Hi there. Nice to see you again.
You know, there are two types of women: Women who have a million shoes...and women who don’t.
For all of the Carrie Bradshaws of the world, there are the Mirandas like moi: The ones who opt for a smaller repertoire of practical and comfortable footwear.
Though waves of fashionista aspirations hit me from time to time, I have yet to know anything about shoes, or purses, or the latest trends.
I experienced the height of my fashion sense at the age of four. I paired my ratty Mom-like jeans with patent leather shoes – selected specifically for the clip-clop sound they made on the floor – plastic jewelry, and my trusty panda purse – full of chapstick and pretty “gems” aka rocks I found at the lake.
It was pretty much all downhill from there.
But, as D says, I have my “own sense of style”, whatever that means. And I’ve found a few ways to look at least semi put-together on a regular basis by exerting as little effort as possible.
Here are a few practical tips from an anti-fashionista:
#1: Love the idol, be yourself.
Who among us doesn’t look for ways in which we are “just like” our idols? We all do it. Though we might roll our eyes at our ludicrous American culture, we all love those ridiculous pages in Stars magazine that prove that celebs are, really and truly, just like us. Because that means that we’re just like them.
I always go back to my one and only, Audrey Hepburn. While I know that Audrey and I are very different people – she spoke six languages, I drink more wine, and so forth – I appreciate the fact that we do seem to have a lot in common. When it comes to fashion, she reminds me to keep it simple and classy. I don’t always succeed, but it certainly makes life easier. Plus, black is always in, and I love that.
And, in terms of keeping it “me”, I usually “hippify” it in subtle ways. For example, Audrey would never wear big beaded jewelry – or a perfume called Wind Dancer. You can take the girl out of Ithaca, but you can’t take the Ithaca out of the girl...
That said, yes, I do have those days where I go full-on Hepburn: Black cropped pants, white button-down shirt, and scarf. And it feels so good.
#2: One statement piece does an outfit make.
I recently learned via a great You Must Remember This podcast that, in her younger years – before she paired up with Hubert de Givenchy – Audrey owned “one blouse, one skirt, one pair of shoes, and fourteen scarves”.
I can relate. Scarves are my shoes. I own about ten pairs of shoes and about thirty scarves.
Scarves are my fashion kryptonite. Scarves are what I have to stop myself from buying at nearly every store I go to. They’re my go-to accessories, and they’re arguably the most versatile item one could wear. When an outfit feels “Meh”, a scarf magically elevates it to, well, at least more of a solid “Huh”.
D says he loves how I can pull an outfit together – which is 1) Pretty entertaining coming from a man who is far from metrosexual, and 2) Motivating. Whether a scarf or a chunky belt, one piece can make all the difference: It can move you from frumpy to at least moderately chic in two seconds flat.
#3: Laugh at yourself.
For some reason, we have 27 umbrellas, and, on the morning of basically a hurricane, I managed to choose one the size of a peanut. I assumed it was just very strategically wrapped up and would expand...but the expansion was only about one foot in diameter. It was Ironic – except that I had 27 knives, and I somehow ended up choosing the spoon.
I’ve had plenty of those awful mornings where I just can’t figure out what to wear. Aren’t those mornings the worst?! Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. You feel so stupid looking through your dresser or closet or both and somehow not finding anything that you feel like wearing. UGH. The struggle is real – and, again, it makes you feel stupid.
But, laugh when it happens (or after it happens), and carry on with your day.
#4: Know your strengths...and your weaknesses.
Audrey also always wore flats, because she was self-conscious about her 5’7” height. I avoid heels not only because they’re uncomfortable, but because, being 5’9” and unaccustomed to them, I look like Bambi learning how to walk. It’s pathetic and embarrassing, and it’s just not worth it.
Speaking of walking, I’d rather it not be painful. So, on those rare occasions when I do want to step it up, so to speak, I opt for a wedge, or the lowest version of a heel possible and rock my granny-style with a pain-free strut and a smile.
#5: Don’t be afraid of a little color.
Fun fact: I made it into the Styles section of an NYC Japanese newspaper. True story. A journalist stopped me smack dab in the middle of Times Square, took my photo, and asked me about all of my clothing items. To which I replied something like:
Dark green coat: North Face
Magenta scarf: Gift, I don’t know what brand
Gray leg warmers: Ditto
Brown wool headband: Homemade gift
Bright teal sneakers: Aasics
And then I laughed all the way home. You know you’re wearing a few too many colors when the Japanese newspaper thinks you’re stylish.
That said, living in a city where black equates to 90% of most people’s wardrobes, it is fun to spice things up a bit.
#6: Take cues.
A previous business partner and I used to meet at coworking spaces throughout the week. She always came dressed to the nines, while I, well, dressed more for comfort.
I’ll never forget coming in one day, dressed semi-nicely – a corduroy jacket, non-jean or workout pants, and a $2 thrifted buttoned-down men’s shirt. She asked, ““Did you go somewhere else before this?” In other words, “Why do you look so put together?”
That was a cue that perhaps I could put in a little more effort.
#7: You do you.
This pretty much sums up the rest of my style approach, if you could even call it that.
Only two of my six pairs of jeans are skinny jeans – one a $10 thrifted semi-skinny and one a hand-me-down from my sister. I wholeheartedly agree with Stephen Colbert: “The skinnification of America’s jeanscape has gone too far. “
Why are all pants skinny?!
I want to start a company called Not Skinny Jeans.
Jeans that aren’t skinny can still be cool. I still swear by my high-waisted bell-bottomed Rag & Bone wonder jeans. I also have a pair of baggies that I cuff generously. When I recently paired them with a turtleneck sweater and boots, my sister commented that I looked like a hipster. Now that is a top “Dear Diary” moment right there.
Those jeans also cost me about $10. There’s definitely a thrill to feeling like a MasterCard ad:
Compliments on second-hand outfit: Priceless
Seeing Hamilton was a thrill in and of itself. Another thrill: The elegant Russian woman behind me who said, “I love your skirt...I noticed it when you stood up.” I replied, “Thanks! I found it at a thrift store for $25!” (Because, yes, I’m in the habit of shamelessly putting it out there. Still working on more understated responses.) She laughed and said, “Well, it looks like a million!”
It’s the little things.
So, there you go. Top fashion tips from someone who knows pretty much nothing about fashion:
Love the idol, be yourself.
One statement piece does an outfit make.
Laugh at yourself.
Know your strengths...and your weaknesses.
Don’t be afraid of a little color.
You do you.
As my artist father has always said, "Less is more." My beauty tips are very much in the same boat, but I’ll save those for another day.
For now, tell me about your relationship with fashion. How many pairs of shoes do you have? And how do you keep it simple, or what would you like to make simpler?
Thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.