Shopping can be downright disheartening. I say can be because sometimes shopping can be exhilarating. However, when you're not finding what you want, the experience can be as unpleasant as say, taking a plunge in a recycling vat filled with the soggy pulp of discolored images from last month's issue of Vogue.
One starts with the simple task of finding the perfect article of clothing. A piece that makes you feel good. A piece that makes a statement. I'm a fashionable guy. My sense of style is typically trendy with a bent toward classic. But on this day I was on the hunt for something dramatic to wear to an anniversary gala. I tasked myself with finding a pair of gray and black plaid pants. I live in NYC for God's sake. How hard could it be? Surely, I thought to myself, somebody will have that perfect pair of gray and black plaid pants that I see so clearly in my head: slim fit, hugging me in all the right places.
I spent an afternoon searching for those pants, to the color of disappointment, in store after store. My vision was not there. At least not anywhere I was searching. Okay, full disclosure. There was one pair of black wool, slim fit pants whose black squares were formed by silver-gray lines. Almost what I wanted, but not quite. The problem was...they didn't fit. Even the size that should have been too big in the waist didn't fit. Couldn't get them past my thighs. I normally wear a 30" waist. This was dispiriting. I was not deterred. I was determined. And I wasn't about to give up or settle.
This particular afternoon involved me crisscrossing between Madison and 5th Avenues more than once. If I'd been wearing either pair of the heels I most recently described in my HuffPo Gay Voices piece "High on Heels," my feet would have been killing me. I spent hours searching the racks. Looking. Longing. Alexander McQueen and Dolce & Gabbana called out to me, but to drop a card on the counter for a piece from either of those fall collections would take more than a months salary for me to pay off, and I just wouldn't allow myself that kind of stress. My eyes get all unfocused right now as I daydream of the gorgeous Dolce & Gabbana velvet jacket that looked so beautiful on. But alas, it's velvety softness and form-fitting cut would have been little consolation when that bill came due. I moved on. I continued my store to store search until finally I found something that, while not exactly what I'd set out to find, I could see myself wearing.
THE FITTING ROOM
Sometimes I'd rather clean my toilet than try on pair after pair of pants. Hoping each one will appease my vanity, accentuate the positive (my butt), and be just the right amount of tight. You get the picture. Basically I wanted pants that looked as if they were made for me (couture pants) but more affordable (rack prices). I had my helpful sales associate running back and forth with different cuts and waist sizes until finally...
They were silvery gray, slim fit, and fulfilled my needs if not exactly my desired pattern. (You may be thinking I settled, but the pants were gorgeous so it didn't feel that way. I'll find the gray and black plaid. Just you wait.) Everything else after that fell into place. The fitted shirt in striking magenta would be unmissable in a crowd. The turquoise, silver, and gray plaid tie would contrast with the shirt, but blend with the ensemble. The collection of pieces (all found at Express) was nothing short of vibrant. It was smart and vivid. No soggy, discolored mess here. I finished the look with a pair of blue, turquoise, and gray socks and a gorgeous pair of gray shoes from Cole Haan. I must admit that as far as statements go I was fairly certain the magenta shirt or the gray shoes would be the statement piece of this outfit. Turns out I was wrong.
I have a gecko broach. I've owned it for years. It's a found piece. Somebody's loss became my gain. It's charming and interesting; dark, gray-black metal covered with sparkling hematite. I pinned the gecko broach near the top of my tie, it's head slightly over the edge as if it might be crawling away in search of somewhere less plaid.
That was my statement piece. It had been in my closet the entire time, waiting patiently on the lapel of a vintage pin-striped blazer for me to take it once again into the light.
The colors and patterns of the clothes I had assembled were beautiful and attention-getting, but that gecko broach was the piece that caught everyone's eye.
To me, fashion is about expression, personality, experimentation. One just needs to be brave enough to make bold choices and possess the confidence to own the room.
I was brave and confident, boldly expressing my personality, but it was my gecko who owned the room.