How do you know when your clothes aren’t working for you?
For me, and for many other women, I suspect, it’s physiological: my stomach begins to twist in knots and I become so irritable that I have to put something else on that very second, so unbearable is the sensation of being improperly dressed.
It’s terrible when this feeling strikes you at work; in New York I have been known to flee my office during lunch in quest of a better pair of heels.
But oh! the indignity of walking up Fifth Avenue en route to Bergdorfs or perhaps Barneys while wearing the wrong shoes. Running the gauntlet of perfectly dressed women in those wrong shoes becomes a walk of shame. I’d instinctively quicken my pace and slap a concerned look on my face to indicate the seriousness of my mission—anything to distract my querulous fashion peers from my wrong shoes.
Once, when living in Montreal, I did a bit of modeling for some local designers. I always thought it a treat to have my hair and makeup done and so looked forward to this particular engagement. I didn’t even bat an eye when the stylist said that red hair would work best.
But the strawberry blondish hair I had been expecting turned out to be fire-engine red; London-telephone-booth red; stop-sign red.
As I walked home down Sherbrooke Street (Montreal’s Fifth Avenue), wearing my beloved Vakko leather jacket (in a very cool Thierry Mugler-esque cut; remember: this was the mid 1980s!), I was mortified by the disapproving looks I got. To my sidewalk mates, I was not myself, I was a “freak,” and I washed my hair about seven times to remove the color as best I could. (That bright shade of red truly was not flattering for everyday life!)
My list of style don’ts is reasonably short: natural colors for my hair; rarely a collared shirt; never matchy-matchy colors; never anything that could be construed as an “outfit.” I dislike that term, “outfit”—it smacks of something costume-y, something planned and thought out, whereas I prefer the more radical mix of separates.
So: how do you know when your clothes aren’t working for you?