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The Navy Knit Jacket

Milan 2015'

travel uniform – blue shirt, blue jeans, boots, navy jacket - in Milan 

 I have often sung the praises of the "third piece"… that sweater or scarf or jacket or "extra" thing that pulls your top and bottom halves together. Because here is the thing… you don't have to be wearing it the whole time. When it is on, it is your clothing – when it is off, it's an accessory. Sweaters or scarves are the easiest for this - it can be for warmth, (airplane scarf or cardigan) to cover your bottom (sweater tied around your waist ) or worn around your neck for pure ornamentation. The jacket for me, is the same kind of style maker.

If you have spent any time on Instagram or street style blogs or Vogue.com, you have seen all the girls outside the fashion shows with their jackets draped over their shoulders and not worn normally with their arms through the sleeves. The jacket as cape. You may have rolled your eyes, thinking, wait, how does it stay ON when she has so many things in her hands? Does the purse go OVER or UNDER? What if her phone rings? It looks cold – why doesn't she just put it on? Etc. etc. etc. But it does actually look great – and this is my point. Whether you're actually wearing it or not, it fills a need.

I always love a little collegiate navy blazer, and this has been my default traveling jacket for years. It goes on nearly every trip with me. Cashmere in winter, linen in summer, midweight ponte in between. It makes me feel pulled-together and like I have made an effort. I know the airports are filled with lots and lots of Lycra and athleisure, but it's not for me. That said, I can understand wanting the comfort of something squishy and soft and forgiving when you are cramped into a tiny airplane seat and shuffling through lines. So for a few seasons now, we have run a knit version of the navy blazer that LOOKS polished but FEELS soft and stretchy, with a couple different pocket variations. It is structured enough to be called a blazer, but cozy enough to feel like a sweater. Anytime I am in our shops and a woman tells me she has a trip coming up, I try to talk her into bringing this. The knit doesn't wrinkle, it feels wonderful against your skin, and is amazing for layering in unpredictable weather since it is stretchy and will allow for a sweater underneath. It is very old-fashioned to have a "traveling outfit" but this is mine! Sid always wears a jacket on the plane – so sometimes we both show up in navy jackets and we look a little like we are on the same pro soccer team.

And it's not just for the journey – I cannot think of a more versatile piece once you've landed, or just walked out of your front door. It looks preppy with a button-down shirt… minimal with a cashmere crewneck… romantic and a little equestrienne with a frilled collar poking out… fantastic with a skimpy tank for dinner at night (think about how pretty you will look at the table with the jacket draped over your shoulders, carefully cutting your meat so it won't fall off!) I wear mine a lot with little graphic t-shirts and I love the bon-chic-bon-genre feel of a striped mariniere tee.

very French with a striped t-shirt underneath

Very French with a striped T-shirt underneath 

This is my imagination talking, but the navy blazer thing is totally rich in its symbolism too… I never went to private school but fantasized about the associated uniform for practically my entire childhood. (I had lots of wanderlust as a kid and when you're dying to get out of the house, a boarding school sounds pretty good.) How I dreamed of that navy jacket and little plaid skirt. The first one I bought to satisfy this itch was, sadly, a broad-shouldered Ralph Lauren (king of the aspirational longing) piece from the 80s that I tossed a few years ago. Too shoulder-padded to even attempt to alter, and it had a HUGE embroidered crest on it. What was I thinking? Or rather - what was Ralph thinking?! I wore it only a few times, knowing that I would have no good answer if anyone asked me where the crest was from. What would I possibly say – my cul-de-sac in Indiana? my great-grandfather's farm in Nebraska???

Aside from dressing to fill an emotional need or fantasy, I adore my navy knit blazer and rarely go a week without wearing it, even when I'm not traveling. If not on my body (or over my shoulders!) it is on the back of my office chair when I lose the battle of the air conditioning in the office. I feel chic and sport and refined all at the same time – which is all you can really ask of a third piece, don't you think?

From Ann

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