Photo: Wendy’s Lookbook
Back when I was in college, my roommates and I had our going-out attire boiled down to a simple formula: jeans, heels and a skimpy top that we questionably called a “skank tank.” Now that Thirsty Thursdays are nothing more than a hazy memory, I’ve gladly matured past relying on that scant uniform (and, more importantly, abominable terminology), but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the ease that came with getting dressed for a night on the town. Finding tops that are at once sophisticated, stylish and not too revealing has proved surprisingly difficult in my adulthood—that was, until I discovered Cooper & Ella.
The line started as a range of date-night blouses in February 2013 after its founder, Kara Mendelsohn (who spent nearly two decades working for fashion brands such as Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs and Thakoon), couldn’t find any that suited her grownup needs.
The resulting wallet-friendly tops ($98–$160) feature clean-lined silhouettes jazzed up with interesting details such as leather piping, subtle cutouts, criss-crossing straps and sheer panels, making them feel fancy enough to wear alone but also perfect for layering under a blazer at work. Not only are the tops flattering and versatile, they’re also machine washable (no exorbitant dry cleaning bills!) and designed so you can wear any style with a bra—even the ones with open backs.
While all of these attributes have made me a devoted fan of Cooper & Ella’s blouses, it turns out these perfect party tops were only a gateway drug. This spring, the brand introduced a range of effortless dresses ($198–$250), and I’m counting down the days until I can get my hands on a reversible metallic crewneck sweater ($225) that’s part of the knitwear collection ($225–$250) launching this fall.
Even as the company expands into new categories, its philanthropic mission stays the same: For every item sold, Cooper & Ella provides one hot nutritious meal to a child in need through its partnership with Bangalore’s HOPE Foundation School.
That charitable promise applies even if you purchase a piece from one of the 250 retailers that carry the label, including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Shopbop. You’ll find the widest selection on the label’s e-commerce site, so click on over for bar-hopping clothes that won’t make you look like you still own a fake ID.