The Lainey Howard Project

Meet Lainey Howard

Lainey Howard is an Ivy Style Folk Hero.  I first met Lainey Howard on the Facebook Group.  I am very pleased to report that a good number of our posts and comments are from women now, and so when I got Lainey’s request to join it was not as remarkable an event as it might have been a year or so ago.

Then she started posting.  As you can imagine, some of the posts in the group are from Ivy professionals, people who have this stuff in their DNA, and they are finely tuned.  Some vintage.  Some adjacent.  Even some degage.  But Lainey started posting thoroughbred Ivy outfits, that she put together.  Without the personal wearing them.  Just laid out, like mine are from my butler.  And they were right down the middle – all perfect, nothing over the top, nothing degage, all strikes down the middle of the lane.  Ey.  Lainey.  Sorry.  It was sitting right there.

Then one day she posted a picture of her husband, and said that he was wearing an outfit that she put together for him.  This, a partner picking out another partner’s clothing, is rife for my disapproval.   It never works when I say, “Wear a hot top,” and it never works when I hear “You don’t need the tie.”  But there was something kind, mutual, in this.  So I asked.

As it turns out, Lainey Howard is a loving, kind, devoted wife with awesome taste.  Turns out she redid his entire wardrobe, over two years, as a gift.  She started from near scratch, tossing everything except five dress shirts, and went from there.  Piece by piece, over the course of two years, she redid his entire wardrobe.  And she didn’t just throw money at it either (sorry, Westchester reflex, I am working on that) – Lainey’s husband is a professor not a hedgie (sorry, another Westchester thing) so she had to really curate.

This is the closet that she assembled for him over the course of the project:

“It’s my favorite room in the house,” Lainey told me.

“I wanted to do something special for him for his 50th birthday that he could enjoy every day.   Not just on his birthday.    I also wanted his 50th to be memorable.”

And what was her strategy, I asked?

“I read everything that you wrote on your site and in the group about Ivy Style, and I also read Richard Press.  I followed Richard E. Press and his advice on how to build a wardrobe and what pieces to invest in as well as what colors to choose. For example, trousers are khaki, navy, brown and grey.  Another helpful bit of advice is to keep the wardrobe to a minimum of key pieces. Use lots of accessories to create the desired Ivy Style “mix” such as neckties, bow ties, pocket squares, hats scarves and wrist watches.”

This is how hardcore she is.  She calls her husband Dr. Howard.  I am working on getting Gramercy to stop calling me John.

“He’s a professional so he does have to wear suits and I do those as well. I like adding in the separates to his wardrobe because I think it makes him more approachable on campus to Faculty, Staff and Students and he agrees.”

Not everyone is a clothes horse.  Some people see it, some people don’t.  Like anything.  If you don’t see it, imagine having someone in your life who does, and who gifts you with their classic vision.

“I’m a self proclaimed designer. Menswear is my passion! I’m very concerned the classics and the art of dressing up will disappear. By the way, my first order of business was to fit him correctly in his attire. No easy feat. He is extremely hard to fit so it took a lot of trial and error to get it right. About six months. And he is a XXL which takes a little more effort to find in Classic pieces. Everything I have purchased for him has been “off the rack” so to speak and ordered online. Unfortunately, we do not live near many Custom Men’s shops. There are one or two but they were out of my budget. Custom fitted attire would have been my preference but not really an option.  Also we are amiss of a men’s tailor in our community. Don’t even get me started on the lack of tailors and the sad state of affairs in menswear.”

She puts FIVE (that’s… 5.  6 minus 1.  Four more than you need in a day.  FIVE) outfits together a day for Professor Howard to chose from, with matching shoes.

“This is how I prepare his ensembles. I work on it ahead of time and put together a mix of suits and separates. Five at a time. I hang all these at the entrance to his dressing room so he automatically knows where to look when he is getting dressed. He checks his calendar for the day from home and based on what he has going on that day he will choose either a suit or separates. I also do a mix of neckties and bow ties which is his personal preference. He will also not wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row or suede in the rain so he gets a daily weather update to choose accordingly. Again, just his personal preference. These are pics of the 5 ensembles with coordinating shoes hanging in his dressing room today and what is on deck.”

Take a look, here is an example of the five she put together yesterday:

 

From Howard Hall. Every day, five options to choose from, precomposed.

 

Another representative sample:

Five outfits. Five. Somebody has to get me in touch with The Good Doctor. I can’t get a clean room out of a teenager.

“As he wears one, I replace it with another. I work on it everyday. I also keep a few casual ensembles at the ready in the casual section of his dressing room.”

Lainey is very proud of the fact that all of this shopping and curating and composition has resulted in a wardrobe that rarely repeats itself, except for a few favorites.  I had to ask for some of her favorites.  Here is what she sent:

Navy and gold. The official colors of, well, the world.

 

And this combo (Lainey is NOT afraid of the bow tie, it makes an almost every other day appearance):

I am not the type of guy who can mix a lot of patterns. Lainey is the type of person who can actually mix a lot of patterns, for other people.

 

Finally, a few of The Lainey Project’s Greatest Hits:

 

Lainey also puts together tremendous women’s outfits, but she won’t model them for us, yet.  But I am going to ask permission to show some of those.  In the meantime, Dr. Howard, I hope you are grateful.  I am.  For an example of a couple working together, filling in where the other needs it, with love and dignity.

JB

 

46 Comments on "The Lainey Howard Project"

  1. “Lainey’s husband is a professor not a hedgie.”

    So, there’s a better-than-decent chance he’s a fine, honest, honorable chap, then. Good for him— them. For the world.

    (yeah, I did).

    I typically love your notes, but what is the difference between this and profiling? Asking for a hedgie friend. – JB

  2. Oh c’mon now.

    Was it the great Immanuel Kant who, borrowing heavily from his understanding of (mental?) categories as the manner in which we gather, prioritize and clarify thoughts, who said,

    “You know when you see it” ?

    Actually, come to think of it, no.
    Wasn’t Kant. Justice Potter Stewart.

    But could’ve been Kant. Birds of a certain feather and all that, JB. You know this — well, tell your hedgie friend, of course you do.

    I think judging people by what you see is probably… profiling. 🙂 – JB

  3. “If the shoe fits…”

    Also, uh, not Kant. But still.

    Also: playful, reverse-snobbery style populism is Ivy.

  4. Very nice. At the other end of the spectrum my wife, a classics scholar, has been known to steal my clothes.

    One of the things I didn’t mention is that Lainey wrote about having like 142 different pocket squares. I am sure there is some cross pollination there. – JB

  5. TOP TEN THINGS THAT ARE QUITE OBVIOUSLY ‘HEDGIE’ AND (THEREFORE) ALMOST CERTAINLY NOT IVY:

    I’ll start.
    #10… a new Porsche 911.
    #9… buying full retail at Paul Stuart
    #8… Scarsdale

    Oh this is too easy and I have work to do.

    Scarsdale is the least hedgie. But I agree. Back to work. – JB

  6. Great post! I’m jealous of all the assumptions I’m making about their relationship sure, but I like to see this type of thing in the world.

  7. This is a wonderful article and also encouragement for would-be wardrobe consultants. Noticing the background in Dr. Howard’s photos, I suspect that Lainey could tell us a few things about Ivy Style decor as well.

    What I mean by would-be wardrobe consultants is that I often try to encourage my wife to dress in a style that is more fitting her profession (she’s a diplomat), without much success. Sometimes I mention various women who are wearing professional attire and tell her “you should copy her wardrobe,” but she often shows up to work in what I would call “girls’ night out at the wine and cheese bar attire.” Any suggestions on how to gently nudge without being a noodge would be appreciated.

    I bought her a vintage Lacoste tennis dress, which she loves and a not-so-vintage Brooks Brothers seersucker shirt dress (one of the seams of which began to unravel, why am I not surprised?) This at least shows that she can be open to upgrading from athleisure for after-work.

    She knows what proper style is, because she grew up with it (she has some bespoke items from decades ago that still fit), but I fear she has fallen victim to the casual Friday all week revolution and just doesn’t see the need.

    Not to plumb the depths, but perhaps she avoids proper style BECAUSE she grew up with it. – JB

  8. Back on track. The outfits are winners, all. But I’m especially fond of that last combo: blazer, striped repp, button downed oxford, khakis, and suede bucks. Yes.

    Well done!

  9. I like the idea of a dressing room, big enough for a dresser and a chair, etc. I also like the idea of pre-selecting any given day’s or week’s options and hanging them as ensembles. My next steps would be to try to figure out a way to store shoes up, off the floor, and to bring the sweaters down to eye level. I wonder what’s in the bags?

    (1) Agree. (2) Mine too. (3) Me too. – JB

  10. RIchard E. Press | March 10, 2022 at 10:06 am | Reply

    Much appreciate the plaudit.

  11. Richard Press’ advice on building an ivy wardrobe is invaluable. Here are the basics for an ivy wardrobe from the heydey:

    -2 to 3 suits
    -2 to 3 sport coats
    -a dozen shirts
    -a half dozen to one dozen neckties

    https://youtu.be/zbTo8wxatS0

  12. “Not to plumb the depths, but perhaps she avoids proper style BECAUSE she grew up with it.”

    JB, you have accurately plumbed the depths. When she was in her teens and early twenties, her mother took her to have bespoke clothing made for weddings and other events.

    It was really her who helped draw me back from the sartorial wasteland I inhabited when she told me I needed a navy blazer, white OCBD, grey slacks and tassel loafers for a family wedding. At about that time, I was also headed that way, having become reminiscent for the Shetland sweaters and khakis I used to wear in college and was surprised to find that they were no longer so easily available, or if they were, the quality was not so good.

    Yeah, that happens. She’ll come back around. Let’s do a feature on her and motivate her 🙂 – JB

  13. “Scarsdale is the least hedgie.”
    -JB

    Maybe —

    —and now who’s profiling?
    (I note with a grin and chuckle).

    Once we’re talking levels/tiers of hedgie— no turning back.

  14. #7… Belgian Loafers.

    OK, I’m stopping. Really.

  15. Jealousy, in all forms, is unbecoming, S.E.

    I know, and may resemble, many Ivy “hedgies”.

  16. Clearly joking re: jealousy btw.

  17. Wow, does Lainey Howard ever have a talent and an eye for this! The ensembles she creates for Dr. Howard are pitch-perfect. He looks dignified, intelligent, approachable, expert, stylish. Pulling together a wardrobe like that from off-the-rack purchases is a feat nothing short of heroic. Her passion for this shows, and her devotion to her husband in this way is quite moving.
    It’s taken me years to curate a wardrobe I’m (ever almost) fully satisfied with. So my mind is officially blown.

    Thanks for the great post.

  18. Judging people by what you see is not profiling. That’s just sport. Making otherwise unsupportable decisions which affect those people, based only on what you see, is profiling.

  19. PS – Ms. Howard can come organize my closet any time – I’ll even provide the cocktails. And I love her kooky glasses too.

  20. Well done, Lainey.
    How very kind, thoughtful, giving and loving of you.

  21. You’re confusing jealousy with amused bemusement, Rake. Trust me on this one.

    And defensiveness —
    — is as unattractive as jealousy.

  22. All Hail, Lainey Howard! Outstanding job, and Dr Howard is a very lucky man. I look forward to more of your write ups both here and on FB.

    And here’s another plea for you to give advice on assembling a woman’s wardrobe. Mrs. Expat Yank (a professor) and I are having the same “conversation” that James LaRue describes above… (smile)

  23. A wardrobe, closet, and (presumably) domestic interior after my own heart. Well done.

    Kind Regards,

  24. Although I don’t have a dressing room, I do have a wide closet, and I check my calendar for the tasks on the morrow, check the weather for appropriate foot and outerwear and then select the appropriate IS outfit. Been doing this since 1982. Cheers

  25. NaturalShoulder | March 10, 2022 at 11:40 pm | Reply

    What an incredible gift to give her husband. May everyone be so blessed to have a spouse that considerate. She also has great taste.

  26. Ryan R Townsend | March 11, 2022 at 12:53 am | Reply

    What does Dr. Howard teach? As a former (and future, hopefully) professor of Architecture this means everything to me. (Also – cheers to Mrs. H and a job well done.)

  27. The combo of various patterns – WOW
    None of the individual items would be my first choice, but I would definitely wear that outfit!
    That is genuine talent! Kudos!
    More from her in the future, please.

  28. I am missing something here.
    I stress I am not trying to be any way rude about this couple.
    To me a key part of loving clothes is the creative process of putting an outfit together. Sometimes it works, sometimes it involves trial and learning from errors. Rediscovering something tucked away at the back of your wardrobe is like unexpectedly meeting an old friend. To have this done for me – no matter how lovingly would diminish my pleasure.
    Likewise shopping for clothes. It simply isn’t about purchasing. It’s about discovery. What’s new, new interpretations of existing items in your wardrobe. Sometimes something quirky may catch your eye.
    My own wardrobe isn’t simply a bunch of clothes on hangers. It’s the memories of great stores, sometimes in foreign cities and adventures had along the way.

    I think what you are missing is that (1) not everyone is good at putting clothes together, which doesn’t mean they don’t love it, it just means that they aren’t good at it. So, how great a gift to be married to someone who is great at it and wants to do it for you? I taught guitar. Everyone I taught loved guitar. Not everyone was good at it. But they loved having it played for them. – JB

  29. Prescott Forbes | March 12, 2022 at 3:18 am | Reply

    I completely agree with AdMan67.
    Re:”not everyone is good at putting clothes together”.
    It’s really not all that difficult if one sticks to fundamental basics.
    Ms. Howard could render an even greater service to her husband if she ironed his trousers.

  30. Some were inquiring where Dr. Howard teaches. I believe the pin on one of the jackets indicates East Tennessee State University. Go Buccaneers!!

  31. No Sir,
    I’m certainly not missing the point. If you’re bad at something or lack confidence getting your wife to pick your outfits isn’t the answer. There are plenty of books available that teach basics, the web is awash with images and you can get help from good sales assistants who are often keen to develop regular customers.
    Prescott Forbes also makes a good point about sticking to basics. Really it’s not that difficult.
    By the way, not everyone needs to play guitar but getting dressed in the morning is pretty universal.

    Oh, I get it. You are also missing the other, more important part. IT IS A WONDERFUL, PERSONAL, LOVING thing to do. But why would you want to let your wife do something loving when you can pay a sales associate? Seriously? – JB

  32. Prescott Forbes: Or for that matter, she could also have his sleeves adjusted to a proper length. Where do they live where they can’t find a tailor competent enough to shorten jacket sleeves? Even your average dry cleaner can do a simple alteration like that.

  33. Wow,everyone’s a critic huh? Well not wveryone, but still…
    Hi, I am a woman and I love picking out men’s clothes. Love. If you hang out with me, date me, spend any time with me at all, and we end up in a store, I will eventually amble over to you with clothes I think would look good on you.
    I have driven more than one man nuts with it, but some really appreciated me gently handing them an ocbd and saying you’d look great in this color. And if they received a compliment? So happy. Who doesn’t like a compliment?
    Now maybe you’re not that man. That’s fine. I am not for everyone. That is also fine.
    But this is not your story. You don’t want your partner putting together your wardrobe? Okay.
    But it’s a gesture of love. What’s the problem with that? The world needs more love.
    As great as I am at men’s clothes (I have been told I have pretty good taste), I don’t have nearly as much talent at picking out my own clothes. Just not good at it. I’ve tried reading books, had the magazine subscriptions, all that. I have TRIED.
    Luckily I have good genes, am tall, and can wear almost anything. And make it look not awful.
    I would LOVE a partner who would take my wardrobe and put it together for me. That would be great. That is caring. That is love.
    So maybe none of this is for you.
    But it would be so great if you didn’t feel the need to drag people you don’t relate to.
    I am sure the Howards read this and the comments. And maybe, hopefully, they don’t care about being picked at.
    But if Ivy-Style is about dignity and inclusivity, where is the dignity in putting someone else down behind a fake name and your keyboard?
    We can do better.

    What SHE said. – JB

  34. I think this is a very lovely gesture for sure, and I appreciate the thought and care that goes into this. But I do agree with some of the comments about a tailor being a useful addition to this equation. A lot of these clothes just don’t fit very well and could benefit with some alterations. So while I admire the intent, I have to give this a C+ as far as presentation goes. The gentleman looks like a little boy dressed in his father’s clothes. This is not someone who seems especially well dressed aside from superficially wearing “nice clothes.” Lovely idea, average execution.

  35. @Terry,
    Ivy style is about dignity, but it’s also about honesty.

  36. L.A. Trad-
    You know my name, what’s yours?
    Honesty and all… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    Honesty doesn’t have to hurt, or be mean spirited. Or critical, or judgy.
    It’s easy to be “honest” sitting behind a screen.
    The best thing I’ve heard re. this is ‘If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it online. It’s easy to forget there’s a real person at the other end of your words. And words can hurt.’
    I still work on this. In this day and age it’s easy to forget.
    Just a thought…

  37. @Terry
    Right.
    Thanks for reminding me that discretion is also an Ivy value.

  38. I am still digging the hell out of that last getup. I was so inspired that I went with the blazer-oxford-striped repp-khakis-bucks combo this past week—

    —twice. Yeah. TWICE.

  39. Craig Fulton | March 13, 2022 at 2:18 pm | Reply

    To those who asked what Dr. Jeff Howard teaches: he doesn’t teach anything. He’s an experienced professional administrator, not an academic:

    https://www.uncp.edu/news/unc-pembroke-names-dr-jeff-howard-vice-chancellor-student-affairs

  40. Everyone over at the Official Preppy Handbook Fan Club FB page knows and loves Lainey, a stalwart poster there. Glad to see that preppies are welcome at Ivy-Style.com! Thanks!

    Preppies are VERY welcome here, encouraged, hugged, etc. However that group, we can do without. Hi! – JB

  41. JB- thanks fornthe backup.
    And congrats on the weight loss!
    🙂

  42. Charles Dana | March 13, 2022 at 7:34 pm | Reply

    That Lainey Howard curates her husband’s wardrobe and assembles his daily outfits is not in any way unseemly. I enjoy clothing as much as anyone who follows these sartorial-oriented websites. Yet sometimes I fantasize about having a valet who would select and lay out my outfit each morning. No cognitive dissonance there.

    Anyway, you’ll notice that it’s not as though Dr. Howard were on automatic pilot. As Lainey writes, she assembles five outfits per week for her husband, but then he chooses which one to wear each morning. Most of us prefer the do-it-all-yourself approach to assembling our outfits. But the Howards are a team; they have found an arrangement that works for them. He’s happy to delegate, and she’s happy to be the delegatee. If their gears mesh—and they obviously do—who are we to throw a wrench into their well-oiled machine?

    Never underestimate the power of the yin and the yang. Or the Lennon and the McCartney.

    Lainey is Lennon; her husband, McCartney.

    Wait—Lainey is McCartney and her husband is Lennon.

    No! I had it right the first time: Ms. Howard is Lennon and Dr. Howard is McCartney. Yeah, yeah, yeah—that’s right.

    The point is…..They have Come Together to Help each other.

    Let It Be.

    Whisper words of wisdom. Well done. – JB

  43. Jonathan Mitchell | March 14, 2022 at 9:03 am | Reply

    This post has been up since the 10th.
    Looking forward to more white OCBDs and G. Bruce Boyer.

    There was a weekend in there. If you’d like, I can refund your subscription? – JB

  44. Craig Fulton | March 15, 2022 at 1:20 am | Reply

    Just re-read this and can only say that Dennis provided a breath of fresh air among us this adulation!

    Dennis | March 12, 2022 at 8:38 pm |

    I think this is a very lovely gesture for sure, and I appreciate the thought and care that goes into this. But I do agree with some of the comments about a tailor being a useful addition to this equation. A lot of these clothes just don’t fit very well and could benefit with some alterations. So while I admire the intent, I have to give this a C+ as far as presentation goes. The gentleman looks like a little boy dressed in his father’s clothes. This is not someone who seems especially well dressed aside from superficially wearing “nice clothes.” Lovely idea, average execution.

  45. Need to get that man to a tailor…

    Please take a look at the Ivy Notes S1 E10. Why on earth…? – JB

  46. Craig Fulton | March 16, 2022 at 8:14 am | Reply

    among us this adulation = among all this adulation

    Sorry.

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