You can’t wake up the morning after seeing the Madeleine Albright pin collection (“Read My Pins”) that’s currently being exhibited at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco without being inspired to create a thoughtful outfit.
As the first woman ever to be appointed Secretary of State when President Bill Clinton was in office, Madeleine Albright traveled all over the world meeting with leaders of countries that were both friendly to and unfriendly to the United States. She used her brooch collection to start the talking and negotiating. Even Valdimir Putin would be anxious to see what kind of pin she’d be wearing when they met. Would it be a snake? A dragon? A butterfly?
Just think of that: Putin was reading her pins to see if she was coming in peace or had a bone to pick with him.
Now I’m not dressing to meet with world leaders. I’m dressing to please myself, entertain myself, and look decent in public. The fact that I’m a style and wardrobe consultant gives me a lot of room to be creative. I can wear black patent pointy toe shoes with large velvet bows during the day, no questions asked. (But then can’t we all?)
Monday morning outfit
The day after seeing the exhibit I woke up with Madeleine and the stories of her pins stirring my heart. I could wear an outfit to work that I’d worn before or I could build a brand new one. I heard build a new one in my ear and so I did.
My starting point: The night before I’d laid out a pair of black lace pants to remind myself to wear them this week. They are a cotton/rayon blend, lined, and quite sturdy. They’re sort of dressy but not really. They could be worn with a jean jacket or a fancy one. I figured I’d wear them with a simple black sweater. But then…
My top: Instead, my lace pants wanted to be paired with a cream cotton blouse with cut outs. I thought of adding a black swing cardigan. But then…
My jacket: I looked for the Armani black textured jacket hanging in my closet. It too is rather sturdy and would be perfect to wear on a cold day. I slipped it on; I liked it! Next came the shoes. Booties, black booties made sense. But then…
My shoes: Something inside me said no to the booties. Lace loves velvet so I pulled out my AGL black patent leather pointy toed flats (oh so comfortable!) with the wide velvet bows. I was going to be on my feet for hours in a client’s closet. These would be perfect. Now for the accessories. I thought of adding a long pendant necklace. But then…
My accessories: A necklace going over the beautiful cut out design of the blouse seemed wrong. Don’t cover up the blouse, I thought. But the outfit didn’t seem quite finished. I thought to myself, If only I had a pin collection like Madeleine Albright has. I had little hope, but I went to my pin box and poked around in there. I pulled out the butterfly pin. And then I remembered how Madeleine likes to cluster pins. Well, cluster I would! I reached for another pin, one in the shape of a wreath. I was happy. Except for one thing: I like odd numbers. Could I add a third pin? I looked again and there was Mother’s white flower pin. What joy it would be to wear her pin! I can still see it on her jackets. All I needed to do now was add earrings. But then…
More accessories: There was one more pin that was looking up at me. I love it because it’s a bow and it’s made out of grosgrain ribbon and it has white stitching. I never quite figured out how to wear it. Once when I went through my jewelry, I sent Mom a care package of things I thought she’d enjoy, including this bow pin.
When I was home in August, going through more of her things, I found it again.
I was with my daughter Caitlin in London in 2008 shopping with her at Top Shop when I first saw it. It was so inexpensive but very dear to me. I especially love the memories of Caitlin, Mom and me being all tied up in this little black bow.
Where could I put it? I’d run out of space on my lapel so I put it on the cuff of my jacket. “Oh for cute,” I can hear my mother say.
I thought I’d wear my silver lunch bag clutch with the outfit since things were turning out pretty sparkly. But then…
My handbag: It struck me! I was wearing my heart and a bow on my sleeve, bows on my shoes and I have a leather handbag that has a big bow on it! It’s my Zac Posen bag. Now I had bows in three places. Don’t bother sending me to the moon, I’m already there. And I’m swooning. Swooning on the moon over my cream and black outfit with pins and bows galore.
A couple of extras: I always wear my ring by Jennifer Moore (on my right hand) but I added my leaf diamond ring to my right middle finger. I also added my vintage Lanvin cream bracelet. If I happened to be in a coffee shop and Madeleine Albright walked in I bet she’d stop and talk to me about my pins. And I’d get to tell her how she inspired me to wear them. Thank you Madeleine!
A final note: I can’t wait to wear this again. It’s comfortable, warm, and deliciously full of texture and interest. The only “new” piece to this outfit are the shoes which I bought in October. Everything else has been living in my closet for years, just waiting for this moment to come together and delight me all day long. Gosh, I love how clothes can do that!
What have you worn lately that has you delighted?