Walking out of work the other evening, I crossed paths yet again with everyone’s favorite security guard, he of the 86,400 seconds in a day.
As I strode past, he called out after me, “Purple is in!”
I turned back, confused. “Oh?”
“Yeah! Didn’t you know that? Purple is the color of the year!”
I laughed. “Well, clearly I’m off to a good start, then!”
This exchange, albeit brief, got me thinking about my style, which rarely follows the latest trends. I like wearing dark nailpolishes even in summer (on the extremely rare occasions I can actually manage to be non-lazy enough to paint my nails), and I hate skinny jeans, and I never know anything about the color of the year. On this particular day, I was wearing a pink dress, jeans, red shoes, and a blue-purple headwrap.
I have a lot of scarves, all organized by color in a dozen clear drawers for easy reference. Approximately thirty seconds of every morning are spent trying to figure out which scarf to wear; if I’m running late (as I usually am), I strategize this while in the shower.
Shoes are secondary. I never base an outfit around shoes, which is probably why I wear the same two pairs over and over. My main rule for shoes (except for fancy-schmancy high-heels which I wear to weddings or professional events and then promptly take off in the parking lot afterward) is based off this simple question: Would I be able to spend a day walking around the City in these? Granted, I’m not in San Francisco all the time. But any shoes that can withstand a day-long session of meandering through city streets (whether Berkeley, DC, Toronto, or Toledo) and up and down steep inclines (oh, hi, San Francisco and Granada and Fez) are the ones I want — and so far this has always meant flats and flip-flops. I may be short, but I’d rather be short and comfortable.
My only rule for pants of any sort: They must flare out from the knee. The wider the flare, the better, which is why I lovelovelove bell-bottoms.
A couple of years ago, my boss at my last job once scrutinized my outfit, head cocked to one side, and asked, “So, can you explain to me the thought process that goes through your head every morning when you’re getting dressed?”
I glanced down: Red dress, dark-pink tshirt, black cargo pants, my favorite gray sweater, unzipped. “What’s up with the way I’m dressed?”
“Nothing,” she said. “It’s just that I would never have thought of wearing those two shades together, but somehow you pull it off. And the headwrap just pulls it all together. And the earrings!”
Like much of the rest of the world, I, too, roll out of bed in the mornings after hitting ’snooze’ too many times and stumble bleary-eyed towards the closet. Some days, the “What should I wear?” question is so overwhelming that I just opt for the most reliable combination of items. There are several things I wear together over and over, because I know they work. Other days, I spend a few extra minutes on this. But regardless of how long it takes to pull an outfit together, rarely do I not make the effort to get ready — even if it’s the weekend and I’m just going to be sitting on the couch, watching old Hindi films. I love pajamas just as much as the next person — but only at night.
And, of course, there are a few “rules” I swear by. Here, then, is a little bit of my methodology, for those of you who may be interested as well.
(i) If I were to sum up my wardrobe in one word, it would be this: DRESSES.
I am a huge fan of dresses, and my entire style revolves around dresses. I can’t not do dresses. I love them because they provide the perfect amount of coverage while still allowing me to feel suitably rockstarish.
And not just any dresses, either — just-above-knee-length is most perfect. I’m very picky about this.
Very rarely do I ever break the dresses-only rule (and usually only for fancy-schmancy professional conferences and such), although the execution may vary. Long shirts and the Pakistani kameez are also perfect for the “dresses” category, since it’s not so much the style but the length that I care about:
Asymmetrical dresses are my favorite (sometimes I cut them up myself to make them asymmetrical; not in this case, though — this brown dress just came this way, years ago, and is perhaps the inspiration for my love of asymmetry):
And sometimes I splurge:
I bought this dress for $50 several years ago, from my favorite little hometown shop, they of the “UNOPEN” sign. It’s the most expensive non-professional item of clothing I own, and, even though my little sister was horrified at the expense, and even though my father hates it (”Can’t you just hand me a scissor so I can cut off those strings for you?”), it’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. It’s also probably the only item of clothing I wear in-season — it’s too summery-looking to feel right in the midst of winter.
With the exception of the above dress, I don’t really believe in winter outfits or summer outfits. I wear nearly every single in my closet year-round, adding or subtracting layers as the weather dictates.
Which brings me to my next point:
(ii) If I were to sum up my entire style in one word, it would be this: LAYERS.
(Especially when preparing for Canada in the winter-time:)
It usually goes like this:
-(Possibly a sweater/cardigan/jacket)
Or like this:
-Sweater/cardigan and/or jacket
Yes, this means I wear at least three layers every day, even in summer. It’s a good thing I’m perpetually cold, anyway.
A few points:
-Shirts are worn over dresses, not underneath.
-If wearing two shirts, the bottom shirt must always be longer.
-If wearing a shirt under a sweater, the shirt must always be longer.
Do not argue with me about this.
And the rocking thing about layering is that I get to mix&match colors quite a bit. My friend Z pointed out the other day that I wear a lot of colorful items, and bemoaned the fact that not everyone can do the same. I’d have to disagree, though; I think everyone can manage to wear colors, it’s just that many people don’t bother trying. You’d be hard-pressed to convince me, for example, that not everyone looks amazing in turquoise. Turquoise works on everyone. The end.
I rarely wear white, but it works for the days when everything else is so colorful that I don’t want any extra focus on the scarf:
As far as color combinations, anything goes. I particularly like orange and blue together, and yellow and blue. Blue goes with everything, as does red. Somehow, green and pink manage to work, too:
(I love the red-walled Target dressing rooms, in case you can’t tell.)
And red&black together is my favorite combination:
These used to be straight-legged pants from Target. I ripped out the seams from hem to knee, and sewed in red Asian-print fabric to turn ‘em into what I call my rockstar bell-bottoms and what Somayya calls my “Elvis pants.”
Also, I have a lot of black shirts and sweaters.
(iii) If I were to sum up my latest style habits in three words, it’d be this: MATCHING DOESN’T MATTER.
If you wear multicolored items, you can just pretend everything matches:
I’ve lately taken to not worrying if my headwrap matches the rest of my outfit. Earrings should definitely not match the headwrap, and all the better if they don’t match the dress/tshirt(s), either. And shoes? Might as well wear the pointy-toed red ones, or the multi-colored striped ones. They go with everything (even if they really don’t):
Below are my most favorite jeans in the whole entire world. (So much so that I’m wearing them in 7 of the photographs in this post.) They’re bell-bottomed flares, my go-to pants for every outfit, and they’ve traveled with me back and forth across the country, and throughout my trips to Ottawa and Toronto. When flying somewhere, I never, ever check them in, but always wear them, so that there’s no chance the airlines could ever lose them. There’s a black permanent-marker stain on one knee now, and holes in the other knee. And I almost cried when, after two weeks of wearing them nearly nonstop through Spain and Morocco, half of the bottom hem came off one of the legs. I bravely withstood the smirks of the hotel-staff in Marrakesh after I’d asked them for scissors, and balanced on one foot against the front desk while sawing off the excess fabric.
These are my other favorite pair of jeans:
I bought them in January from the little girls’ section at Target. (They’re size Huge in little girls’ sizes.) They’re the only good (read: “not so long that I trip on them”) dark-wash jeans I own, and they go with everything so well that they’re almost starting to supplant the favorite flares I just spent a paragraph raving about. Clearly, my life is now complete.
Also, I hate skinny jeans, and cannot foresee myself wearing them (unless they’re tucked into knee-high, flat-heeled boots, and worn along with a dress, of course — but the season for boots is now over), so please stop harassing me about that ridiculousness.
That is all.
I’m lucky, of course, that I’ve always ended up working at places where I can get away with my casual, hippiefunk style on a near-daily basis. But as I get closer to 30, I think all the dresses and layering that have me constantly mistaken for 17 or 20 may have to be switched out a bit. Perhaps I need to add more kameezs to my closet. They’re the right length, and slightly more formal/grown-up than the 3+ layers I’m constantly wearing.
Today, though, I’m wearing my pirate tshirt — with a red dress, green shirt, and black cardigan. Make note, one can never go wrong with pirate tshirts.