What is an elevator piece? It could be a fabulous tasselled earring. It could be a shirt with corset lacing at the waist or a sweater with ribbon ties at the cuff. It isn’t any one thing to buy, in fact, so much as a whole new way to shop. It is a one-click shortcut, the single game-changer item that lifts the rest of your look.
I know what you’re thinking: blah blah, It bags, investment dressing, statement purchases. Heard it all before, love. Well, actually, no. The point about the elevator piece is that it doesn’t have to be expensive. All these picks are from the high street. The elevator piece brings added value not in its label, but in its fashion content. Welcome to the age of the Inexpensive It purchase.
Nobody buys a new-season wardrobe any more. Even if you had the cash and the time, trends no longer run in neat cycles, so there is never a moment for a full reset. Instead of rewiring your wardrobe with a new silhouette or a brand-new colour palette, the elevator piece complements what you have already.
You probably already shop like this. It’s what smart women have done, quietly, for years. Now that the fashion industry has cottoned on to it, the elevated route to the heights of fashion just got easier to find.
1 The hero cuff
The style equivalent of virtue-signalling, now that the cold shoulder, while alive and well, is hardly an insider secret. Sometimes you want a new top, but one that doesn’t shout, “THIS IS MY NEW TOP DO YOU LIKE IT I BOUGHT IT TODAY?” You know what I mean? That’s when the hero cuff comes in. A top where the fancy stuff happens on the sleeve rather than at the shoulder is intriguing without being attention-grabbing. The Florence flute sleeve top from Finery (£39) is crisp and modern and makes an instant work outfit (I’d add a pair of paper-bag waist trousers like these Cobden trousers also from Finery, £69, perhaps). A checked top with a bow on the sleeve is spring 2017 in a nutshell, and available on any shop floor near you – this Zara window-pane check for £29.99 is nicely sophisticated, if gingham is a bit Dorothy for you.
2 The alpha earring
These are dangerous times for the earring-obsessed, like me. Because the high-street earring game is mega. A brilliant pair of earrings turns a black silk T-shirt and a pair of jeans into cocktail-party glamour: at high-street prices, it would be rude not to, right? Tasselled earrings are the modern take on chandeliers: H&M has a huge selection, while Whistles has a more refined take with a Tassel Hoop for £25 and the Serenite tassel earrings at Anthropologie, £48, come in blush or navy and are completely divine. Other excellent hunting grounds for earrings right now are Mango for awesome cheapies – a pair of simple silver geometric danglers for £9.99 are among the many gems – and Uterque for pieces that cost around the £50 mark but look like actual heirlooms (£55 buys you a joyous pair of not-real-emerald and not-real-pearl but really-beautiful vintage sparklers).
3 The upfront zipper
Remember the Roland Mouret sexy back-zip dress? The zip is back, but now it’s on the front. A silver zip with a sporty round tab is a detail that makes any piece look right for now. Samantha Cameron is on to it with her Cefinn collection (we’ve seen this zip funnel-neck midi dress, £290, in the flesh and can confirm it’s reaallly nice) and zips are updating pretty off-duty dresses such as the Pepita lace dress, £145, from new label Kitri. A zip on the sleeve, being completely without function unless you suffer from hot elbows, is an instant elevator for sportswear, as in a brilliant oversized zipped sweater from Zara for £29.99.
4 The spring knit
A hard winter can kill even the most beloved jumper. That funnel neck you bought in October and have worn under dresses, over dresses, under coats, over your pyjamas … have a proper look. It’s a bit bobbly, no? A springtime sweater in a upbeat colour is a good March purchase. I wore this £19.50 Marks & Spencer polo neck sweater in light copper – quite Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies, isn’t it? – all through posh fashion month and I loved it.
5 The sophisticated shirt
If your shirt lends itself to rolling sleeves up and getting stuck in, then you’re wearing the wrong shirt. The shirt of 2017 is more at home on a bar stool or in a theatre seat than on a swivel chair. Lace-up detailing is the new frontier – try Kitri’s Sylvie corset shirt (so much nicer than that sounds) for £75, or the Grainger lace-up boyfriend shirt for £59. Polka dots, by the way, are the new stripes: try Finery’s Salterton polka-dot blouse for £89.
6 The eye-catching back view
Having something interesting in the back view of your outfit is an instant elevator. Millie Mackintosh has a blue cotton shirt that fastens across a bare back with a black sash, very chic, £55. An easier route is to wear an open-back sweater over a white T-shirt or simple white shirt. Asos has a good selection, including this one with Fendi-ish cross-over straps for £28.
7 The fancy-bumping-into-you jacket
You know when you bump into someone in the street, they look great, and you think – that’s what I want to look like when I bump into people in the street? Well, I’ve been analysing this, and I think it’s all about the jacket. A khaki utility jacket is an instant weekend elevator. Whistles has a cropped utility jacket for £119, which looks excellent over dresses. Boden’s Florence jacket is a more classically shaped long-line version, good with jeans, for £90.
If a tomboy-ish jacket isn’t for you, I feel that Reese Witherspoon in Big Little Lies is going to be a good moodboard for feminine spring jackets. There’s a blush-coloured pleated blazer from Uterque, which is £175 and very Monterey. Zara’s £79.99 coat with frilled cuffs would also be perfect.
8 The night-bloom dress
Like a floral dress, but a bit moodier and cleverer. Less garden party, more party-party. Warehouse is an excellent hunting ground right now. Its patchwork black and dark-floral print frock is a winner for £69.
9 The high-low shoe
An elevated shoe used to mean exactly that: a 6in-heeled flight of fancy. A shoe that made you go weak at the knees in the shop – and then, sadly, made you go weak at the knees within 10 minutes of putting it on. The clever way to do an elevated shoe is a high-taste, low-effort style. The high street is finally getting the hang of the non-clumpy loafer: have a look at the & Other Stories horsebit buckle loafer, £69, if you don’t believe me. The kitten-heel sock boot is another winner: Zara has them in black and in a dark flowery print, for £59.99.