How Can You Tell If Something Isn’t “You?”

The true colors of a vintage shirtwaist

The respond to my last post was so interesting that I had to follow up. You all had great ideas about the dress Terri sent me, and how to wear it. To wit,

Rubiatona:  Yellow cardigan, blue or gray flats, bangles galore.
mademarian: High-heeled gladiators, carefully done hair, big beautiful brooch
Susan:  Bangles, colorful necklace
Duchesse: Blue Fluevogs
Crissa: Biker booties and jacket
Kelli: Colored jewelryCaroline: Bright patent leather or woven yellow braided belt.
Janet: Bright cardigan
Karena: Bright cardigan
Flo: Add white shirt
FLT: Become a 20-25 year old:)

But do I own this?

Or these:

Or this?

Nope. Not even close. Although I do occasionally consider buying biker booties and a jacket, for sheer waywardness.

I find it quite interesting that you all had similar ideas, ideas similar, by the way, to how Terri wore the dress originally, and yet I can’t put a single one into action. Sometimes one’s closet speaks louder than words. It turns out that I’m not one to pop up an outfit with color or accessories. This in turns explains the great deal of thought I put into finding daily basics. Good news is I could probably come up with a white shirt.

Elizabeth and I are discussing a new home for the dress. If the measurements don’t work for her, Donna your turn. Unless Mags’ MIL prevails. Community is all.

And here, by the way, is the photo of Terri in the same dress. A mini-tutorial in colored accessories, if you will.

Cotton/spandex cardigan via Nordstrom, only $34 and comes in oodles of colors
Bottega Veneta
flats $590 (sigh)
Vintage Bakelite bangle via Michelle’s Vintage Jewelry $35


  • 03/22/12
    8:02 am


    Marsha @ Splenderosa said...

    OMG, I can SO tell when something isn’t me. But, now I’m afraid it’s because I’ve “matured” enough to know what works. Gingham shirtwaists? Absolutely NO WAY !!!!

  • 03/22/12
    8:22 am


    Jan said...

    I don’t accessorize either, but I will add some color (just not busy prints…well, very often). Love the ideas everyone gave you, and I adore those shoes.

    I’m going to work on some Korean recipes; it was a lovely idea. :)

  • 03/22/12
    8:46 am


    kathy said...

    I’m not into accessorizing to make something “work”, or actually accessories much at all. Don’t consider regular jewelry an “accessory” although I guess it is?
    I think biker boots and/or a biker jacket is very you though, but not at the same time.
    Club Monaco has a great black, silky, summer biker jacket in black, which I bought. Great over summer dresses, or with khaki and jeans. Good way to test your biker vibe.

  • 03/22/12
    8:49 am


    hostessofthehumblebungalow said...

    I could never wear the dress, it’s not “me”.
    I could however wear all those accessories…
    especially that cheery sunny cardigan and it looks like cashmere. Perhaps it’s the one I have been eyeing from Land’s End!

  • 03/22/12
    9:36 am


    Karena said...

    You are right of course. I do have bright cardigans, and love some of the latest dresses; however I myself would not buy the shirt-dress.

    Art by Karena

  • 03/22/12
    9:41 am


    The Preppy Princess said...

    I am not at all good accessorizing, but do have an absurd number of brightly colored cardigans. And belts, but of the ribbon variety. Sigh.

  • 03/22/12
    9:49 am


    Julia said...

    I like the dress, and I thought it looked nice on you. But you don’t look comfortable in it and that makes it wrong. Adding accessories probably wouldn’t fix whatever it is that’s too far outside your comfort zone. I’m sure the next owner will appreciate your willingness to pass it along!

  • 03/22/12
    10:09 am


    mette said...

    Accessorizing in dressing, is a bit like detailing in interior design.
    Today, I feel strongly, that less is more.
    What I have/ wear, has to stand out on itself. I don´t wish to fuss about these things.
    I dislike ” the pop of color “-idea here and there. I dislike wearing too much jewelry, bling, bling.
    And I dislike spending too much time thinking about what to wear, how to decorate my house.
    Great, that there is someone waiting for Terri´s dress.

    8:58 pm
    mette said...

    Just wanted to add, that the dress looks g r e a t on Terri!!!

  • 03/22/12
    10:18 am


    valentine said...

    Since you’re feeling “fierce” these days, the dress is not the look you’re after.

  • 03/22/12
    10:40 am


    Susan said...

    Lisa, Thank you for posting a close up of the fabric so that we could see the actual colors. I still maintain that the dress is great on you. I loved it in fact. But, if you don’t own the needed accessories and don’t want to acquire them for this dress (I don’t blame you), it’s not your dress.

    I do want to disagree with the poster who said it was best for a 25 year old. I can SO see this dress on you–and on others of our general age. I’m just disappointed that you can’t show us another photo with your hair down, the cute blue shoes, the bangle, the sweater and a different belt. I bet Sal has all those items in her alreadypretty closet. She has such fun creating outfits. You two are very different of course–but it would be fun to see you in this dress with the accessories. Ok—on to other ideas. It’s not going to happen.

  • 03/22/12
    10:43 am


    Rubiatonta said...

    Knowing what a San Francisco “summer” looks like, I’m surprised you don’t own a yellow cardigan! (Or a neon blue one, or a hot pink one, or a safety orange one…) I wore a lot more color the four years that I lived in Pacific Grave, just for self-defense against a terminal case of the greys. (I also often had to go shopping in Gilroy or have lunch in Los Gatos in June and July simply to thaw out.)

    I think it’s interesting that there are in these comments some strong feelings about not wearing accessories. For me, since I tend to dress very simply, accessories are the things that make a look complete — the wrong ones really will ruin an otherwise lovely garment, while the right ones will make it look fabulous, without grabbing center stage. It’s an art!

  • 03/22/12
    12:23 pm


    WorthyStyle said...

    Love the pattern on the shirtwaist. Such lovely color combos! Reminds me of my boarding school’s colors – purple and gold.

  • 03/22/12
    1:28 pm


    mademarian said...

    Well, if it doesn’t feel right, away with it!

    I like accessories, for me they are a way of changing the look of basic clothes. People often comment favourably which makes me pursue this path.

    Maybe this accessorising thing is a product of the democratisation (is that a word?) of dressing. Ever since Mlle Chanel went at it from the poor classes via menswear, accessories have been given the task of individualizing prefabricated clothes.

    Plus, I’m not familiar with auntie Em but the women I have known who wore these kinds of dresses were the bomb: tough, industrious, clever and not prone to giving up. I hope the dress finds a good home!

  • 03/22/12
    1:29 pm


    Murphy said...

    This post is another aha moment for me. Lately most of my shopping mistakes have been because I’ve purchased something that looks great on someone else, and that seems to be okay in a general way with my shape and coloring. But then it languishes unworn in my closet because whenever I put it on I don’t feel like me. However, if I had asked myself before each purchase whether I had just the right things to wear with it, in most cases the answer would have been no. So I will be sure to use this as a litmus test next time I am thinking of buying outside of my comfort zone.

  • 03/22/12
    1:43 pm


    Terri said...

    Oh, it is wonderful to think that this dress may find a new life as a community dress!

  • 03/22/12
    2:34 pm


    the gardeners cottage said...

    to be perfectly honest with you lisa, i think it takes time, as in years and years! don’t you think that is one of the greatest parts of getting older? finally figuring out who we are and being ok with that. and every once in a while if we step out of our comfort zones we are pleasantly surprised.

  • 03/22/12
    4:12 pm


    Jean S said...

    Oh, good for you. I think that the most important element in being attractive is being at home with your self (in every way). You’ve thought a lot about what works/what doesn’t for you, and you get to own that.

  • 03/22/12
    4:15 pm


    SeqingLibrarian said...

    I didn’t post yesterday, but I thought you were correct to reject this look. It just isn’t you, as far as I can tell from photos. And while some shirtwaist dresses work on women of a certain age, this one doesn’t, IMHO.

  • 03/22/12
    4:27 pm


    mags said...

    GOL ;D at content, context and mis-spellings, mine not your’s of course. lol

  • 03/22/12
    4:35 pm


    RoseAG said...

    Those are not the colors I thought were in that dress at all. I guess you don’t own an Eisenhower style jean jacket? While I might not wear a denim one to work I would wear a linen one. Now that I see it’s blue and not gray I’d be thinking about that.

    I’ve never been to the Bay Area when it was very warm, a sweater probably is the best strategy. In Kansas or Maryland you could wear that dress 3-4 months out of the year without any kind of jacket/sweater and show off the detail at the sleeves. The sturdy fabric would keep it looking fresh through many a sweaty car trip.

    I’m feeling a pull to my LL Bean catalog, I’ll bet they’ve got some seersucker.

  • 03/22/12
    7:06 pm


    déjà pseu said...

    My red flag is if I find myself thinking that I need to buy something else to make the item in question work with what I already own.

  • 03/23/12
    12:47 am


    Sandy said...

    That shirtwaist on you? No. Don’t even waist your time on “trying” to make it work. You’re great looking and have a fab figure. That shirtwaist is not your best look. Colors don’t work on you. Style doesn’t show off your youthful figure or face.

  • 03/23/12
    5:06 am


    Dawn said...

    I love the June Cleaver vibe (or Auntie Em vibe or Rosie the Riveter vibe) of that dress, and I know I would admire it on someone else, but it is definitely not me. And I agree it’s not you, either, Lisa. But it is definitely perfect for someone, and a lovely dress nonetheless.

  • 03/23/12
    7:54 am


    Flo said...

    All of this, sooo interesting. Everyone’s comments, love them all. Cannot believe what we read as “gray” at a distance is, in fact, blue and yellow check, just more interesting stuff to file. And we’d all do something different, including me: I’d pull on my favorite white ballet-neck, 3/4 sleeve pima knit Talbots top first, then the dress, make sure the white showed well in the V neck, make sure there was white coming down below the sleeves of the dress, throw on a good belt/shoe combo like Terri’s, and I’m good to go. No accessories needed. Doesn’t this make you wonder how in the world store buyers ever get it right, with us all so different?

  • 03/23/12
    11:43 am


    Duchesse said...

    Thought the dress was grey! (And that’s Fluevog *oxfords* I was suggesting, the ones you posted. And I, with some years on you, would wear that dress, nothing jeune fille about it!

  • 03/23/12
    3:30 pm


    Susan Lucas said...

    I hate this dress. Maybe it’s the photograph, but it’s just “frumpy”, so to my thinking no amount of accessorizing is helping it. Sorry. Good call LIsa in finding a new home for it.

  • 03/24/12
    9:23 am


    CayceP said...

    Good for you for experimenting. Even better that you’re staying true to your style by not keeping the dress. Was it Kendall Farr who described clothing like this as pieces that give you an identity crisis? When I wear something that isn’t me, I have an almost physical reaction of discomfort, like I physically don’t feel comfortable in my own skin.

    BTW, when you wrote “It turns out that I’m not one to pop up an outfit with color or accessories.” I think you weren’t giving yourself enough credit. With your winter uniform of trousers, v-neck sweater, and button-front collared shirts you were indeed using accent colors via the collar (e.g., lavender gingham) and brown leather watch band. I loved that outfit!

  • 03/24/12
    2:23 pm


    Anne @ The Frump Factor said...

    Such a thought-provoking post! I do think it’s good to sometimes stretch the boundaries of what is “us,” but I find it usually happens by accident. (We stumble upon something unexpected, somehow, or even have it given to us, and then are surprised to discover that we like it).

    I know exactly what you mean about not having “the tools” in your closet to implement certain looks or fashion advice. This happens to me ALL the time. It doesn’t necessarily mean those ideas are inherently not “you” — but it does mean that they don’t come easily or naturally to you. You many need a happy accident to bring pops of color to you! Or, you know, maybe you don’t need that. What will be, will be…..

  • 03/25/12
    12:03 pm


    Susan Tiner said...

    No, I can’t see you adding color or accessories. That partly explains why the dress looks great on Terri, she’s an accessory wizard! She also looks like she likes the dress and that’s what most important.

  • 03/26/12
    10:21 am


    alh said...

    To my eye this dress looks great on both you and Terri. When I first saw the photo of the dress on you, my immediate reaction was, “What a very different look for Lisa, but how very nice.” I was a little excited you might be changing your look, since the dress is a “look” I usually respond to more positively than pants/sweater/jacket. (I am interested to see you in your skirt/oxfords uniform look for summer) My reaction is a very subjective reaction. It was interesting to read your reaction that it isn’t your look! I get that. You could probably get away with wearing almost anything but if it doesn’t feel right, what is the point. I hope at this age we are all dressing mostly for ourselves.

    What I most appreciate is when someone obviously has a certain style and dresses consistently in that style… unless, of course, the style is to have no consistency which is also rather interesting and fun.

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