Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Is coordination a relic?

First, thanks to everyone for your contributions to my "Wanted: Harder Reading" post! I have a list that will guide me for several years, varied, intriguing and motivating. I'm grateful and excited!

The New York Times Style section ran this photo recently; I've cropped it so you aren't influenced by the face.


I stared it it for the longest time. 
Reaction #1: "What? Did she reach into her closet blindfolded?" 
Reaction #2: "What am I not getting here?"
Reaction #3: "Is my reaction age-related?"

The answers:
1. No, her eyesight is just fine; this ensemble was chosen with as much deliberation as Michelle Obama's ballgown.
2. Damned if I know, and maybe someone will help me.
3. Probably. I came of shopping age in the last great American Era of Coordination, the early 1960s, when a girl's Villager skirt and sweater matched or she stayed home and watched American Bandstand. 

I remember my roommate Jodi, just back from an exchange year, saying, "It's so different in France; you see a girl wearing a red skirt and a green sweater!"  We were shocked.

While I've moved far from that age's hypercoordination and enjoy odd colour combos or pattern-mixing (mostly on others), that outfit is just... baffling. The preppy cotton blue-striped shirt, the sumptuous silk pants: neither refers to the other in hue, weight, sensibility. To my eye, the pieces fight when paired.

That striped/floral mashup is on Jenna Lyons, adored and honoured Creative Director of J. Crew; she chose it to wear to the line's spring launch. 

Lyons does occasionally wear quiet, complementary hues:


But she also wears this:


I find Lyons talented and striking–but can't get my head around that first ensemble. Women in my age bracket (I'm 64) fret about what we can wear well as we grow older. There seems a point where many of us lop off the audacious end of the coordination continuum.

Or maybe, if you started choosing your own clothes around the time Lyons, 44, was born, you never went that far. In the '60s, a woman in Jenna's first  outfit would have looked mad; we coordinated early and often, as shown in this '60s photo:



Was I imprinted? Today, I find certain mashups outside my comfort level. While I'd eagerly wear those green floral pants, I'd choose a shirt that picks up one of the colours. I'd wear the striped shirt with jeans or maybe with red cords- whoo-hoo, wild!

Coordination doesn't have to read like a '60s flashback; Advanced Style showed style icon Linda Rodin, in her sixties, coolly coordinated in black and turquoise.

I admire Rodin's chic from tip to toe, and more to the point, understand it. And she says she wears her strand of grey pearls "every day".



What's your coordination quotient? Your take on Jenna's ensemble?




54 comments:

Ros said...

I think you're partially right - the first outfit just does not work, though the second image (with the big stripes and shiny patterned pants) kind of works on paper though it probably wouldn't in real life.

In contrast, the blue and purple outfits are just so, so eye-numbingly boring, and it's entirely due to the matching - that blue sweater with a pair of black pants and maybe a yellow or pink scarf could be quite nice, but not as they stand!

I don't think I speak for a generation, but I'm 29, and my personal sense of style is more like the Rodin picture you link - neutral colors work with each other and provide a good background for the colors and textures that stand out, which, in turn, should at least be on speaking terms in either color or texture.

Having an outfit where your top half hasn't spoken to your bottom half since Britain retreated from India just makes no sense.

Duchesse said...

Ros: That photo is *from* the 1960s, so naturally it looks dated to you. Believe me, child, we deeply wanted that look...then.

Kristien62 said...

Oh, Villager. I remember it so fondly and shirtwaist dresses from Ladybug. I cannot fathom the wild mixing of prints and truly think it is a passing fad. Subtle mixing of pattern can work for me, but there has to be a common denominator, like working within neutrals. That may be a little boring, but I prefer subtle.

Ros said...

Duchesse: Fair. I also remember wanting to look like the characters in Buffy, and looking at those outfits now... the 90s were not much good for popular fashion.

lagatta à montréal said...

The strict coordination did shift just a few years later (late 60s - early 70s - hippie days). To me it looks like something my mother might have worn, and I'm MUCH closer in age to La Duchesse than to Ros.

That said, the first picture really looks like something a person might throw on when escaping from a fire, or one of those "odd" people taking to herself on the bus. It just looks wrong - nothing ties it together, even as proper contrast.

I actually like Ms Rodin in the Advance Style photo, and it is rare that I find their models dressed with charm and wit.

Susan said...

I think the look in the first photo works if you are in the design/fashion industry and closely watched for what you wear. After all, this woman is 44 and involved in styling for people in their 20s. She has to stay a step ahead of them.

At the same time, I don't find the combination to be awful or ugly, just not something I would choose. I think it's another example of something akin to runway fashion not being what we wear in real life.

Déjà Pseu said...

I think it's a trend right now (and one that Lyons helped to create) to mix not only prints and colors, but styles and formality levels. Here's a theory: it sells more clothing. How many times would a woman look at a lovely pair of silk pants and think "oh, but where would I wear it"? By pairing with a more casual and non-coordinated piece, it generates "permission" to wear those pants for every day. It turns that old rule about not buying an item that doesn't coordinate with others in your closet on its head, and makes it easier to justify a purchase.

For the record, while I've come to enjoy pattern mixing in small doses after much experimentation, I feel best when my outfit creates a unified whole. That doesn't necessarily mean matching, but as you say, coordinating.

coffeeaddict said...

another one closer to Ros's age chiming in ;-) I think the firtst outfit is a no go and my theory is that fashion has caught itself in a paradox loop of always trying to look fresh, new, unseen... but there are certain ground rules that cannot be overlooked or you end up with an outfit that is neither fashionable nor stylish.

Déjà Pseu said...

(Duchesse, you can disregard my email. Finally was able to get my comment through.)

frugalscholar said...

Jenna and Rodin are both tall and very thin and so have wonderful bodies for clothing.

Also, context is a lot. My tall and thin dissertation director--often garbed in full Burberry regalia--once came to class in those uber-preppy 4 color corduroys. This was about 30 years ago and I can still remember how no one in class could pay attention--we all avoided looking! Yet I can see Jenna in these at a fashion event.

Susan said...

I agree with Deja Pseu that part of the outfit idea is to sell items of clothing and pretend they go together.

I'm still trying to wear my pearls with casual outfits! To me, they don't go with casual clothes--even though I DO understand the concept. So, we all have certain things ingrained.

But, in fashion, it's always about selling. For a company like J. Crew, there is nothing else.

A Well Styled Life said...

The first outfit hurts my eyes! The mismatch may be a contemporary way to pair clothing, but frankly its bizarre.
Not only does it misfire in color and weight of fabrication, it misfires in levels of formality. Of course she is promoting a brand which is (attempting) to straddle age brackets. I suppose buttoning the shirt all the way to the top is an attempt to coordinate the formality of the pants to the casualness of the top, but it leaves me cold and wishing for a lovely cashmere sweater!
But being at the launch of the new line, she wanted attention for it and certainly got ours.
Jennifer

Evelynne said...

I think coffeeaddict is onto something. I really think we've run out of truly new ideas so now we're getting into bad ones just to be different. I'm 41, and as much as I unapologetically love matchy-matchy and adore the 1960s looks, I do enjoy pattern mixing when the patterns are similar colors or relate to each other somehow. That top picture, though, makes no sense to me at all and actively bothers me. Even though I like each piece on its own.

Anonymous said...

I don't think your reaction is age related. I am 36 - I know, no longer a child myself, but also not a child of the Era of Coordination - and my reaction to this photo is the same as yours: "Did she dress in the dark? Did she escape from a house in fire, grabbing the first things she could find?"
Lately, I try to be less critical of other people's style. If I saw this outfit on a person on the street, instead of rolling my eyes I would try to tell myself "If this outfit makes her happy, why not?". But then I doubt that I would find someone genuinely dressed in this outfit on the street (except maybe if one is vying for the attention of the sartorialist).
On Lyons, I ask myself whether this outfit is "genuine" or attention seeking/trying to be cool? I see a similar (lack of) aesthetic in the JCrew catalog, a kind or everything goes with everything philosophy (or delusion).
I imagine the pants with a refined white shirt a la Ms. Herrera, contrasting color shoes, a belt in another contrasting color, a necklace in yet another color, and I would call it bold and tasteful. But as it is, with the fresh-out-of-the-dryer shirt tucked in haphazardly into the pants, and this on someone who has access to all fashion resources imaginable, I find it sad.
As a mom of a toddler and baby I myself sometimes leave the house in a random top and random pants. I wonder whether I should start feeling cool on those days instead of feeling like a mess. Hey, maybe Lyons only wants to make us feel better.
Thanks darling Jenna, nice try! I still feel better when I make an effort.
irem.

nobody said...

That outfit is like a runway look, it's designed to shock and draw attention. A "normal" person could never pull off that look.

I live in flyover country, and if I showed up in an unmatched ensemble I'd be treated like a crazy relative you have to invite but don't like. That is, an outfit like that wouldn't make me look fashion forward, it would be fashion faux paus.

see you there! said...

This wouldn't sell me anything if that is what it is intended to do. If I liked the look (which I do not) I would not need to go shopping at all. I could just throw on helter skelter all the things already in my closet - or in the bag of "mismatched left overs" I have ready to go to the Goodwill.

Darla

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I agree that the first outfit looks a bit startling. It is rather like a Sex in the City combo.
If I were to redo it I would use a crisp white shirt over a silk tank and add masses of pearls and some bright pops of jade or coral into the mix.
If she feels confident and pulled together I applaud her bravery. It is just not a look that I admire.
But on the runway these days there are very few ensembles that excite me.

Anonymous said...

I have the same hunch as Deja Pseu: this trend toward mixing wildly disparate patterns and categories of fabrics, jewelry, and accessories is a very deliberate and brilliant merchandising strategy. And I think that Pseu hit it on the head with that concept of "permission": permission to wear a sparkly rhinestone necklace with a shetland sweater, silk brocade pants, and an oxford cloth shirt--to work! The young women J. Crew aims for love the playfulness, buy the overpriced costume jewelry, wear the fabrics they would otherwise have dismissed as too formal for their casual lives, and gently remind their mothers who show them coordinated items that they don't want to look "too matchy-matchy." (This happens to me regularly when I shop with my daughters, 17 and 25.) And because they look adorable in almost anything, the haphazardness works. Much too risky a look at my age; I prefer not to look as though my eyesight is failing!

C.

Shelley said...

I remember my Mom insisting that I have shoes and handbag match one another. When she made me fancy dresses (for dances) she often made a matching purse and we dyed shoes. I haven't worried about matching shoes and bag for some time now, but being short, I still aim to have a fair amount of colour coordination going on so as not to chop myself up. Regardless of this woman's job, I don't care for her odd outfits. Maybe she's just trying to emphasize her 'creativity'?

Mary said...

I'm with you (and yes, I am your age). Fashion or no fashion...the outfit appears to be trying too hard to get attention. I could never afford to buy RTW back in the 1960s, but my mother was an amazing seamstress with a great eye. She took Vogue patterns and made seemingly simple design alterations that made my clothes special and put me on the best dressed list in high school:), but even so, color coordination was the name of the game. I wish I still had some of those dresses and suits she made me (and the body, too). They were classic and would still work today.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it IS our age (I'm 56). I find a lot of so-called "style icons" just look ridiculous to me much of the time (Jenna Lyons, Chloe Sevigny, Sarah Jessica Parker). I appreciate that one should take some risks with fashion, and change things up now & then. But the outfit Lyons wears is just not attractive, although the individual pieces are fine. I like Hostess' suggestion of pairing the pants with a white shirt and colorful accessories.

I don't live in New York or L.A., so I can't say whether this kind of outfit is common there. Around here (Houston) she would just be stared at, mostly. Houston socialites (of which I am not one!) are big customers of couture, but judging from the pictures I see, they are more into the coordinated look. People like Lyons, I think, are living in a very insular world, where other fashionistas, and the media, are convinced that whatever they wear is fabulous. Who in Lyons' world would ever tell her she looks ridiculous? Meanwhile, the rest of us see that the Empress has no clothes, at least nothing that WE consider stylish. Especially women in our age group, who tend to have well developed senses of style and are not desperate to be trendy, unless the trend happens to fit in with what we like and know looks good on us.

---Jill Ann

Duchesse said...

Kristien62: If you bought those brands back then I don't think a young woman *could* be uncoordinated if she tried.

Ros: Again, it's a function of 'where you were when'. I was too old by then to even think of Buffystyle.

lagatta: It did *if* you were a hippie chick. However, preppy coordination - the look at many US campuses- thrived alongside the rags and feathers. When I abandoned them for Indian tops, my girlfriends raided my J Crew roll-necks. Now I wish I had them!

Yes, Advanced Style skews way further toward the "creative" than you will see in the Passage.

Susan: I found the J Crew runway better styled than her outfit!

Pseu: Think you;re on to something! And fact is, an appealing 20 yr old can look fetching in her hodge-podge. Many of the young women here dress like thant but it's more likely from jumble sales or Value Village.

J Crew is a pricy way to get that effect!

coffeeaddict: Thanks for providing the younger woman's opinion. The shirt and pants n fact would have fit in perfectly in other eras, '50s or '60s.

frugal: Anyone except a few editors (and a very few at that; Suzy Menkes comes to mind) in the industry are notably thin. But though clothes sow well on thin figures, that still does not make them attractive to me.

Susan: Drop by on Jan. 31; I'm showing a pearl reno of my own pearls. Might give you some ideas ;)

Jennifer: Agree a lot of it is about attention, but I also found shots of her in quite quiet combos and a stunning pink coat. I don't think she has to dress like that to be admired; women love her.

And yes, the more clicks the better for J Crew.


Evelynne: 41 is the age when you can look back and recall these clothes the first time around (worn with coordinating pieces) but young enough to branch out a bit... nice.

Anon@10:15: Many have commented in the past on the jumbly styling of J Crew's catalog and web site. I do think it is somewhat age-related, as I see young women today wearing things my contemporaries would have thought would not work- and sometimes they do.

nobody: LOL! Even one of my Parisienne friend's' daughter e-mailed me to say the same thing.


Darla: In fact was tempted to do just that and see how I felt. But know- just weird.

hostess: Your restyling is consistent with those of us with more classic, conventional taste- and a different aesthetic. I would wear the pants but am pretty sure they are dry clean only. There is a skirt in that print too. Short, as you would expect.

C. That's the word- risky. Much less chance of being misread on your daughters.

Shelley: Oh yes! Mothers meant well, but what an undertaking. And good point- Lyons is 6 ft.












Anonymous said...

I think that there are just some women that can get away with dressing like this and look great. Many of us (me) would look ridiculous, and would never attempt it at any age. I would think that you would have to have a very secure self image to go out in public dresed this way and not be influenced by what others may think or say.

Gauss said...

I don't find Jenna talented or striking (at least, not in a good way), and most of her outfits look confused and plain ugly to me. Outfits that are completely coordinated do look somewhat dated today, but there is a vast middle - you don't have to be completely coordinates, but the pieces should somehow GO together. That first outfit makes absolutely no sense.

I also think JCrew is crap, excuse my language, but that's probably a separate issue.

Madame Là-bas said...

I find the green pants and striped shirt unflattering even to tall and slender person. The proportions are wrong and neither the pants nor the shirt are shown off to their best. I enjoy unusual clothing on other people but for myself (61), short and curvy I would not choose it.

Kathy said...

Minority here, but I quite like both of Jenna Lyon's outfits. Not sure I could pull either of them off, but I think she can. I like the mixing of formality and informality, the unexpected - I think I always have, although I tend to be a quieter dresser. I have always worn more jewelry with jeans, than when dressed up.

materfamilias said...

Couldn't add a word, but good to know I have company, although at most I'm mildly bemused about the phenomenon rather than able to work up much vehemence. Seems to be the general tenor here, which is nice really. . .

Anonymous said...

How timely that I just received the February J. Crew catalog in the mail today. Looking through it, I find that nearly every single outfit pictured is clashing, either the colors, patterns, or styles, or all three. I like many of the individual items, but the way they put them together is very offputting in my opinion. Seriously, who dresses like this? (Besides Jenna Lyons).

---Jill Ann

Gretchen said...

I find the retail world is emulating J Crew, too, so that the options become even more limiting. Overpriced yet cheap jewelry, poor quality knits, and the ubiquity of the J. Lyons Look everywhere one looks makes me long for the day when this, too, shall pass. Some of the J Crew stuff I like and find to be of good value--their coats are quite nice, the Minnie pants are both comfortable and flattering - but all in all, not so much. I also hate that the patterns are so obviously J crew that you look like a walking advertisement and that lack of originality just ticks me off. Mixing patterns, fabrics, and formalities can be invigorating: when you look like a fashion victim begging to match the NY Style Robots, you don't have style. You have lemmingism. Enough already with the Jenna Worship.

Duchesse said...

Anon@2:11: Thank you, sincerely- whoever you are-for transporting me to heady patchoul-scented days when I threw on whatever, usually finished by a crocheted purple tasseled shawl- in which I was eventually married. (Briefly, 1970.)

Gauss: Agree about vast middle ground... and think as I age it contracts.

MMeLà-Bas: Not a look for short/curvy but neither is a good deal of J Crew. Their cut is close; fit model must be an 18 yr old vegan.

Kathy: Love the jeweled/jeans effect; you GO!

materfamilias: Well, this IS a tempest in a teapot, and the world has many other matters to which to attend!

JillAnn: It's thestre, no? So we might buy a piece and feel raffish even if we don't bend it like Lyons.












Duchesse said...

Gretchen: This is indeed the offer; younger women may step up but women in my age cohort pause, puzzled. We have, according to marketing studies, equal or slightly more buying power. I believe J Crew should launch or acquire a second line. They offer kids' clothes, why not a line for mature women?

Their quality varies, but whose, apart from higher end lines like Stella McCartney's, is not?

Gretchen said...

Now that would be a brilliant marketing strategy - and such a nice option for those of us who are on the long side of the J Crew target. Why not something similar to Lafayette 148 or a bit of Pink Tartan, at a slightly lower price point? I'd bet they'd clean up. They could skip the ugly orange lipstick, though. No one looks good in that colour, no matter what age.

Rhiannon at After Plumcake said...

The top outfit doesn't work because of its scale, not because it doesn't coordinate.

I'm in my early thirties and I firmly believe in coordination. Not Matchy Matchy, but a certain togetherness that conveys purposeful dressing. I'm a woman with purpose, why should I dress like my breakfast includes a bowl of oatmeal, a cup of tea and a sturdy lick off one of those psychotropic frogs?

It's the same thing with hair that looks messy on purpose. I'm all for casually tousled, and never regretted missing out on the once a week wash-and-set but I like to carry myself with a bit more polish than a "I overslept and brushed my hair with a toaster strudel" look can afford.

BTW, I'm new to your blog and just adore it, and not just because I'm rarely seen without pearls. Thanks for writing such fun posts.

jenny_o said...

I am trying without success to get the first picture out of my head, while chuckling over the comments! I do believe, like Deja Pseu says, that it is simply the next "thing" and really, there is no end to the terrible combinations one could make :)

First time commenting although I have been enjoying your blog for a few weeks now.

rubiatonta said...

I lived through the "let's just get up and get dressed in whatever" look when I first moved to Madrid in the mid-80s. (I was briefly in thrall to the Movida and sometimes stayed out so late that I had to teach my morning class not hung over but still slightly under the influence.)

So, after that soupçon of oversharing, I'll say that I'd consider myself a harmonious dresser. Shocking for shocking's sake is, in my opinion, not the province of those of us on the far side of the yardarm.

Anonymous said...

WAs I asleep when J Crew bcame the "go-to"in retailing. I find them woldly overpriced with amazingly poor workmanship to boot! They must be paying their PR person a ton! SInce we grey hairs have the buying power, it seems to me that it shouldn't be too long before some bright young things figure it out and design and market well made and non dowdy. And maybe as Duchesse wonders could J Crew do it?

Swissy said...

Really a timely post for me. I thought I might be alone. I like some pattern mixing (must be discreet and scaled-down for my smallish size), but these combos are not attractive to me. Not only the patterns, but also the colors, weight, texture and proportion seem wrong to my eye. The matchy ensembles--yes, I remember them well.

Duchesse said...

Gretchen: Pink Tartan goes to 14 but definitely a narrow/short 14, and why not offer a few sizes up? The clothes are classic enough to appeal to women of several generations, and well made.

Rhiannon: You are very welcome here; it always heartens me to see younger readers @ blog written for women past 50 and their voice is an addition I appreciate.

Rubi: Is that yardarm or keel ;) ?

Anon: We tend to forget what the world was like before a woman in the middle of nowhere could get Italian silk flowered pants delivered to her door.

I keep hearing that the quality is uneven but the few things I've bought bought in the past 5 yrs have been acceptable. Not disagreeing, just trying to sort out the plus and minus of JC. I do like their revival of heritage brands like Red Wing and the wedding dresses that cost hundreds, not thousands.

Swissy: We do look at them longer, as we scratch our heads... but cannot get myself to want to try this look no matter how much nerve I could muster.




Artful Lawyer said...

Upon third viewing, I still cannot believe that the last photo is Linda Rodin, and not Sarah Jessica Parker from a SATC shot, so I guess I don't really like the outfit (though props for not being as screamingly awful as the Lyons outfits). Guess I'm a 43 year old fogey. Not "matchy matchy" but also not "I am so cool that it will take you all day to figure out my cool outfit."

Duchesse said...

Artful: Guess you responded to the thinness and the poodle? Funny, I've been admiring photos of Rodin but generally find SJP overstyled. Rodin has a much more restrained aesthetic. You sound pretty cool to me!

Anonymous said...

The reason marketing a separate line for mature women won't work is because the dirty little secret is J Crew doesn't want to be associated with the older crowd. It's the kiss of death left over from the days when people were pigeonholed into wearing certain clothes depending on their age and status in life. You would have to create a whole separate store to go along with the line and marketers still haven't clued in that older women have more money to spend. What we don't want to spend it on is cheaply made stuff and that's what most clothing is morphing to.

Duchesse said...

Anon@5:48: I don't think that's a secret; anyone with the ability to check the swimsuit section sees what the target market is. The real secret was outed by Drexler recently: how much brands depend on outlet stores- which often carry merch made exclusively for those stores.
His remarks are here:
http://blogs.ft.com/material-world/2013/01/16/j-crews-mickey-drexler-on-the-elephant-lurking-in-the-luxury-industry-room/?

sisty said...

The line of Rodin's skirt echoes the grooming on her poodle's legs, which I found silly and amusing. She has skinny calves, and so do I, so I am making a mental note to wear more skirts.

As for Jenna Lyons' first outfit, I'm in the minority, but I don't find it all that jarring. The blue shirt reads as a solid, so it looks ok to me. On the other hand, the second outfitm with the rugby stripes, is heinous.

I'm not convinced of the conspiracy theory. Deliberate mis-matching is a style that conveys a certain free-spiritedness, but which requires pretty strict parameters to pull off. This doesn't mean you'd need to look beyond your own closet, though.

Anonymous said...

I quite like the second outfit, and wish I had the chutzpah, and the figure to pull it off! I am a lady approaching that certain age, and certainly appreciate all of the sage advice you dispense. I am 43, and hopefully can still pull off some "younger" looks, thanks to good genes, and a great pair of jeans! Pearls are crucial obviously, and I wear them with pretty much everything.

LPC said...

I have done some mixing, in the past year. In previous decades? Never. I think good is going to have its extreme points that are not so good. I've also, as you point out, gotten sick of the extremes. This approach makes for good outfit photos, however, so there's more driving the trend that how we all want to dress on the street.

I don't see so many actual people who dress like Jenna:).

Duchesse said...

sisty: The shirt is definitely striped, clearly visible in the NYT Sunday Styles section; blame my screen shot. This is a definite "nothing matches" look.

Anon@10:19: Thank you for the much-appreciated pearl support :)

LPC: I see it on 20-sometings but it's a 'street' look, not business. My age bracket risks looking like the cataract surgery was unsuccessful.

Kristen said...

Great post. I am a fan of the current trend of pattern-mixing, but the best ones to me still have coordination going on, be it in colors or fabrications or styles.
The more extreme pattern clashing, particularly in the first photo, does not work for my mid-40s eyes.

Lisbeth said...

I'm charmed, Duchesse, that you seem to read all the comments. So here's my deux centimes: J. Crew for ages has highlighted this insouciant, semi-glamourous, semi-"oh-no-I-wasn't-really-trying" look. The unbrushed, uncoiffed hair, the face that's not made up but sports a slash of intense lipstick. The lack of earrings, pierced lobes notwithstanding.

It conveys to me a continuation of what my friend Greta called the "poor chic" style of her beloved Bennington classmates -- wrinkled, torn clothes, worn with a shiny Rolex.

From my earliest adult years, my instinct was to "cut" a look, i.e., to omit something expected, or wear one thing of contrasting tenor. It was a mostly subconscious desire to convey confidence, to avoid looking like I'd bought into something hook, line, & sinker. My aversion was how my sorority sisters dressed, but my cautionary mental image was Julie Kavner as Rhoda Morgenstern's apprehensive sister, fretting over her bag not matching her shoes. Today, we'd say I wanted to convey irony.

To see this ultimately reflected in J. Crew's pages was at first mystifying, and turned increasingly fun, as they moved from contrasting just pattern and color (like melon chinos with a faded navy shirt), to grafting texture, mood and level of style, as in the first Jenna pic. I bite exuberantly into the luscious peach of such freedom-in-glamour.

For many reasons, I have never found room in my wardrobe for garments a la those glittery silk floral pants, but I find every one of the pictures you've selected fabulous. (Except for the third one of the divine Jenna. And that's probably because the skinny pants thing mystifies me.)

Thanks for the opportunity to think this through, which has me concluding that our individual style lenses are borne not of age, but of the style influences we came from.

Duchesse said...

Lisbeth: Still, how old are you? I am willing to bet a deliberately chipped enamel bangle, under 40.

Lisbeth said...

Chere Duchesse,

I'm 48.

Bisous!

Eleanorjane said...

Yup, that first outfit is a big 'no' from me and I'm in my mid 30s. As you say, if the shirt picked up one of the colours in the trousers it would be fine, or was even in a complimentary colour...

I do actually like those 60s outfits (partly because they look warm!) but you can find similar examples of matching in current outfits if you look.

Duchesse said...

Lisbeth:
While 17 years age difference is not a generation, I sense it is, in terms of aesthetics. My friends and I would have gently asked the girl with no earrings (but pierced ears) if she had been asleep when she got dressed.

We were conformist even when trying to be unconventional. When we became hippie chicks we just traded uniforms. Seventeen or so years before you were reaching for irony, we would not have read your artful omission.

Eventually some of us built that eye but when I go back to my home turf I still see the girl fairly often, now an elder, co-ordinated and usually quite coiffed.

Eleanorjane: Sometimes I see a young woman in such a look, down to the penny loafers and cabled tights, but she is usually (in Montreal) wearing it ironically, with one of those undercut hairstyles.

Anonymous said...

This mixing of very unrelated patterns does seem to be a new fashion, and like all new fashion it looks "wrong" to us at first. I have discovered that my eye is very slow to adjust to new looks. However, I do not think I would ever see that blue stripe shirt as harmonious with the silk pants, ever. Change one element...make the shirt match to the purple flower say; then a stripe shirt and the silk pants might be a happy if daring look. Not one I would wear, but then I am 70, and I have no desire to be seen as "mutton dressed as lamb". I would pair the silk pants with a pink silk shirt, and throw on a bright yellow scarf (since both those colors are echoed in the print) and I would feel very daring indeed. Print mixing can work, but not in the haphazard way it is being done today. Think Koos van der Low or vintage Carole Little.

Duchesse said...

Anon@12:12: I see a difference in degree and stance between pattern (or fabric)cmixing like Little or Koos and the first Jenna shot.

They usually had a colourway that, if not coordinated, at least was complementary, in the pattern mix. The key technique, especially for Koos, was patchwork, and piecing is a very different mood than top-and-bottom mismatching.

I had a major crush on those boho clothes in the 70s and early 80s, wore Koos, Little, Diane Frès, Thea Porter, all that riot-of-pattern... but would not have put a menswear striped button front shirt with those plus silk flowered pants.

Yes, haphazard is the word- and these pieces were not made to be mixed, unlike some of the designers we remember.