Elevate Your Basics

The lady half of one of my favorite podcast duos recently sent the following tweet:

I know the Lucindervention batcall when I see it / hear it. Over the course of a few weeks, I peppered Kelli Williams the following questions:

  • current wardrobe staples
  • favorite colors
  • eye color
  • signature accessories

I also tapped into all of the intel about her lifestyle from the podcast that she hosts with Troy McEady, Beyond the Blinds, and before that Nostalgia and Now, and before that Laguna Biotch. That’s right people, Kelli’s podcast helped me get through the pandemic, as a first time mom nonetheless.

Kelli is young, out and about, and travels for live podcast tours, so she could probably use a hands-free purse situation. I gleaned that from living in Brooklyn i.e. a walkable city, she is likely be be traversing it or at the very least her borough, on foot. Comfortable footwear is crucial.

Along with Trey, she is making a huge impact touring the country doing live shows and meet and greets, making her an influencer in her own right. While people are at the live shows for the sharp, smart, and witty back-and-forth banter and not the fashion show…why not serve elevated, but accessible style inspo for the gals and guys who look up to this lady who took podcasting by storm?

Even though Kelli copped to wearing royal blue and maroon, I am pushing greens, and not just because Saint Patrick’s day is coming up. The color will look phenomenal against her dark hair.

Speaking for myself, analysis paralysis is a real thing and I did not want to offer too many options of each. Rather, I offered a select edit of building blocks that can mix and make copious outfit combinations. Selecting one in each of the following categories will round out any wardrobe.

Kelli’s style skews casual, jeans and tee shirt. I asked if I could recommend just one dress, she said yes, and this is it. As it is a shirt shape, this is a good dress for those who are not drawn to dresses, but you know, wear shirts. Wear it with low top sneakers, sandals, or ankle boots. Belt it or wear it loose. I like the kelly green (Kelli green? get it?) or maybe even the navy blue for her but this style is available in several other punchy colors perfect for spring.

In her original Tweet, Kelli mentioned a North Face fleece as her go-to outer layer. Recently I upgraded my fleece game to a Dudley Stephens Cobble Hill Turtleneck and while it is not the best fit for my six-foot-two-inch frame (read more about that here), I think either the Park Slope or Greenpoint style – or! and hear me out, the Idlewild Boatneck style – would be just the ticket to taking Kelli’s fleece game to the next level. Again, I am really running with green here but each style is available in a plethora of colors, so if another hue strikes her fancy…

No closet is complete without a button up, and I am especially excited about the striped cropped version from Banana Republic for her. There is always the option to order the cropped version in tall and roll up the cuffs, as they should be styled anyways. I have rarely purchased a button up that could not use a tweak from a tailor and next to dresses, there is no other article of clothing I recommend taking in for an alteration more. An addition investment of $25 can make your button down appear and feel bespoke resulting in that many more wears. I will warn that the item is final sale, and exercise caution when ordering online. For final sale items, try to locate in a brick and mortar store and try on.

Don’t want to color outside the lines with out-there cuts? Order the green striped Lands’ End version, which is also on my Q1 2023 covet list. And again, roll up the sleeves and take to a tailor.

To bring it back to a staple white version, I read fantastic reviews of the Everlane Relaxed Oxford, which is available in several other solids and stripes.

Though I think the fever pitch for chambray passed in 2014, there is an argument to be made that the cousin of denim is a classic. Paired with dark denim or white denim, styled with rolled up sleeves and a front tuck, this chambray button up screams chic and not Canadian tuxedo.

I have been wearing this cut of denim since the pandemic. In fact these were one of the most comfortable pairs I packed for my spring capsule wardrobe. The Factory arm also makes a version at a significantly lower price point.

The demi bootcut comes in a variety of details, washes, and other variations. Since I started wearing the cut, J.Crew released full length and higher waisted spins on the style. With so many different washes, there is a demi bootcut for every closet. White? Check. Faded black? Got it. Pristine and clean dark denim? Necessary. Destroyed knees and faded? Absolutely. Exposed button fly? Not for me, but maybe for you?

I try to avoid wearing sweaters with synthetic fabric, and I try to avoid recommending them. The primary fiber in all of these sweaters is of the natural variety: cotton, organic cotton, wool, cashmere.

The cable knit sweaters, especially that deep green one, can be worn into the colder days of March.

I took a cue from the colors that Kelli mentioned gravitating to: For a sweater that can be worn deeper into the spring, peep the brilliant blue cashmere sweater. This is a style that I own and love in cream and in black. Also, I am looping in the sister cardigan style in maroon, the color of which would be ideal post Labor Day. Be bold and wear the cardigan sans base layer.

A note on Lands’ End: Everything goes on sale, including cashmere. At the moment these sweaters start at $119, down from $199. A very accessible luxury, indeed.

Even though Kelli no longer reports to an office, I recommend mixing up any wardrobe with non-denim bottoms. In this case, some elevated cargo pants, skinny and utility corduroys, and versatile dark bootcut pants.

As always, exercise caution when ordering final sale items online. Keep in mind, Banana Republic online can locate a desired product and size in your preferred store location(s). Shop brick and mortar and lower risk of getting stuck with an item that may not literally be the best fit.

Oh, you want a tee shirt. How about a cashmere tee? I wore the eff out of a monogrammed neon citrus version (hunter green initials) and navy version (red initials) during the spring of 2012 through end of 2015.

Hell to the yes for elevating a wardrobe staple. However come June, it will start to be challenging on the temperature front, especially if the main mode of transportation is on foot. Pack that cashmere number away until the annual New England summer vacation, or late summer for those without a summer house, and break out the classic cotton in a v-neck or crewneck.

I did the research and apparently Kotn is the best place to score a basic tee these days, though I tend to defer to Gap for a black, white, or gray tee for the size range, price point, and the sense of nostalgia I get.

Accessories and shoes are the easiest way to upgrade an outfit. You (surely didn’t) hear it here first. I am certain the concept of high / low dressing relates back to wearing a slouchy men’s Hanes v-neck from a three for eighteen dollar pack, Gap denim, Sarah Flint gladiator sandals, and a Chanel bag. High end shoes and bag, low end tee and jeans.

I picked this bag for its hands free properties. This is the perfect personal item for Kelli to carry on her flights on the next Beyond the Blinds live tour. My only concern is that the bag may be a bit too small, in which case, I would recommend this bag, worn crossbody.

I mentioned this belt to combine with the green dress, but it can also be worn as you know, a belt! Great for carrying a set of keys and a credit card for a hands free night out.

As more of an investment bag, I recommend this crossbody which while available in three colors, I favor the colorblock version.

No budget? This is the move, but get it insured.

Let’s talk shoes.

One of the hippest moms I know, an architect who is raising her daughters on both sides of the Atlantic and long time friend from grad school, and I recently met up at a playground as we arranged a play date for our littles. She stunted in these white boots with a pair of faded black cropped denim. After asking her about them and getting the most enthusiastic response, I knew that I needed to recommend these to Kelli and potentially buy them for myself. Though my friend has the lower profile version, they are also available in a slightly taller variation with a slightly different sole.

Next up, a sneaker. I love the Commes de Garçon low top take on a Converse. That heart motif is such an IYKYK. Barring blowing six hundred dollars on a pair from Golden Goose, I cannot think of any other way to better elevate a low top sneaker. Alternatively, I also like these sage Converse which work as a neutral.

I cannot get through the summer without sandal options and all three of these are Lucindervention-approved. By that I mean, they are comfortable enough that I personally have logged miles in them at a time on city sidewalks.

We need to put it out there: Birkenstock sandals are a pain in the foot to break in. Even at the beginning of every summer season, I struggle with blisters on my foot arch. Worth it though because since 2016, my silver glitter Birkenstock Arizona sandals are not only my “sitting by the front door, jump seat footwear” for errands such as fetching mail, packages from the front desk, and Postmates orders but also a perfect shoe for scooting around the city. I recommend the rose pink Birkenstock Arizona sandal, as the color will work as a neutral, going with nearly everything in this post.

I ordered these Manebí x Loveshackfancy espadrilles last summer. With the jute sole and the printed upper, they are a more stylized take on the Birkenstock Arizona sandal. They were easier to break in, to boot. (Also I will say that I think someone went rogue in the online reviews because my experience with these sandals could not have been more different.) I am also including a Teva-like interpretation, should Kelli prefer a sandal less likely to slip off, complete with Velcro fasteners.

Finally, I own and love two colorways in these Sarah Flint Grear sandals, the metallic and the juicy orange. (Full candor, I am an ambassador for the women-owned shoe brand. Discount code for fifty dollars off any full price style for first time customers: SARAHFLINT-BALU or just click this link.) Initially, I was concerned about the break in time but it was nil, less than a Birkenstock. They are a great sandal for when you need something a tad dressier. I like the saddle tan version for Kelli, just a great gateway color and shoe.

Lastly, I want to recommend a trio of products that will enhance all of the above style recommendations. On the note of sandals, the most low maintenance shade of nail polish for a pedicure. Subtle enough that if the lacquer chips, it won’t be glaring. Different enough that the extra effort will be noted.

An SPF is nonnegotiable. I cop my husband’s Jack Black Double Duty Face Moisturizer for all over SPF coverage, not only my face. Last summer I consistently used it as a post shave lotion on my legs. It layers well under make up (in my case a combo of CC cream and tinted moisturizer + SPF) and does not leave the white sheen that many sunblocks do and it is scentless.

Recently I popped into Sephora for the purpose of getting a body lotion. There I received a recommendation for Fenty Butta Drop. At first I was skeptical and requested further non-celeb recs, as I have always avoided celebrity beauty lines. Eventually I decided to try the Fenty lotion and only because Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty broke the paradigm and has a reputation for actually making a great product. I am so glad I gave it a shot because the product is so rich. I only wish I had it on the dry, dry, dry Central Asia steppe to heal super parched skin.

suggested outfit combinations

You might be thinking, “But how would you put them together?” For the sake of this exercise, I ran with one button up option, one fleece option, one sweater option, two denim options, and one pant option.

I would also like to make the point that I selected less trendy items; these are styles that are seasonally evergreen. Meaning, you can wear any of these, year after year. On that note, it is not necessary to go out and buy one of everything in this post. These are styles that have iterations released year after year, therefore one can gradually build a wardrobe.

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