What Inspires You When Getting Dressed?
Why I hate a costume but love a style reference
Earlier this week, I woke up to a forecast of rain, and a high of 65.
Great, I thought, as I peered into my closet, grumbling about spring “skipping New York” this year. Good thing I’m a procrastinator when it comes to my closet, and hadn’t yet swapped out my cold weather clothes for warm weather clothes (maybe I’ll get around to it next month?).
Spying my long-sleeved options, I opted for a black turtleneck with cutout shoulders, peg-leg jeans, a pair of creepers on my feet, and a trench coat with the belt tied back.
Looking in the mirror, I liked what I saw…apart from the umbrella in my hand. The pound of dry shampoo I’d shaken into my hair had even mostly been absorbed into my greasy strands, and the outfit was working. I looked pulled together, chic even.
With sunglasses, my look read as “incognito chic.” Like a woman, I decided, from the Upper West Side in the 1970s on her way to meet her lover downtown.
I quickly posted this to Instagram Stories because showing off an outfit I like while acting like it’s not really be about the selfie is the online intersection where I want to reside at all times. (Instagram! Making us exponentially more terrible people since 2010!)
“Trench coat: check. sunglasses: check. Turtleneck: check.” I scrawled on the screen. And then I made my joke about looking like I was having an affair in the 70s.
Right after hitting send, I was hit with deja vu.
The thought process: I must have made the joke before. I must dress like a 1970s adulterer a lot. I must like dressing like a 1970s adulterer.
From there I wondered, is this funny to anyone but me? Does this even make sense? Would anyone but me look at my outfit and think anything other than “She’s smart to wear a trench coat since it’s supposed to rain”?
I’d like to think we all get these ideas in our heads about what an outfit “means.”
That we all sometimes give our style a backstory. That we’re all inspired by creative references in our wardrobes, no matter how random they may seem.
Another example: Whenever I bother to blow out my hair the long way (and with the length of my hair these days, the long way is truly a loooong way), I feel like Melania Trump, whose official role, it seems, mostly consists of infrequent appearances with artfully arranged, extremely shiny hair.
Another instance I feel inspired in an outfit? When I wear black leggings and my favorite black hoodie with a ball cap. I know it’s silly, but I can’t help but feel like a cat burglar in a movie on her way to a heist.
The other day, I paired a cashmere shell with a t-shirt and immediately felt like Rachel Green on the last episode of Friends, an extremely specific reference that I texted a few friends about to see if they knew what the heck I was talking about. They didn’t.
But that’s not really the point. Or, perhaps, that’s exactly the point. I don’t want to walk out of my house looking like I’m wearing a costume. This isn’t cosplay; this is my personal style, with references taken from anywhere and everywhere.
It’s funny; it’s never outfits I feel blah about that make me feel a way. It’s not, “Oooh, head-to-toe greige. How fun, I look like walking Lexapro.”
No, the lazy, thrown-together outfits, the less-than-thoughtful looks that merely get me out the door—they never put me in a new, inspired state of mind. They never make me feel like I’m playing a character, or like I have a fun, sexy secret.
So I’ve decided I think that’s the goal. I don’t like a costume, but I like the feeling of being transported by your clothes. To feel like you’re headed somewhere chic and glamorous, even (especially?) if you’re just headed to work. To un-ironically compare your hair to that of a woman with a full-time hair stylist on staff.
Style can make us feel so many ways; why wouldn’t we want it to make us feel like a more interesting, glamorous, even dangerous version of ourselves?