Replacing Belle’s Basic Spring Pieces


From the Left, Ray-Ban Foldable Aviators ($195) // Vince Cotton Tee ($60) //Harmonee Flat ($30) //Coach Trench Coat ($498) // Reiss Pencil Skirt ($160) // Reiss Stripe Tee ($75) // Hanky Panky Low-Rise Thongs ($11) // Trish McEvoy Lip Gloss ($25)

It’s easy to forget that refreshing your basic pieces is just as important to having a good wardrobe as buying new pieces.  Recently, I’ve noticed that a few of my essential items need to be replaced, upgraded or refreshed.  Here are some oldies, but goodies that I’m buying this season.

Aviators. I lost my beloved Ray Bans, so I’m in the market for a replacement.  I’m thinking about these foldable aviators (so utilitarian), but I may save the $50 and choose a traditional pair.

Plain White Tee.  This weekend, I realized that all of my t-shirts look like they’ve been to war.  I love the Vince Little Boy tee featured above, but this Splendid U-neck T-shirt ($48) is a bit more flattering.  If you need something cheaper, bypass J.CREW and Banana Republic, and buy your basics at Gap.

Commuting Flats. I need a pair of kick-around flats for running errands and walking home.  I’ve had good luck with the Madden flats if I add an insole for cushioning, and you can’t beat the price on this basic pair.  I also like these basic Madden Kingg flats for $60.

Trenchcoats.  I need a new trench since I lost my old Banana Republic one.  BR was sold out in my size, so I decided to splurge on Burberry, until I remembered that I’m not a millionaire.  Thus, I split the baby and invested in a Coach trench.  It arrives tonight, I pray it’s dreamy.

Black Pencil Skirt.  I recently purchased a new J.CREW Super 120s pencil skirt to replace one that was wearing out.  And let me tell you, I could.not.have.been.more.disappointed.  J.Crew a) vanity-sized the hell out of the skirt, b) put in a cheaper lining material and c) shrunk the 2″ band down to a 1″ band.

So I am upgrading my pencil skirt to this one from Reiss.  I am deeply frustrated with the race-to-the-bottom that J.CREW is engaged in, so I’m taking my business elsewhere.  If you need something cheaper, I think the Halogen skirts ($69) are probably nicer than J.CREW at this point.

Striped Tee. Again, I was horrified by how poorly the Saint James tee that I bought last year wore.  It looks five years old, after barely 20 wears.  So I’m seeking a replacement at Reiss.  I also like Velvet tees, and Splendid tees.

Thongs. It’s always a good idea to refresh your undergarment supply, and when you can pick up Hanky Pankys (usually priced at $23) for $11, now is the time.

Lip Gloss.  I’m out of lip gloss, and this Trish McEvoy is my favorite.  It looks hot pink in the tube, but goes on with a punchy pink shade that looks good on everyone.  The only drugstore shade that comes close to matching this perfection is this one from NYX.



  1. Virginia says:

    I just ordered two Super 120 skirt suits and was happy with them…until I read this and found out that they used to be better! (The waistbands on mine are actually 1 1/2 inches, not sure if they have shrunk them even more?)

    April 10, 2013/Reply
  2. Kara says:

    I share your disappointment with J Crew. It’s such a shame because I really WANT to like them. At least the pieces I own from a few years back are still holding up well.

    I’m surprised about the Saint James tee though, I thought they had a different owner than J Crew, who really just sells them through their shop.

    April 10, 2013/Reply
  3. K says:

    I own the Halogen skirt in black, and will probably be buying it in other colors. It’s a decent weight, lined, and seems to be holding up well to very regular wear. The only thing I don’t like about it is that there’s no waistband, but that’s not “make or break” for me.

    April 10, 2013/Reply
  4. Stephanie says:

    I am so mad about the J.Crew skirts too! Very disappointed in the new one. Do you have any advice for a full suit skirt/jacket comparable to what J.Crew used to be?

    April 10, 2013/Reply
    • Leslie says:

      I have been very happy with Banana Republic for the last year or two… I own the one below, also they used to have a suit skirt with a double vent that I really loved and I’m kicking myself for not picking up in more colors

      April 11, 2013/Reply
      • Stephanie says:

        Good to know! I used to do Banana suits in law school (a few years ago:) before switching over to J.Crew – will definitely try Banana again now.

        April 11, 2013/Reply
  5. Sarah says:

    I’m surprised by what you said about your Saint James striped tee. I thought they were supposed to be one of the go-to brands for well-made striped shirts. :/

    April 10, 2013/Reply
  6. RR says:

    Can you let us know about the Coach trench coat? I ordered the Madewell one on ShopBop and am not in love. It unfortunately will go back due to the fact that despite the belt, the shape is so domed that it could also work for maternity wear.

    April 10, 2013/Reply
  7. m says:

    I a devoted fan of Banana Republic’s lightweight suiting line. The quality is outstanding for the price point, and it’s a downright bargain if you buy them on sale. The pieces are classic, made of wool and fully lined. (Yes, lined — ahem, looking at you JCrew). All pieces come in petite, tall and regular.

    I own two suits (jacket, pants, skirt). The line is also my go-to for buying work trousers and pencil skirts as separates.

    April 10, 2013/Reply
  8. Sarah says:

    I recently purchased ray bans that allow you to switch out the lenses. When you buy the frames they come with black lenses for around $250, then you can buy a variety of other frame colors for $40 each. They have lots of colors to choose from, like rose and olive green. I got brown gradient. It’s nice to have the option of buying lenses in other colors at a lower price point to easily change the look, rather than shelling out $200+ dollars for multiple pairs.

    April 10, 2013/Reply
  9. Allison says:

    Yes please let us know about the Coach trench, I thought about buying one myself but then I just caved and bought a cheaper one from Zara to get me through this spring/summer. I’ll hopefully buy an investment one for fall 2013 or spring 2014 and for me, even the Coach one would be an investment piece. I wish someone would make a nice Burberry dupe–the button placement, very close together on the Burberry versions, is so slimming. That, and the fact that they’re not usually A-line cut, they are more body-conscious which I appreciate because I already have a rear end, I don’t need the A-line shape.

    Also, I feel like you must have posted a JCrew rant previous to this post and I missed it. Where is it?

    April 10, 2013/Reply
    • RR says:

      I just purchased the Coach long trench and think it is pretty super. The material is quite heavy and nice. I’m pear-shaped (size 2/4 top and 27 bottom) and bought the XS (5 ft 4 and 123 lbs). The S was just too big in the shoulders. $500 is a lot but I think this is a classic I’ll have for a long time.

      April 13, 2013/Reply
  10. SLG says:

    I’ve been somewhat disappointed in J.Crew as well. Sweaters I bought from them are pilling and their vanity sizing is out of control.

    But I haven’t found anyone else who sells work-appropriate basics in such a huge range of colors. I’m back to the workforce after a longer-than-I-intended spell of unemployment, so high-end designers are out of my budget. Would love to hear if y’all have suggestions!

    April 10, 2013/Reply
  11. RR says:

    I second BR’s suiting line. I just bought the Martin pants and they are perfect! Lined and lightweight and even in petite length. Now I just need to try the jacket.

    April 10, 2013/Reply
    • Leslie says:

      I love their suiting! As I mentioned in the post above, I’ve been buying for a few years. The jackets have held up very well.

      April 11, 2013/Reply
  12. Kit says:

    I am so disappointed to hear about the J Crew skirt. I need suits and separates in tall sizes and J Crew has been the go-to for basics, but I don’t want to pay those prices if quality is falling. What a let down.

    April 10, 2013/Reply
    • Kit says:

      As an addendum, by some strange coincidence, a backordered J Crew Super 120s pencil skirt came in the mail today. I tried it on with some trepidation after reading Belle’s post today, and discovered to my disgust that it is about 2 inches wider at the hips than any of my other J Crew pencil skirts in the same size. Very frustrating. I like being able to order and count on the item being the right size, but I guess this one is going back.

      April 10, 2013/Reply
  13. Lissie says:

    I still have good luck with J Crew, but they are a lot more hit and miss than they used to be. Even though the superfine cotton and double serge wool skirts have declined in quality over the last few years, they are still my go to skirts.

    I have the short version of the Coach trench, and love it. I bought both the navy and khaki last September and have worn them often and they are holding up nicely.

    I haven’t yet found a good striped tee and would love to some suggestions.

    April 10, 2013/Reply
  14. Joie says:

    If you like Reiss, have you checked out Hobbs?
    I’ve never ordered from overseas before but this site is full of lust-worthy, quality pieces.

    April 10, 2013/Reply
  15. Maharani says:

    Not really surprised at the lowering of quality. In 2009 I bought an expensive black wool Lafayette 148 pant suit. THe pants are not lined so I rarely wear them. I finally took them to the tailor to get a lining put in. Hopefully I will get more wear out of them as otherwise they are nice pants. It is shocking when such expensive items are so badly made-I would rather pay more for a properly constructed garment and shop less. In fact I almost never shop and am moving towards custom clothing. Why waste money on junk?

    April 10, 2013/Reply
  16. Lindsay says:

    I’ve had a hell of a time trying to find a basic black v-neck t-shirt that isn’t see-through. I have an old one that’s too big, and have looked my standbys – Gap, J. Crew, Express, other random stores. I even tried men’s v-necks to see if those would work (nope). Any suggestions on basic, opaque v-necks? Since I’m going to get a lot of use out of it, I’m willing to pay more for a quality piece.

    April 10, 2013/Reply
  17. Es says:

    Love the basics you picked. Regarding the striped shirt, I have had great luck with both Lands End and Ll bean, of all places.
    Just a question with the J Crew skirt though, when you refer to the vanity sizing issue, do you mean you ordered the skirt in your regular size and it was too large, or did it just fit oddly? I just find their sizing to be inconsistent, overall. I am also slightly pear/ hourglass shaped and have much better luck with Banana Republic skirts, even though I do go up a size or two there.

    April 11, 2013/Reply
  18. Sofie says:

    I recently made my first purchase from J Crew (two pencil skirts in cobalt and turquoise), and was completely taken aback by the sizing – glad to hear it wasn’t just me. The skirts were absolutely HUGE and did not comport with the sizing guidelines on the J Crew website, and I am 100% sure I am not a size zero anymore, so there is no way I was going to size down. What a bummer!

    April 11, 2013/Reply
  19. KC says:

    Any suggestions for a striped t-shirt under $40? I have been looking for a while, but I know I won’t wear it often enough to justify $75.

    April 11, 2013/Reply
  20. SQC says:

    So glad to hear you complain about J Crew on here. I bought a perfect navy wool blazer from them in 2010. In 2011 I lost the blazer and immediately replaced it with the exact same model. It was much thinner wool for the same price. The buttons fall off their blouses, the threading comes out after only one wear, even the Super 120 line pills. Terrible.

    April 11, 2013/Reply
  21. MC says:

    Definitely agree that J. Crew used to be a) cheaper and b) better quality! Just had this conversation with some of my grad school classmates! What happened?! I recently bought a T-shirt there and it ripped after two wears!

    April 11, 2013/Reply