Brand building through storytelling

Style therapy

The other day it snowed while leaves still clung to the trees. Sadistic weather forecasters were crowing about the chill ahead—to be followed, so they claimed, by rivers of slush. It was time for a bracing course of style therapy.

I reached for my down coat, which unlike all the other no-nonsense down coats is a soft shade of lavender, and cut to skim my body. In the pocket I keep my pink leather gloves. The colours make me think of hyacinths and Easter baskets, of rushing the season in the faithless warmth of a March afternoon to sip cappucino at a sidewalk café. On the half-frozen sidewalks, people in black and brown scurried by with disgruntled expressions, as if bracing themselves for root canals. I looked down at my coat, which I found on an 80-percent off rack, and smiled at my good fortune.

Miles Davis once said, “If I don’t like what I’m wearing, I can’t play.” Well said, Miles. The last thing I managed to play was “Girl of Constant Sorrow,” on a cheap guitar, somewhere around 1969, but even then I was picky about the fit and softness of my outfit (turtleneck and faded jeans). These days I can’t read the paper, run to the corner store or e-mail a friend in clothes that don’t feel like an extension of my skin. The right clothes remind me of the magic cloak worn by certain fairy-tale heroes. They give me courage and a sense of possibility.

They’re nothing close to what you’ll see in this month’s fashion magazines. Anna Wintour would scorn what I’m wearing right now—a slightly pilled cashmere sweater in that rich blue-red that disappears for seasons at a time, and faded but form-fitting yoga pants. But the way I see it, loved clothes are not unlike loved people. I want them with me until they—or I—expire.

There’s no room in my closet or my life for the fripperies labeled “must-buys” in the fashion press. If a sequined blouson top captures the moment, won’t it look like a cast-off a decade from now? Can the “it bag” make the transition to my bag?

Let the trend-watchers celebrate the quest for “it.” I’ll stick to the wearable talismans that bring out the best in me. For instance:

A ceramic pin shaped like a buxom young thing who’s just pretending to be coy Because it adds a certain je ne sais quoi to a Gap jean jacket. Because it makes me laugh. Because I once put it through the laundry by mistake, and it survived with a few new character lines in that winsomely chubby face.

Collingwood Weekend Crop (2)A pink wool challis scarf with an antique floral print, purchased from the shop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Because it’s equally at home with a parka, worn muffler-style, or as a shawl draped over my book-signing outfit. Because my friend Audrey convinced me to buy it, and every time I wear it I think of our shoppers’ odyssey through Manhattan.

Black jersey pants, bought a dozen years ago at a Lida Baday sample sale Because they feel like pajamas, but look like the basis of a get-up you could wear on a red carpet.

Tropical-print culottes, made in France sometime in the 80s and bought at a long-vanished shop specializing in designer samples Because they flow and swirl when I walk. Because they were never in, and therefore will never be out. Because nobody seems to wear culottes but me.

Chrome bracelet from Italy, a birthday gift from my husband Because it’s made of soft, delicate chains that drape my wrist like no other bracelet. Because it’s so light, I hardly know it’s on. Because women of all ages and all walks of life-from check-out clerks in their first job to grande dames bedecked with diamonds-exclaim, “What a lovely bracelet? Where did you find it?” Because I enjoy telling people that my husband was the one who found it, and that he’s since given me two others in different designs. If you shop in Toronto, you can find one at Vicky’s on Eglinton. Or you could just send someone who loves you.

Post-script: Style is on my mind today because I’ve just been interviewed for Christa Jean’s fashion blog, Petite Fashionista. At a hair under 5’4,” I barely qualify as “petite.” And as you’ve read, I’m no fashionista. Still, there’s a part of my female soul that has longed to be an icon of style ever since Jackie Kennedy first dazzled me with her sculptured jackets and pillbox hats. And besides, Christa and I have a history. Back in her student days, she sold me a pair of Mephisto sandals to add to my collection, and we got talking about this and that.

Incidentally, the hardest thing about winter is that I can’t have to wear confining boots instead of wonderfully comfortable Mephisto sandals. I particularly miss the silver ones with the rhinestone buckles. But there’s a compensation. I’ll be wearing my favourite mauve coat for months to come.

Posted by Rona

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