I finally watched a few episodes of Emily in Paris the other night. As a designer, I couldn’t help being more interested in Patricia Field’s costume design than the actual plot though…
I grew up in Germany and was reminded by the show of a way of dressing that is prevalent in much of Europe: invest in beautiful clothes and wear them every day — and look like a queen in the process. This European way of dressing was exemplified by the character of Emily’s French boss, Sylvie, who mostly wore a very well-fitting, lovely, expensive-looking (note: we don’t even know the label or price tag!) suit every day.
Pondering this, I remembered how, when my daughter was very young, I watched her wearing her beloved princess dresses every day. She wore them to play, to kindergarten and later school, definitely at birthday parties — in a nutshell: all the time. She owned quite a collection: every princess’ signature dress, plus a range of fairy dresses. And of course, she wore them without the slightest concern for anyone else’s opinion: for example, she never thought twice about pairing her princess ball gown with thick tights and rain boots.
I’m the biggest admirer of the way girls her age will only wear the absolutely, most beautiful items. There is so much passion and love in their self-expression. They will wear their most precious gowns to the playground and will still wear them when they are already in shreds. They only see the beauty that reflects their own, but not the imperfections.
What happens to all this fun, joy, and sureness of one’s style? I feel like as we grow up and get concerned about what others think of us and/or as we get busy, busy, busy, we adapt all these rules that unfortunately end up overriding a lot of the fun. There are rules about trends to follow and rules about colors that are or are not supposed to be mixed. I distinctly remember the rule to not mix patterns — nowadays that’s highly encouraged, although there are rules about how to do it properly. There are rules about which garments should be worn where, what is age-appropriate, and which colors and shapes are acceptable for work. The list seems to go on and on.
Another idea that concerns me is that we shouldn’t be seen wearing a standout, recognizable dress more than once. Why not? Let me tell you, that’s just bonkers. I strongly recommend that no-one buy into this idea.
Let’s say you purchased a dress, or coat, or suit in a beautiful fabric with a bold pattern in bright colors. It’s well-tailored and fits you like a glove. You feel comfortable, you can breathe, sit, and move in it, and it lifts your mood and makes you smile. Last but not least a piece of clothing that is worn a lot and continues to look beautiful — in itself and on you — requires quality materials and construction which may translate into a bit of an investment. Reading this you can probably think of such a garment — either in your closet or somewhere on a wishlist of yours.
Wouldn’t it be a little sad to not wear this beauty and really, really enjoy it? Think back to the way little girls dress and ask yourself this question: What would my four, 5, or 6-year old self do? Would they leave their favorite princess dress on the hanger in the closet? Shall we agree that the answer to this question is a big NO? Plus, so much work, time, and craftsmanship went into creating those pieces – and I say this next part with a wink of humor and a smidgen of truth: it’s almost disrespectful not to wear it all the time.
I do get that it can be overwhelming to think about how to switch things up a bit and wear this favorite garment in more than one way and perhaps even during different seasons. Let me see if I can be of help and give you some inspiration.
I used to think a boldly patterned piece was a special occasion item. Then I realized a bold, colorful, attention-grabbing dress, skirt, pair of pants, coat, or suit can be really easy to style and wear. Here is how: Treat it like the main player that it is, and let classic pieces take it into different directions. Chances are, these classics are already in your wardrobe anyways.
Let’s take the example of the suit in the image above. How easy would it be to wear the gorgeous jacket with a pair of jeans — either white or light wash ones are great options. And how cute would the jacket be with a mini skirt or dress, or a slinky maxi slip? The pants will look equally stunning with a crisp white button-down, an off-white billowy silk blouse, a fitted turtleneck, or a simple white T-Shirt. That’s eight outfits right there (counting the jeans only once) — more than a week’s worth of style.
Now let me ask you this: How many of the pieces I suggested do you already own? Chances are that one or two of those combos will work as your go-to, everyday, get-dressed-in-a-minute solution — all depending on your lifestyle and day-to-day tasks, schedules, and errands. Other pairings can serve to spark some ideas for different occasions — a garden party, a brunch, a weekend trip?
The only guideline you need to remember is this: Don’t be intimidated by bold color or an attention-grabbing print. More likely than not they are easier to wear than you think. Take these suggestions as a starting point and try out some combinations of your own with items you already have in your closet. There are only two possibilities: they’ll either work, or they won’t, but you won’t find out unless you give it a try. Most importantly: Have fun! That’s what we all need more of anyway.
I really believe the possibilities are endless. Learning to be playful with what we have in our closets and enjoying the process as well as the results will give you so much more than just a pretty reflection in the mirror, I promise. The way we look can help represent who we are — our passions, our spirit, and our energy. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing that favorite piece over and over again.