I woke up one morning last week on the wild side of the bed. I opened my closet feeling hungry to wear a dress. I wanted to put together something lady-like. I was in the mood to wear an ensemble like women wore in the ’50s. I slipped into a brown sheath dress and then searched for a long jacket to team up with it. I chose one in leopard print. And then I got a little nervous. Here was my process.
Step one: I started with a Chico’s sheath dress in pretend leather
Step two: I added a belt with brass grommets and a brass buckle
(Full disclosure: The waistline on this mannequin is not equal to my waistline! This is only meant to depict the building of this outfit.) Adding a belt to the waistline gives me an excuse to not wear a shaper. The stiff leather two-inch belt makes my tummy look less round.
Step three: I pulled nude fishnets over a pair of socks before adding brown suede boots
I find that fishnet stockings can dig a bit into tender feet so putting a pair of socks on first is my protection from that. Fishnets are by Commando.
Step four: I add my animal print coat for the ensemble look—a coat and dress meant to be worn together
This 3/4 length coat by Dana Buchman was purchased somewhere around 2005 or 2006 when I was shopping with the Bellas at Nordstrom, Walnut Creek. At first I was very intimidated by the animal print but I had created a style collage before I went shopping and had it with me. On the right-hand edge of my 8-1/2 by 11 inch piece of black construction paper I had glued a picture of an animal print coat. It was definitely a stretch for me. With the Bella’s encouragement and a courage pill, I bought it!
Step five: I tie it all together with my wool oblong beige scarf by Marc Jacobs
I love this scarf! I look for any excuse to wear it. It’s so neutral and so cozy. I’ve even worn it with jammies.
Step six: Wondering if I’ve gone too far, I consult Dior and Russ for their opinions
I’m usually very confident about the outfits I put together for myself. But this double animal print combo made me question myself.
I loved the feeling of wearing an ensemble. I had to do it. It felt ladylike even if it didn’t quite follow the rules. I consulted Dior.
Designer Christian Dior wrote The Little Dictionary of Fashion, first published in 1954. Here are some things he says about Ensembles.
A very elegant way of dressing is to have a coat and dress matching together, making an ensemble—and I believe the British women, especially, like them.
For an ensemble the frock should be fairly simple and the coat can be either fitted or loose, according to your taste. It can also be either long or short.
As for colors, I would say the same things I say about suits—choose a dark, convenient color like black, gray, navy blue—or beige. Because you will have to wear your ensemble often and these are colors you will not tire of easily. Also they are good background colors for gay accessories.
My frock and coat don’t match but they do relate to each other in color. I like having fun with clothes but I’m not flamboyant. Was my interpretation of an ensemble a little too out there? I was standing in the kitchen. No image consultant buddies were anywhere near my zip code. Russ was making coffee. I put a neutral look on my face and asked the one person in the house what he thought. “Honey, what do you think of this outfit?” I said.
I like it. I like cat prints. The dress looks like baby alligator. It’s a whole animal theme. To me they’re attractive together. For some reason they’re sexy. I like the stockings. They are interesting and pretty but not over the top. They show pattern.
Embossed leather goes really well with the coat. I like how the lengths of the dress and the coat are nearly the same. The beige of the scarf matches the beige in the leopard print. The brown in the dress matches the brown in the leopard print. That same tone of brown carries through everything, even your hair and the brown of your boots. The tone of the stockings matches the skin tone of your arms. The dark olive drab bag blends with everything.
The brass buckle and rings on the belt look nice with your bracelets. To me it’s an extremely coordinated outfit. It’s one of your cooler outfits. Everything goes with everything else. That’s not necessarily how you would want to dress all the time but I like it that way. It’s a very together outfit.
It totally grabs your interest because of all the details going on but it’s not crazy mixes. It’s an attention getter. It’s not run of the mill, which I think is really cool.
I said, “But is it age appropriate? I don’t want to look silly.”
You don’t look your age anyway but a twenty-five year old woman could wear that outfit just as well. You have the face that compliments it. I’m sensitive to the kind of thing where women dress inappropriately for their age and this isn’t doing that. I think if you were walking down the street in New York City you’d fit right in. With something less casual on your feet it would kick it up in sophistication.
My neutral face disappeared. I was glowing with his assessment. Here he’d been my last resort for fashion advice and now I was wondering if I should hire him to join the team! He nailed every detail. He put it all together like a jigsaw puzzle. I might have left the house without having asked him what he thought. I’d have taken a courage pill instead and gone out into the world feeling anxious. But I didn’t need the courage pill after all. I was pretty darn happy with myself!
I got to thinking on my drive down to Marin that day to meet a client that I just might know what to wear the next time we plan a restaurant date night. I mean when he’s right, he’s right! And what guy doesn’t love it when the woman he loves tells him he’s right. Right?