Monday, March 22, 2010

What Makes An "Extraordinary" Piece Of Clothing Extraordinary? It's Personal.

Do you ever see a piece of clothing and know, on the spot, that you want it badly? And if so, do you buy or pass it by? And either way, how do you feel afterwards?

I was in San Francisco on Saturday, walking down Sutter Street, when I spied a store full of shirts. Different shirts. Unique shirts. Possibly extraordinary shirts.

It was a standalone shop selling NaraCamicie, apparently an Italian shirt line. I'd tell you how they position themselves, but all I can decipher from the Italian website and Facebook page is that they have been around since 1984 and are now entering the USA to, um, sell shirts. Oh, and they offer plus sizes too.

Here is what drew me in off the sidewalk. I tried it on. I pranced around the store in a happy fog of daydreams. Sold. Extraordinary.

"She's cracked," you may be saying. "How is that shirt extraordinary?" Let me explain.
  • Fits like nobody's business
  • A bit different from everything else hanging on retail racks at the moment
  • Good use case and cost per wear
  • Proven alignment with personal taste
  • Evokes certain dreams, surfaces certain inspirations
What am I talking about? First, it fits perfectly, even, well, flatteringly, if that's a word. With flatteration. Which is clearly not a word. Made of microfiber in the body, and woven cotton for the trim, it's stretchy in the right way, but still fairly dignified and structured. You can see in the photo above, on the mannequin, these are tailored shirts, good for those of us with broad shoulders and the faded ruins of a narrow waist. There's even a louche sort of puckering at the dart adding a, "Non conosco che cosa." That's my mangled Babelfish version of Italian for, "Je ne sais quoi." Why not mangle EVERY language while we're at it?

Second, the pattern is more sophisticated and unusual than might be visible at a distance. See?

Third, I know exactly how I will wear it. To dinner, in San Francisco, with dark jeans, and flats. $145. For that much style - in my eyes - a good deal.

Fourth, this set of colors really does bring me comfort. Voila la proof. (Mangling every language, non?) Remember this sweater? Loved in part because these particular shades of blue make me feel beautiful. Whether it's true or not, who cares? Extraordinary is personal.

My favorite sweater ever

Finally, the shirt traces its heritage directly to my secret identity. My, "In another life I am" dreams. The muddy orange to my navy blue.

Do you remember the Versace campaign below?

In my unacknowledged dreams I want to be a trophy wife from a different culture. I want to lay down the tools of reason, wear thick black eyeliner, big hair and big rings, match everything to the point of far too much. I want a wicked, weary glamour. That little blue patterned shirt is my ticket. It's the peach I dream of eating.

Inspiration is personal. That campaign ran in 2000. I've waited a full decade to dress like those women in yellow. Except I look terrible in yellow, so, you know.

Purchase made, we left the store. Wandered up through the Chinatown gate. The streets were full of tourists, and inhabitants speaking mostly Cantonese. Some Mandarin. We passed produce stores, ong choy, dried mushrooms, purple eggplants in bins. Just wait, in another decade I'll find some way to refer my clothing to these oranges. It's those little bits of stored vision that resurface. Fruit. Dreams and inspiration. I regret what I don't do far more than what I have done.

Me, except Versace via Style Search & Ryan Kennedy

*Thank you to Deja Pseu at Une Femme D'Un Certain Age, for her great post on the "extraordinary" piece of clothing.
**Yes, I know, the peach is a gratutious, over-used, metaphor. An equal opportunity language mangler.

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Blogger materfamilias said...

Fabulous! (the shirt AND the writing!) -- and how wonderfully congruent it is with your favourite sweater ever.

March 24, 2010 at 8:07 AM  
Blogger Belle de Ville said...

Ha...a trophy wife from another culture...imagining you strolling through a piazza in Capri dressed in Valentino saying to a darkly handsome man in the Gianfranco Giannini mold "No Cara, for me it is the Bvlgari or the Buccellati, nothing else will do".

March 24, 2010 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger Miss Muddy Paws said...

I love your writing style, and that shirt speaks for itself! It truly is extraordinary! I can still remember, and regret, passing on a few extraordinary pieces I've encountered.

March 24, 2010 at 8:14 AM  
Blogger Paula said...


the shirts remind me of the big big bonus consumers have in the US: extra-long sleeves! My father used to buy piles of shirts whenever he visited the US, returning very proud with those long sleeves. In EU all sleeves tend to be too short. Especially the special shirts' ones.

Maybe you will post a pic one day where we can see you (of course without full face visible) and your shirt.

greetings, Paula with a BIG ring today. :-)

March 24, 2010 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger lauren said...

it is a marvelous shirt, and - somehow - it reminds me of india. of you in india (and you know how i feel about those stories).

March 24, 2010 at 8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have found when I purchase something for my aspirational life, it never rings true and has a hard time finding it's way out of my closet. Then I revert back to my same safe wardrobe. And that, in it's own way, is dissatisfying too. Still looking for a way to mix the two. Could these shirts be the answer? Stay tuned.


March 24, 2010 at 8:43 AM  
Blogger hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I see that you too have been wooed by prints charming!
The texture is superb, soft looking yet structured and the collar looks crisp...I can see the collar flipped up and pearls roped around the neck...may we have a photo of you wearing this chic shirt, please.
BTW did you ever get that sweater made into a pillow or repaired as you were planning?

March 24, 2010 at 8:51 AM  
Blogger DocP said...

When I first saw the picture of the new shirt, I immediately remembered your cashmere sweater. Love the shade of blue.

March 24, 2010 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Mouse said...

That shirt is the long-lost twin of your fave sweater. Of course it's perfect.

This confirms He-Mouse's theory that what we really want to buy is lots of versions of basically the same fab garments.

March 24, 2010 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Deja Pseu said...

That really is a fabulous shirt. If I had seen it before this post, I would have thought of you.

And you've written about it in such a beautiful, evocative way. Poetic, even. Bravo! You're inspiring me to explore the wardrobe for my fantasy life a bit more.

March 24, 2010 at 9:19 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

Thanks guys! And you're making me think that maybe fashion is about finding the working nexus of our fantasy life and our actual life. Kinda like writing. I thought that I was doing the shirt a disservice by not putting myself into it, but that's a step that I may have to contemplate for a while before attempting.

March 24, 2010 at 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So fun! Versace is the last brand I would emulate. I needed Belle de Ville to understand. Still not my cuppa. I guess I am artsy cousin after all. Would love to see a picture of you wearing the shirt. Enjoying your blog immensely.

March 24, 2010 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Main Line Sportsman said...

Your prose is well crafted...
As is the shirt I you look smashing in it.

March 24, 2010 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Class factotum said...

I have sometimes regretted purchases made, but not as much as purchases not made.

March 24, 2010 at 10:10 AM  
Blogger Vix said...

Ha, I was thinking, "that looks a lot like..." and then there it was, the sweater sibling. [Sweater Aunt?] You'll love it til the next-generation version arrives in your life.

As for:

>Do you ever see a piece of clothing and know, on the spot, that you want it badly?

Yes. If the fit's good, sometimes budget cooperates (or sometimes the item waits for me). Lately it's fabric that I see, and the plus side of that is I can hold onto the fabric til I can budget for it to be made up into something wonderful.

I never have regrets for buying something extraordinary--just regrets when I'm not able to make the stars align!

March 24, 2010 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger Patsy said...

oh yes! I did the very same thing at a store I love in south florida, a week ago today! I normally need to stalk any triple digit price item for a while to make sure I rrreealllyy can't live without it, but this shirt screamed, "patsy, buy me NOW and you will never regret it". it was kinda embarrassing.....

March 24, 2010 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Audi said...

Yes, I can easily see how this shirt has "Proven alignment with personal taste." I love that feeling of finding something so thoroughly me that I know instantly I should buy it.

March 24, 2010 at 11:34 AM  
Blogger Mardel said...

"proven alignment with personal taste". I can see that. Beautiful shirt. Beautiful post, evocatively written. You capture that whole spectrum of feelings where dreams intersect with reality. Perfect

March 24, 2010 at 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Gourmetmom said...

Great shirt. It has a fun, 70s feel. Post of photo of yourself wearing it.

I clicked the NaraCamicie website and wow! Lots of over the top Italian fashions and very emotive models. It looks like you found the only wearable shirt in their collection.

March 24, 2010 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Duchesse said...

Your gleeful discovery is heartening. They had a shop in my city for awhile, I think one recession or another shut it. When you find your extraordinary piece, you just buy it and rejoice. (In a similar manner I am posting soon on what makes you break the bank- this is a perfect example!)

March 24, 2010 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Someone said...

Mangler på ti corazon's content...

Shades of the 70s, oh my. Versace quoted it almost perfectly, just need more width on those lapels and you seriously couldn't have told the diff.

And there -was- some seriously great design in the 70s.

I have a black 1970s (actual vintage) shirt with an allover Asiany print of little white lilypads and lotuses, and it's so. Me. Also fits like crazy. Maybe we all have some dream self that can be expressed precisely with some amazing 70s chemise?


March 24, 2010 at 2:29 PM  
Blogger Princess Freckles said...

I loved that Versace campaign! I agree that in another life I'd like to live in that ad! LOL!

Great shirt! its such a wonderful feeling to find something like that that you LOVE, isn't it?

March 24, 2010 at 2:47 PM  
Blogger Semi Expat said...

So glad that you and that wonderful shirt are united! I am sure you will be together for a long, long time. What a great post, LPC....

March 24, 2010 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger Sydney Shop Girl said...

Great shirt, LPC!! I really enjoyed reading the whole post too.

Paula - I agree on the long sleeves issue. Mr SSG has to order his shirts from overseas because of his weird neck circumference and arm length ratio. It actually works out cheaper than if he were to try and track the shirts down in Australia.

SSG xxx

March 24, 2010 at 3:36 PM  
Blogger Maureen@IslandRoar said...

"I regret what I don't do far more than what I have done."
Words to live by.
Love the shirt. I've gotten to the point where I seldom pass up anything I think I have the potential to love.
You wrote this in such a fun way. I want to go shopping with you!

March 24, 2010 at 3:41 PM  
Blogger Preppy 101 said...

Please let's go to lunch someday. I know we would have fun. :-)

This is one of my favorite posts ever. You can speak to all of your readers on some level! Always love to find that one "extraordinary" item! xoxo

March 24, 2010 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger LPC said...

Glad to know that others think the shirt is me:). Maureen, shopping is on! Preppy 101, lunch any time, would be so fun. But I'm going to need to see wedding photos..:)Gourmetmom - the collection is more sedate in store than online.

March 24, 2010 at 5:26 PM  
Blogger Miss Cavendish said...

A lovely find for you!

March 24, 2010 at 5:26 PM  
Anonymous julia::ordinarysaturdays said...

Great shirt. It's very much like that sweater, you seem to have your style pretty well figured out.

March 24, 2010 at 6:15 PM  
Blogger Faux Fuchsia said...

That was my favourite Versace campaign ever, because of the hair and makeup and 70s luxe look. Can you imagine the level of back combing and spray?? Like your new shirt. I don't own or wear any collared shirts, but I do own a Chloe sheer blouse with a collar and bow thing.

March 24, 2010 at 6:20 PM  
Blogger Faux Fuchsia said...

And another thing. I wear lots of black eyeliner, big hair, big rings and I match EVERYTHING. You should do it too. These are tough economic times and the world is chock full of ugliness- Glamour is so uplifting and comforting. Go and throw some giant cocktail rings on NOW.

March 24, 2010 at 6:22 PM  
Blogger Elise said...

Great post LPC! And I agree with your statement that "fashion is about finding the working nexus of our fantasy life and our actual life".

March 24, 2010 at 7:07 PM  
Blogger Preppy 101 said...

Tagged you darlin'! xoxo

March 24, 2010 at 7:08 PM  
Blogger Lipstick said...

So glad that you showed the close-up of the really is a great shirt.

Love the Versace pic and the fantasy too. I share that fantasy (except mine always takes place in 1976 and is Studio54ish and I look like Faith Hill in that video...hmmm, "Like we've never loved at all" or something such. I'm sure it's mixed in with all the other country and western music on your iPod).

March 24, 2010 at 8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So when you wore the new find (love the detail shot) with jeans, was it with your Seven Gingers? Since you mentioned those a few columns back, I've dragged mine out of the back of my closet and LOVE them. I went through a brief skinny-jean phase last year, but that uncomfortable time ended after a month or two. The Gingers fit far better than any other jeans I've ever worn.

March 25, 2010 at 7:11 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

Julia, or else my style figured me out. Sometimes we don't know who's in charge:). Elise, thank you. Lipstick, Faith Hill + Studio 54? What a combo. Anon, yes, my new dark Seven Gingers:). And what is it about their fit:) I agree with you.

March 25, 2010 at 7:14 AM  
Anonymous Jan said...

A properly tailored blouse is a godsend for us short, curvaceous Sturdy Gals. I'm SO going to spend some time on their website now.

March 25, 2010 at 7:45 AM  
Blogger metscan said...

LPC: The blouse is indeed something I´d expect that´s to your liking. The color-sweet! A lovely post, thank you!

March 25, 2010 at 8:15 AM  
Blogger Carmie, the Single Nester said...

I love that shirt! Happy Days wearing it!

March 25, 2010 at 1:28 PM  
Blogger L'age moyen said...

I so agree with the notion that a must have is somehow reminiscent of a past beloved piece. I have to stop myself from buying variations on a theme I love (blue and brown for example)and which I already have in droves. I actually could use a handler. I loved your find, too. Fabulous on a blond!

March 25, 2010 at 2:21 PM  
Blogger thepreppyprincess said...

Once again, you need to issue a pocketbook warning when you introduce us to these divine new brands! Honestly, the Consort is going to have a stroke! (Heh-heh-heh.) I do love the shirt, the blues are like skies in spring, and your plan for wearing it sounds superb. Flawless. That would be you.

Smiles and thanks for the new obsession!

March 25, 2010 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger La Belette Rouge said...

I thought I recognized you, you Versace Trophy wife you!;-) Congrats on your extraordinary buy.

March 25, 2010 at 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you one and all. I am the owner of the store where the blue shirt comes from Naracamicie. So glad you all find it inspirational! Hope to see you all at the store at 352 Sutter Street anytime. Check out our website at

Margaret Lawrence, owner, Naracamicie, shirts from Italy

March 25, 2010 at 9:31 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Fits like nobody's business -- love it.

March 26, 2010 at 5:02 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

Thank you again everyone. The store owner has offered to hear our opinions on what they ought to stock! So if you have an opinion, do share:).

March 26, 2010 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger Amy@Bitchin'WivesClub said...

I adore this post. And I get what you are saying.... there are just some items of clothing that not only look good, they make you feel something. I started trying to only buy things that make me feel that special way and so far it works. I can justify spending a lot more on individual pieces, knowing that the cost per wear ratio will be phenomenal.

March 30, 2010 at 8:08 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

I feel incredible lucky right now: I found out Nara Camicie opened its first store in Vienna only 2 weeks ago:

"15.03.2010: Modekette Nara Camicie in Wien gestartet"

I will go there today after work. :-)

April 1, 2010 at 6:52 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

Paula, I would LOVE to hear what you find:).

April 1, 2010 at 7:22 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

And no, nothing yet on the sweater. Something possibly in the works....

April 6, 2010 at 12:59 PM  

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