Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Okay, So Maybe I'm Not That Chic

I really didn't intend to look like a bag lady at my friend's wedding. Naples was experiencing a cold snap that weekend and I knew the sunset ceremony would be outside on a terrace. My motive was to keep warm.

That is what living in a subtropical climate has done to me. As soon as the temperature dips below 70, while all the tourists frolic on the beach in swimsuits I bundle up in anything I can find with wool mentioned on the fabric label. Wool skirts and sweaters that in some cases I have had since high school and college in Pennsylvania, because they still look new from seldom being worn during the 26 years that I've lived here in Florida.

The cropped, wool cardigan seemed wedding-appropriate; it was black and sprinkled with faceted black beads. It was also as thick as a horse blanket, which fit my warmth agenda. I paired it with a slim, wool, black mid-calf skirt, and added black stockings and black pointy-toe shoes to further up the dressy quotient.

And since the bride had even suggested black, I was relieved to not have to think about it anymore.

But judging from how practically every other female at the wedding was clothed, even the groom's three-year-old granddaughter--in dresses and tops with bare arms and legs--I am guessing that looking like someone in Siberia isn't a popular style for weddings.

It's not that anyone actually said I looked like a bag lady. But the bride didn't exactly disagree with me either when I told her that I thought that's how I appeared in her wedding photographs.

So now I know and will not soon forget: A-line and midi length are not a flattering combination in a skirt. Particularly when that skirt is paired with low-heeled shoes and horse-blanket sweaters.

Lesson learned.

But if I were to believe everything that I think my friends imply about me--or what I see on television and in magazines--I could easily come to the conclusion that I never wear the right clothes or makeup or hairstyle, since I don't look like those models or movie stars. I don't look glamorous or sexy. I look sort of plain. Like the “before” photographs on those makeover television shows. To be honest, I often like the before shots better than the afters, so maybe I favor plain.

But some of my friends don't.

“I think you look better when you at least wear mascara,” a good friend told me over lunch last year. It wasn't surprising, considering she likes to wear eye makeup much of the time. Even to the gym.

That same friend also likes to pester me about my hair length. She says I would look better if I cut it much shorter. But when I did cut it much shorter years ago, another friend said it made me look older.

It's amazing what we all do to help ourselves look what we think is our best. A woman confessed to me that after several years of marriage her husband still thought her strawberry blonde hair was natural. It wasn't. And she had no intention of breaking his blissful bubble.

My own blonde hair is natural--naturally mouse-blonde at the roots. And there is gray there, too, these days. The “natural" sunny highlights I owe to my hair colorist, bless his talented fingers. And gratefully, even my friends seem to approve.

But even if they didn't, I have decided to focus on pleasing myself from now on when it comes to my style, since trying to please everyone else is impossible.

True style is about integrity anyway. It's about honestly articulating on the outside who we are on the inside.

I love seeing other women with that kind of courageous individual style. They are my mentors. They inspire me.

I know my own style isn't for everyone; it's certainly not cool or trendy. And I'm beginning to be okay with that.

I like comfort and simplicity.

And sweaters as thick as horse blankets.

Bag ladies unite.

QUESTION: Does your style reflect the true you?

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