This is a two-part post on clothing and style, with today’s thoughts leading into tomorrow’s perfume post.
I’m in the process of revamping my personal style. The contributing factors:
- For years I worked in businesses (e.g., commercial real estate, financial services) with defined, conservative dress codes. At work I wore the “uniform” of tailored suits, none of which I wanted to wear at home.
- I don´t lead a white-pants life – four kids underfoot and their friends, a dog, working out of the house, gardening.
- I’ve always viewed clothing as costume. Specifically, vintage or ethnic costume. When we lived in Santa Fe I worked the whole concha-belt velvet-blouse thing. Also, I’m petite, I’m sized and shaped for vintage clothing and accessories, and I collect and wear vintage stuff regularly. I like its uniqueness.
- I’m a magpie in terms of pattern. If you look in my closet, there are a lot of patterned dresses and separates. They’re sized proportionally for me, but there’s a lot going on.
I no longer have to “dress” for the office, and I’m doing the mom thing, but I have steadfastly resisted the I-give-up approach I see around me among women in similar circumstances. I eschew looking like an ad from the LL Bean catalog, and I do not wish to live out the rest of my days in yoga togs. I believe that adults, or at least this adult, should get dressed to face the world. But in what?
The problem(s?) which I expressed to a couple of gals recently, while we were sitting around one afternoon over coffee talking about personal style, is that I am no longer the ingenue, my default setting for dress. I always looked young for my age, getting carded well into my thirties. My “youth,” real or imagined, was the basis for whatever style I had. I am now in my late-ish forties, and in my considered opinion, I need a style upgrade. (I am making these rules/statements about nobody other than myself, let me clarify that right off the bat.) I need to be tidier. And I need to ramp down the vintage and froufrou a little. Too much vintage or boho on me doesn’t look charming or whimsical. It starts to look a little nutty, frankly. Like I’m one of those nice socialites living in mummy’s English basement rental property on my trust fund check, with three golden retrievers and a tenuous grip on reality. This, my friends, is not the look I am striving for. Also, with a few exceptions, I have decided that something that looks appropriate on my 15-year-old is too young for me, and I’m going to stop borrowing her clothes.
I was already thinking of all of this when I saw Coco Before Chanel at the Sniffa in New York. As I left the theater in a predictable swoon over the costumes and the set locations, I had gained some clarity. The thing is, I own a lot of clothes in that style. I had some already because they’re appropriate for dressing up in my suburban DC life. And courtesy of The Big Cheese’s mom, who was a sharp society dresser, I have several knit suits and dresses I couldn’t bear to part with, and lovely pearls, and some conservative accessories. I have stylish flats that I don’t pull out and wear often enough. I just need to make a little extra effort to dress like a grown-up.
So for the past week I’ve been experimenting. Have no fear, I’m not turning into a mini-Gloria Vanderbilt. But it was really fun meeting my father at the National Gallery of Art with my hair put up neatly for a change, in a navy-and-cream Adolfo knit jacket (okay, with dark wash jeans) and red lipstick and low-heeled pumps and a decent handbag. Whether or not you’d have loved the particular outfit, I looked pulled together and fully adult. I felt good about the way I looked.
I am sure there will be plenty of days when I’m lumping around in practical corduroys and clogs and a heavy sweater, if for no other reason than we keep our house chilly in the winter, and I’m not ready to pack my motorcycle boots and jacket away forever. But I find I like looking like a grown-up, and it didn’t take all that much longer to put on than whatever I’d fish out of the laundry basket. For the longest time I rebelled against that type of clothing as a restrictive uniform, but I am beginning to appreciate its value as a uniform as well.
Tomorrow: the perfumes that seem to go with this look, with one new-to-me discovery.
Have you had any style revelations? How do you view clothing for your current self vis-a-vis your younger self?