For a long time, I’d been looking for a top that would go with everything, a shirt I could wear three days in a row and no one would notice. At night, I could hang it in my future fantasy closet of 25 Kondo-sanctioned joyful items that wouldn’t even touch each other.
There have been whole coffee-table books devoted to the little black dress, and almost as much print given to the perfect black pants, pencil skirt, and peacoat. But I was in search of the platonic ideal of a more unsung hero: the little black shirt. A friend introduced me to the Eileen Fisher black silk cropped shell, and it all fell into place. I donated all of my other “nice tops” that suddenly seemed so much less versatile, less exciting, and less classic. This shirt is respectful. It’s a little boxy, but just clingy enough to show some shape; the straps are just wide enough to never show your bra.
It looks like now, and also like the ‘90s, and also like the ‘50s. It goes with skinny jeans, with wide-legged pants, with wrap skirts, with linen shorts, at a cocktail party, at a work presentation, at a weekend barbecue, at family reunions, in Williamsburg, in Washington, D.C. And depending on what I wear it with, I’m either evoking a kind of Nancy Meyers–playwright aesthetic or business-lady power vibe or languorous-Italian-lunch scene. The silk fabric is light and soft, but it apparently won’t stain, even if you get red wine, soy sauce, or a melted M&M on it. You can wash it out by hand in hotel-room sinks with a little bit of bar soap (which I have done), and it still looks fantastic once it dries.
I’m sure Eileen wouldn’t approve of these care instructions, but that is the beauty of her creations: They fit whatever life and whatever body they need to fit. The cult of Eileen Fisher is well documented. And now I’ve bought into the cult (twice, actually, with the black silk cropped shell and then I added a white linen version), The mystique even extends to the buying instructions: “If ordering Eileen Fisher for the first time, order one size down”; basically, if you’re an Eileen Fisher virgin, it’s saying, “Let us in the know give you a little piece of advice on how to achieve the exalted status of what Eileen herself calls ‘implied shape.’” When I wear the top, wherever I am, I am one size down, implied shapely, living my little-black-shirt dream.
Buy It: $178 at Saks Fifth Avenue
Update: This shirt is currently sold out, and gone from Eileen Fisher’s winter rotation—it will likely be back in a few months. For now, might we suggest her cold-weather version, the Icon Wool Sleeveless top, which is $133 at Saks Fifth Avenue.
The Strategist is a series of smart, obsessive shopping guides from the New York Magazine section of the same name. We’ve scoured the web to bring you the best of the best. Some of our latest conquests include rolling luggage, umbrellas, beach tents, incense, white T-shirts, nail clippers, and yoga mats. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Please note that all prices are subject to change.