Saturday, March 16, 2013

An Act of Daring: Wear Your Self Out

The inimitable Iris Apfel is an inspiration as someone who has made a lifelong practice of artfully daring to wear what has meaning and attraction for her and not worrying what others might think. 
Photo by Eric Boman from the fabulous book Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel
(More to come on It-Girl Iris in a future post.)

Is there some item of clothing, accessory, color or outfit that you feel intimidated to wear, but you're still drawn to it? You want to wear it, buy you're worried about what people will think. You second-guess yourself because it would draw extra attention to you. And there's a voice in your head that stops you from wearing it because of what family, friends or colleagues might say. Or you're worried about what even strangers on the street would think.

That's the voice of the style saboteur, the voice that tells you to blend in, don't stand out, stay safe!

The voice that says:
Who do you think you are, dressing yourself up like that? The Queen of Sheba?
You better look serious if you want people to take you seriously!
You're too old to wear that.
Are you crazy?

I'm reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown right now and she equates daring with allowing yourself to be vulnerable. She says "Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection."

These are heavy and heady thoughts. I know Brené is talking about engaging on a deep emotional level and not just about what one wears. But why not start there? It's a reminder to yourself and others that you are stepping out a bit, taking a little chance. And you know, one good dare leads to the next...

But how did we get to this place where we resigned ourselves to dress so we fit in with the crowd? Where we have forgotten how good it feels to wear something that reflects our personal pizazz. I was talking to a friend about this and she said "I remember in eighth grade my favorite school outfit was a pair of purple bell bottom corduroy pants and a bright yellow top that had a white zipper down the front. I don't know what happened to that daring person. Now all I wear is black." I can so relate. So when did we stop wearing something that shows the world who we are and makes us feel good wearing it? And why?

Brené writes about how we like to see vulnerability in other people, but we don't want to show it ourselves. I love to see people on the street who look like they put thought and style into their outfit. Even if I think it's a little off, or I wouldn't wear it myself, it gives me pleasure to see someone express their personality and style. Hubby Matt and I went to the San Francisco Ballet the other week (a stunning and chilling interpretation of "The Rite of Spring") and there was a woman wearing a hat that looked like a large black and gray felt crushed bag. It's not my style, but she carried it off with great panache and a big smile and that made me smile. I appreciate that she dared to stand out from the crowd.

All the "It" girls and guys dare to be themselves and we are attracted and inspired by that and respond to it and respect them for it. People like Grace Coddington, Iris Apfel, Paul Smith and Thom Brown to name just a few. I bet you know someone that makes you smile when you think about their unique style and how by the way they express their one-of-a-kind self they enrich your life.

Here's a BV challenge: Wear something daring this week! I'd love to hear what it was and how it felt. And I'll do the same.


  1. Love this post! I have a pair of Via Spiga platform sandals I've worn only once. I'm taking you up on your dare to wear them this spring (not exactly this coming week). Normally this would be no big deal but I'm 5'11". So the 3" platforms will help me stand out and stand tall. Thanks for the good dare!

  2. Thanks for the dare, Lesa! I have a Dolce & Gabbana shirt that I bought at Loehmanns with a graphic print of orange, pink, red and brown. I have been thinking that I need to bring it out of hiding! (I guess I'm a week late. Although I must have gotten the vibe, because last week I wore my dress.)

  3. Would that we all could be daring. Perhaps we wear black to fit in because we are so conditioned by the powers-that-be or whomever to feel inadequate unless we are absolutely perrfect: perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfect bodies. Having attained a certain age I can now without compunction add a bright pink, silk ruffled clutch to my black uniform. And that's as daring as I can be.

  4. This dare comes at just the right time Lesa! I have a fun black jacket with bright chartreuse sleeves and I have decided I will wear it to the writers gathering when I give my first "elevator speech." Thanks!