Color Me Contrary

In my other life, I am Audrey Hepburn in a black sweater and black cigarette pants. I am cool, graceful, rabidly chic. I stroll along the Seine, peruse dusty bookstores in St. Germain, dance in the dark with a man I haven’t yet realized I’m in love with.

In this life, the black sweater makes my face look grey and lined, and the cigarette pants….well, the less said the better. Mon mari (an otherwise wonderful man) doesn’t dance, the closest body of water is a concrete-lined drainage ditch, and my strolls are limited to twice daily dog walks around the neighborhood.

In this life, wearing the colors that are my best definitely gives me an emotional lift. My skin glows. I feel prettier, energized. Even so, I can’t imagine myself in head-to-toe color; it overwhelms, it’s too much. I’m still most comfortable in neutrals with a pop or two of color. The Francophile part of me gravitates toward the understated and chic, and my next wardrobe update will be to overhaul my neutral basics to the charcoal greys, taupes and chocolate browns in my palette.

Style at times seems to be a balancing act between what objectively looks best (most flatters our figure and coloring) and what speaks to us on an emotional level. Giving up wearing black altogether feels like giving up that part of me that dreams of Paris and dances in the dark. Donc, I’ll probably never banish noir completely from my closet.

When if comes to your own style, do you sometimes sacrifice flattery for self-expression or visa versa? Or does your inner self align with what looks best on your outer self?
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20 Comments

  1. May 27, 2009 / 12:13 pm

    I have somehow ended up with only one black dress and a black leather jacket in my travel wardrobe, and that’s all the black I’ll have for a month — gasp! This is an experiment I’m not sure about at all, and a rather accidental one — we’ll have to compare notes at the end of June.

  2. May 27, 2009 / 12:36 pm

    Great post! I love pastel pinks and blues. It’s taken my forty-plus years to figure out they do nothing for me.

    Chocolate, pistachio green and tangerine orange – light up my face and look best on me.

  3. May 27, 2009 / 1:59 pm

    I think I’ve fairly well aligned with what looks best on me, but I needed to try a lot of colors and looks in my younger years. I do slip up sometimes, buying something because it’s a screaming deal, then realizing later it’s not a good choice. Then I get rid of it.

  4. May 27, 2009 / 2:45 pm

    Hmmm…good question. I’ve been known to wear things that are just plain crazy because they appeal to my sense of humor or love of history. They might not be technically the most flattering things for me but…!#$# that! 🙂

  5. May 27, 2009 / 6:04 pm

    Miss J feels like somedays- particularly when she reports to her stuffy workplace, she is “phoning it in”, as they say. Not particularly inspired or inspiring, she feels her outside doesn’t jibe with her inside: lots of drab colors, weak accessories. Not always, but definitely a couple times a week. In her “real life”, ie, her non-job life, she feels she dresses much more fun & expressively. She needs to work more on merging the two.

  6. lagatta à montréal
    May 27, 2009 / 7:52 pm

    I think it also depends on where you are living – not just the climate and light levels but also the palette architecture, earth and foliage.

    Colours have meanings too: some say intellectual (black, steel grey), some wholesome, some temptress or seducteur etc.

    No way I’ll ever give up black, but it tends to need to be paired with colourful things close to my face. I’m not wrinkly at all – I have remarkably smooth skin for a 50something, but something of the tone of our face changes from the glow of youth to middle age, even if we do have “good skin”.

  7. May 27, 2009 / 9:16 pm

    Interesting post and discussion Deja Pseu.

    I would love too to dress like Audrey Hepburn, I can do the colour but I can’t do the style. Even when in the past I’ve tried to convince myself I look OK in a style, when I look back at photos I realise how it just doesn’t work for my much more voluptuous body and that I’d rather leave it to the slim girls and create my own style.

    It is interesting how much a style or colour can evoke the feeling of a different life. At least you don’t crave the bright colours and prints of Florida!

  8. La Belette Rouge
    May 27, 2009 / 3:40 pm

    I refuse to give up black or bright colours. They both make me happy and happy is better than pretty( no matter what Fernando Lamas said;-).

  9. Sal
    May 27, 2009 / 4:21 pm

    So true, it’s a balancing act between what appeals on and off our own bodies.

    I do sacrifice flattery sometimes, though very rarely. Luckily, I am drawn to retro styles tailored for curvy girls such as myself, so I don’t often have to fight my own taste.

  10. Arabella
    May 27, 2009 / 4:27 pm

    Interesting. I refuse to sacrifice self-expression for flattery – I’ve worn those clothes and felt miserable.And all those “you must never….” rules – yeuch.
    Most of the time I’m aiming for clothes that achieve both and staying clear of obvious trends usually takes care of it.

  11. May 27, 2009 / 11:43 pm

    lagatta really said what I think, it’s the quality of light around me as well as within me that determines whether I wear colour and how much. I enjoy pastels on others but cannot wear, look like one of the dancing elephants in Fantasia. In too much colour I feel overdone. You have now answered my question about how your new palette makes you FEEL- thanks!

  12. Sher
    May 27, 2009 / 9:46 pm

    I bought this dress once just for the beautiful color of “ashes of roses” That dress after putting it on, made my skin look like an “ash” color. That dress is still in my closet and I’m still trying to find a new owner who has olive undertones and not pink like I am.

  13. lady jicky
    May 27, 2009 / 11:18 pm

    I love black but , now I am older I have days when it is OK near my face and other days when its … oooh, don’t do that!!!
    Finding the right colours is so important and yet so hard! LOL

  14. May 29, 2009 / 2:04 am

    materfamilias – I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes. Did you focus on one or two other colors, or a little bit of everything?

    Phyllis – thanks! The bright blue you’re wearing in your avatar picture also looks lovely on you.

    Rita – good for you for getting rid of what doesn’t work! I’ve made the mistake of hanging onto items, thinking that maybe next time I try it on it will look better. Better to just cut the losses and clear space in the closet!

  15. May 29, 2009 / 2:08 am

    Wendy – you always seem to make the crazy stuff *work* for you though. That’s a talent!

    LBR – and when we’re happy, we do look better!

    Sal – it’s a good thing when our style and bodies align! You really do rock the vintage look.

  16. May 29, 2009 / 2:13 am

    Arabella – the older I get, the more suspicious I am of ironclad style rules, especially any with the words “always” or “never” included!

    Miss Janey – I think for so long my style was dictated by “corporate” dress, that once dress codes went out the window, I had no idea anymore what my own style was. We’re all allowed to “phone it in” sometimes. 😉

    lagatta – hmm, LA would dictate a palette of….browns? Terra cotta? I wonder if the reason I’ve always been drawn to more northern lattitudes has to do with the light and colors?

  17. May 29, 2009 / 2:16 am

    Imogen – no, I’ve never really been drawn to tropical colors or styles (whew!). I hope to someday create my own style that speaks to me as strongly as the one from my fantasy life.

    Sher – yes, having seen your pictures on your blog, I can’t imagine you in any color with the word “ashes” in it. You look so lovely in the brighter colors.

  18. May 29, 2009 / 2:20 am

    lady jicky – that’s so true! I think in evening light when I’m wearing makeup, the black isn’t quite as devastating.

    Duchesse – I honestly think most women don’t look good in pastels. They wash me out, but also conjure the association with babyhood and can look juvenile.

  19. May 29, 2009 / 12:49 pm

    Tiffany – Imogen will help you sort out your colors for sure! I’m guessing that the red that you love and makes you feel fabulous is probably in your palette or close.

  20. tiffany
    May 29, 2009 / 7:29 am

    I wear so much less black than I used to in my younger days, but I’m still working out my ‘new’ colours (obviously I need an appointment with Imogen). I’m moving towards taupes and greys as my favoured neutrals, but I still utterly adore red – just the right red makes me feel fabulous. There are lots of colours I love to look at, but know not to wear. And there are some that I buy on impulse then hide …

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