears repeating.
This uber-classic gets an update with a little zipper and a lot of color:
Michael Michael Kors sateen trench coat, $225; 866-709-5677 for stores
The folks at Coach love classic styling but are also masters of reinvention. Their coup this season: a fresh take on a bag that first appeared in the 1970s. They softened the shape (it’s rounder now) and changed the hardware from brass to silver. Voilà! What’s old is new.