Les Deux Femmes - une femme d'un certain âge

Les Deux Femmes

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are two women sharing space in my closet. Both are actually me, which used to cause no end of consternation as I stumbled and bumped along toward that milepost known as Signature Style™. But I’m learning to make peace with this split style personality, and find balance and harmony between the two. Les deux femmes have arrived at a mutual understanding, and even step out together on a regular basis.

One veers toward the Crisp & Classic, the other toward the Existential & Edgy. (Neither is notably Fashion Forward.)

Madame C&C is drawn to:

  • Button front shirts. White, or vertical stripes.
  • Pointy-toe pumps. (E&E sometimes gets a vote too, and votes for snakeskin.)
  • Trench coat
  • Marinières
  • Hermès scarves
  • Chanel flap bags
  • Equestrian boots
  • Navy blazer that “goes with everything”
  • Paisley prints
  • Pearls
  • Color
  • Sparkle
  • J.Crew, Ralph Lauren
Madame E&E prefers:
  • Tees. Black, navy or grey
  • Black leather jacket 
  • Moto boots 
  • Hermès leather cuffs
  • YSL Muse bag
  • Knits
  • Texture
  • Movement
  • Shimmer
  • Black, charcoal grey
  • Helmut Lang, Eileen Fisher
Both adore:
  • Leopard prints
  • Big hoop earrings
  • Pencil skirts
  • Jeans
  • V-neck cashmere sweaters
  • Black and white
  • Simple, clean, uncluttered, streamlined design
  • Mixing masculine and feminine elements 
And both have an almost visceral aversion to the fussy, frou-frou or twee.

By (carefully) incorporating pieces from both mesdames in a single ensemble I can keep Mme C&C from looking too staid, and Mme E&E grounded. 

Do you have Multiple Style Personalities? Are there common elements between them, and have they reconciled?  Or do you prefer to keep them separate, as different expressions of different moods?

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  1. September 26, 2012 / 10:18 am

    I love this post, there are two of me too, the sweatshirt/cords/jumpers/flat boots no make up tomboy and the slinky glamour puss in the skintight dress and heels though to be honest I am phasing her out, she seems like the old me and my style is changing as I approach my 50’s.

    • September 28, 2012 / 2:24 am

      Tabitha, I wonder if your “glamour puss” self will evolve into a different form? Maybe something less structured but still elegant?

  2. September 26, 2012 / 11:38 am

    So well-explained! Yes, I feel these style tugs as well, and I try to go with them to guide me to interesting outfits. You always look thoughtfully/stylishly put together. Hermes scarf with a black tee sounds so chic, and very “you.”

    • September 28, 2012 / 2:30 am

      Patti, thank you! I do frequently wear scarves + tees. (Scarves with a button shirt feels too “done” to me.)

  3. September 26, 2012 / 12:22 pm

    You made me laugh this morning when I saw you put Eileen Fisher on your edgy side! I would have never guessed that.

    A quick story about Eileen. I was in a local department store recently that has a HUGE inventory of Eileen Fisher clothing (think three times more than the local Eileen Fisher store). A representative from Eileen Fisher was in the department for the day. She struck up a conversation with me about what I like (or do not like) about the latest offerings. In the course of chatting, she told me that “they” really have to push Eileen from time to time. She said that Eileen would make every pair of pants with elastic in the waist. The representative said they have to tell Eileen that not all of her customers want elastic. I thought it was interesting that she told me this. The representative was in her late 20s I would guess.

    • RoseAG
      September 27, 2012 / 6:40 pm

      That’s interesting. “E” should take her representatives advice! I’ve never tried on a pair of EF pants that worked for me and I think the lack of tailored fit is part of the issue.

    • September 28, 2012 / 2:34 am

      Susan, I find that EF pieces often have an interesting edge that lends itself well to being styled that way.

    • September 28, 2012 / 2:36 am

      RoseAG, true, and I don’t have but a couple pair of EF pants, both ponte knit skinnies which are great for travel. If I wanted tailored, I’d definitely look elsewhere.

  4. September 26, 2012 / 12:59 pm

    Who doesn´t???

  5. September 26, 2012 / 2:22 pm

    Yes, at a guess, your two selves overlap more than it seems. Edge can mean alternative, but it also brings to mind the crisp edge of a pressed shirt:). I never have liked the summing up my style, except in sheer visual terms, i.e. verging on minimal, sticking to the blue side. Any other descriptions always seemed like both too explicative and insufficiently, so if that makes sense.

    • September 28, 2012 / 2:54 am

      LPC, you do have that wonderful Sturdy, Artsy, Grande taxonomy which I love so much. But I envy your certainty about what you like and what suits you.

  6. September 26, 2012 / 2:32 pm

    We have the same multiple personalities! Lately I’m veering more toward E&E, though.

    • September 28, 2012 / 2:55 am

      Jane W., me too. E&E rarely feels wrong.

  7. September 26, 2012 / 3:12 pm

    I am unable to carry off edgy but stick to the classics more…
    I have a pair of cowboy booties which are about as risky as I get.

    Love your attitude.

    • September 28, 2012 / 2:56 am

      hostess, I love your classic style, and I think you also have some lovely artsy pieces.

  8. Anonymous
    September 26, 2012 / 3:20 pm

    I”m so happy that I’m not the only conflicted one in the bunch! You’re described my two conflicting styles so perfectly! I guess style means combining these to make my own look. But, I do often find that I can’t seem to reconcile the two and put pressure on myself to choose one or the other. BTW, I recognize those Fluevog boots. I’m a recent Fluevog buyer. Bought my first pair last year and now own 5 already!–Susie

    • September 28, 2012 / 2:59 am

      Susie, aren’t Fluevogs the best? What I’ve found is that it helps to keep a majority of the outfit in one camp or the other, and mix in accessories. (Don’t try to go half and half or it looks like a mishmash.)

  9. September 26, 2012 / 3:20 pm

    I totally understand! My classic chic side often shares closet space with her edgier sister. For me, the personalities also correspond to situation–one is more of an office persona and the other is at-home-and-about.

    (In fact, thinking about the different kinds of clothes and outfits in my wardrobe was the inspiration for my 5 Levels of Working Mom Outfits series.)

    Now the real challenge is to mix the two! 🙂

    • September 28, 2012 / 3:01 am

      Closet Coach, I agree that the venue often determines which way to go. If I have a meeting or presentation at work, I definitely stick a bit closer to the classic side of the fence.

  10. September 26, 2012 / 3:21 pm

    P.S. Love the new look for the blog. It’s very Madame C&C 🙂

  11. California Girl
    September 26, 2012 / 10:19 am

    A great many women have multiple looks these days. When I was younger, I indulged the hipster after work & weekends. At this stage, I consider military-style boots with jeans edgy. 🙂

    The most interesting dresser I know is Swiss. There are few looks to which she does not aspire and/or try and she pulls them off. She’s in her mid-fifties. It’s all a matter of confidence, don’t you think?

    • September 28, 2012 / 2:25 am

      California Girl, yes, confidence is absolutely key!

  12. BethsMomToo
    September 26, 2012 / 11:01 am

    I’m definitely a strong C&C with a European twist (blacks, grays, blues), but find I also have an ethnic/bohemian side who loves Indian prints, silver bracelets and Anthropologie belts. You’re observations make me feel more reconciled with my two sides. It keeps life interesting!

    • September 28, 2012 / 2:27 am

      BethsMomToo, yes it does keep life interesting!

  13. Judy C
    September 26, 2012 / 11:25 am

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m solidly in the same boat with a love for the boho and also for a casual something(elegance/fashionable). I love the colors and ease of boho and sometimes wish I’d been a hippie. But I love a little sleekness, maturity with current style. For some reason your blog has given me the excuse I needed to not make myself choose one over the other.

    • September 28, 2012 / 2:29 am

      Judy C, I love the idea of “sleek hippie,” and have seen women who pull this off beautifully.

  14. Pam @ over50feeling40
    September 26, 2012 / 12:19 pm

    You have just described my life! So great to know that I am not the only split personality around. That is why I developed my own system of questions to ask myself before I buy. That has helped me to narrow my personalities down to these two…I weeded out one which just needed to go!!

    • September 28, 2012 / 2:33 am

      Pam, it’s good to know we have company, isn’t it? You’ve put a lot of thought into your style and it shows.

  15. Laura
    September 26, 2012 / 12:22 pm

    Upon reading the post and comments I am so happy to find I am not the only one with multiple personalities! Thanks-great post.

    • September 28, 2012 / 2:33 am

      Laura, you’re welcome. It does seem to be a universal condition!

  16. MissMel
    September 26, 2012 / 7:25 pm

    Every one of those “What is your style?” quizzes that I’ve ever taken my entire life have come out exactly the same way: 49% classic, 49% romantic, and 2% Diva. Luckily for me classic and romantic play well together for a pretty uniform look and have agreed that Diva can be in charge of accessories. Although Diva can be a sneaky puss and slip something past them on occasion. Her latest rebellion? A snow leopard print trench.

    • September 28, 2012 / 3:02 am

      MissMel, a little Diva is good for the soul, n’est-ce pas? 😉

  17. September 26, 2012 / 8:13 pm

    I find myself buying a narrower spectrum than ever before, and occasionally think “rut”. But then I branch out and the thing is not worn. Since I mostly retired, I have been able to distill more. I want sensuous, honest clothes, by which I mean working buttonholes or zippers that serve a function- and of course beauty. There is plenty of beauty on both your lists.

    • September 28, 2012 / 3:04 am

      Duchesse, yes, it’s sometimes hard to avoid that pressure to break out of the “rut.” But maybe as long as we’re not bored (or looking like 1995) it’s not really a rut. Yes, honest clothes…love your definition!

  18. Amber of Butane Anvil
    September 26, 2012 / 1:16 pm

    Interesting articulation of the how contrasting dynamics add up to your unique style, thanks!

  19. michellebeth
    September 26, 2012 / 1:28 pm

    So you only have TWO personalites? Sometimes I feel like Joanne Woodward in a double feature of “Three Faces of Eve”!

    As women I think we all have many sides and moods (ha). The trick is to hone your styles to whatever your budget/closet space/psyche can manage. Too few and you’re bored and/or just boring. Too many lead to frazzled mornings and frustrated shopping trips.

    I love that you’ve figured out your two with a few overlaps. My guess is that your friends “love your style”.

    • September 28, 2012 / 2:39 am

      michellebeth, there used to be more, but Corporate Spudette feels dated now, and I outgrew a few of the others that involved slogan tees. 😉

  20. Sandy @ You May Be Wandering
    September 26, 2012 / 2:13 pm

    Great post! I wish I was able to pull off a little more of the edgy look, but I always seem to stay in the classic mode. You wear it all well!!

    • September 28, 2012 / 2:41 am

      Sandy, thank you! I do think we need to trust our instincts or else we wind up feeling as though we’re wearing someone else’s clothes. One of the hardest things to learn is that I can admire a look on someone else without feeling that I have to emulate it.

  21. September 26, 2012 / 11:07 pm

    What a fun post! Yes, multiple personalities in the closet, as in life… all of which feel comfortable, just at different moments (and some, at slightly different sizes!).

    One is minimalist Euro-classic, another – artsy bohemian, and the third… dare I admit… a bit of the femme coquine et audace.

    Naturally, the footwear for all of it.


    • September 28, 2012 / 3:08 am

      BigLittleWolf, thanks! And yes, naturally the footwear. It’s so expressive, isn’t it?

  22. Linda C.
    September 27, 2012 / 12:42 am

    How wonderful. I’ve got their cousins in my wardrobe!

    • September 28, 2012 / 3:09 am

      Linda C, thanks! Say hello to the cousins for me.

  23. September 27, 2012 / 2:59 am

    We women are flexible. We can be anyone we wish. We can wear anything we want but make sure that it looks good on you and it makes you comfortable. We are fashionistas in our own way. You are one good example of how excellent women is when it comes to fashion. I enjoyed reading your post.

    • September 28, 2012 / 3:10 am

      Ann Reid, thank you! It’s important to be flexible, yes, but I do think there’s an inner self/voice that informs our style, and when we dress in alignment with that, really do look our best.

  24. September 27, 2012 / 3:30 am

    Great post, and I absolutely relate. I suspect my personalities might be even more fractured, though. . . .

    • September 28, 2012 / 3:12 am

      materfamilias, thank you. It’s funny, even though you wear a range of styles, there’s always a sense of “that’s SO materfamilias” when I see your WIW posts. There’s a sense of delight and fun that always comes through.

  25. Kathy Leeds
    September 26, 2012 / 9:08 pm

    Yes, two of me also. One that cares almost nothing about clothing, and the other that cares maybe more than I think I should? I’m like many of the commenters, buying a narrower spectrum of clothing that works for my real life, rather than my imaginary one. I like both your personas, and do think they work out nicely together.

    • September 28, 2012 / 3:06 am

      Kathy Leeds, thanks! Oh, buying for the fantasy life…that’s a trap I’ve fallen into more than once. Why is that so seductive??

  26. RebeccaNYC
    September 27, 2012 / 4:40 am

    No, I have the same clothes I wear, no matter what. Dinner out with husband, expensive restaurant? (winter version) Black dress, tights, boots. Dinner out with girlfriend, dive bar? Black dress, tights, boots. Work (which is in the theater and I normally have to change into a costume) Black dress, tights, boots. In the summer, its black dress and sandals. Not much changes, except in yoga class, then I get really crazy with yoga pants and a tee. you guessed it…in black.

    • September 28, 2012 / 3:13 am

      RebeccaNYC, I envy that consistency actually! It must simplify your life immensely.

  27. Jean at www.drossintogold.com
    September 26, 2012 / 10:15 pm

    This post is brilliant and articulates my split-fashion-personality to a T. I love the way you listed the items for each personality, and where they overlap. I have at least two distinct fashion personas, exemplified by my footwear as well: pumps and Doc Martens. My go-to items usually belong in the overlap category.

    • September 28, 2012 / 3:07 am

      Jean, thank you! That’s an interesting observation about the go-to items being in the overlap category, very true!

  28. mette
    September 27, 2012 / 4:48 am

    Due to my ( our ) lifestyle, naturally I have separate clothing when ” at the stable “.
    But two or more ” personalities ” in what I wear? No.
    Having and aiming to keep a minimal wardrobe, I must have clothes that are simple to mix and match – without effort.
    No split personalities for me. I wear my good jewelry everyday with riding pants and rubber boots ( excluding the pearl necklace, lol, because I like it that way.
    It is neither the ” real me “, getting fixed up to perfection; I like a bit of confusion going on in the way I appear public.
    Seems, that as I get older, the less I wish to carry any ” statement pieces ” on certain events, every day is a special one for me.

    • September 28, 2012 / 3:18 am

      mette, I love the idea of every day being a special one we should dress for. You’ve honed a very distinctive style, and it suits you beautifully.

  29. Murphy
    September 27, 2012 / 1:05 pm

    This is helpful to see that not only you, but most of your commenters, have split style personalities. Me too -and i think i have been wasting too much energy trying to force it down to one. I like some variety on other people, so why not accept some in myself? But there is a part of me that envies rebecca NYC upthread – it doesn’t sound like she stands in her closet feeling indecisive like i often do!

    • September 28, 2012 / 3:21 am

      Murphy, oh I can relate about wasting too much energy trying to force a single style! Are there pieces that overlap between your styles? Maybe start with those and build your outfits from there?

  30. September 27, 2012 / 4:17 pm

    “Existential and Edgy”, I like that. I use to have split style personalities. One day I was in Marc Jacobs polka dots (Cute and Quirky?), then next I’d be E&E. But your style personalities work wonderfully together, plus you can overlap, right?
    Have you seen http://pretaporterp.blogspot.com/? The blogger known as “-h” has style personalities similar to yours. I’ve met her in person and she is pretty cool.

    • September 28, 2012 / 3:22 am

      OdysseyHome, thank you and I think you have amazing style. I hadn’t seen that blog, but am off to check it out; thanks for the tip!

  31. September 27, 2012 / 6:07 pm

    Oh yes. Half the time I’m quite dressed down and the other half is all about casual glamour (a glitzier version of dressed down)!

    • September 28, 2012 / 3:24 am

      That’s Not My Age, casual glamour, yes! If your Art of the Trench picture was an example of that, sign me up.

  32. BethsMomToo
    September 27, 2012 / 11:20 am

    Mette, your comment made me think about style differences in different countries. From my limited experiences traveling, I notice such a clean, minimal & classy consistency among women in your part of the world, no matter their age. The US is such a polyglot of cultures & styles, with such a strong sense of individualism (at least here in the northeast!), that you’re likely to see anything & everything. I imagine we tend to pick & choose what appeals to us most, thus developing quite eclectic personal styles. Another factor common to the US is “change”. I was a child of the 1950’s, 60’s & early 70’s. The style changes in those years were dramatic! All of these factors influence our personal preferences & help me understand my various fashion personalities.

    • mette
      September 27, 2012 / 1:36 pm

      Hi BethsMomToo,
      I have traveled very little, so you are the expert on this one. I do, however agree, that “our ” generation´s choice in clothes differ depending where we happen to live in. The younger ones are a different story.
      Only for 2-3 decades we have had people ( different cultures ) moving in, so the street scene is no longer what it used to be in my very youth.
      We have a more colorful and lively culture living amongst us and we are first now experiencing this. I believe, that it is easier for the younger Finns to accept different nationalities than for us older ones.
      Change is rapid over here too now.
      I don´t have anything against split fashion personalities, but as I am free to dress as I wish, and only attend a party or two a year, I simply lack the need to have much in my closet, and wear pretty much the same type of clothes 365.

  33. Sarah
    September 27, 2012 / 5:54 pm

    Love your two style personalities and I think I tend to do the same as well! The lists you give are great. X

  34. September 28, 2012 / 2:48 pm

    Pseu —

    Your post reminds me of the old commercial: “You got your peanut butter on my chocolate!” / “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” Both sides of your style personality are nice on their own, but when blended, they do seem a lot more fun/unexpected.

    I think you know I have 3 so-called style personas — Contrarian Classicist, Minimalist Magpie, and Persnickety Bohemian. The bland and broad tag Modern Classic wasn’t particularly useful to me, so these descriptors work for my own entertainment/shopping constraints/outfit assembling purposes.

    Since I work in a business casual/creative environment, they’re not divided by work and play, but integrated into both.

    [And I am often able to make a single item work across all 3 types, which is great for my budget and closet!]

  35. Lynne DeVenny
    September 28, 2012 / 5:25 pm

    I enjoyed your post, and love many of the same things Crisp and Classic, and the shared personality do. After a year of blogging and some fun experimentation, I think my true self just likes to be sort of streamlined and unfussy with a pop of bling. I may have to rename my blog Li’l Miss Monochrome 😛

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