“I’ll Have What She’s Having!”

Anna Wintour in Chanel – photo Instagram

A relaxed way of dressing with an unmistakably sophisticated Parisian aesthetic is always appealing. The French have a perfect idiom to describe it: “comme il faut.” Coco Chanel, a genius of modernism and a woman who redefined the early 20th century, is the perfect embodiment.

Trends, designers, and fashion houses come and go, but the Chanel Mystique lives on (notwithstanding who the creative director is), and nothing is more perpetually symbolic of the house and more instantly recognizable than the cardigan jacket.

By the way, nobody is more perfectly suited to design Chanel than Thom Browne, but that’s another story.

Thom Browne

Whether it has two or four pockets, a collar or no collar, buttons made of gold or silver, contrasting fabric trim, or a gilded chain, the cardigan jacket is a versatile wardrobe workhorse that transcends the vagaries of fashion’s ins and outs.

I do not know when the photo of Anna Wintour (refer to opening shot) was taken (I found it on Instagram- where else?), but I love that it shows another side of Anna that we usually don’t see. The image speaks volumes about a relaxed, sporty elegance that exemplifies the idea of being dressed up and dressed down, casual yet pulled together in a highly considered way.

While the spectator sports look with a French accent always has an allure, it could not be timelier given that the French Open begins on Sunday, June 25, and The Summer Olympics commence in Paris on July 25. More importantly, it’s a look that is easy to replicate and at all price points.

Emilie Sweater Jacket, jcrew.com

J.Crew’s Emilie cotton sweater jacket instantly polishes anything you pair it with, which is why it has over 100,000 fans. This one is updated with contrast trim details and comes with polished gold buttons down the front and patch pockets. It is reduced from $148 to $73.50 and is available at jcrew.com.

Veronica Beard Bealila Cardigan Jacket, photo veronicabeard.com

Veronica Beard’s cotton-woven Bealila has the features of a classic cardigan—a V-neck and bracelet-length sleeves—with modern updates. Woven diagonal striping creates a graphic yet textural finish, while flap pockets, shiny crest buttons, and contrast trim give it polish. Bold yet uncomplicated, it’s a closet hero. Priced at $448, it is for sale at veronicabeard.com.

BCBGeneration Contrast Knit Cardigan, photo revolve.com

BCBGeneration classic iteration is made of mid weight knit fabric with metallic threading throughout, gold-tone buttons, and front welt pockets. It is available at revolve.com, reduced from $108 to $76.

R13 Tweed Jacket with Chain, photo netaporter.com

You can leave it to R13 to rebelliously spin the classic lady-like jacket made from wool-blend tweed flecked with metallic threads. The coat is trimmed with gold-tone chains that drape from the cropped hem and cuffs for an undone look. Wear yours with low-rise jeans. Priced at $1895, it is for sale at netaporter.com.

Maje Contrast Knit Cardigan, photo farfetch.com

Maje embraces the sophisticated Parisian aesthetic with this black jacket. Boasting a knitted construction, it is cut to a minimalist long-sleeve silhouette framed by contrasting braided trim, adding an eye-catching graphic element. Reduced from $385 – $270, it is for sale at farfetch.com.

Chanel espadrilles,$638, photo 1stdibs.com

What better way to accessorize than with two-tone cap-toe shoes, another instantly identifiable Chanel icon? Chanel and Chanel-inspired cap-toe sneakers, espadrilles, brogues, ballet slippers, and Maryjane flats are all over the market.

Chanel Cap Toe Lambskin Sneakers, photo fashionphile.com

This is an authentic pair of CHANEL Lambskin Quilted Women’s CC Stroll Sneakers, size 39 in White. They are crafted of lambskin leather and feature a black toe cap with a black stitched CHANEL at the back and black rubber soles. They are for sale at fashionphile.com for $1390.

Blair Cap Toe Ballerinas, photo talbots.com

The “Blair” cap-toe ballerinas look like the real thing and cost $129. They are for sale at talbots.com.

Charles & Keith Quilted Cap Toe Maryjane’s, photo charleskeithus.com

Other handsome iterations are Charles & Keith’s cap-toe quilted Mary jane flats, priced at $56, and their Joshi Two-Tone Sneakers.

Charles & Keith Joshi two tone sneakers, photo charleskeith.com/us

Despite the bold details, the rest of the design remains minimal, making them versatile enough to style with any outfit. Set on thicker-than-usual outsoles, they offer superb comfort, making them suitable for all-day wear. Priced at $73, they are for sale at charleskeith.com/us

It’s official! Women want to be comfortable this summer, and the Chanel look is always highly desirable regardless of the current trends.

Historic Lyndhurst Mansion, photo courtesy lyndhurst.org

Coincidentally, Chanel is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at the historic Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York. Influencers: 1920s Fashion & The New Woman “highlights the 1920s as the turning point for women’s freedom of expression and a time when they truly are released from the imprisonment of the restrictive undergarments and elaborate gowns”, according to Howard Zar, Executive Director, Lyndhurst and co-curator of the exhibition.

“Chanel’s designs were heavily influenced by British tailoring and sporting clothes, and she is noted as the first to use knitted wools and woven cotton for couture clothing. One of the reasons we wanted to show the Chanel knit wool bathing suit is that you understand how it relates to her knitted cardigans from the 20s.”

— Howard Zar, Executive Director, Lyndhurst and Exhibition Co-Curator

1920’s Chanel knitted jersey swimsuit 1920’s – photo by Bruce M. White

There are no Chanel cardigans in the exhibition, but there is a chic knitted wool bathing suit in black with white stripes. “If I put a big black picture hat on that bathing suit and a long cigarette holder, you would think it was Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” observes Howard.

The exhibition runs from May 25 through September 23, 2024. It examines the impact of three major influencers – Coco Chanel (the global leader in couture), Irene Castle (the American actress, creator of ready-to-wear outfits, and the first star to have a licensing line), and Edna St. Vincent Millay (the IT girl of the bohemian/artistic/intellectual lifestyle) – and demonstrates how these innovators often crossed racial, cultural, and global boundaries to create societal shifts that allowed women to claim more freedom and control of how they lived, dressed and presented themselves in society.

Curated by Denise N. Green, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Fiber Science and Apparel Design at Human-Centered Design at Cornell University; Phyllis Magidson, Curator of Costumes and Textiles at the Museum of the City of New York; and Howard Zar, Executive Director of Lyndhurst, the exhibition features 75 exquisite dresses and accessories that have never previously been on display.

But it goes far beyond just the clothing and jewelry. As Howard emphasizes, the exhibition is not just about a pretty dress or the clothes but the “back story,” the business and social issues, and the idea of self-expression and freedom through the clothes.

Lyndhurst’s Spring Party, which takes place on Thursday, June 6, will celebrate the new exhibition and toast fashion icons of the 1920’s with cocktails in the Courtyard and a buffet dinner in the Carriage House Tent.

The suggested dress code is “Garden Party Attire” (Vintage Dress Optional). Jeffrey Banks, Ellen Carey, Dan Scheffey, Fern Mallis, Charlotte Neuville, and I are among those on the Fashion Council.

To purchase tickets and for more information, Phone 914-631-4481 or email Lyndhurst@savingplaces.org.

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Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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