Privilege Blog

The Advantages Of Imaginary Shopping

Much personal style revolves around finding what works for you. Intensifying focus. Otherwise known as the Great Cashmere V-neck Bakeoff, or other quests of type.

But it can also be useful to try out stuff that’s way outside your comfort zone, in the flesh or the imagination. How so?

For example, the dress above was a present from Terri, of Rags Against the Machine. Terri is an expert thrifter who approaches her wardrobe with both rigor and enthusiasm. She has put together more outfits in the past few years than I have in 20. I told her I liked the dress, when I saw it on her blog, and in a very generous gesture, she sent it along.

I like the silhouette. I like the blue and yellow windowpane pattern. I like the comfort. But I can’t get Auntie Em out of my mind. This, I know, is not me. Thrifting is a great way to experiment and confirm your style hypotheses. (BTW, I would love to pass this along, so email me if you’d like it. Can’t let generosity founder.) Thanks again Terri, the insight is much appreciated.

One can also experiment by shopping with friends. A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting up with Sal, of Already Pretty, and Audi, of Fashion for Nerds. We had lunch in Belden Place. Conversation ranged from personal to universal in the best way.

After lunch, Sal and Audi had planned a shopping expedition. I took a half day off and came along to learn. Sal LOVES color, and wears it with pleasure. I dream of party pants, she lives them.

Audi, on the other hand, layers in textures I will never attempt. I put her style in practice, at the margins, by wearing patterned and colored scarves with contrasting collared shirts. That feels adventurous to me. Me is a luxury concept, maybe,  but open to most of us.

Wandering through San Francisco’s primary shopping district, we found, lo and behold, a Fluevog store. Sal and Audi are both devotees. I imagine the Fluevog sales VP projecting his annual budget with a specific line item for Already Pretty impact. (Mater is also a huge fan.) I ogled these.

And these.

I didn’t buy anything, but there’s room in my imagination now for unusual shoes.

Further down the road we ducked into Barneys. Which, even in San Francisco, is called Barney’s New York. A little insolent if you ask me, but what the heck. Attitude is part of their brand.

And attitude is what it took for me to try on these Philip Lim leather pants.

Rest assured, we’re not showing photos of that particular experiment, thank you very much. But I hold out the right to try some on again. Perhaps next decade. Grande Dames attend art gallery openings in leather pants, when they travel to Hamburg. Or so I imagine.

Do you balance the tried and true with exploration? Happily? Nervously? Cautiously? Impulsively? Someone out there must have a pair of leather pants in their closet in case of emergencies.

Already Pretty
Fashion for Nerds
Shoes via Fluevog
Philip Lim via net-a-porter

52 Responses

  1. Lisa have you thought about pairing your dress with a cardigan and let your hair down. bangle bracelets and flats. Then it would work for me.

    Yes, I do have a sleek pair of leather pants tucked away in my closet!

    Art by Karena

  2. That shirtwaister looks fantastic on you – how kind of Terri to give it away. Love Sal’s fancy pants and the blue brogues. I’m partial to a masculine shoe.

  3. Had chocolate brown leather pants in my 40s, gave them up, probably because of being in my 50s. Might get a pair again once I hit my 60s. Or 70s — impuniy of age, I’ll claim. Once saw a beautiful, silver-haired, impeccably groomed and dressed, just slightly imperious woman wearing a pair in Montreal — that image has been at the top of my mental Pinterest board ever since. But they’d have to be the perfect, perfect pair . . .
    btw, I love Terri’s dress on you — elegant, simple styling here, not Auntie Em at all in my eyes.
    and Thanks for the linkage (I actually bought a new pair of Fluevogs on the weekend. Oh, wait, I bought two pair!)

  4. “I put her style in practice, at the margins, by wearing patterned and colored scarves with contrasting collared shirts. That feels adventurous to me.”

    Transformed into my world your words read like this:

    “.. by wearing unicoloured and textured scarves with contrasting collared shirts. That feels adventurous to me.”
    green and wrinkled is the most adventurous I can get at the moment. :-D
    Adventure is my favourite word at the moment btw.

  5. Again, it was such a pleasure to meet and chat with you! And I consider the leather pants experiment a major triumph. Hope a pair of Fluevogs makes its way into your wardrobe eventually …

  6. I confess, I had a pair of leather pants in high school. My Mom saw them in NYC, loved them, knew she couldn’t pull them off (we get hips that stick after age 25) and gave them to 17 year old me. Made me stick out at mixers during boarding school but gave me street cred with the metro/urban native students. When I moved to Baltimore for a gap year I sold them at a vintage shop for money to donate to Hurricane Katrina efforts. I love the teal shoes. I think you could make them work. They are very fun.


  7. Lisa with your fab figure you can wear a ‘sack’ and look stylish…but that dress is too grey for you makes you look drab…sorry. Ida

  8. No leather pants in my closet, never, ever.
    Gray on gray can work, but top quality is needed.
    Nothing terribly wrong with the dress – but it looks thrifted, as it is.

    Sally´s outfit =great.

  9. The dress is fab, but I’m not sure it’s your color, because it competes with your luxurious hair. It would suit in a white or eccru (is that a color we wear or only put on walls?) I’d pair it with a belt in bright patent leather red or a woven yellow braided belt from Anthropologie and some ballet flats or espadrilles. Be glad to send you photos of the finished outfits. x Caroline

  10. I think that trying things out of our comfort zone is a wonderful, important thing to do. It’s just hard to do it when time, money, and patience for shopping are all in short supply. That’s why there’s power in knowing what works for us and going with it. But I like your idea — get together with a couple of friends whose style is different from yours, and just play a little! Why not? Who knows: leather pants COULD have wound up being your next wardrobe staple!

  11. You look killer in that dress. You’d be lethal if you could reduce the collar’s “spread” effect, bring it back up somewhat so it could frame your neck/face more; and if you’d bring some white into the picture somehow [pearls, scarf, t-shirt]. It’s hard for gray to stand alone, a touch of white nearby would take you from Aunt Em to Auntie Mame.

    I saw Jackie O photographed in a pair of black lambskin pants one time, and I never got over it. Fabulous addition to the closet. And weren’t you on a hunt for black leather jacket semi-recently?

  12. re: the dress. i love the shape on you—the full skirt is lovely—but perhaps with shorter sleeves? by my eye, the nearly elbow-length sleeves make it veer into auntie em territory. (also, perhaps a softer collar? like a band of mandarin? (both easily achieved by a seamstress/tailor).

    re: Fluevog: my cousin is a long-time devotee of mr. fluevog. he wore a pair of boots to our wedding. by then end of the night, he’d converted at least five of our friends. alas, fluevogs are a little too artsy/daring for me to carry-off, but it’s always great fun ogling his wares.

  13. HI – I love that dress. If you’re willing to part it with it, I’m nearby San Francisco and could arrange to pick it up. I think we’re close to the same size.

  14. * band OR mandarin. although, who knows, perhaps a band of mandarin would work, too?

  15. I have a pair of leather pants left over from my hellion days as a young punk and geek, worn to the office and out for clubbing. These days, they come out for Halloween if ever. I simply don’t have the brass to pull them off, and I’m not sure I want to. It’s very difficult to wear leather pants with gravitas.

  16. Not sure about that dress. Fear that biker booties and – jacket wood be needed to blow out the auntie-ism – definitely not the thing we are used to see you in.

    For myself y have been way too adventurous in my way to dress, even for work. Your posts have helped me a lot to dress more appropriate. Hide my wildly patterned shirts now below V-necks. Easy deal. I really appreciate your unbloggerish sober styles!

  17. I think that dress has some serious potential for you. The hem is too long though. It would look better on you if it were closer to knee length, in my opinion. I think that wearing your hair down would also work better with the dress. The shape looks lovely on your figure though!
    I think that a brighter colored necklace or earrings would help to perk up the color too. It is fun to try things out of our comfort zones!

  18. No to the dress for you. Spring time and a hair color rinse would take ten years off your looks. Consider it. I can feel the drabs yelling no! Take some pictures away from that wall.

  19. I am dying, I *love* the party pants! They are awesome! I also am entranced with the dress, that silhouette is one I think flatters everyone, it looked very pretty on you. (But if you’re not feeling it, you’re not feeling it.) The Fluevogs are also very cool.

    Sending you a smile!

  20. I love the party pants. I may even wear some someday, even soon. it seems much more likely to me than leather pants. I’ve never been able to wrap my head around that experiment. I think the dress looks nice on you, but the shoes definitely move it into Auntie Em territory, and hey, I completely understand that it is more about how you feel than about what other people see. The blue fluevogs are cool. I haven’t gotten past the ogling stage yet.

    It sounds like a fabulous day.

  21. The grey dress needs something; let’s see, the blue Fluevogs? To my eye it washes you out as worn in the photo and I love the style on you. You will have a great time playing with it!

  22. I agree, Auntie Em. It’s a dress that could look very cool and a young woman, but I don’t think it’s you at all.
    I love both pairs of shoes though – especially the oxfords.
    I don’t dress much out of my comfort zone, which I do know pretty well by now. I like “good” things, and so when I’ve experimented, and even if other people compliment me, if I don’t feel like “me” – I don’t wear it, and an expensive item sits unworn in my closet.
    There are enough things to buy within my comfort zone, so I don’t feel any shortage of retail therapy!

  23. What a fun shopping expedition. I fear I’m an incredibly boring dresser. As proof, my most thrilling purchase this winter–if you can call it that–was a navy Paul Stuart made in Scotland v-neck cashmere sweater. It was so shockingly priced that I had to buy it, and I’m so glad I did. Of course, I think of you whenever I wear it!

  24. Hmmm, I would have thought the Artsy Cousin would wear the leather pants. With her Fluevogs.

    Says the grande-dame wannabe wearing Fluevogs today.

    PS I like the dress on you very much, but if you were to keep it, I think the hem needs fixing.

  25. My closet used to be 90% exploration, 10% tried and true. This ratio meant that I very rarely had a complete look on my back, just parts of several. I’ve changed that balance, over the past decade, to about 30% exploration, 70% dependable, so that daily dressing is not such an experiment.

  26. Believe it or not, for me, a collared shirt is the edgy thing! I think I worked so hard to get away from the preppy esthetic that I grew up with that I stopped being able to “see” anything with a spread collar. And yet they look great on me. Go figure.

  27. I agree with Karena. Wear you hair down with this dress. Wear different shoes—cute flats or very plain pumps. Some bangle bracelets would be nice and maybe a colorful necklace of some sort. Would you try it and show us another photo? Maybe brighter lipstick too. I would just love to see all that with this dress. I think it would make a big difference and be really cute. Maybe a different belt as well.

  28. I’m with Susan and Karena on styling the dress. It needs a lighter look. When you put your hair in a bun and wear nun shoes you’re gonna look like, well…..

    You just had a full skirt on a polyvore so I know you’ve got it in you.

  29. Well, I think you look awesome in that dress – looks very luxe on you.

    I’ve had the pleasure of shopping with Audi and Sally and I can say, while they’re totally different in their styles, they take a similar (hardcore) stance when it comes to shopping. Those women have stamina and are such a joy to spend time with!

  30. I think the dress looks like quality and fits your figure beautifully. In order to really own it one would have to embrace the auntie-ness of it and then style against it, somehow. A subversive shoe like a high-heeled gladiator, carefully done hair and then a big beautiful brooch on that lapel would be my best bet.

  31. Lisa, I love that you tried on leather pants…and yes, somewhere in one of the closets is a perfectly preserved pair of cynthia rowley russet leather silk-lined pants that once upon a time required great will power to fit into…which I have no plans to ever wear again. Perhaps in 10 years how hard I am spring training to fit into my new Jil Sander skinny pants will seem just as silly!

    xo Mary Jo

  32. I just reread your post and saw that the dress is blue-and-yellow plaid. I’d go for a yellow cardigan (better if it’s not the exact yellow, just a relative) and blue or grey flats — plus bangles galore. When a dress is that classic, it needs a little jolt to make it work.

    Give it a shot before you give it away — you may well like the results.

  33. I have a pair of navy blue lambskin narrow leg leather pants (no pockets) made for me by a leather designer, a copy of Agnes b. ones I wore out. I wear them with Blundstones and a cashmere t-shirt. Leather pants need to be a little beat up and worn very simply to not look naff.

  34. Can we see a closeup of the dress fabric? I REALLY want you to style it differently and come back and show us another photo.

  35. I hate to say it, but that dress needs to be worn by a 20 to 25-year-old with a retro look. It’s a cute dress, but it’s too “I Love Lucy” to work on anyone not super-young.

  36. I love the dress on you but agree it would look better accessorized differently. If Elizabeth doesn’t want it after all or it doesn’t fit, I’d be interested in it. I promise to post the results of my experiment. I’m not sure about fit. We’d have to exchange some measurements (the dress, not us).

  37. Oh HELL no…………. “Auntie Em! Auntie EM!” WOW! ONLY in California. ONLY. Did the print pants, while in daring San Fran…. Did the flowing-layering whilst in San Diego…. Not much of either made it’s way back to the Atlantic shores lol lol lol Days long gone.

    Sorry for the duel comment…. got sucked into the leprechaun post – damn leprechauns! lol lol lol

  38. P.S. I will lovingly pass the frock forward to the MIL…. will email you the address. : o Did I just say that aloud?

  39. I like the profile of the dress. The photo tells me that you are more petite than I am. The color of the print is a bit of a problem, which is why I took my photos with a bit of green in the background.

  40. With your figure, you’d look “hot” in leather pants and a divine cashmere sweater. The again maybe you’d feel more comfortable with a white shirt and leather pants. Go for it.

  41. Well, I think you look great in everything you put on but I have to admit yes, Auntie Em.

    You’re so lucky you got to shop with Sal and Audi.

    I wish I enjoyed store shopping more than I do. I avoid it by shopping online.

  42. I’m glad you pushed your boundaries a bit and tried on those leather pants! I still maintain that with the right shirt you could pull off that look.

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