My Winter Of (Wardrobe) Discontent — Will New Shoes Help?

In Following the Fashion (1794), James Gillray...
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You open the doors and sigh.

Every magazine urges you to “shop your closet!”, as though there’s actually anything in there. You click through the hangers, booooored with what’s on them. These clothes are not you. Who would wear them? Did space aliens invade while you were asleep and suck out your every ounce of style?

This is where I have landed.

Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that even cheapo’s like me, the “aspirational shopper” are heading back into stores. And this week, again, marks Fashion Week in Manhattan, which attracts 1116,000 people and during which a gajllion more garments will slither across the runways hoping to find favor with bloggers, retail buyers and editors.

In search of guidance, I’ve  read Lucky and In Style and find them, mostly, overwhelming and terrifying. Who really has $750 to spend on a handbag?  The clothes they combine look bizarre and uncomfortable, even if they look really great on size 0 17-year-olds.

In vain, I read fashion magazines hoping I will find something useful. I now know the names of every designer and who just got fired and hired, even if I can’t possibly afford a $2,500 Prorsum dress or Proenza Schouler’s new handbag. I know how to tell Louboutins from Choos (not that I own either, since a pair of either costs more than my mortgage payment.)

I need a new look.

And so, I bought a pair of black suede shoes this week that would utterly horrify most people I know. They’re a version of a style now shown in every fashion magazine, and the kind of thing I would never have imagined wearing in a million years: too trendy, too high, too edgy. Perfect!

The sweetie’s eyes lit up when I put them on — especially since they add 4.5 inches to my 5’5″ height.

I’ve been in a style rut for a while, a combination of a severely restricted budget, (i.e. no shopping), currently wearing a size that many stores refuse to carry (why bother shopping when all you end up with is frustration?) and, perhaps most crucial, no cool gal-pal, a fashion mentor, as it were, to help me figure this style thing out.

Trying to kick-start your look just by reading magazines or watching “What Not To Wear” is like trying to practise Mandarin by reading a menu. You gotta work it.

So this out-of-character footwear is, I hope, the first step to a new (er) me. I’ll still reach for my go-to classics, whether an Hermes silk twill scarf or my beloved pale gray down jacket (bought with my discount when I worked retail), but it’s time to test-drive some new looks. Some, no doubt, won’t be great. (I live in the ‘burbs, so it’s not as though anyone will notice.)

What a style shift really demands, is a lot more than cash. It’s the confidence to try it and pull it off.

Journalists generally dress very badly, as much because their pay is low as the inherent clash between fashion and function. Fashion means drawing attention, while working well in journalism demands its deflection.  We’re there to observe, not to be observed.

Dressing to be warm, comfortable and unobtrusive may make for great reporting, but it can kill a wardrobe.

Have you ever re-booted your look? Where did you find inspiration? Did you have help?

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