Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Stylish L.L. Bean? It's True!

Around mid-August, the first of the fall-winter catalogs arrive in my mailbox. On the cover was a young couple. The woman was fashionably dressed: skinny jeans tucked into high leather boots and a cropped green leather jacket. The man wasn’t as hip-looking (not-so-trendy baggy jeans, a solid color shirt and a corduroy jacket), but he did have a bit of facial fuzz (though not a “hot” beard). In the background were brick storefronts and a cobblestone street. Much to my astonishment, the name “L.L. Bean” was scrolled across the cover with the word “signature” beneath. This wasn’t the LL Bean catalog I’ve been receiving for 20-odd years! It's a new Bean Signature collection—clothing that an over 50 shopper like myself might order.

Every year, L.L. Bean bombards me with catalogs (especially pre-Christmas editions). I usually place several orders, buying Christmas gifts for my parents and siblings. I have also bought polar fleece jackets, luggage, parkas and rain slickers for myself over the years. I do not, however, purchase any of the other women’s clothing from the Maine clothier. Whenever I flip through the women’s section, visions of snowflake-motif and Fair Isle sweaters, shearling slippers and flannel nightgowns make me want to break into “Climb Every Mountain” or some other “The Sound of Music" tune. In my mind, Bean's women clothing has always been best described as alpine homey. Needless to say, I was amazed to find that LL Bean had created a new “Signature” collection, featuring leather jackets and gabardine trench coats. Did the Bean designers (why does that sound like an oxymoron?) realize that classic styling was going to be a trend this season and figure, “Hey, that’s not a huge leap—why don’t we try to be stylish this year?”

I suspect the Bean marketing team didn’t have 50-year-old women in mind when they were planning the collection. However, I think some of the pieces are perfect for the over 50 dresser. I love mixing classics with something trendy—a jacket or accessory, for instance. And you can find both—classic and trendy—in the Signature collection.

The catalog—as well as the website—has put together “Key Looks” for the season. Click on any of the words in blue to go directly to online description and photo for the garments. For the over 50 women, I love the blazer, shell, dangly necklace, jeans and flats. The dark blazer and long necklace are slimming. I also like the key look that combines a leather jacket, straight skirt, and ankle boots. It’s a simple look that is made a tad edgy with the leather jacket and ankle boots. I’m not sure how many more “edgy” years I’ve got, so I’m going to take advantage of them now. And lastly, check out the key look that includes the wool trench and corduroy slacks. This classic look is always stylish. Personally, I gave all my turtlenecks to charity during menopause and haven’t looked back. But if you’re like Diane Keaton in “Something’s Got to Give,” you might want to complete this outfit with a bright-colored turtleneck.

I’d barely recovered from the shock of the Bean Signature collection when another catalog appeared in my mailbox around Labor Day. At first glance, I assumed this second catalog was from “Urban Outfitters,” delivered for one of my sons. Even the catalog’s paper felt like a UO catalog. The models—especially the guy with the scruffy face, lab safety-styled glasses, plaid shirt and utility jacket—looked tres UO. However, the catalog was Lands’ End Canvas 1963. Say what? Apparently, great minds think alike, because Lands’ End has created a nostalgic, return-to-classics catalog just like Bean’s. And once again, many of the garments and accessories would look smashing on women over 50.

Some of my favorite “Canvas 1963” pieces are the Women’s Cardigan Sweater Jacket, the Women’s Cashmere V-neck Sweater, which comes in 10 different colors, and the Women’s Motorcross Jacket.

The Lands End Canvas site also has quite a few things on sale. One item that caught my eye: The Tiered Ruffle Tee for $11.99. I wear T-shirts year round. In winter they’re my bottom layer, if I’m not in a camisole or tank top. I also love the Women’s Button-Front Knit Shirt for $13.99. This long-sleeve shirt with a collar is made of cozy T-shirt fabric. In wintertime, I love having a few soft, light long-sleeve shirts to wear over a camisole or tank for a casual dinner out.