Dawn Mellon Dishes on the Classics

Do you have a classic trench? Read on for more of Dawn’s must-have classics for your wardrobe.
Photo by Thom Jackson as seen in the Fall/Winter 2013 issue of D Moms.

By Dawn Mellon.

I find myself repeating famous quotes and later wondering, “What exactly does that mean?”  Take, for example, the old adage, “Dressed to the nines.”  Think about it. The nines? Why not the eights or the tens? How can someone dress TO a number? And, why is it considered a compliment?

As it turns out, the most popular theory of the meaning behind the saying, “Dressed to the nines,” is that it used to take a full nine yards of fabric to create the very best suits.

I think we’re all guilty of saying things without really knowing the meaning behind our words. Worse yet, I think we’re also guilty of tossing about words, acronyms and industry jargon, fully expecting everyone to understand what we mean. Which leads me to think about those in the fashion industry referring to ‘the classics?’  Invest in the classics. Build your wardrobe around the classics. The classics never go out of style. Sounds good, but, what exactly are the classics?

Here’s my take on the classics, or, as I refer to them: “The Dazzling Dozen:”

1.  Little Black Dress

Considered by many as Coco Chanel’s most significant contribution to the fashion industry, the little black dress has stood the test of time. Why? It’s simple. Literally, it’s simplicity is the key to its longevity. You can put on a pair of evening sandals and your best jewelry or you can throw on a pair of flats with a simple pair of earrings, slip into your dress, and you look appropriate and put together.

2. White Blouse

A crisp white blouse always looks fresh and is incredibly versatile. You can wear it with jeans. You can wear it with slacks. You can even wear it with a formal long black skirt.

3.  White T-Shirt

Similar to the white blouse, the white t-shirt always looks fresh. Add jeans and a fun necklace and you’re ready for a casual outing. Throw on a pair of black slacks with a neutral-colored trench coat and you’re ready for a day of shopping.

4.  Black Turtleneck

There’s something so sexy and, at the same time, so innocent about a black turtleneck. For me, it conjures up visions of Ali MacGraw in Love Story and Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina, as well as Sharon Stone at the 1996 Oscars. She stood on stage and proudly proclaimed the turtleneck (actually, charcoal, not black) she was wearing with her Armani velvet jacket and Valentino skirt was from The Gap. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t look good in a black turtleneck.

5.  Lightweight Cardigan

Whether it’s tight-fitting or over-sized, a lightweight cardigan is timeless. As for color, I personally like red because I consider it a quasi-neutral. It doesn’t go with everything, but it’s close.  hrow it on over a white t-shirt with your jeans – done. Tie it around your shoulders over your white blouse with black slacks – done.

6.  Black Slacks

Who doesn’t own at least one pair of black slacks? The key is remembering that while wide-leg pants were in style last year and skinny-leg pants are in style this year, but you should always have one pair of simple, boot-cut black slacks.  Next year, you’ll donate your skinny-pair of black slacks and, at the same time, wish you wouldn’t have given away your wide-leg pants, but, year after year, you can always rely on a pair of boot-cut slacks.

7. Black Skirt

Choose a style that fits your body type – a pencil skirt, an A-line skirt, or a pleated skirt . You can’t go wrong with a black skirt! Dress it up with pumps, dress it down with flats. Testimony:  I own a black skirt that’s older than my son who’s finishing his last year of high school.

8. Jeans

No instructions required.

9.  Black Heels

Black heels take everything from day to night; from casual to serious; from fine to F-I-N-E.

10.  Single-Breasted Blazer

Blazers, in my opinion, are like eyeglasses. There’s something about a blazer that makes the woman wearing it instantly appear smarter. Smarter from an intellectual standpoint or smarter from a fashion standpoint? Either way, it’s good.

11.  Neutral-Colored Trench Coat

Truthfully, I’ve struggled with the trench coat.  I know it’s a classic, I know it goes with everything, but, it still troubled me. Was it the name? Did I think if I wore it, I’d, by default, be in the trenches? No. It was the belt! It wasn’t until I ditched the belt with which it came and replaced it with one I love that I truly embraced my ‘all-weather’  coat. (Okay, I still don’t like the name.)

12.  Pearls

It seems fitting to conclude with pearls since they, too, are a part of Coco Chanel’s legacy. At a time when fine jewelry was all the rage, Coco Chanel draped herself in what seemed, at times, like endless strands of fake pearls, which she believed were ‘provocative.’ Since that time, whether real or costume, pearls have adorned women as classic as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and as trendy as Sarah Jessica Parker’s character Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and The City.

Dawn Mellon is a Dallas-based fashion stylist and mother of two teenagers, Andrew and Erica, known for effortlessly dressing some of our fair city’s loveliest ladies for all manner of tony appearances. Over the next few months, the fashion maestro will be joining us here on D Moms daily to share her expertise on how to build a killer wardrobe and don it with confidence.


  • Ema Humphrirs

    Divorced for 18 years and must admit – “Fashion” was my first love !

    Thank you, Dawn, so much for sharing your knowledge about fashion. I’m looking forward to keeping up with your series and want to thank you for taking it down to the nuts and bolts, or shall I say buttons and button holes?

    There are so many books and magazines available ad”Dressing” fashion, it’s nice and a real time saver to simply read your articles!

    Then I can sooner get on to better dressing myself!

    Thank you,
    Ema from Waco

  • Dawn Mellon

    Hi Ema from Waco!

    You made my day! Truly!

    Thank YOU for taking the time to write to me. I’m so glad you enjoyed this article.

    I don’t know how long you’ve been reading my column, but if you click on the GLOW tab, you can read all of my previous articles (dating back to August).

    I DO, know, however, that you have a witty sense of humor – buttons and button holes rather than nuts and bolts – and we share the same love – fashion!

    Please let me know if there are specific topics you’d like me to cover. I wrote this column in response to another reader’s comment, and if I can help you further, I’d love to do so!

  • yvonne crum

    very nice. and it’s wonderful to see your column address things that all can use .. we sometime assume that all that live in DALLAS a mecca for fashion.. already knows and loves fashion and dressing .. that’s just not the case.. as some don’t have the eye for it till they are given hints on how, what and when to WEAR.. Your column has been wonderful for that.. thanks so much.. and you are a walking fashion plate with understated elegance.

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  • Dawn Mellon


    Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. Coming from you – a woman who is so highly regarded in the community not only for your outstanding sense of fashion, but for your enormous sense of philanthropy – is something I don’t take lightly or for granted. In fact, I am honored.

    My favorite quote from Maya Angelou is: “People will forget what you said and people will forget what you did, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.” I will always be grateful for the way you make me feel.

    You are an inspiration to all of those around you!