I have a deep, nostalgic connection to vintage LL Bean, but since I am shaped like a human female, I know my chances of having one of those old garments fit me in any way resembling flattering are slim to none. In LL Bean’s endless mission to be practical and durable, I’m not sure where square-shaped tops and pleated bottoms fit into that picture, but they have for over a hundred years. At least until LL Bean Signature came along a few years back.
And oh, when it first burst onto the scene, it was glorious; all the rustic touches and earnest fabrics of LL Bean with none of shapeless, cardboard-y cotton cut to make you look like a retired 8th grade History teacher. Their dresses were especially pleasing, using old timey New England plaids and fun patterns with full skirts and belts without seeming costume-y or dowdy, and their tunics looked more fun and summery than old and/or pregnant. They even took the classic Bean Boot up a notch, lining it with real shearling and taking it knee-high. As someone who loves all form of gummy LL Bean shoes but feels strange wearing them anywhere that isn’t in close proximity to woods, I found these boots to be the perfect compromise between fashion and function and not looking like you’re mucking a barn.
There are still some LL Bean not-signature fit issues, however; they make a strappy sundress from a stiffer poplin cotton with the top is cut into a v-neck, but there are no darts; in laylady’s terms, this means, depending on the size of your chest, the dress will either droop and pucker awkwardly or the fabric will look pulled and smush you like a bad sports bra. The pants also occasionally have problematic tendencies, but mostly related to sizes that run way too big or small.
The designs themselves haven’t exactly gone downhill in the last few seasons, but it has gotten a bit more tame. They’re still doing fun stuff with plaids, especially shirt-dresses and button-downs, but there are also a lot more boring staples; it’s like they’ve transitioned from doing fun twists on old styles to doing classier twists on basic ones. LL Bean Signature is still good for helping you look like a classy adult, but maybe a more staid one that you’d like to project. It’s still nowhere near as staid as the smocky, boxy look of OG LL Bean, even if it’s not as cool as it once was.