One thing I’ve learned in my thirty years of being an image consultant and studying style for a living is that every one is different. There is no one style fits all for women. (No matter what they tell you, there’s no one size that fits all either!)
I’d say that’s the plus side of my career–seeing every one as an individual with their own style and sensibility. I don’t lump people into categories.
The downside is that when it comes to giving gifts, I’m terribly insecure. This is in direct contrast to when I’m in the dressing room with a client, checking every angle, length, color, and detail of something before giving anything the green light. I know for example that someone may like blue but only a certain shade of blue looks right on her. She may respond to jewelry made from glass but only frosted glass. She may like metal jewelry but only rose-gold and delicate…or silver and chunky…or bright gold and geometric…or brushed silver and abstract…and so it goes. Everyone’s different. Sometimes there’s no explaining it. We all love what we love!
Because I scrutinize hundreds of choices every week, I hesitate to make a choice for a friend when she’s not right there in front of me. I can imagine how it might work in her wardrobe or on her body but imagination doesn’t work 100%. Having her right there in front of me to test it out would be the best bet.
Erin, my eldest daughter is more confident than I am when it comes to gift buying. She was the one who spotted this cross body bag by MZ Wallace in a camouflage print. It’s in an autumn green leather with red piping details, a little fringe and it’s sparkly. The camo front panels are metallic so they shimmer and shine.
“Don’t you think Debra would like it?” Erin said. She couldn’t understand my hesitation.
Debra’s birthday was coming up and I wanted to buy her something personal. Recently we’d talked about handbags and how much we love them. So for starters, yes, she likes handbags. I knew the color would be wonderful on her. And she’s a fan of sparkles so I knew she’d like that aspect. She’s got a small frame and the scale of the bag was perfect for her.
I just wasn’t sure about the camouflage print. Some people see it as practically a neutral color and not a print at all. We’ve seen camo prints in fashion for decades but before it was fashionable it was a only for soldiers and wartime. The print could bother some people and I just couldn’t remember if Debra was one of those people who would be bothered by it.
I met her at Della Fattoria for breakfast the morning of her birthday. I wanted to get the suspense over immediately. “Open your gift,” I said, nervously. It was in a polka dot bag. “Oh, I love the bag,” she said. But would she love the bag inside the bag?
I gave her an out.
“Before you open it, know that I can take it back and get you something you really want,” I said.
She got passed the layers of tissue paper and pulled it out.
“I love it!” she said, her face all bright. “I want to use it right now! I want to put my stuff in it. Why would you think I wouldn’t like it?” She was opening and closing zippers and peering inside it while she was talking.
So I went into my whole explanation.
Everyone’s different…I want it to be something you’d love to wear…there are so many factors…I just don’t know…blah, blah, blah…I’m insecure about buying people presents…ad nauseam.
And then when I saw it on her I thought, Why the heck did I doubt myself? It was adorable on her, right away! She was wearing a Canadian tuxedo–jeans and a jean jacket–with a long striped turtleneck tunic T-shirt. The cross body bag was a hit of focus to her casual outfit, fun and trendy in the right dose. I love when small things pack a few trends into one piece and get it just right. And when that just right thing finds the just right person, well, that’s heavenly.
You might find it tricky to buy a novelty handbag for someone for a gift (or maybe not!) but you could be confident buying one for yourself. If you’re over 50, consider finding something that is on trend but in a smaller dose like this bag. Sparkles are great but are they great in a full-on dress? Maybe, maybe not. Camouflage prints are trendy and modern but a whole trench coat in a camouflage print? It might be too much. Fringe is everywhere this season. Do you want a fringe suede jacket? If that’s too much for you find something with fringe detail in a handbag, on a boot, or in a necklace.
You can have fun with fashion without fashion taking over the whole conversation. I can now easily imagine Debra having fun with her new bag. Now it’s your turn. I want to imagine you having fun in something you’re loving to wear. What is that at the moment?