The New Classic Dressing

Classic design is age-proof and chic, but who says traditional has to be ho-hum? Not hardly.

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The Perfect Bucket Bag

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

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Fresh, Not Frumpy

New texture The ladylike structure could be matronly—but not when it comes in faux ostrich skin.

J.McLaughlin leather purse, $395; jmclaughlin.com

 

A chunky heel Old spectator pump: pointy and delicate. Today’s spectator: rounded and substantial.

Banana Republic leather pumps, $120; bananarepublic.com

 

Unclassic notes The contrast trim and piping make this homage to the Chanel tweed topper feel new.

Ivanka Trump cotton and polyester jacket, $225; Macy’s, 800-289-6229. Sizes up to 16. Express polyester top, $50; express.com

 

Bold color The silhouette of these cotton-twill cigarette pants? Chic since the ’50s. What's hip: the statement hue.

H&M cotton pants, $50; hm.com for stores. Sizes up to 16

 

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The Tweed Jacket

Inspiration for today's "it" jacket? Chanel's '40s, worn here by Coco herself.

Roger Viollet/Getty Images

A Sexier Boat Shoe

Fashion favorite Milly and preppy legend Sperry have teamed up on wear-with-alls that look great on deck and onshore.

 

Milly for Sperry Top-Sider patent leather and canvas wedge, $195; millyny.com

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Diane Sawyer: Up-to-Date Icon

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. 

Jason Kempin/WIreimage

Editor's Pick: Susan Swimmer

“This canvas tote is cute, but the pattern makes it unpredictable.”

 

Loquita canvas and leather tote, $175; loquitanyc.com

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Editor's Pick: Tina Carr

“A shirtdress is polished in this fabric.”

 

Talbots satin crepe dress, $159; talbots.com. Sizes up to 20.

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Editor's Pick: Rebecca MacCurtain

“I love the new flatforms: Wedge meets platform.”

 

Michael Michael Kors leather wedges, $135; 866-709-5677 for stores

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Editor's Pick: Tara Dolan

“Signet rings are back! I’ll size one for my pinkie.”

 

Sarah Chloe sterling silver and gold-vermeil rings, $98 and up; sarahchloe.com

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Where to Find the Best New Classics

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.

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Audrey Hepburn

The other star of Breakfast at Tiffany's? Hepburn's little black dress.

Gamma-Rapho via Getty

Trench Connection

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

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Tips for Adding Zip: Celebs Who Know

Kerry Washington Her white A-line dress (left) would look dowdy if it weren’t for the subtle metallic threading in the fabric. Her super-strappy sandals help, too.

 

Reese Witherspoon The button-down and shorts (center) are classic but cut with a modern, shrunken sensibility. Ditto the mini tote.

 

Salma Hayek Shirtdresses can be plain vanilla, but this one (right) is more un-expected. Sheer fabric and puff sleeves make it stylish and new. For sexiness, add Salma.

Left to right: Wireimage, Splash News, Wireimage

The Saddlebag, Redux

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.

 

Coach leather purse, $298; coach.com

 

Now that you know our beloved classics, we've created an extended list of what not to wear.

 

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Courtesy of Coach
First Published March 13, 2012

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