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You Need This... I Promise

The Bib Front Tunic

side-by-side images of Ann (left, in an airplane seat) and model (right, against a black background) sporting the same white bib front tunic

the Bib Front Tunic in action / the Bib Front Tunic in the studio

 

My friend Daisy has the best style. We met in college, when she was just a cool girl who joined my sorority. I was struck by her air of confidence and the kind of sophistication I hadn't encountered growing up in the Midwest. I had spent my senior year mostly uninspired – my family moved to New Jersey the summer before, so I spent that last year as the new kid at Holmdel High. It was tiny compared to my huge public high school in Chicago – I think there were maybe only 100 in the graduating class? – and by that time, the 50 girls were pretty sick of the 50 guys they'd grown up with, and vice versa. Everyone was ready to move on to college and no one could be bothered with making a new friend. The week I moved in, though, a cute boy down the street did ask me to go to the beach with him, which I did, only to find out that he had a serious girlfriend (who I guess was NOT bored with him) who hated me before I even had a chance to walk through the doors of my new school. So after a socially underwhelming senior year, I arrived in Colorado ready for my OWN life. I had figured out the preppy thing in New Jersey – the Top Siders, the Shetland sweaters – but now there were Op shorts, long-sleeved t-shirts (I had never seen one in my life,) Vuarnet sunglasses, and cute boys skateboarding to class. Wait, was I in California or Colorado? Boulder is notorious for attracting a certain West Coast set, but I knew nothing about anything and just watched and learned and tried to figure out where to find the right kind of glacier glasses to fit in. Fashion sociology by way of observation.

 

mood board of various polaroids; in the center a black and white photo of woman's profile wearing sunglasses and a striped sun hat
Daisy in her hat – on the mood board since the beginning

 

But back to Daisy. She was from San Francisco and breezed into the Delta Gamma house ready to take it or leave it. Isn't that often what confidence looks like? She truly could have cared less where she landed – she was there for fun and I was just happy to tag along for the ride. I will never forget sitting outside the sorority house in the courtyard one sunny day in the spring. She pulled off her shirt to sunbathe in her Olga bra as if it were the most obvious, ordinary thing to do in the world. I was astounded. She hung out with all the oddballs, went to class occasionally, and made a huge influence on me. I was pretty tightly wound and while I would have never skipped class myself, it was fun to be around someone who did. Daisy wore jodhpurs long before all those Ralph Lauren Out of Africa-inspired campaigns, and she always had an amazing hat game going on. (A curious thing about Daisy was that while she didn't mind baring her chest for a body tan, she was religious about sun protection for her face.) A broad-brimmed lifeguard hat made of straw… talk about a stylemaker.

The thing I remember most, though, and the reason I bring her up now, was an oversized men's nightshirt based on a tuxedo shirt. Band collar, bib down the front, white linen, easy and fantastic and a little bit foreign. She would wear it with cutoff shorts – jeans (acid wash; it was the 80s) – nothing but her long bare legs and Jack Rogers sandals, as a dress. It is not a literal replica, but every time I wear my current favorite shirt, the Bib Front Tunic, I think of Daisy. You can find this sort of thing at flea markets in France. Who knows where she got it? The malls where I grew up certainly didn't have such a thing. In hindsight, hers probably came from a thrift store in the Castro. (Her grand voyage to Europe, like mine, didn't happen until after graduation.) Ours is actually easier to wear than hers would have been. It has a similar shape to our Boyfriend Shirt, which cuts in at the waist. It covers your bottom – it really is a tunic – but it is a slimmer take on 'oversized,' which works better for me than the boxy, made-for-a-man shape of Daisy's original.

 

gif of Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Titanic wearing a white tuxedo shirt

 

I recently re-watched Titanic and was mesmerized by a young Leonardo DiCaprio dancing with Kate Winslet in his tuxedo shirt, collar off. It was actually a pretty great representation of how I feel in this shirt. Dressed up but not uncomfortable – formal but not – polished but free to move however I want. The pique bib and cuffs stay crisp, and even when the rest of the shirt wrinkles, it still looks amazing. I often travel on the plane with it because it's so low-effort and I can walk off the flight and on to wherever I'm going without changing clothes. It looks special and chic and works even with its long tail poking out from underneath a jacket or cardigan sweater. On a long trip, I can even wash it in the sink and drip-dry it… and again, that stiffness of the material in the bib holds its shape, and the hang-dried look of the sleeves and body doesn't bother me. It makes a great minimal top half for a maximal statement shoe on the bottom. The simplicity of the band collar makes a special pair of earrings really pop – and the button stance is great for making a "man's" style shirt feel a little sexier. (See also Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's.) I haven't tried this yet but think it would make a great pool cover-up… just long enough to cover your backside. You can even channel Daisy and unbutton it to sunbathe in your bra! I think of her every time I put it on – which is maybe even once a week – and barely have to bother with the rest of the outfit, because like the lifeguard hat, and the jodhpurs, the Bib Front Tunic is a real stylemaker. You really do need one, I promise.

The truth is, I have a complicated relationship with Daisy. Your dearest friendships can be like that, I think. The confidence that I first saw in her wasn't always all that confident, which is why we became so close. The vulnerabilities of that age can be painful to remember, and when you grow up and move on, it can be hard to remember how scared and fragile you were together. But the memories of good times, secrets shared, and lessons learned hold it together… decades later, she is still one of my best friends. And she absolutely still has the best style.

From Ann

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