Style Stories

#111522: Intuitive outfits

Thoughts on getting dressed from the gut
by Leandra Medine Cohen
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Getting dressed has not been easy lately.

Lately it’s been more like trying to “pull teeth from my dick,” which is a phrase the late New Yorker columnist, David Rakoff, once spoke to describe writing when he’s out of flow.

I’d been feeling like I was in an outfit rut for weeks until a few days ago. Getting into them frustrates me more than it used to because, I think, I’ve come into a very favorable position where the contents of my wardrobe are exactly as I want them to be — the most definitive versions of the gear I choose to arm up in each day. And yet, for weeks, I was going and going and going and going and coming up short wherever I went.

Trying to think about what went through my mind during these fits of murky vision, I now suspect that my knee-jerk projections were off: the problem has little to do with the season we’re in (liminal, fleeting and thus often a bit more challenging to ground into) as I thought, or even the mold my identity (as a woman, a partner, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend) is comfortably settling into. I think the ruts really are a mere function of too much incoming info — the constant threat of a system overload.

Which actually, I guess, does relate to the liminality of this period. Because there is a certain vulnerability to it, a porousness that functions as a consistent reminder that this time, this season is almost over. It doesn’t register as bleak or wistful but I do think the vulnerability perpetuates this porousness that makes it easier to lose center.

Example: I’m walking down the street, observing storefronts and the passersby that cross my line of vision. Their taste, good as it may be, confuses or distract me from my own compass of taste.

Another example: I visit the What’s New pages on various e-comm sites. Sometimes I get what I went there for: inspiration to apply to my own wardrobe, and that feels great, but often, I think, I also get consumed by the new and shiny and beautiful things that decorate the static pages.

A pair of slippers draw my attention, and then I think, those will be fun with pants like these, so I click into them, then think a boatneck will compliment them most elegantly and before long, I’ve succeeded to erect an outfit, but it’s an outfit that’s not mine!

So I take to my closet, having done this work, and I’m revved up in what feels like a good way, but a strange sense of lack I hadn’t really understood until I gave this some thought overcomes me.

The same thing can happen on social media. Of course, we have spoken for years about how detrimental social media can be to the mental health of the public consciousness, but the way I have been able to pinpoint it lately is such that even if you don’t compare yourself to others, even if you don’t care what they have vs. what you do, even if you don’t generate output for the apps you visit, they pull you out of yourself.

There is so much information that lights up different parts of my brain, that seemingly breaks different links and puts new ones together, and sometimes this sensation can be very satisfying, but other times, it can totally fuck with me.

I’m too porous, I think, to look outward at all when I’m in pursuit of an answer, no matter how trivial the preceding question may be. I’ve got to stay in, close enough to draw my own conclusion because I know it’s the only one I will trust.

Coperni top, Re/done shorts, TK flats

So I’ve been thinking about gut dressing and the concept of intuitive outfits lately. That thing where your clothes feel easy. When you don’t have to force them, or yourself, to work. You just go with the flow and it follows.

Metier bag, Tory Burch jacket, and here are some good velvet pants/comparable boots

And it would seem like there’s nothing quite like a still closet to support intuitive dressing because when the physical incoming is limited — that is, when you’re not constantly getting new stuff, you really get to know the cracks and corners of your clothes: How they work together, what they mean when they come together and how that reflects off your person.

Yeah, this too has been on my mind a lot lately.

Venstore sweater, Jeanerica jeans, Khaite sandals

How not letting new clothes in for a while lets you familiarize yourself with your wardrobe, lets you take the best kinds of style risks — the ones that are honest and measured. The dressing opportunities that don’t get buried under the debris of too much newness, which often creates a sort of disorientation in much the same way any other new dynamic could: partnering up, having a baby, hiring support or introducing a new person to a longstanding friend group.

It takes time for the elements to get to know each other, to sink into themselves within these dynamics, and then into the broader tapestry.

Yeah, I had never actually put it this way, or realized it before but I think it’s right.

Here’s a leather jacket I took off my grandma’s body a couple of weeks ago, she bought it in Turkey, where she is from, like 25 years ago. The top is Rachel Comey, the jeans are Khaite’s Daria style (the ones below too, but in a darker wash). Ditto that the boots

I get a lot of new stuff, also give a lot away — so there is rarely a substantial period when there’s not some kind of turnover in progress, but I’ve been trying this thing lately where when I get dressed, I don’t ignite the use of many other stimulants, maybe some music to get me moving.

Then I try not to think, or furrow around too much and I’m surprised to find that it feels much softer.

Or maybe the word is more refined — like the bells and whistles are fewer, there as they still may be

And the decisions on what gets worn are inherently practical, even when they’re not.

Yali jacket, Asceno top, Levi’s jeans, Grenson boots, Rosie Assoulin sunglasses

They're direct

Here’s a solid wear-fancy-or-not tank top, Nafsika Skourti skirt, Toteme boots


Cawley Studio coat, Converse sneakers, and here’s a great alternative Jil Sander bag, lest you just want a bamboo handle in which case, I revert to Etsy

Curious at times

This was a fun one to make! With a Dries van Noten blazer (this one from Sandro is really good too!) I bought ten years ago layered over a Chanel jacket I bought second hand — this too could work! and these Chloe horse pants from about 5 years ago (another vibe that’s not a no), plus a tiger print toiletry clutch from when Man Repeller made accessories (it retailed for $65, so this is lol) and early days boots from The Row that look a bit like Doc Martens

Somewhat serious

Is it holiday party dressing szn yet or what? Here’s a red t-neck, it’s a worthy investment, and you can easily reapproximate my knit polo layered under the big grey knit. The skirt is from Mango and the shorts are Gabriel Forsach, but any cycling pair should do. Shoes are Toteme. Eventually these will go on sale, right?

And always yielding.

Beaufille belt, La Double J sock boots

A lot of it depends on mood. Though at my most self-posessed, I often look something like this:

Salie 66 shirt, Everlane turtleneck, Sea New York pants, Falke socks, Gucci slingbacks — but here, you know what? You kind of get the same effect of fancy/festive from a pair of patent leather shoes and these for $78 look pretty good.

What follows is almost always desire to venture away from that specific brand of comfort zone

Then starting to venture back out. Shot this one for the Tory Burch story that ran 2 weeks ago

Though I do always come back

And lately, it’s to an even simpler, more basic place.

There’s a sort of formulaic structure I notice in hindsight too, a very particular balance I set out to strike with the clothes. Two parts the dominant feeling to one more its secondary, often contradicting counterpart.

Which is cool to notice because it seems to indicate something I’m eager to fully buy into: leading with gut, then letting your head make sense of what you made feels better than doing it the reverse way: letting your head call the shots then inviting (forcing?) your gut to buy in.

Yeah, leading with gut then inviting head in seems like a good way to think about living. Often in the past, I’ve done it the other way. Head first, then ask my gut what it thinks. The problem is, when head has led, I’ve mostly been left with a story, unsure if its even actually true, and lately, I really want to stay close to what’s true.

So, what are you wearing?