POSTED ON FEBRUARY 27, 2008:
The Ultimate Fashion Challenge
Turn your wardrobe upside down and throw on something quirky
Fresh from the Dryer. Those jeans that fit you just right every time you put them on are the items that you can't function without...get rid of them!
You know when you flip through women's fashion magazines and they've gone to a city and pulled random people from the street to take their photo? If you're me, you look at the photos of adorably dressed ladies and die a little on the inside. Whether they've scoured the streets of Austin, Texas, New York City, Paris or Tokyo, the people they find always look so fresh and original.
And while I know that the poor photographer and the magazine handlers probably spent six hours in one spot finding three or four adorably dressed ladies amongst thousands, it's still unfair that there are three or four girls out there like that--ensembles assembled straight from the pages of a high fashion editorial. And you've seen those girls around Tulsa--outfits that seem so effortless, constructed from crap that you know they found in our city in stores to which you venture frequently. And then you look down at yourself, and it's just clothes. No great descriptive, no photographers clamoring to feature your look.
This is me the majority of the time. Don't get me wrong, and not to brag or anything, but I've worked hard to earn this job of being knowledgeable about fashion. I have a closet brimming with great pieces that just require tending. Not tending in the sense that they need alterations or the like, but need some thought. Creating outfits that get you printed in those "random city folk" photos take time and energy. But for every day that I hit the nail on the head with thought out garb, there are dozens of days when I toss in the towel. I grab my favorite pair of jeans, my "it" top of the moment and comfortable shoes. Maybe if you didn't see me regularly, you'd think I'd tried.
This is what everyone's doing, right? Think of those pants that you love. Whether they are work pants that you wear every other day or jeans that fit you just right every time you put them on, these pants are the items that you can't function without. When they aren't at your beck and call, your world is crumbling and you have "nothing to wear."
You top them with shirts that you just recently purchased, a handful of t-shirts, button downs or light weight knits that get worn each week. You occasionally throw a new shirt or two into the round so that your co-workers don't assume you only have a closet with five items. You discard one out of the round as soon as you buy a new shirt.
You top it off with shoes that are nearby, meaning you've worn them a couple of times this week already. And you don't realize you wear the same things over and over until someone points it out. I got called out this week. "For someone with so many pairs of shoes, you wear that pair a lot," a friend said. And it's true. I have 50 plus (don't judge!) pairs of shoes and there's only a handful that regularly see the light of day. And while I assumed no one was noticing, uh, apparently they were. Oh and they're noticing you, too.
This is more than just wearing something because you really love it; it's a full on groove you've gotten yourself into. It's laziness mixed with boredom topped off with blah. And while it technically takes 28 days to develop a routine, maybe a week of change will fire off some syntaxes and jolt you from the humdrum to the hubbub.
I offer you this challenge--for the next week, branch out. Need a fashion goal to achieve or something for inspiration? Opt for the whimsical and quirky.
It seems that whimsical and quirky, along with eccentric and eclectic, are hard to pin down into a single look. It's probably safe to say that jeans wouldn't qualify. Well, maybe if the jeans were the color of a Skittle, but only in that circumstance. Items that would be perfectly acceptable in a private school uniform store are also out; see you in seven days khakis, polos and white (or equally bland color) button-down, crisp shirt. Some things aren't so clearly defined. A graphic tee shirt or plain tee shirt by itself just won't do; when placed underneath a spaghetti strapped dress or cleverly layered with a cardigan and belted, you might just be on your way to quirky.
By outlawing the pillars of our fashion society, you may feel that you'll need to go out and hit the town for new items, but let's face it--you have plenty of clothes you don't wear. You might feel you don't have anything to match with it; it might not be the right season; or it's for certain occasions. And I call BS on all that because when you're being the "quirky" girl, you don't have to be matchy and you are highly skilled in making your wardrobe pieces suitable year round. Oh and those "special" pieces--well, much like that fine china that only gets brought out for "special occasions," we have closeted items that we only pull out for the big events. While I'm not suggesting that you pull out your prom dress covered in 45 pounds of beading, wouldn't it be nice if you, I don't know, wore them? Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons are special too.
Going on Trial
Start your seven-day jolt off easily. Opt for something outside of your typical makeup routine. You have that palette of everyday blah colors, right? Light browns, beiges, maybe some greyer shades for a daytime appropriate smoky eye? Did you know they have all kinds of colors in eye shadows and eyeliners? Whimsy doesn't have to be bright blue eye shadow; it's about being slightly clever. Choose a lilac or teal eyeliner, smudged. Or, currently hitting the makeup counters again are colored mascaras. Try something that almost looks black, like burgundy or deep purple or locate the company making a base coat color in one bold color and a different color for the eyelash tips.
And don't forget about your nails, hands and toes, because whimsical girls in magazines don't. Those of you fashion savvy enough know that black nail polish is squeezing its way slowly out to be followed by dark navy blue polish. But what you may not know is for spring, it's perfectly suitable to wear variations of orange, red and yellow. Not sickly, my-nails-are-diseased yellow, but shiny, primary yellow.
When you see those whimsical, carefree girls, they always look super chic, but also remarkably comfortable. She looks confident, relaxed, and if you look her really in the eyes, probably slightly tired. These kinds of outfits weren't assembled by a group of singing mice in the middle of the night a la Cinderella. She probably spent 45 minutes ransacking the closet; I know this because I've just done it myself.
Putting my preaching into practice, I planned my own atypical, above average looks for the next two days and I'm ready for a nap. And I still don't think they're quite there yet. I don't have any great hats, which eccentric well-dressed ladies have an assortment of, or any belts with fabulous buckling. Anyone who's worthy of a magazine spread knows you have to have a thin strapped belt with a charming buckle; not those huge buckles like men who win rodeos or wrestling matches receive, but dainty ones with bows or other girly elements.
One outfit has no bold prints but it does have a skirt with flounce, which seems appropriate. Whimsical, quirky skirts are one thing, but eccentric pants are mostly just awkward. I can't even think of an example really, but designers are trying to make cargo pants compatible with high heels. Is that whimsical or just wrong? I think the latter. Try a skinny pant with an array of well-layered tops and a pair of crazy shoes. Like, sandals with wedges made of wicker or woven straw. Heels themselves are getting whimsical in recent months, with heels in the shape of flower stems, heels that come from the arch of the foot so that the heel of the foot is completely empty and jeweled decorum on the heel itself.
After the seven-day trial, you may find yourself completely changed head to toe, invigorated once again with your wardrobe and your look. You'll project a new attitude that may inspire others. It'll revolutionize the city and soon, if we're lucky, a fashion spread will one day feature the street shots of Tulsa ladies looking anything but average.
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