Friday, February 8, 2008

What I wore: musings on colour, style

It has been so very grey around here, week after week after week, and when it wasn't grey, it was so cold that I was wearing clothes that at the very least felt very grey. (Ironically, one of my colleagues complimented me a few weeks ago on the greys I'd been wearing all week -- I hadn't been conscious of the pattern 'til she pointed it out.) So yesterday, I decided I needed some colour, some rich, bold red. For decades I never wore red, quite sure that it didn't flatter me, but in the last few years I've been wearing scarves and accent pieces in blue-based reds, and getting quite positive feedback. Emboldened, last winter, I bought a silk knit top at Banana Republic, but have scarcely worn it since, although last fall I bought some tights the same colour and wore them once. Yesterday, though, seemed to demand I step up: top and tights and red loafers and even a red belt! I tried keeping everything else toned down and simple: dark denim clean-cut skirt, slim-fitting tunic-length, fine merino navy cardigan. But still, I admit that I hesitated when I looked in the mirror. Would they all be rolling their eyes behind my back at the old lady in her silly tights, the too-much-colour? Besides which, I'm not sure the top is flattering in its cut (the drapiness at the neck might just accentuate my own personal drapiness at the neck!). I'm quite aware that the outfit makes no convincing claim on chicness.

But while I think editing with an objective eye is important in nurturing style, I think sometimes you have to let the visual take second place to other elements, follow an expressive idea and risk the ridicule. Looking down at these favourite red Parisian loafers, I see the counterpoint they form with the dark knee-length skirt, evoking my school uniforms of decades ago. The opaque tights similarly echo my past, having been a favourite element of my teens and perhaps every decade since. I know better now than to try wearing them with the exuberant flair of Susie Bubble, but I'm not going to give them up because of some fashion diktat about a certain number.

Once when I was out shopping with my best shopping companion, my oldest daughter, we stopped for a coffee, and I bemoaned my unfortunate style choice for a shopping day: I'd looked fine with my black tummy-covering leather jacket on, but underneath, I'd tucked a black T into my belted jeans, and was not feeling good about the resulting exposed pouch (and, to be clear, this wasn't a body issue, but a dressing-the-body issue which I think is a bit different -- I accept the tummy but would prefer not to put it on display). From this sense of gaucherie, I moved on to wish I could acquire that unerring sense of chic that meant never feeling vulnerable because mistakes got edited before they left the house rather than recognized on the street or in a shop or at a party. By this point, I'd broadened my reference to include my propensity to try out new fashions, ideas, combinations, before learning that they weren't the best look for me. And my daughter, herself very edited, with very few wardrobe errors, wisely pointed out that the risks I took were part of the fun I had with style, were part of my own personal style that both expresses who I am and in some way makes me who I am. (Let me quickly acknowledge that compared to a Susie Bubble my style experimentation and risk-taking is minor, limited, but the latitude afforded to a mid-50s woman is limited as well, believe me.)

Really, I suspect that with few exceptions (of such observers as I am), most whose vision fields I crossed yesterday will not even have noticed my red tights. The tights made me feel cheerier, though, and obviously gave me something to think about. If I ever get the nerve, I'll show you the pair Daughter #3 (otherwise known as Girlcook) brought me back from Montreal 6 or 7 years ago -- sky-blue with multi-coloured butterflies flitting all over them!

Meanwhile, consider today the first installation of my participation in Project Spectrum:

The idea of Project Spectrum is simply a celebration of the colors around us, and taking the time to notice them. Participants can dye, crochet, weave, decoupage, spin, build, stitch, knit, paint, scrapbook, construct, sew, quilt, cook, grow, collage, photograph, bake, or bead items in that color group (of course all arts and crafts that I missed are totally welcome as well!).It is really about expressing yourself creatively - making something beautiful, and creating something unique with your hands. It is also about thinking outside of the box - perhaps taking up a new hobby, or a long neglected one, or finally dabbling in design.

The 2008 theme for Project Spectrum is the elements, and in February/March, participants are invited to think about Fire, and the colours associated with it: red, orange, pink (yellow being saved for an associating with air). Perhaps the majority of participants are knitters and there's a group on Ravelry I think I'll join, but I'm going to use the category of photography (not to mention the very spirit of the enterprise) as permission to survey all the 'elements' of daily living. I'll knit the Project Spectrum too: as soon as I finish the Tulip Cardigan, I will cast on with the perfect fiery yarn, and I'm planning photos of fiery colours that warm my home. Stay tuned.


  1. i am so happy to hear about your choice to join preojct spectrum this year. while the knitters may be a little more vocal, there are many other artists/crafters taking part in ps as well. photography is definitely a major group of participation. i look forward to seeing more! best wishes~

  2. Of the many things I could say, I choose only this - I want a pair of red loafers.

    Ok, and this - one must be wrong, and wrong again and again. This is imperative in life, in love, and in lookin' sharp.

  3. Some friends of mine are fans of "The Artist's Way" which is about unlocking, unblocking and channeling creativity. One of ideas they've quoted that's become one of my favorites is about giving yourself permission to do something badly. There's a kind of stultifying sameness that comes from *always* sticking to what we know works for us, so I applaud your courage in taking chances and not sticking to a style formula.

    BTW, I love the red shoes and tights together!

  4. didn't I get you some hot pink fishnets a few years ago?? I'm still waiting to see you work those into an outfit but I still think you could pull it off!

  5. Thomas: I suppose red loafers will be harder to find for a guy than they were for me. Cafe Mode was talking about her new Weston loafers last week -- they definitely don't come in red!
    Deja: I really like that idea -- if we only do what we know we can do well, we've got to be limiting our growth. Thomas underlines that idea with his "Being wrong as an imperative" comment above.
    Bronwen: I'd completely forgotten about those when writing the post, altho' I think they're still in my drawer upstairs. Don't you think I should try to resist that challenge? Or should I wear them next time Dad & I meet you at Lolita's on a Friday night?! That might qualify as the imperative Thom is talking about.

  6. Glad you stopped by; yours was one of the sites I managed to lose when I revamped my website, and had to plug all the URLs in manually. I've readded your site to my "Other Great Sites" listings.
    Not a lot of winter flowering or fragrance until the Hamamelis flowers, and that won't be for a while yet. We're still in snow here--some parts of the province will soon be seeing snowdrops and their hamamelis will flower sooner, but we've a long way to go on the western side of the province. The Fundy winds are chillly.

  7. Our daughters really do seem to have the style thing down pat, don't they? I think your outfit is terrific!

  8. I love that red, I love opaque tights, the brighter the better although I too am guilty of occasionally languishing in the grey spectrum its so calming. At the end of last year I bought a lovely brown jumper but in the shop they said I should buy the red, I do not know why but I struggle with red, especially on the top half, so I applaud you and long may you continue to rock the red!

  9. Tara: Yes, and it's useful to have daughters' eyes in mind when I "check my look in the mirror"
    Alison: I know what you mean -- my big break-out (from black and grey) a few years ago was boldly branching out to the chocolate brown!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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