Real Simple readers share the looks they love, the ones that give them confidence, comfort, and joy.
A crisp white shirt, paired with dark jeans and Tory Burch flats. I prefer shirts by Façonnable, Brooks Brothers, and Banana Republic because of their high quality, but I don’t think I have ever met a white shirt I didn’t like.
I look forward to Wednesdays and Thursdays, when I put on my painting clothes (various combinations of black stretch pants, sneakers, and old T-shirts) and go to an art studio to practice my craft. I like to think that each swipe of oil paint on my outfit is a merit badge for dedicating myself to something I love.
Randy E. Kraft
New Hyde Park, New York
My soft cotton robe. I love getting out of the shower and wrapping it around myself. There’s just something about the scent of cotton mixed with that freshly showered aroma that makes me feel at ease.
Cranford, New Jersey
Bermuda shorts, a sleeveless turquoise button-down shirt, and Mephisto sandals. I’ll wear this on days when I have to achieve the impossible: get two kids to two different schools, teach preschool, volunteer on a political campaign, and attend graduate-school classes. Now, that’s what I call a power suit.
My navy toggle coat, fleece-lined snow boots, and a scarf from my sister that has a long, brown wiener dog on it stretched from end to end. The scarf is actually meant for kids, but she saw it and knew I would love it, since I am obsessed with the breed. I wore (and rewore) this outfit during a dead-of-winter trip to New York City. It kept me warm and comfortable while sightseeing.
Dark bootcut jeans and a black crew-neck T-shirt tied with a leather obi belt. This belt (I’ve accumulated four different colors over the years) adds sophistication to any outfit.
Santa Barbara, California
My bright floral off-the-shoulder top that I put on with jeans, heels, and hoop earrings. I wear the outfit, with my hair slicked back, on dates with my husband. It makes me feel sexy and fearless. Oddly enough, my wedding planner, who was also a designer at the time, gave it to me as a gift. There is a lot to be said for color and drama.
Karen Taylor Bass
Valley Stream, New York
Let me put on a pair of Karen Neuberger Capri or shorty pajamas (my favorites are purple and green floral sets) and I feel great. I wear them to do just about anything, except cleaning.
Brenda Tillery Huffman
My wedding gown, made by Priscilla of Boston—from the first time I wore it in 1975 and nearly every June 28 since then, when I try it on to remind myself of my wedding day. I feel pretty good that I can still get into it after all these years—well, mostly. Sometimes the zipper doesn’t quite make it to the top. I suppose many brides preserve their dresses in special, sealed boxes, but I’m glad I still have access to mine.
Cameron Park, California
A purple Empire-waist sundress from the Gap. Purple is my favorite color, and the dress is incredibly versatile. I class it up with a cardigan when I have dinner out with my husband or throw it on with a hoodie when I am barbecuing with friends. But the best thing about this dress is the size. I recently lost 40 pounds when I spent three months teaching English in Peru, and it’s the first thing I’ve bought in 10 years that wasn’t considered a plus size.
I recently had to attend a gala and silent auction. On the day of the event, I scrambled to T. J. Maxx in search of something appropriate. After trying on no less than eight dresses, I found the one. It was a sleeveless dress with a ruffled collar in a rich mustard yellow. It took attention away from my protruding midsection and toward my toned shoulders. Who knew deltoids could be so sexy?
I completely agree with the saying “The shoes make the outfit.” I usually pair a cocktail dress with black Manolo Blahnik slingback pumps that I received from my husband as a wedding gift. My husband is American and I am Argentinean, and he traveled to Buenos Aires to marry me and brought the shoes with him. I am lucky to be with my soul mate (no pun intended).
I have a turquoise wrap dress from Express that I wore for my college graduation in 1999. In May 2009, a decade later, I put it on twice in the same week—for my graduation from business school and my wedding-rehearsal dinner. Every time I wear this wonderful dress, I stand up straighter and smile more. It’s my milestone dress, and it makes me proud of all that I am and all that I’ve done.
Kaelyn South Phillips
My late grandmother’s crimson red Valentino gown. She never got around to wearing it but kept the dress for its beauty. (The tags were still attached when it was passed down to me.) Last year I had it altered and wore it to a black-tie event. Every time I put it on, it reminds me of her elegance. I only wish she had been able to see me in it.
New York, New York
Nothing beats a crisp white or blue oxford shirt with khakis. It’s a timeless style, something that Katharine Hepburn could have worn. It’s funny, because my husband favors a similar look. We once showed up at an event wearing the same button-down and Dockers. It was priceless.
Yuba City, California
My favorite fashion find is a gray multitiered skirt that cost me just $20 at Old Navy—talk about a bargain. I love to wear it with a pretty T-shirt, a scarf, and Mary Janes. When my husband and I went to Paris, I put this outfit on and felt like I floated down the Champs-Élysées.
Warwick, Rhode Island
When I put on my gardening clothes (cutoff shorts, an
old T-shirt, clogs, gloves, and a floppy hat), I know I’m going to get dirty. My knees will probably have permanent grass indentations. I might even get stung by a bee. But my yard will look and smell wonderful as a result.
Gwen Galvan Rudie
Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I worked for the Sacramento Army Corps of Engineers. On days I needed to look especially put-together and professional, I opted for a smart navy skirt suit and heels. It fit so well and accentuated my curves without being too showy.
I practically live in my workout clothes: Under Armour black pants paired with sleeveless T-shirts in a variety of bright colors. Of course, I exercise in this combo, but I also wear it to do yard work and housework. Somehow, even though I’ve worn these pants to death in the last three years, they still retain their color and fit.
Starting in October 2008, I lived and worked in Hyderabad, India, for a year. At the end of the stint, my company threw a party, and I needed something to wear. In a pinch, I found a tailor who designed and sewed a stunning dress: a custom-made bright red silk evening gown with artfully placed pearls on the bodice and trim. The thought and care that went into the construction of this unique gown have always made me cherish it.
American Eagle Favorite Boyfriend jeans paired with two tank tops. I like to double up, wearing an electric color over a pastel one. The jeans fit loosely but never look frumpy. I love that they’re lightly washed and a little destroyed, which makes them ideal for errands or lounging.
My beaded silver silk Jessica McClintock ball gown, which I first wore to President Clinton’s second inaugural ball, back in January 1997. I’ve always loved how it stands out in a sea of black dresses. While I was sad to see it go, this year I donated it to a charity called Becca’s Closet (beccascloset.org) that supplies prom dresses to girls who cannot afford to buy their own. I get satisfaction knowing I paid it forward.
Miami Beach, Florida
After my husband playfully teased me about wearing mom jeans, I knew it was time to go shopping. However, just about every pair I tried on wouldn’t fit over my bottom or left a six-inch gap at the waist. Finally, I found a brand of skinny jeans called PZI Jeans that I wear with Michael Kors stilettos.* The jeans have enough material to cover my rear but taper at the waist, so I don’t have to wear a belt. They make me feel more youthful and confident.
A black skirt and a white blouse with a sweetheart neckline. The blouse was a gift from my husband at the start of our courtship. We lived in different cities but were in New Orleans for the same conference. On a break, we walked through town and window-shopped. I mentioned that I loved this blouse but didn’t think twice about it. When I got home, I opened the door to find a package. It was the blouse! He had it sent to me. I still think of that wonderful moment when I wear it.
When I wear my white calf-length A-line dress with eyelet trim, I look as if I just stepped out of a magazine from the 50s. I add peep-toes, a robin’s-egg blue cardigan, and my mother’s strand of pearls to complete the outfit.