What Are You (Really) Wearing? The Oxford Shirt

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Want to get the look of laid-back sophistication? The oxford shirt is the epitome of this paradox. But just what about the prep school–inspired staple has everyone buttoning up in order to dress down?

Just before the turn of the 20th century, a Scottish mill produced a number of fabrics named after prestigious universities. These included Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, and, of course, Oxford. Out of all the fabrics, the “oxford cloth” – with its breathable basket-weave construction – took off. In fact, before the short-sleeve collared shirt was produced, oxford cloth was so popular that polo players wore it for lightweight comfort during matches.

Thanks to Ralph Lauren, light blue is the most recognizable oxford shirt color, but pastel variations and white are also very common. When paired with a navy sport coat, the oxford fares well in a more formal setting. But we love it done up casually, too – worn untucked with haphazardly cuffed sleeves for weekends or relaxed date nights.

By Jillian Hudon, Staff Writer

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July 23, 2013

What Are You (Really) Wearing? The Scoop on Sun-Protective Fabrics

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Now trending: stylish sun protection. That is, cover-up designs made from fabrics that can protect you from the sun’s harmful UV rays. We’ve learned that layering on this “UPF” clothing, as it’s called, is just as important as lathering on the SPF. So let’s shed some light on it, shall we?

UPF – short for Ultraviolet Protection Factor – is the measure of how much sunlight a fabric can shield. Materials with tight weaves and complex pigments have a higher UPF-scale rating. Put it this way – a basic white cotton tee rates at about 5 UPF, while synthetic stretch activewear often comes in at 50+, the highest and most protective.

Industry ingénues like Mott 50 have really put the “fun” back into functional cover-ups. Not only do we love their laid-back looks, but we applaud their efforts in supporting melanoma research and sun-safety education.

So gammas, be gone – here’s to years of healthy (and happy) skin.

By Jillian Hudon, Staff Writer

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July 16, 2013

What Are You (Really) Wearing? The Lowdown on Chinos

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Second only to the polo shirt, there are few summer styles as preppy as the chino pant. We’ve admired the short version (sans polo) as a longtime Kennedy family favorite for touch-football games – but what exactly gives this staple its completely casual appeal?

Like most menswear styles, the chino pant is military-inspired. It was part of the standard-issue U.S. military uniform for most of the 20th century. The style gained real popularity after WWII, though, when army surplus clothing became a mainstay in wardrobes of the preppy post-war generation.

While the casual construction has remained mostly the same, today’s chino is best done in pastels with embroidered nautical motifs. No matter which style you choose, there’s no doubt – the modern take on this classic is the unofficial party pant of summer.

By Jillian Hudon, Staff Writer

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July 9, 2013

What Are You (Really) Wearing? All About Ikat

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With the tribal trend all the rage, ikat is definitely having a moment. It’s cropping up on everything from hand-tufted rugs to breezy summer scarves. Here’s a little background on the ethnic-inspired design you’ll be seeing splashed all over this summer.

Ikat – pronounced “ee-kat” – is one of the world’s oldest traditions in textile decoration, traced back to 15th-century South America. Variations of the tribal print were also central to cultures across India and Asia, with each developing their own designs independently.

The traditional technique involves dip-dyeing threads prior to weaving the fabric. To differentiate colors, bindings are tied around the threads before they are dipped – quite similar to how elastic bands are used to block color when tie-dyeing. The threads are then woven together to reveal the abstract geometric patterns the runways have been going wild for.

By Jillian Hudon, Staff Writer

Want the lowdown on fabrics and more? Follow our What Are You (Really) Wearing? column every Tuesday.

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June 25, 2013

What Are You (Really) Wearing? The Lowdown on Dip-Dyed Ombré

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Oh, ombré – it’s one effortless summer style that surely won’t fade. And rest assured, this gradient palette of color isn’t the tie-dye of your heyday. Whether you shop the look or go for DIY, there’s more to know about the dip-dye process than what meets the eye.

Ombré – the French word for “shaded” – suggests the style, while dip-dye refers to the tie-dye technique used to achieve its gradient glory. The fade effect is created by lowering the garment into the desired dye and gradually lifting it out. Leaving the lower half submerged a little longer will yield a deeper hue at the hem.

Obsessed yet? Well, you’re in luck – from dip-dyed hair to ombré manis, there are plenty of ways to rock the trend this season.

By Jillian Hudon, Staff Writer

Want the lowdown on fabrics and more? Follow our What Are You (Really) Wearing? column every Tuesday.

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June 18, 2013

What Are You (Really) Wearing? Board Shorts or Swim Trunks?

 

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Board shorts or swim trunks? That is the question. Aside from inseam length, what exactly is the difference between these two menswear swim styles?

Board Shorts
This surf-inspired style was originally designed to have a longer inseam to help your skin avoid direct contact with the surfboard. These durable shorts are almost always unlined, but they feature a solid waistband with a lace-up tie closure. Board shorts are the best bet for thrill-seekers and those looking to really make waves at the beach.

Swim Trunks
With a hem that hits above the knee, this trim style really lets those thighs get some sun. A classic trunk always includes a mesh interior lining and an elasticized waist with tie drawstring for a little added security. If you want to make a splash, the swim trunk is a good pick for the pool.

By Jillian Hudon, Staff Writer

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June 11, 2013

What Are You (Really) Wearing? The Cork Breakdown

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From wedges to wall décor, it seems cork is popping up everywhere this summer. And sure, it’s a given that this material works well as a wine stopper, but what makes it such a fashion favorite?

This neutral material is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees lining the forests of the Mediterranean. Once removed, the bark is boiled to give it the soft buoyancy that makes this season’s beloved (and incredibly lightweight) wedges so easy to walk in. The best part? Cork bark is completely sustainable and regenerates itself about every nine years post-harvest. Hello, guilt-free style.

By Jillian Hudon, Staff Writer

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June 4, 2013

What Are You (Really) Wearing? So. Many. Stripes.

With Memorial Day weekend in our rear view and the official kickoff to summer style underway, bold stripes have made their annual return to our closets. Here, we talk the past and present of three of the season’s most iconic renditions.

What are you really wearing? Stripes.

What are you really wearing? Stripes.

Nautical Stripes
This alternating pattern of blue and white began in the 19th century as the standard issue uniform for the French Navy. Their goal? To help the crew spot sailors who fell overboard. Today, it’s hard to retreat to any summer locale without spotting this timeless navy-inspired design.

Rugby Stripes
Comprised of thick, horizontal stripes in bold, alternating colors, contemporary rugby stripes are inspired by (you guessed it) the sport’s traditional polo-style jerseys. The stripes went mainstream in the 1950s, as Americans borrowed this sporty look from friends across the pond.

Chevron Stripes
This eye-catching zigzag stripe ranks high among patterns with military roots. By definition, it’s an inverted V-shape used on military badges to indicate rank or denote length of service. Today, it’s ever-present in the world of fashion (thanks, Missoni). Find it splashed everywhere, from sundresses to pillows.

By Jillian Hudon, Staff Writer

Want the lowdown on fabrics and more? Follow our What Are You (Really) Wearing? column every Tuesday.

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May 28, 2013

What Are You (Really) Wearing? The Mother-of-Pearl Rundown

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You’ve noticed mother-of-pearl accents on everything from watch faces to buttons. If you’re like me, though, you probably haven’t given such details much thought beyond admiring their luster. So let’s pause for a second: what exactly is mother-of-pearl? In an effort to avoid a fashion faux pas, I did some digging and found out.

For all intents and purposes, a seashell is actually the “mother” of a pearl. Mother-of-pearl – also known as “nacre” – is the shiny interior of a shell. The outer layer of pearls and inner layer of shells are both made up of nacre, giving them the same wondrous appeal and disparity of color. Natural iridescent shades of ivory, gold, grey, and black make the perfect accents for all those luxe little extras.

By Jillian Hudon, Staff Writer

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May 21, 2013

What Are You (Really) Wearing? The Story Behind Seersucker

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A seersucker piece is a timeless classic in any wardrobe – but what exactly makes this sunny fabric a summertime staple?

Seersucker is cotton with a slightly subdued stripe design. It’s woven in a way that puckers the material and elevates it away from the skin. The shirred effect gives seersucker breathability and makes it a practical pick for warm-weather months. The best part? No ironing required.

Up until air-conditioning became standard in the 1950s, the seersucker suit was a mainstay in the wardrobe of the Southern gentleman. Politicians observed Seersucker Thursdays in the summer once it was introduced on the floor of the Senate. Seersucker isn’t just for suits, though – Lilly Pulitzer, with her perfectly preppy designs, masters the seersucker shift dress almost annually.

Today there is still something so very special – almost nostalgic – about seersucker. Politicians and preps alike don it from the Kentucky Derby straight through Labor Day.

By Jillian Hudon, Staff Writer

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May 14, 2013