In a 1965, McCall’s magazine published an interview with Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel — then 81 years old — in which she asserted, “style should reach the people, no? It should descend into the streets, into people’s lives, like a revolution. That is real style. The rest is mode. Mode passes; style remains. Mode is made of a few amusing ideas, meant to be used up quickly, so they can be replaced by others in the next collection. A style endures even as it is renewed and evolved.” With that in mind, we take a look at a few of the most enduring — and ever-evolving — staples for any wardrobe in the 21st century and beyond.
Diamonds are Forever
Earrings have long been worn by women — and men — for nearly 5,000 years. But it wasn’t until the latter part of the 19th century that solitaire diamond studs made their appearance. The simple, elegant style of earring began to take off in the 1970s and has yet to slow down. When building your jewelry wardrobe, diamond studs are an absolute necessity given their versatility — you can wear them everyday. Celebrities like Eva Longoria, Jennifer Garner and Ariana Grande are often photographed wearing classically modeled studs. Perhaps just as popular is the diamond tennis bracelet. Originally referred to as an eternity bracelet, it was a status symbol for women around the world for more than a century. It wasn’t until 1978, when tennis star Chris Evert was playing at the U.S. Open, that during a long rally her diamond bracelet flew off and she stopped the match. From that point forward, it’s been known as the tennis bracelet. Harry Winston offers enduring classic diamond studs starting from 0.40 carats each, set in platinum — such as Round Brilliant Diamond Earstuds. Taking the tennis bracelet up a notch, the jeweler has designed the Winston Diamond Bracelet — part of its coveted Winston Cluster by Harry Winston Collection. This model deviates from the classic strand and features 80 pear-shaped and round brilliant diamonds at approximately 20.33 carats, set in platinum. Prices for both upon request.
As the story goes, the photograph of a simple black calf-length dress by Coco Chanel was published in American Vogue in 1926. The magazine referred to the dress as “Chanel’s Ford” — a comparison to Henry Ford’s Model T. They also said it would become“a sort of uniform for all women of taste.” The most famous little black dress, however, might still be the one designed by Hubert de Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn, as Holly Golightly, in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In December 2006, the dress was auctioned in London at Christie’s with an estimate of 50,000 to 70,000 British pounds. An anonymous buyer snapped it up at the end of a bidding war for £467,200 ($923,187) — a truly historic price for an iconic dress. While there are plenty of little black dresses being designed and sold, it’s the vintage designer pieces that are truly indicative of the word “timeless.” For nearly 20 years, San Francisco-based jewelry designer turned vintage dealer Ricky Serbin, has seen plenty of LBDs pass through his hands and onto the bodies of his discerning clientele. Apart from working directly with private clients, Serbin operates the eponymous Ricky Serbin Haute on 1st dibs. He’s sold a litany of LBDs by greats like Oscar de la Renta, Gianfranco Ferre, Yves Saint Laurent, James Galanos, Thierry Mugler and Azzedine Alaïa, to name only a few. Currently, he offers a 1960s Norman Norell black semi sheer cocktail dress accessorized with glass bugle beads and a fringed hem. This classic can be yours for an estimated $1,900.
Best Foot Forward
The smoking slipper was popularized in the United Kingdom in the 1800s and worn by the upperclass, often for entertaining at home. Somewhere between a slipper and traditional loafer, the smoking slipper has seen a significant resurgence in the last 20 years. Most often made of velvet, it originally served a specific purpose — to help avoid ruining the floors of your well-appointed home after coming in off the gritty and often filthy streets. By the 1900s, movie stars like Clark Gable began wearing them outside the home; the shoes quickly became black-tie appropriate. The most classic look has always been simple black velvet, but today there are innumerable variations in color, print and fabric. Based in SF, the women’s slipper brand Birdies, a nearly 5-year-old startup, counts Meghan Markle as one of its biggest fans. Two of the most popular models include the black Starling ($95) and the Phoebe Floral Jacquard slide ($120). Given how much they’ve grown in the last few years, Birdies’ production team has been able to offer better pricing. Beginning this month, the company is passing the savings —from about 14 to 25 percent — along to its customers.
Hats Off to Headwear
After being worn by the Duke of Windsor— then known as Edward, Prince of Wales — beginning in 1924, the fedora has remained a staple of any gentleman’s wardrobe. The felt hat is just one of many styles, including the derby and panama, that have stood the test of time. In the 1940s, the width of fedora brims began to increase, though the colors generally remained traditional black, gray or brown. Since the early part of the 20th century, women such as Greta Garbo, Faye Dunaway and Romy Schneider have worn fedoras in film or real life, as have male counterparts such as Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart and Sean Connery. These days, they’re regularly worn by everyone from Dakota Johnson to Brad Pitt, not to mention sartorial fashion bloggers and dandies worldwide. San Francisco-based hatter Ben Goorin has been involved in his family’s business, Goorin Brothers, for nearly 30 years. His great-grandfather, Cassel Goorin, sold his first hat in Pittsburgh off the back of a horse cart in 1895. Goorin Bros. hats, including medium-brimmed fedoras like the Radley in wool felt ($150) or the Charley Grateful in toquilla straw ($220) are perfect picks to ease your way into the style.
Blue Jean Baby
There’s something to be said for your favorite pair of jeans, especially when they’re perfectly worn and fit just right. The “blue jean” was invented by Jacob W. Davis, in collaboration with Levi Strauss & Co. in 1871. The“greasers” of the 1950s popularized them with teenagers, and they were a staple in the wardrobes of hippies through the 1960s. The punk movement of the 1970s and 1980s ushered in an era of distressed denim before grunge loosened things up in the 1990s and the jeans got much sloppier. Since the early 2000s, a wide array of new fits and styles has emerged, but one thing is for certain — blue jeans are here to stay. Headquartered in San Francisco, Levi Strauss & Co. (otherwise known as Levi’s) has faced some heavy competition from other brands and weathered declining sales over the years, but its 2018 earnings report showed revenue in excess of $5.5 billion. In part, the company’s success is predicated on its ability to forecast trends and deliver an exceptional product. Levi’s recently launched Wellthread, its debut sustainability collection. Modeled on the guiding principles of materials, people, environment and process, the result is a totally contemporary collection in which every piece is fully recyclable. It’s part of an ongoing collaboration with the California surf brand Outerknown. The newest release is the Levi’s Wellthread X Outerknown 511 Slim Jean. Available online and in stores nationwide.
As the story goes, in the 19th century, Scotland was the textile-producing capital of Europe. One mill experimented with different — and new — weaves. It produced four fabrics, naming each after the top universities – Harvard, Cambridge, Yale, and Oxford. Only one proved popular, and production of the other three ceased. Today, simple white button-down shirts are often referred to as Oxford shirts, though the actual Oxford weave is made up of two different yarns, woven together in a particular pattern. No matter the fabric type, the white button-down shirt has been a wardrobe staple since the mid-1800s for both men and women. In 1948, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall both wore white button-downs in the film Key Largo, as did Marilyn Monroe for 1961’s The Misfits.The Gap, founded in 1969 by Donald and Doris Fisher, still produces the shirt in various fits — and colors — for men and women. Pictured is the women’s classic cotton weave white oxford, with a slimmer fit and curved shirttail hem ($49.95).