The problem with this look is that the clothes are heading to the office while the shoes are ready to hit the desert. The purse is fussy, not knowing which camp to join. In the age of bold juxtaposition and striking contrast that may not sound like a problem, but the juxtaposition here is not thoroughly pronounced and the drama is just not there. For the eye accustomed to the fest of bejeweled calf-hair sandals or highbrow sneakers worn proudly over opaque tights to accompany the ever so reserved tweed suit (or whatever aspires to be one), the dusty cowgirl boots just don’t cut it. I wish the skirt and the jacket were a set; it would have served as a solid background for a variety of bold ideas. For example, Vogue’s editorial image of Liya Kebede on the left that sports the juxtaposition of old-money tweed and fashion forward shoes. That’s the central plot and it’s exciting and fresh. In our case, the clothes are both tweed-y but vary in nature. This variety takes over the central plot. But the central plot could be just a tad more exciting. Yet, this project is about getting the most from the clothes at hand. So, let’s get down to that.
Aug. 18, 2014
Episode 18. TWEED
Before I get to clothes at hand, I will quickly bitch about the colors. For this type of face the monochromatic neutrals call for pretty thorough makeup with artful contouring. Some other subdued but more complex hues like fawn or pink smoke would open the door for a makeup-free look. A lipstick that’s not particularly bright, but not pastel, is the least that can be done.
Since shoes are the most painful item to replace, I’d start by adjusting the look to accommodate the boots. I would shorten the skirt an inch and trade the jacket for a chunky oversized sweater. This way the emphasis is on the legs making the look sportier, which is exactly what these boots are crying for. The tote would then blend in beautifully. The irresistible charm of such an outfit is that it will retain its office vibe thanks to the tweed texture of the skirt (even in its shorter version) but it can be used for leisure weekends and traveling just as well.
Now imagine we keep things a bit more formal and/or just desire to wear these two pieces together. In that case, I’d say put the boots aside. The amount of tweed is so abundant it is befitting a Brooks Brothers campaign, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I suspect this was not the intended image. Right?
Let me backtrack a little bit. This picture came in response to my down coats webinar during which I vigorously suggested tweed as one of the best ways to soften the lifeless fabrics of the puffers. Some of my listeners took it close to heart and decided to just replace the plebeian nylon with the noble tweed once and for all. But the world has changed and takes eclectics as a wardrobe premise. Tweed-ing yourself head to toe without a counter balance is just as dull as going utility unlimited. These days one needs to marry contrasting fabrics to please the retina.
Ideally the boucle jacket would need leather or an insulated skirt while the tweed skirt would actually flourish in the company of a puffer. Since we are working on making these two pieces work together, the shoes absorb the job of counterbalance. The emerald green crocodile knee-high Hermes boots would sure make the look relevant to our time, but that would also be financially painful. To avoid the pain, I’d concentrate on shoes that stop at the ankle: brogues, booties, and pumps alike. Heel or no heel doesn’t really matter, just keep away from classics. Choose trendy, unbearably modern, lacquered, shiny, sparkly, color-blocked, and risqué. Don’t be shy. Even if you wear burlesque pumps, your tweeds are advocating that you are well bred, well read, and well fed (organic that is.) Just don’t forget to calibrate your shoe to purse ratio.
But let’s say you went with the sweater and as colder days start kicking in, you need that extra layer. One thing to remember here is that with these boots you can only bundle up so much. These decidedly West Coast boots (also known as ‘blah boots’ which is a more direct way of saying ‘sweater boots’) dictate your outerwear, or rather the way you will be wearing it. The West Coast has brought much confusion into the world of dressing and this is one of its most dubious contributions. The ‘blah boots,’ which are only one step higher than Uggs in the shoe hierarchy, are meant to be worn lightmindedly, namely with a tunic dress, a sweater, or outerwear that’s thrown over rather than properly worn; whenever zipped it’s over a tee. Thanks to the Alaska currents the cold is here, but thanks to the latitudes it’s not enduring. People in colder climates are subject to entirely different climatic arrangements, so that they wear their coats properly, over other warm layers, topped with scarves, gloves, and whatnot. Bringing the West Coast ‘blah boots’ into the equation turns the wearer into a prop from the musical Les Misérables.
To avoid turning yourself into a theatrical prop in some less amiable climates, see how you can bring a bit of West Coast into your look with ‘blah boots.’ One sure way is to wear that lightweight Patagonia vest underneath the sweater, provided it’s seriously oversized. That’s one good reason to own one. Or this is the time when a down vest comes in handy, provided your chunky sweater is a bit less chunky. That may require an extra half inch heel, but that also depends on your body type. Finally the least manageable option outside California and Mediterranean, but the most visible due to fashion weeks is to wear down coats and parkas unzipped. None of these will take the ‘blah boots’ any further than mid-November if you live far away from the 42° latitude, but at least now you know that these are not your all-purpose boots. And scientia sit potentia.