The Icing

The base layer is often very plain and simple with a V or scoop neckline and slim-fitting straight-leg pants or jeans. The fit is never oversized, and the texture is never bulky, rough, or quilted. The color of both pieces is often the same.

The magic happens when we add a third layer, accessories, and the other details that give that simple base layer personality. Shoes, bags, and jewelry allow for endless combinations, and scarves, belts, and hosiery complete the look to add even more polish. The details are indeed the icing to every ensemble.

You’ve seen all the elements of this going out to dinner with friends look several times, but they were assembled differently. A gray cashmere cardigan, sleek-fitting tank top, and slim-fit straight-leg black pants are essentials for me.

None of the pieces in the look for today are new, but you may get ideas for new combinations using what you already have. This post may also help you identify elements that may be missing from your wardrobe. The focus should be on finding the bits and pieces that are right for you and your lifestyle. When those criteria are met, you will reach for those pieces countless times for years.

When I find something that fits my needs, I may purchase the same item in several colors. For example, I have these same heels in black, red, and embossed snakeskin. Similar pumps here.

The collage below shows the elements worn with different attitudes over the years. I’ve owned many gray cardigans and black pants. I’ve purchased the same microfiber tank tops from Chico’s (here) for at least five years. Similar pants are here – matching belt here – similar cardigan here – similar bag here.

Several pieces of jewelry in this post are still available here. (Use the code SAS10 for $10 off any one item.)

Shopping links on this website may allow me to earn a small commission at no cost to you.

  1. Excellent post on how to get mileage from your core basic pieces. The composite photos were very helpful. Your posts have helped me put together my basic core pieces and I am slowly adding accessories as I figure out what I need going forward. Thank you!

  2. Your posts are most helpful. Where could a similar tweed black, white and grey handbag to the one in the upper photos be found? I am also looking for a pewter handbag. Thank you.

  3. I love this look!
    You could take it anywhere!
    I went to the ballet last night with my daughter & teenage granddaughter. I felt so out of place. I chose to wear corduroy pants & a long white silk shirt & black suede booties. I thought the look was nice until I got there.
    Even though some people wore dressed more casual their look had a more distinctive style. At 78 I try to be aware of how I dress, I am fit & stay in shape. But I think maybe my clothes have a frumpy look.

  4. I love your hair in the gray cardigan with jeans look. You look very modern and chic! I have read your posts for years, but rarely comment, but I am always watching in the background and enjoy your posts very much.

  5. I love this ensemble. I have been noticing lately the belts you use. Could you provide any links for sourcing similar belts? Also, I love the pants you’re wearing. Any links for similar pants? I love when you provide similar links even though I know you’ve owned many items for several years. It saves me a lot of time hunting! Thanks again for another lovely post.

  6. Beautiful! My closet and my checkbook love you!
    My only major difference in outfits are the shoes: I live in the country, have lots of dirt, gravel, no sidewalks no concrete = no pumps or what I call ‘city shoes’ in my regular rotation. I must have dark soled, sturdy, water resistant styles that definitely dictate a more casual vibe as anything with a smaller width heel ‘sinks in’ – hahaha.
    I do have 4 or 5 pairs of ‘dress up’ shoes for the rare events I can carry them in a satchel and make the switch in the car before getting out — we also get snow so I wear a lot of waterproof boots, booties & lace-up oxfords.
    Surely do love the look of fancier shoes but…I don’t even know if I can walk in them any longer.
    Loving your eye for detail and cohesion and proportion!!!

  7. Loving the Grey! It’s a great neutral perfect with jeans and dress pants. Always stylish Susan! thank you for another fun post!

  8. You look beautiful!
    I view your ensemble with wistful envy. We received 9″ of snow last night (6″-8″ more in the near forecast) and 40 mph winds. Tonight (and, all week) the low temps will be in the single digits & below zero. Keep enjoying the dressy vibe for those of us that are now facing heavy down coats and insulated boots for real country-life winter!! 🙂

  9. I think the belt is a such a nice touch and that it matches your sweater. I love the simplicity of using just 2 colors. Thanks for the post.

    1. I don’t repeat a routine, but I am active all day, walking about three miles, doing Pilates/yoga here, and some work with weights, for example, here.
      One fact I keep in mind is, “You can’t outrun your fork.” As a result, I never eat three meals a day and never snack; instead, I have nutritionally dense whole foods such as vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and a little fruit. Sometimes I eat once per day, but on most days, I have a morning meal and a late afternoon meal. I do not eat at night.

  10. Susan, love the gray cardigan and all the looks you shared. I love the black on black base and then the various ensembles that can be created. Thanks for continuing to share your style and ideas.

  11. Once again thank you for the latest on The Icing.
    How I agree with your look, and so simple.
    I find it very difficult to put items together, so you are a godsend to me with your easy to put together items.
    As I am only 5 foot tall and UK size 12, I have to be very careful on not oversizing clothes.
    You look smart, and on trend, without going to “trendy”.

  12. Susan,
    Thank you for the post. You have made my day. You always do. You look stunning in your outfit. Thank you for wearing the high heels. You truly are exquisite. Have a wonderful week.

  13. Susan,
    With Thanksgiving coming up I have been thinking of what to wear to the family dinner. Your look for today has helped me decide. I will wear a light gray cardigan with jewel buttons that was purchased at Talbots last year. It’s a blend of acrylic, wool/alpaca an inch or two longer than yours. It adds a luxurious look to my black basics with a bit of bling.
    My “what to wear” problem is solved.
    Many thanks to you.

  14. That outfit is spot on! Looks so good. You are giving me much to think about to fine-tune in my own closet! By the way, I just got the book you recommend, eat to live.

    May I also add that I think you look good in every photo! I really love your hair with that short haircut! I have a hair appointment on Tuesday and will take that as a reference. Right now my hair is like yours presently. We could be cousins, I’m telling you! Very similar looking.

    Thank you again for your motivation and advice! Very helpful and appreciated.

  15. I frequently look at your blog postings for inspiration.
    Here is a suggestion for a future post: Outfits that you would wear to holiday parties.
    Thank you.

  16. I love gray cardigans; they look good with almost everything. I’ve lost 55 pounds over the last year, (all done by walking and food control) and am in the process of re-building my wardrobe. I am definitely paring down the amount of clothes I have, and looking for items that can do “double duty”. Your posts are helping me so much. PS- love your hair style in the picture where you are wearing jeans.

  17. Do you wear turtleneck sweaters? If not, why? I like a nice fitting turtleneck but I’m questioning the look of the high collar on a 69 year old. Perhaps less bulk around my face is more flattering. My hair style is similar to yours. I’m 5′ 1″ tall and slim.

    1. I have one gray merino wool turtle neck sweater, but I rarely reach for it since it makes my face look rounder and my neck shorter. Also, I don’t find them comfortable around my neck.

  18. Love it! I wish every woman followed you! Such simple fashion advice that will elevate your look to classic!!

  19. Love your posts and look forward to each one. Thank you giving us ideas and options to use with what we already have in our closets.

  20. Thank you for your service, LOL
    No matter what type of look you post I learn something new, or maybe I would also say, I’m reminded of how to put another outfit together.
    Quick question, and I apologize if you have already touched on the topic of stockings. The black stockings in the photo, are they knee highs? I have yet to find a brand of knee highs that don’t cut off my circulation therefore I don’t like wearing them unless absolutely necessary. I’d appreciate any advice you can offer on that subject. Thank you!

  21. Thank you Susan, I’m well stocked with pantyhose from my office working days. I’ll start putting them to good use again when need be.

    1. About sixteen years ago, Mr. Mickey gave me a beautiful black fur vest for Christmas. I rarely wear it because it adds volume where I don’t need it, but it is exquisite for special evenings.

  22. What are your tips for dealing with static electricity in clothes and hair? I only know about rubbing with a dryer sheet and spraying with static guard but neither seems to work very well. Maybe it’s my technique that’s wrong! The gray sweater looks great on you! Thanks.

    1. Run a wire hanger over a garment with static cling, and wear a small safety pin where it won’t be seen. The metal will hold some charge to prevent static from building up throughout the day. I use a bit of L’Oréal Paris Hairspray by Elnett to cut down on static and flyaways.

  23. Love the look. Trying to see which pumps you are suggesting but the link says invalid. Is there a correction for that?

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.