Ok, I’m going somewhere I don’t go often. I know I may come across as a pop culture snob at times. “Ooh, look at me! I only watch movies that you have to read! Ooh, I don’t listen to music you’ve heard of! Ooh, I’m not a fan of Twilight. Ooh, I don’t like when people cause car accidents because of their stupid iPhones!”
But when it comes to fashion, I came to a harsh realization the other day as I attempted week four of my experiment to be more stylish: it’s all a defense mechanism. I’m the copout, not the masses. See, it’s actually hard work to conform and it’s only fair that I admit it. I know you think my tongue is firmly in my cheek right now, but it’s not. I’m dead serious. “Dressing for Success” is hard and I have respect for those who can do it.
I’d say my fashion sense straddles a confusing line, but it’s more of a trapezoid, really. Somewhere muddled in rock chic, feminine sporty, laidback urban, and business casual is my wardrobe. I wear what I have. And there’s no rhyme or reason to what I have.
A few weeks ago I got caught in the What Not to Wear web of fashion guilt. As victim after victim marched on camera, I found myself saying “wait, I wore that Tuesday” more often than I would have liked. Inspired by a few friends who somehow look like magazine covers to do yard work, I decided to try my hand at fashion as well.
Let me tell you, it was ugly (but not literally).
Reason 1: It’s expensive and time-consuming.
You have to go to stores. You have to drop what you’re doing, get in your car, and go to stores. You might as well ask me to replace your roof. But I was committed, so there I was, in a store, gazing at the sea of clearance racks like a goldfish asked to pick its favorite three drops of water. I had no clue what I was doing, I only knew I didn’t belong there.
As other shoppers circled around me with their armloads of ocean water, I sensed I was fighting a losing battle. I studied them for a moment. Studied as they expertly manhandled those racks and seemed to know when to pull something off them and when to keep shuffling. I tried it to. I probably even looked like I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t. I only knew that some things came with free belts and other things didn’t and getting a belt seemed better than not getting a belt.
After two hours and six thousand garments, I walked away with three shirts and a pair of jeans. That’s fashion, and I stink at it.
Reason 2: Accessories.
As if it’s not hard enough picking out a stylish top and pair of pants, truly fashionable people also accessorize. Look at them closely next time you admire someone. They don’t just have the perfect jeans. In addition to clothing, they wear things like scarves. Scarves! It never even occurred to me to pop over to the scarf section after I was done with my belt shirts. And I’m not talking about the functional ones when it’s 20 degrees outside. I’m talking about those pretty circle ones that make someone look like they know what they’re doing. Those are the people I wanted to be, but now know I can’t. I can’t, because I didn’t know about scarves.
They also must have endless drawers of costume jewelry. I have my six pairs of earrings and two necklaces and I thought that was fine. I could cycle among them without a thought. I rarely wear necklaces anyway. They always bang on my laptop or get caught on my seatbelt. But fashionable people don’t cycle. It seems like they never even wear the same piece twice. I have no clue how they do that. No one has that much money. Well, no one I know. So it must be magic or something. I’m not kidding. I know it’s not possible that they’ve never worn the same thing twice, but truly fashionable people are master magicians. They can take the same shirt and make it look like four different shirts spread out over a year. I think as long as I don’t repeat a shirt in the same week I’m good.
They also know what to do with things like that big feather earring. Yes, I saw it on that turning thingy in the jewelry section. Yes, I thought it looked cool, but I’ll be darned if I’d know what to do with it. But they know. And they look amazing. I’d look like Peacock #2 in the rock musical of Noah’s Ark.
Reason 3: Shoes.
I have many roles at my job, one of which is in IT. That may sound impressive, but it really means I spend a lot of time crawling around under desks and playing with power cords. I climb on a lot of boxes, stand on chairs, and squeeze behind things. Heels and I don’t have a very good relationship.
Try being a fashionable woman without wearing heels. You can’t.
I have my favorite flats, and they’re not even old lady support shoes. They’re actually various shades of glittery cuteness, but they’re not what I’m supposed to be wearing. I know this because all my pants are too long. Pants are made to be worn with heels. Flat shoes are made to be worn on the one day every two weeks that you don’t wear heels.
And it’s not like you can have just one pair of heels to get you through the season. You need a pair of funky ones to wear with your non-funky outfits to make them work. You need plain ones to wear with your crazy outfits to make those work. That’s what Stacy and Clinton say, and I believe them. I do, the problem is, my logical brain can’t seem to process that. You need at least 5 pairs of heels and you wear them with the opposite of what you think you should.
I can’t wear heels anyway. That means I’ve lost the fashion battle right out of the gate.
Reason 4: Go, but not match.
And finally, reason #4 why I will never be as fashionable as I want to be. Stacy says your outfits need to go, but not match. If I knew what that meant, we’d be having a much different monologue right now.
Ok, I should clarify, I know what that means, I just have no idea how to execute it. Matching is easy. I’ve been playing that game since preschool.
“Oh! Blue! Here’s a blue stripe. Here’s a blue that’s not a stripe. I can wear my blue eye shadow and blue earrings with it!” That makes sense, right? Logical brain says, yes! You have an outfit.
Clinton and Stacy say no! No, no, no! You put that blue stripe with a red top, a yellow handbag and leopard print heels.
Wait, huh? Now the math gets hazy. So if I wear leopard print heels with a leopard handbag, I’m on the show for looking like a hooker, but if I wear leopard print heels with a yellow handbag, I’m accessorizing.
And here’s where the gap between the haves and the have-nots becomes irreparable. This is not a learned a skill. You can give me an unlimited budget, a week of time, a stack of scarves, heels, belts, and jewelry. You can coach me on the right cuts for my body type, the appropriate looks for work versus play, and an entire mountain of choices to achieve it all. But that means nothing if you don’t have the innate ability to distinguish “going” from “matching.”
And that’s what it all boils down to, right? The fashionable can stand in that ocean of possibilities and decide which three drops of water they should bring home with them. They know there’s a scarf section and a sunglasses section and a hair section that has those little flowers. They know when to wear those little flowers and when they’d just look like forest nymphs. I’m a forest nymph. And a peacock. And a slob whose pants are too long.
Fashion is not a science. It’s an art. It’s an ability. It’s a subjective sixth sense. If it were something that could be learned, I could join their ranks.
But my experiment taught me that I can’t. I don’t have the gift. I don’t know how to wear a peacock feather. I just want the free belt.