Sunday, March 22


It's easy to spot a fashion faux pas on someone else.

Much less so on yourself.

Do a Google search under Images for "fashion don'ts," and it's amazing how many of the top hits are of Britney Spears, followed by Lindsay Lohan. I've committed my fair share of "don'ts" in my life, so why aren't I so famous?

Some faux pas are immediately apparent, like Ugly Betty, but some only become clear with the passage of time. A friend of mine from Costa Rica was married in the '70s. In his wedding picture, he's wearing an all-white suit with enough gold chains to buy a small country. I'll bet it seemed like a good idea at the time, but in time, no doubt it became something for the kids to laugh at. Then there was the cousin, who also got married in the '70s, who thought that brown and peach made the perfect color scheme. It was a large wedding party, the men all in brown tuxes with peach ruffled shirts, the woman all in peach. Hard to imagine any time when that seemed like a good idea, but there you have it.

[As always, my uploading images have gone all kablooey on me - ah, well!]

And then there's me.

Back in my bookseller days, I went through a very thin period where I could wear almost anything, and did. Unfortunately, "could" and "should" are two very different animals. There was this one...outfit for want of a better word. The short-sleeved top was white with navy sleeves and on the front was a sequined picture of Rosie the Riveter with the slogan "We can do it!" The matching flounced mini skirt was navy with white trim on which was another "We can do it!" patch along with several peppy slogans. And somehow I'd gotten it into my head that I could pair this with red stilleto pumps. Yes, I even looked in the mirror that morning, and yet I still went out into the world this way. What was I thinking of???

Well, clearly, I wasn't thinking, although I should have been. When you're 4'11, you usually try to avoid cute at all costs, while this outfit was just so so so... Five minutes into my workday, the error of my fashion ways came home to me. The elderly Dutch woman who worked one department over - and whose own idea of daily fashion included a long gray braid tied around her head like a crown, twin sets, long tweed skirts and clogs with knee socks - came up to me and pronounced, in all sincerity, "Now *that's* the way to dress!"

Oh, s___.

I hadn't committed a fashion faux pas that would only become apparent with the passage of time. I'd committed an immediate fashion faux pas! Worse, I lived thirty-five minutes away and couldn't go home to change. Double worse, I was going out to shoot pool with my girlfriend right after work that night. So not only would an elderly Dutch woman be seeing me like this, but so would nearly everyone who mattered in my world.

If you're going to wear it, wear it proudly - sounds like good advice, doesn't it? But even adopting a proud approach didn't help as I sauntered into the pool bar that night. It's kind of hard to look proud when you look like a combination of "Betty Boop meets Minnie Mouse meets World War II." Really, the top itself would have been fine with jeans. The shoes would have been fine with almost anything else. (That mini skirt would never be fine with anything.) My friend's reaction? She started laughing as soon as she set eyes on me and I don't think she stopped all night. I finally promised that when I died I'd write it into my will that she was to be bequeathed the whole outfit. She thanked me and started laughing again. When I got home that night, I retired the skirt to the bottom of my closet. Oh, yeah. "We can do it!"

So now it's your turn.


Be well. Don't forget to write.


Sara Z. said...

Well, during high school in the 80s, there were many pairings of paisley + acid-washed on my body. Paisley shirt with acid-washed jeans. Acid-washed shirt with paisley jeans. A-W shirt plus A-W jeans. Paisley + paisley. Etc.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

That's so funny. When I was a little girl, I used to say my favorite color was paisley.

Gerb said...

Ummm. Checking in from Spring Break in SC, where I am *surrounded* by fashion faux pas by partying college students and pasty-skinned tourists. I'm looking at a fashion faux pas right now, as a matter of fact, sitting with his back to us across the pool deck. Guys, really. Check the location of your suit's waistband in the rear when you sit. Just say no to crack!

A Paperback Writer said...

Are you kidding me?
I teach junior high school. Fashion ridiculousities are every day fare!
We have boys who sag their pants down until they walk like penguins, girls who wear spiked heels and jeans so tight they can't move -- and then they complain when they're late to class. Right now, some of the girls are ratting their hair into squares four inches out from their skulls. They look like Annette Funicello on steroids morphing into aliens.
And another "cool" thing this year is for boys to wear plaid bermuda shorts with striped golf shirts. It's enough to cause a migraine. Occasionally, I want to ask them if they'd like to borrow a polka dot vest to complete the outfit.
A few years ago, it was all low-slung stretch pants and thong underwear -- which meant that every seated girl gave everyone an eyeful behind them. I got very used to saying things like, "honey, you don't have to look at MY underwear; I don't wanna see yours."

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Gerb, you totally crack me up - "Just say no to crack!"

And welcome, Paperback Writer. What great stories you tell of gross faux pas!

nightdweller20 said...

Oh geez...I saw this guy wearing the most ridiculous outfit ever on my college campus. He was wearing a huge leather trench coat, purple jean shorts, black and highlighter yellow striped knee socks, an orange t-shirt, elf shoes (and I mean elf shoes. Think of the shoes Will Ferrell wore in Elf) with yellow embroidery, and his hair was spiked with red streaks. He also had a few eyebrow rings and a nose ring. Needless to say, it was weird.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

And you know what, Night? I'll bet you anything that when he looked in the mirror before going out, he thought, "Suc-cess!"

Alyson Noel said...

Having grown up in a conformity loving suburb, I have a huge fondness for the guy in elf shoes, the girls with ratted hair, etc. High school is so hard with the wanting to fit it versus longing to be your true self--I think it takes guts to do your own thing, to dress for yourself and not care what anyone thinks! And yeah, I also miss the days when Bjork showed up at the Oscars dressed as a swan and Cher wore crazy, see-thru, get ups! Definitely not a fan of the Fashion Police- I'd much rather see someone's inner freak!

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Great perspective, Alyson! As for Cher, I miss lots of her outrageousness, but *not* the outfit that looked like a giant spider web.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

I'm totally with Alyson. And I have always let my inner freak out to show herself. I certainly had some weird outfits, but mostly the stuff I got myself I always thought was cool though maybe others wouldn't.... The really weird stuff was the things I got handed down from the older sister of the girl I babysat for. She was 16 and super trendy. She gave me the stuff after the trends died. Like mustard colored parachute pants ala MC Hammer. I never wore them except as a joke, but it was funny to think of her fashion faux pas and how I at 11 realized not to make them!

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Stephanie, you are definitely your own person!

Sara Hantz said...

HAHAHAHA Gerb... say no to crack... that made me laugh outloud

Wendy Toliver said...

I was just at a 60s party and I have to say, those styles were so much fun! Love the dresses and tall boots and big hoop earrings.

Let's see ... a fashion faux pas I can't stand is socks with sandals. Especially black socks. But yes, I've been guilty of wearing socks with Birkenstocks in my college days (not black ones, thankfully.)

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Wendy, how about white socks with black shoes? "Hello, Archie Bunker!"

Wendy Toliver said...

Haha! Definitely a faux pas!