Bubu e-mailed me this question:
My mother-in-law asked if I’d be interested in a leather jacket [then] she showed me a knee-length black leather a-line coat with a tie waist and a black fur (real? i think) collar. It fit me surprisingly well – a bit loose in the waist (though I can tighten it with the belt), good length, and, key for me, well-fitting in the shoulders. I said I would take it and I’m kind of tickled because it’s like nothing I own and nothing I would pick, or could afford to buy. Plus I know the fashion mags say accents of faux fur are big right now, and that’s not the kind of thing I would generally go for, but why not take that trend for a spin for free?
But here’s my dilemma: it’s like nothing I own or would pick. I have a wardrobe with a lot of cotton and wool and tweed, I tend to wear tights and a-line skirts or jeans, scarves, cardigans, boots with chunky heels – definitely more on the bohemian and/or corporate and/or funky mom end of things, whereas this coat just strikes me more as sort of “rich lady who shops at Bloomingdales” kind of look… does that make sense? I don’t wear stilettos, I don’t own a designer purse or get weekly manicures, and that’s a lot of what this coat is saying to me. But I want to try – because I like it, it feels good, and I like the challenge of shaking things up a bit.
So… better to try to go with what the coat is saying, or force it into my kind of fashion look?
Oddball items are always challenging, but they can push us in wonderful new directions. In my opinion, there’s a happy medium between dressing in the exact style of an unusual-to-you item and “forcing” it into your own typical looks. I gave Bubu some ideas for her coat, but also offered a some general advice about incorporating unusual items.
Build 3-5 outfits around it
Even items that seem like oddballs will generally play nicely with a handful of pieces that you already own. Drag the newbie into your closet and see what jumps out. Pull all options and place them on the bed, then start building possible ensembles. If nothing immediately jumps out, start with absolute basics: Jeans, your favorite skirt, a white blouse or tee, classic pumps or boots, a flattering blazer, your ideal dress. Use those building blocks to start, and add embellishments from there.
Create an occasion around it
Most items that seem out of place in our wardrobes seem that way because they don’t slip easily into our regular activities: They’re either super casual, super formal, or super stylized and would feel bizarre worn to work, school, or around the house. So consider fabricating a reason to wear your oddball. Now, I know that sounds like “forcing it,” but what I’m suggesting is more of a mental adjustment: Don’t throw a party specifically to wear a fancy dress, decide that Friday night date night should be at an upscale restaurant and get gussied. Don’t sign up for a sci-fi convention specifically to wear a super-futuristic blazer, dress it down a bit and wear it when you go out dancing with your girlfriends. Not only do created occasions like these get your oddball into circulation, they allow you to spread your sartorial wings and treat yourself a bit.
Ask for input
If you’re still feeling stumped, ask around. Show it to your bestie and ask what she’d wear with it. Hop on the YLF forum and solicit suggestions. Poke around Pinterest. You can even do a Google Image search for a similar item and see how others have styled it. Don’t force yourself to style an oddball in a vacuum! Get some outside input and ideas to jump start your creative process.
If you’ve tried and tried and your oddball is threatening to turn into a closet orphan, it might just be too odd for your wardrobe. Items that feel too far removed from your core style may never incorporate naturally into your closet, and that’s fine. But play around a little before you donate or consign. Oddballs can unlock untold stores of stylistic creativity, if you let them.
Image via Macy’s
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