Don’t take it personal

So I have this here blog and I feel like the first post should be the obligatory personal style post. I, like I imagine most other people do as well, have a guttural reaction to certain cuts or fabrics—things that just make me hum. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a penchant for baggy tops but—I have to say it—I was doing baggy long before Rachel Zoe handed LiLo a shirt with batwing sleeves to pair with her oversize Balenciaga. I was the kid who thought Dorothy was the best dressed Golden Girl for goodness sake! Anyway skinnies and baggy tops are my fallback—an easy combo when I haven’t had a chance to actually think about what to wear. But rewind to three years ago: one of my best friends was getting married and got me an appointment with an image/wardrobe consultant as a “thanks for being my bridesmaid gift.” At the time, I, like the rest of the TLC-watching world, dreamt of Stacy and Clinton creeping up and surprising me while I was unknowingly waiting for the subway or [insert mundane activity here], with a cheque for $5000.* I’m no slouch when it comes to styling myself and I’ve even gotten paid to do it (for others—not myself), but she thought the experience would be fun and so did I. A chunk of time dedicated wholly to me and my wardrobe!? Self-interest alive and well, I was on board!

I was smug as I followed the image consultant’s pre-appointment preparation instructions, laying every garment and accessory I owned out on my bed/floor/dining room table. She’s going to get here, see my shit and be like, “whoa girlie, you don’t need any help. Congrats.” But I was remiss in my assumption. She took one look at my army of jeans, baggy blouses, and tunics and summed up my closet like so: “you have a lot of dramatic tops and skinny pants…all dark…mostly black. You need some colour and there are some closet staples that you don’t have, like…dress pants.” Frack. I hate “dress pants” unless you’re talking about some drop-crotch, gathered ankle, interesting hybrid of dress and harem pant. Otherwise,  no thanks! I count myself as lucky to have worked at jobs that allowed for—even required—idiosyncrasy when it came to style (unless you count my stint in retail at Club Monaco where our uniform was a white shirt and their signature Tex pant. That was the first and last pair of dress pants I’ll ever wear threadbare at the crotch. Mark my words). Anyway the consultant gave me a list of must-haves, re-emphasized the need for colour in my mournful wardrobe and it was onto phase two: meeting her at the (unnamed) department store where she was newly ensconced as the in-house personal shopper, with the purpose of filling in my hole-y wardrobe.

“…if you squinted your eyes the display looked like every shopper’s nirvana—sparkling accessories, glossy leather bags, jewel toned dresses, and filmy blouses…”

 

I arrived to find that she had preselected outfits and accessories and laid them out over the entire surface area of a private dressing room in a sartorial display so gluttonous, it made my heart skip a beat. And yeah, if you squinted your eyes the display looked like every shopper’s nirvana—sparkling accessories, glossy leather bags, jewel toned dresses, and filmy blouses galore BUT upon closer inspection NOTHING would I have ever picked for myself. “Relax, that’s the point of this little experiment,” I calmed my inner rebelious (read: stressed and worried), voice. After a lot of prodding, doubtful opinions (from me), and positive affirmations (from her), I ended up with a multi-colour silk top with cap sleeves, an ivory sleeveless top with tiered ruffles down the front, a black synthetic bow-neck blouse, a pair of brown, nubbly tweed, high-waisted pants, and the ubiquitous black dress pant. And I’m lucky I was po’ at the time or I surely would have purchased more of these misfit pieces. Not that I didn’t like them per se—turns out she was damn good at fit and proportion. But I liked them in a way that if I saw someone else wearing them on the street I would probably think, “that girl looks surprisingly nice in her business casual office apparel” and that’s it. Still, there I stood at the cash desk, garments and credit card in hand. I couldn’t help it. The pressure to “right” my wardrobe was strong. I was in a panic. Was this why it seemed I never had anything to wear when XX event arose? I needed to clean up my act. Must. Buy. Stuffy. Pieces.

“Three years and a load of hindsight have afforded me this: I know what I like and I’m not going to buy anything that doesn’t scream my name.”

 

To this day I have worn each garment only once with the exception of the tweed pants. Three years and a load of hindsight have afforded me this: I know what I like and I’m not going to buy anything that doesn’t scream my name. Don’t get me wrong. There is always room for refinement and I find myself developing my style all the time. She was right in telling me I could use some colour and there were holes in my wardrobe, which I have filled with pieces that mesh with my look. Her folly was simply that she underestimated the power of personal style.

 * For the sake of clarity, I would still readily welcome an ambush by Stacy and Clinton. Just sayin’.

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Roslyn Costanzo
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  1. […] years ago and had them in the giveaway pile when I had the closet consultation that I wrote about here but they are one of the few things that she encouraged me to keep because they were […]

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