It was a textbook case of serendipity in SoHo. I was seated in a South African-Israeli-Jewish-grandma fusion diner enjoying some bloody Mary moules frites with the ladies on a Monday night – you know, like you do – when my friend leaned in and uttered the fateful words:
“Emma. The Man Repeller is here.”
The Man Repeller is a fashion blogger who has parlayed her zany style and knack for coining vaguely dirty catchphrases into a career. A few years ago, I wrote a revelatory opus on my relationship with man repelling—essentially, my penchant for wearing over-the-top ensembles just to prove I could pull them off. I’m still a sucker for anything featuring cutouts, sequins, leather or mesh, but I tend to reserve the peacocking for special occasions. There are few places a striped shirt and gender-ambiguous shoes won’t take you, and if left to my own devices, I typically prefer to dress like a cracked out French toddler.
When I met the Man Repeller, I wasn’t wearing my backless blouse, my sequined culottes, or even my usual topknot. I was looking decidedly non-repellent in a striped shirt and gender-ambiguous shoes. I couldn’t pass up a chance to rub feathers with the queen of peacocking herself, though, so I made a brief fangirl assault on my way out. She couldn’t have been more gracious. After introducing me to the rest of her table, the Man Repeller – she of harem pants and bow ties, looking uncharacteristically subtle in a breezy pastel shift – waved a finger at my ensemble and offered an unprovoked and probably undeserved, “By the way, love this. Would have worn it myself.”
It was sweet. It made me feel cool for five minutes (okay, forty-five). But even beyond the confines of that South African-Israeli-Jewish-grandma fusion diner, it reminded me that a uniform doesn’t have to be a copout. In fact, it takes skill to make a basic outfit look unique. Formulaic dressing allows us to play with color, cut, and accessories without sacrificing comfort or personal identity.
I put together two riffs on my usual – one ladylike, one prepster galactic – to show that self-expression needn’t come with a peplum attached. Punchy hues, mixed metals, and out-there accessories make for an outfit this tomboy peacock would happily wear out for moules frites any night of the week.
Do you have a uniform? How do you spice it up?