Givin' 'em the Slip - Look Rich for Very Little
So I was watching Mr. and Mrs. Smith the other day (OK, I was watching Angelina Jolie, but I feel the context is important here), and there's one delicious scene in which Angelina, I mean, Jane, is getting dressed in an insanely large walk-in closet. And she's wearing a slip, or a slip set (I was looking at her face, perv, so I can't remember if it was a set or not - I think it was).
The incongruity was kind o strange, because, you know, it's Angelina, and if she was wearing a full body tattoo and a necklace of bird skulls while cradling homeless infants, I would have been like, "Yeah. Of course." But she was in character, and Jane was supposed to project a zipped-up, boring visage, so a slip set it was. (There's another scene where Angie is wearing a leather bustier and those black stocking with garter belts, but that's another post entirely.)
When watching the movie, I realized how long it's been since I saw anyone wearing a slip set. Maybe when I watched/slept through A Streetcar Named Desire? Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? I can't recall, but slips seem to have gone the way of the giant powder puff and embroidered handkerchiefs - and that's a shame.
That was Then, This is Now
Our mothers and grandmothers used to wear rather restrictive undergarments, and the subsequent feminist revolution encouraged a more natural shape - some women burned bras, others gave up pantyhose altogether, and clothing became softer, more comfortable, and less, well, starchy. Clothing has become much more high-tech and a lot easier to care for. Lycra, in particular, has made clothing stretchy and less wrinkly-prone, Teflon allows us to spill wine on our khakis with no negative consequences, and almost anything can be thrown through the washing machine without damage these days (stay away from acetate).
However, for all the techiness, our outer clothes are not as high-quality as they used to be. If you look at the difference in tailoring between vintage dresses and the ones we buy now at Target for $24.99, you'll see a disparity. Back then, seams were enforced. Dresses and sweaters include heavy falls to prevent bunching. Materials were thicker and of better quality. Everything was lined. This is not to say that you can't find good quality clothing anymore, but for most of us, really good quality clothing is out of our price-range.
The price that we pay for buying our inexpensive clothes made in sweatshops in Asia is that they just aren't that good. They are made rapidly, in bad conditions. Material is cut in huge batches, which is why one pair of size 6 jeans will fit differently from another pair of size 6 jeans with the same brand and style. Sure, skirts might be lined (more often, they are not) or pants might have extra fastenings on them for a smother fit, but more often then not, cheap clothes end up looking cheap, if not right away, then at least after a few cycles in the wash.
Pull Yourself Together
The reason I bring this up is because I work in a business park with a lot of other small businesses. There's one cafe/cafeteria that everyone congregates in, and I often see young women who are wearing clothing that is obviously of inferior quality. I don't mean that these are poor girls who are wearing trashbags - they're simply young women who shop, like I do, at cheap department stores. The difference between well-dressed gals and walking disasters is not that the with-it girls have better clothes, but that they hold themselves well. And part of their secret is good undergarments.
Good undergarments aren't cheap. I've heard a lot of women who have a lot of money suggest that everyone should go to London and have bras custom made for them. When I have a few thousand dollars lying around that I just can't figure out how to spend, I will try this. For now, I'm going to keep my normal undies and cheapy clothes, but invest in underthings that help hold me up, in, and together.
The human body is pretty lumpy, and today's low-slung fashion often means that even svelte gals will eventually suffer from Muffin Top Syndrome. And while there's not a lot that can prevent spillage from hipster jeans (besides buying the right size), the appearance of other clothes, such as Lycra skirts, stretchy flared work pants, and sweater dresses are improved immensely through the application of good undergarments.
So, I'm starting a campaign to bring back the slip. Like our clothes, the slip (and the body shaper, and everything else) has become more techy, more stretchy, more comfy, and easier to tolerate. Some slips are pricey, others are cheap. This is one of the few items of clothing that I believe should be invested in - so buy the better stuff, and they will last a long time and make everything else look better.
When purchasing your first dressy undergarments, like other lingerie, it can be helpful to get fitted for one by a professional. If you don't live in an area with a good department store that can tell you what size will work best with your body and wardrobe, you can find tons of information online.
Half-slip: The classic under-skirt slip. Traditional versions start at the waist or hips, and end somewhere around the knee. I don't think that a knee-length slip is worth it - almost no business skirts reach the knee these days. A 14-17-inch slip will really do the trick if you want to maintain a professional image. Having a slip peeking out the bottom of your skirt or dress is kind of uncouth. I'm shocked at how many truly useless, bunchy, cheap-ass slips are on the market. Avoid anything that is made of really cheap material, which can be prone to static.
Full slip: I love wearing dresses, so a full slip is often a very important part of my everyday wear. I like the ones by Spanx, but they are a tad pricey. There are many cheaper options that do the job just as well. You can even buy vintage slips, should you like that look.
Body shapers: Spanx makes an incredible line of undergarments that will gently squish and squeeze you into a largely unlumpy state. I've used their body shapers for every wedding I've attended in the past six years. I don't like Spanx's bras, which they push on you at Nordstrom, because they offer zero support for anything more than a size-A cup. But smaller gals may appreciate how comfy they are. Target has their own line of imitation Spanx, called Assets (har!)
Camisoles: Although pretty much every tank top sold these days is a modified cami, these can actually be worn under your clothing as well. Camis are a great way to prevent anyone from realizing that it's chilly in the conference room, if you catch my drift. Camis can range from very plain to super-sexy. But they should never bunch up.
As a fan of Spanx, I have been sorely disappointed with how quickly the material disintegrates after I throw them through the wash. Saleswomen at department stores will often try to sell you special detergents for your undies. You can buy them, or just buy some Woolite and use that. Although it's difficult to do, ALWAYS wash your expensive undergarments either by hand, or in a zippered mesh net in cold water. Do not throw any of these items through the dryer. Hang them up to dry.
Fun & Glamour
Aside from looking better with little effort, the great thing about slips and camis is that they can be kind of fun to wear. I like getting dressed in the morning, and prancing around in my half-slip, feeling all feminine and pretty while I select my outfit for the day. It doesn't matter that my dogs don't appreciate the movie-star classiness of my morning routine as I sit at my vanity and practice raising my eyebrows like Vivian Leigh while spritzing with my favorite perfume. What matters is that I enjoy it, and the difference shows in my countenance all day long.