About a month ago I spied Patti Smith standing outside the newly revamped Whitney Museum. Talk about a New York moment. The rock and roll icon was exactly as you’d envision — the menswear blazer, long white shirt, black jeans and the same engineer boots she’s worn forever (save for those early years). Her simple look, carefully crafted — and seemingly effortless. I was too star-struck to say hi (my husband was like, “What’s wrong with you?!”), but hastily snapped this photo of her walking up the Highline stairs.
A legend in her own capsule collection.
This week we’re taking a look at our own “Look” — that signature style we’ve pieced together from decades of trial and error.
How did we get here? We spent our younger years emulating our heroes and what our best friends wore. We’ve sifted through our history and winnowed down to what works. We built a wardrobe as a reaction to our lives.
My own history of “Looks”:
1983: The “Hey Muffy!”
An explosion of pinks and greens, patchwork wool sweaters and well-worn docksiders. But no boat rocking here — here is a teenager who wants to fit in. And this was on the weekends – otherwise, I wore a uniform to school. I think the above photo was a semi-joke, a Preppy Handbook look for fun, but not far from the truth.
1986: The “Modified Flashdance”
Free of uniforms, I toss in a few rubber bracelets and modestly torn sweatshirts for the New Wave effect. Dad’s oversized winter coat becomes a staple (as pictured.) MTV shows me the way. That’s my super Wave-y pal Susan adorning those rubber bracelets.
1992: The “10,000 Maniacs”
Black combat boots from I. Goldberg. Vintage grandma dresses discovered at American Thrift. Putting my hair in a ’60s bouffant because why not. I’m in my 20s and broke. Everything is second-hand, retro and it’s all about the art of discovery. “Where did you find THAT?”
2000: The “Sporty Spice”
While dating a personal trainer, my style drastically shifts to include New Balance sneakers and Patagonia pullovers. Friends are horrified. Thankfully, this is short-lived and not well-documented. (Pictured is me sitting on a 65-year-old guy doing some sort of manual leg curls. In sharing this photo with you, you must know that I love you.)
2015: The “Comfy Mod”
In my 40s and running my own busy biz, I opt for brights, colorful stripes and black and whites. Easy dresses. Jeans. Ridiculously comfortable shoes like brogues and flats. A-lines and boot-cuts. I know who I am — or at least who I want to be when I’m not wearing yoga pants at home. See Pinterest.
We’re old enough not to care what anyone thinks. We might even wear the same fabulous thing every day.
In our 40s, we’ve finally found those few pieces that always look good. Sure, we still have too many things in our closet we never wear (Help us, Marie Kondo, you’re our only hope!), but we know our go-to garb.
Personally, I’m not yet ready to reduce everything to five easy pieces. Sounds good in theory, but, thankfully, there’s a part of me that will always be willing to try on what’s next.
- Robin is a middle-aged Man-Repeller
- Nefertiti battles the frump
- Susan shares her boot obsession
- Amy goes black and blue
- Rachel seeks the unrecognizable celebrity
- And you share your favorite ‘80s looks — keep sharing with the hashtag #My80sLook on Instagram and we’ll regard you on our Insta. (Follow us here by the way.)
You look mahvelous,
(Graphic by Helen Jane Hearn/TueNight)