Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Reflective Fashionista: When Clothes Attack

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?


riz said...

I feel your pain!! The worst is when it happens in boutiques and you know that they know that what you are wearing is 3 seasons old!

WendyB said...

I am totally seeing your Vakko jacket in my mind's eye. Nice roomy shoulders, right? As for outfit discomfort, I have been feeling almost none of it (knock wood) ever since a flamboyant fashion industry friend put his hand on his hip and told me sternly, "Once you are out in public, just OWN it!" So it doesn't matter if I'm technically underdressed or overdressed or not wearing the right shoes. I just tell myself, "This is the perfect outfit, bitch! Go with it!: The only times I feel severe discomfort now is if I discover a rip or a stain or flesh being exposed that wasn't meant to be exposed. I owe it all to my fashion angel. And really, his name was Angel.

miss cavendish said...

Ahh, my Vakko jacket. Yes, nice roomy shoulders, no collar, asymmetrical hidden snap placket, nipped-in waist, brownish-olive leather in a strangely lunar texture.

And Wendy's advice is indeed sage, though those boutique lassies from Riz's comment can send one withering looks!

K.Line said...

I know my clothes aren't working when I put something on and it makes me feel "fat". Objectively, and according to my husband, this may not be the case at all, but it doesn't matter. For me, that's the surest sign it's all over.

Miss C: I can imagine you walking in Mtl with the jacket and the neon hair (possibly clashing?). I remember that time and place and feeling (thanks to Madonna and La La La Human Steps) that crazy bright hair was the ne plus ultra! Something tells me you looked avant garde and great, despite your lack of comfort level. And maybe that's what it comes down to - the push pull of being innovative while staying bien dans sa peau. Once the outfit deviates from that, it's just gotta go.

WendyB said...

"Strangely lunar texture" is so '80s! Ha ha! Are you visiting NY sometime soon?

miss cavendish said...

Hey K-line--I hear you with those great tunes. I think if I had known that I was going to be a neon redhead for the day, I would have dressed differently, and therefore have been able to pull it off a little better. The sneak attack of mousse kind of threw me for a loop!

miss cavendish said...

Hi Wendy,

Yes--I'll be there all next week and my first stop is John Barrett's salon. I'm not surfacing until I'm suitably coiffed and highlighted!

enc said...

Same way: when I don't feel comfortable. Or good about myself. I go back into the house and change. I've also been known to buy new things at lunch. I think your red hair was probably cooler than people gave it credit for. Vakko, I remember Vakko.