Only cops hate on Monosodium Glutamate — or MSG — the white powder that’s made good food taste even doper since it was first created in 1908 by a Japanese chemist who wanted to recreate the umami quality of kombu. Despite smear campaigns that attempted to malign it as a migraine trigger, MSG has become chefs’ most powerful weapon. MSG is what makes Doritos so glorious, parmesan cheese so exquisite, and Chinese takeout so delightful.
But the most compelling part of MSG is its chameleon-like ability to make already tasty things even tastier. Not salty nor sweet, MSG is instead like a gustatory exclamation mark. It’s the hype man of flavours, the volume dial in your spice rack. It’s the thing that more things should be: Easy, effective, and helps you fast-track your trip from Point A (now, boring) to Point B (soon afterward, a good time).
Which brings us to the title of this article. In the world of fashion, there are certain items that essentially do what MSG does: they’re outfit-enhancers that make what you’ve already got on appear more stylish, without being distracting. Over time, they end up becoming a dependable wardrobe basic that, ironically, is far from predictable. Real food heads have a tiny shaker of MSG at their dinner table; real fashion heads have their own stockpile of intensifiers they liberally sprinkle on whenever they need to upgrade an outfit with little effort and maximum flavour.
Below, meet five such women and their treats of choice.
Left: Rachel Comey Bandini Pants, £309, available at ShopBop.com; UNIQLO Men U Crew Neck Long-Sleeve-T-shirt, £19.90, available at Uniqlo.com; MSGM White Boots; Jennifer Fisher Double Cylinder Ring, £243, available at JenniferFisherJewelry.com; Jennifer Fisher Tube Ring, £161, available at JenniferFisherJewelry.com; Models own necklace.
Right: Rachel Comey Bandini Pants, £309, available at ShopBop.com; Ganni Printed Mesh Rollneck, £100, available at Ganni.com; Staud Rui Sandal, £282, available at Staud.clothing; Rachel Comey Skye Earrings, £150, available at RachelComey.com; Jennifer Fisher Double Cylinder Ring, £243, available at JenniferFisherJewelry.com; Jennifer Fisher Tube Ring, £161, available at JenniferFisherJewelry.com.
Kate Spencer: Neon parachute pants
Flavour Profile: “I bought these for myself for my birthday at the Rachel Comey store in Soho right before I started this job at Refinery29. It brings everything to life; it brightens the flavours of everything else. They’re my happy pants.”
Suggested Serving: “I usually just wear them with a white tank or tee and Doc Martens sandals. I usually keep things very simple with it. Sometimes I’ll throw on a sweatshirt. I’m not one of those people that thinks you have to follow that “baggy bottom, fitted top” rule. I love oversized clothes.”
Right: Susan Alexandra Mini Ash Bag, £141, available at SusanAlexandra.com; H&M Long Sleeve; Zara Asymmetrical Satin Skirt, £25.99, available at Zara.com; Kenzo Feather Heels; Calvin Luo Belt; Jennifer Behr Tori Hammered Silk Headband, £152, available at JenniferBehr.com; Jennifer Fisher Hollow Essential Hoops, £161, available at JenniferFisherJewelry.com; Models own necklace.
Jessica Andrews: A beaded clutch
Flavour Profile: “I love Susan Alexandra’s work and I became even more enamoured with her after reading about the brand’s origin story. The colourful design just energises any outfit you pair it with. It’s a piece that sparks conversation and encourages a second glance. I liken it to Lawry’s seasoned salt or Mrs. Dash: a special mix that takes your dish to the next level.”
Suggested Serving: “I’m a lot more experimental now, mixing the bag with prints like this tie dye top as well as solid colour pieces. It’s definitely inspired me to embrace colour and gravitate toward more vibrant, memorable pieces. I wear it a lot, maybe even three times a week. I find myself grabbing it before I head out the door to work, whether I’m wearing a pink slip dress or just a crop top and jeans.”
Left: Low Classic Double Breasted Blazer, £483, available at Farfetch.com; JBrand Fray Shannon Jacket; Levis Ribcage Full Length Jeans, £95, available at Levis.com; Rag & Bone Boots; Ratio Et Motus Lady Bag, £928, available at RatioEtMotus.com; Jennifer Fisher New Cylinder Ring, £243, available at JenniferFisherJewelry.com; Jennifer Fisher Globe Ring, £268, available at JenniferFisherJewelry.com; Jennifer Fisher Baby Samira Hoops, £289, available at JenniferFisherJewelry.com
Right: Low Classic Double Breasted Blazer, £483, available at Farfetch.com; Dauphinette Shake Shake Swing Jacket, £560, available at Dauphinette.com; Sleeper Black Tie Pajama Set Pants; £152, available at The-Sleeper.com; Stuart Weitzman The Fifer 80 Boot, £463, available at StuartWeitzman.com; Jennifer Behr Thada Velvet Headband, £181, available at JenniferBehr.com; Jennifer Fisher Hollow Essential Hoops, £161, available at JenniferFisherJewelry.com; Jennifer Fisher New Cylinder Ring, £243, available at JenniferFisherJewelry.com; Jennifer Fisher Globe Ring, £268, available at JenniferFisherJewelry.com; Models own necklace.
Eliza Huber: A boxy blazer
Flavour Profile: “I got this blazer at the Frankie shop. I love the squared shoulders and masculine tailoring. You can throw it on with a basic outfits to make it more ‘fashion.’ It also styles down things that seems a little too over-the-top. The blazer takes things up or down a notch. It always balances things out. I wore mine three times this week. A third of every month is blazer time.”
Suggested Serving: “I dress up loungewear with it too. I like to wear it with bike shorts, so they don’t look like a workout outfit. Same goes for a basic pair of jeans. Every time I would put an outfit and it needed something more — that one special thing — I would grab this blazer, throw it on. I didn’t even need to look in the mirror."
Left: Rachel Comey Whisper Shirt In Yellow Billow Sequins, £342, available at RachelComey.com; Levi’s Ribcage Straight Ankle Studded Jeans, £120, available at Levis.com; Erika Cavallini Sandals; & Other Stories Beaded Handle Mini Leather Bag, £75, available at Stories.com; Nina Berenato Scale Ring, £56.66, available at NinaBerenato.com; Models own earrings.
Right: Rachel Comey Whisper Shirt In Yellow Billow Sequins, £342, available at RachelComey.com; Rachel Comey Bandini Pant in Pink Poppy, £362, available at RachelComey.com; Sportmax High Performance Futuristic Sneaker, £386, available at Sportmax.com; Nina Berenato Scale Ring, £56.66, available at NinaBerenato.com; Models own earrings.
Chelsea Peng: Bowling shirt
Flavour Profile: “The shape is slightly cropped and boxy so it’s not just like a classic button-down shirt. There’s also a bit of structure so the shape can play against several silhouettes. It’s outwardly loud, but it doesn’t have to be the star. It’s been there for some of my most intense, formative memories. I’ve worn it to interviews. My best friend wore it at Coachella when I ran into the love of my life.”
Suggested Serving: “I have a rule that before I buy something, I should have at least three ideas of how to wear it. With this top, there were a million: With trousers, white socks, and oxfords; as a beach coverup; in a Rejina Pyo top, skirt, proper lady shoes; or even simply with jeans. I’ve already worn it twice last week. In the summer, I lean hard on this Scumbro, worn open over Vans, Nike socks, over a swimsuit, and gym shorts.”
Maria Jia Ling Pitt: Rainbow platform sandals
Flavour Profile: “I bought them online for about £80, and £15 goes to the Tegan & Sara foundation. I’m into platforms because I love to feel tall. Higher shoes = more dressed to me! They skate the edge between colourful and costumey.
Suggested Serving: “I like to wear them with dresses because it’s a mix of casual and dressy. I like that mashup. Sometimes in autumn, I’ll wear them with socks in a solid colour. Sometimes I’ve looked back at photos of my outfits and I’m like, weird choice, but you know I’m having fun. At least it makes a memory.