You Need This... I Promise

The Funnel-Neck Sweater

passport 1991

in memory of all the black turtlenecks i've loved before (note to all worriers: this passport expired 20 years ago and had no private info on it!)

Yesterday was the first official day of fall, and after six months of sundresses, we are all dying to bundle up a bit. It may be 90 degrees today, but it was only 63 this morning… and that is absolutely sweater weather in my book. Maybe not a chunky fisherman style that weighs a few pounds.. but featherweight cashmere is just about right.

I have a starter sweater for the season – a warmup, so to speak – in mind. This past weekend, I got to go away to Nantucket where it was just a little cooler. I took nothing but two sweaters, two pairs of jeans (one blue, one white), and the boots and the jacket I wore on the plane. (Exercise clothes and running shoes don't count.) My lightest packing job in recent memory. The two sweaters were a grey cashmere v-neck and our superfine cashmere funnel-neck. I felt warm enough, and just about perfect the entire time. In fact, only the v-neck actually made it into my suitcase. I kept the funnel in my tote bag because I like to use it as a little wrap around my neck when I get cold on the plane… one extra layer if my neighbor refuses to turn off their FREEZING directed airflow.

It may not seem like the most interesting thing to buy or to pack – in fact, it may be the cold-weather equivalent of that iconic scene from The Devil Wears Prada. "Turtlenecks for fall? Groundbreaking." But it always delivers. Jackie OnassisMarilyn MonroeAudrey Hepburn… everyone has gotten her portrait taken in one. (Much better than those velvet cloaks they put over your shoulder in the old days of high school yearbook senior portraits.) And the reason for that is that the turtleneck is so simple that the YOU on top emerges in all your glory. It becomes a backdrop. The black is great for this, but any color will do the same. I love the ivory and the heather grey… and I think the navy is especially striking on blondes. Portraits aside, there is a lot you can do with this shape. It is a chameleon of a sweater. You can look like a beatnik when you wear it with narrow black pants – mod with a short skirt and tall boots – 80s preppie when you layer it under a button-down shirt with jeans. I wore a black turtleneck in my second passport photo and felt like the height of chic at the time. When I got it back in the mail, I realized I kind of looked like a Russian spy… very glamorous in its own way. Ours is actually a funnel, and not a turtle, which means that there is no seam connecting the body of the sweater to the neck, no line to visually cut you off. It just continues upwards in one fluid motion. Especially perfect for anyone who, like Nora Ephron, feels bad about her neck. I loved her writing so much that I cannot put on a turtleneck without thinking of her. I carried that book in my shop in the early days and thought it was very funny to display it next to the face creams. Anyway.

I feel bad about my neck

I feel bad about my neck

One of my daughters has always had a few sensory issues, and, as a toddler, she self-directed her wardrobe to accommodate this. She constantly wore red rubber rain boots everywhere with little peter-pan collar dresses. Nothing irritating there – little girl dresses are basically like nightgowns – and a dream to run around in all day. I would just snip out the labels in the backs of her clothes if she complained. And so it wasn't until kindergarten when she outgrew those boots and needed to wear real shoes to school that the occasional intensity of her aversions reared its head. It was a big problem if she was feeling rushed or afraid… and so when the bus was coming on the first week of school, she was sitting on the doorstep refusing to buckle up her shoes because she just couldn't bear to feel the seam of her socks against her toes. A fit was had… but just in the nick of time, I realized we could turn the socks inside out so that the seams were on the outsides. Crisis averted. She made the bus. It was okay (until it wasn't… but that is another story…)

I have since learned that softness and comfort are her love language. She has figured out her adult wardrobe in much the same way she did as a toddler and minimized all sensory irritants by narrowing her range: soft sweaters (absolutely no Shetland wool)… striped cotton tees… we make an amazing pull-on pant that is perfect for her… Gucci loafers… talk about a uniform. That seems to be the case for a lot of people, actually. The athleisure look is here to stay. (Wait… do you think that as a society we all have sensory challenges… and when feeling afraid and rushed by the pace of life, we too are irritated by the seams on our socks?? Is it a metaphor?? Am I reaching?? As I said, I was at The Nantucket Project this weekend and so my head is spiraling with societal and social interpretations of everything!!)

But comfort and chic are not oxymorons, and I cannot imagine a more perfect item of clothing for Louisa, or anyone for that matter, than a soft SEAMLESS funnel-neck sweater made of superfine cashmere. It looks as amazing as it feels, and is cut slim enough in the body to look a little sexy. (Not the usual connotation of a turtleneck.) Minimal, elegant, perfect, and comforting as well as comfortable… we all need that, I promise.

From Ann

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