St John Collection, it seems, is the uniform of a successful woman surgeon.
For years now I have repeatedly heard from some of my most revered mentors that St John is “timeless.” “It packs so well.” “It’s so comfortable.” “Women surgeons wear too much black but St Johns makes colors impeccably professional.” “It’s also great evening wear!”
But for over a decade I listened and that was all.
First there was the price, so high that I had never actually been in a St John store before. I also thought that knits just would not work well as day suits or evening wear. Of course that was because I had mistakenly conflated St John knits in my addled brain with tweed. Admittedly without ever having handled or tried on a St John piece, I was biased that staid and dowdy tweed-like pieces were better suited for women of a certain generation.
Now these esteemed women surgeons who sit as Deans, or Department Chairs, or Vice-Chairs, or Division Chiefs are, in fact, a few years older than me. But, they repeatedly assured me that I was wrong in my ageism regarding St John. By “timeless” it turns out they meant that they had been onto this fashion trend since they were my age. Just as surely as they could advise me on grantsmanship or applying for tenure, they were advising me that St John knits would last me well into the next few decades of my life and even forgive a few pounds here or there.
It turns out that I spent my entire 30s listening to these women rave about St John and watching them rock St John at numerous professional events. Year after year I would see these role models looking great, commanding respect, seeming so comfortable in gorgeous knits. Not tweet. Not dowdy. Not old-lady like. But gorgeous! Still the price tag was a major challenge so I never to the leap into St John.
Recently, however, we had a fundraiser for a women surgeons scholarship at the San Francisco St John boutique. The time seemed right. After all, my fashion sense, my figure, and my student loans/income/mortgage/childcare expenses ratios have been evolving. And, if I was ever going to invest in something by St John I might as well have a generous portion of it go to a cause I believe in.
The event was packed so I found myself sharing a dressing room with two of my most admired women surgeons. Truthfully, I was nervous. I had read their manuscripts and books. I had watched them on stage giving speeches or getting awards. I honestly aspire to be just like them some day; but, was I ready to be in the same teensy, tiny room trying on clothes with them?! It was a weird honor, I think.
You know, they may be my surgical superheros but on that day in that 4ftx6ft room they were as ordinary as me trying on clothes one arm in a sleeve at a time with Spanx smoothing some extra folds here or there and a Fitbit clipped to the bra. This might have seriously been one of the most fun professional/personal experiences of my life. Very cool.
I tried on over a dozen outfits. They all honestly felt and looked great. Some were decidedly day wear. Others were definitely meant for evenings. Some were even in this amazing liquid silk which felt like a second skin that felt amazing but mostly I was focusing on knits since that is St John’s signature style. This is what I had been missing all these years.
I modeled each outfit for a larger group of amazing women surgeons in the lounge sipping on champagne and enjoying passed appetizers. The feedback was much appreciated as it was a tough decision. My role models had been right all these years, everything looks and feels good. But good cause or not, these are not cheap and so I limited myself to just a single look.
In the end I went for a two piece outfit. Yes, it’s black but there is bling involved. The bling is silver and boysenberry (according to St John) and since my go to metallic is gold it felt like a totally justifiable addition to my wardrobe. Also, with the pieces I will be able to create multiple day and evening looks depending on shoes, accessories, and what top/bottom I pair them with. I don’t think I will be wearing both at once (like the model to the right) for the moment as it’s a bit too much. [pics of how I have decided to work it coming to a blog post soon]
I am totally sold on the brand now; but, unlike my dressing roommates, I am only ~5 years into my career and still have quite a ways to go with my kids’ college funds. So for now I will stick with my one outfit and a lasting memory of the day I finally took the plunge and invested in the uniform of the successful woman surgeon.