Style Stories

Four tiny style pick-me-ups for the end of winter

How to break bland dressing patterns without feeling like you look like you’ve lost your mind
by Leandra Medine Cohen
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You know how I know March malaise is real? Because I was walking my kids to school sometime last week and out of seemingly nowhere, Laura started to scream at the top of her lungs that walking to school is boring and she hates it. But I knew exactly what she meant because this is that great time of year when I myself start to feel like a wilting rib of celery swimming inside the same soup of myself, where the best clothes I can muster are the ones hanging over my bathtub (crusty leggings) and the days blend into each other.

On the morning that Laura self-expressed, I suggested we go another way. So we turned a corner we don’t usually turn and got down on our knees and started crawling.

And it didn’t last for more than like 6 seconds because the sidewalks are cold and the cement is too rigid to support three pairs of nearly-bare knees dragging across it but you know what the exercise did do? It cracked us all up! Madeline too. And broke a pattern we — me and Laura — both wanted out of.

Sometimes I think I mistake routines for patterns and vice versa. The way I’m coming to understand the difference is like, routines are the tangible, material rituals you set, which are healthy when you use them to keep you accountable to responsibilities/yourself. They can also provoke a sense of safety or familiarity in a new environment.

Patterns on the other hand are more like…psychic/tacit routines that form. Between you and yourself, you and the closest among you, etc., etc. They’re more complicated in that we don’t always know the patterns exist in us the same way we know a routine has been forged — like we inherit some patterns from our upbringings so just assume “this is how I am,” then we layer new patterns on top of the old ones and before you know it, a 5-year-old is losing her shit on the corner of 86th street and her mom totally gets it but has a choice: reinforce the pattern (by telling her to stop yelling, by ignoring the underlying bemoan altogether, by trying to suffocate her frustration as a way to, I guess, numb out my own) or break the hell out of it!

Get on the floor! Try a new way! Send those crusty ass leggings to the laundromat and put on a pair of red tights.

There was something refreshing and bright and perspective widening and new about choosing another way. It felt so good, like I was opening a window to find a bed of lilies water falling out of it, free from the room with the small windows and low ceilings and now I keep thinking, where else can I do this, how else can I do this?

Kids are a wonderful way to learn more about you, to build resilience and grow into whoever you know, or suspect your highest self can be. It is genuinely my belief that clothes can help through this process too. Not as saliently, or interactively, or as literally — it’s more like the clothes represent what could become future action, they’re more like an omen than the action itself, but it’s a good time of year to practice breaking patterns with your clothes. The lowest stakes way I recommend doing this is by employing tiny style risks that throw your route off course in the slightest, but still most delightful way. Here are four examples of what I mean:

#1. Wear a headband with whatever else you’d wear right now.

This headband is from a market in Mexico City; most of them were beaded, which I loved too, but went with this one because the color combo reminded me a bit of Dries and old Prada. A different vibe, but good too is this Carolyn Bassette-inspired style

They do something feminine to an otherwise masculine look:

Bouguessa blazer (I recommend a single breast as opposed to double breast blazer if you plan to wear it closed like a top and like this one on TRR), Soeur Paris pants, Marni sandals (dif dif, but same) (from The Real Real, obviously — but I was rly looking for these @ the time)

And something really tender and youthful to an otherwise matronly look.

Come stai! In a Maria McManus shirt (on sale!), the Tory Burch skirt that keeps on giving, grey Falke socks, old Celine sandals

I think I have too many images of Miuccia Prada taking her post-show bow lodged into my brain right now

Although now that I’m here, it more always looks like she’s wearing a headband as opposed to de facto is

As if observing, analyzing, and ultimately recreating her style is going to summon the same kind of creative prowess and enable my own brain creating this-as-art:

But anyway, the rules of this rec are simple: keep your outfit’s color palette pretty basic. Stay with greys and blacks and browns and ivory. Be comfortable. If you tend to go boyish, opt for a blazer. If your vibe is more girlish, a straight-line skirt or maybe a dress or a skirt with a shape like the white one above or perhaps more exaggerated, like this one.

Feel like yourself in tried and true clothes then add the headband to surprise yourself. Mentioned this in last Friday’s letter of rec, too, but 10/10 am planning to incorporate the headband into my summer uniform of a light blue button-down and low-slung drawstring poplin shorts.

Some headbands I’d recommend:

Pretty Acrylic Thin Solid Color Headbands
$5 USD
This thin solid one from Etsy.
Hill House Home
The Maeve Headband
$35 USD
Or the slightly more substantial one, in a richer color (in partic the green).
Floral Beaded Headband
$22 USD
This beaded one, which is just like the one I got my daugther/wish I’d gotten for myself at a market in Mexico City.
Pure Color Tender Cute Headbands
$8 USD
This thick, acrylic one, which I can feel ramming into the area behind my ears already, but which will also give you a big Carolyn Besette energy.
Black Charniere Headband
$640 USD
And then, the motherlode of fancy: Alaia says “Wear me,” and the people say, “How much?”.

#2. Make like Bottega and double your shirts.

There are two ways I’d recommend doing this. The first way is a more literal approximation of how Bottega’s double shirt was shown on the Spring 2023 runway, with an a-line skirt that reached about knee-length.

And see how it’s almost crossover buttoned too, great style note I missed when I did:

This! LMND shirts x 2 (here’s a lighter shade of the brown; the shirt style is called “Chiara” and there are tons of colors, so choose your own adventure), Christopher Kane skirt, Manolo Blahnik mules (these could do the job w a neutral skirt; I like these from TRR too)

The Chiara Shirt - White
$163 USD
The Chiara Shirt
$146 USD
Wanda Patent Leather Wedge Sandals
Paris Texas
$550 USD
Snakeskin Mules
Manolo Blahnik
$208 USD

I did the double shirt here with this pink Chris Kane number. It works because the shirts are relatively masculine, so that adds a new dynamic when paired with the ultra-feminine skirt (organza, lace).

And then the shoes are leather, so there’s your dose of rough. Not sure what to do with the evidence that my feet are blending into the snake print — like they are actually the same color and texture

So let’s move on to another way you can interpret the shirt on shirt:

Carolina Herrera mens shirt, and here this is good too; Salie 66 mens shirt, but here this could be good too; Soeur Paris jeans, Grenson fisherman shoes

A basic color plus a vibrant color, which actually nicely reflects at least three instances that pointed towards a color trend from ~the runways~ of last month.

Prada, Valentino, Giuliva Heritage — all Spring 2023

My winter strategy when shopping is to always buy my pants 1 size bigger than I wear in the summer them so that layers tuck in more easily. Layering button-downs helps to carry the use case over, eventhough the shirts you layer should be pretty lightweight.

When you’re picking your shirts, if you’re going to do this, I’d go for your flimsiest poplins (LMND’s are great, as you know) or linen/gauze (here is a reference for fabric). Linen/gauze would actually look great with a pair of leather pants/a skirt a la this, this.

Unless stiff cuffs are important to you, in which case a moderately fine poplin might be a better choice.

The tipsheet at the bottom has thoughts on color pairings but the low-stakes-risk gist is: one neutral, one color. And I think the flimsier collars in picture A work better than the stiffer ones in B.

#3: An ornate belt

As evidenced above in the second look! But also:

Hello, how are you today?

An easy, very quick add to almost any outfit that is streamlined and wreaks of good taste but needs a tiny bit of roughening up (examples: solid color button down and trousers, button down and jeans, a suit with the jacket styled as the shirt, or how about a pencil skirt with loopholes like this, worn with a t-shirt). I went two degrees further than “a tiny bit” for the rough up by wrapping a sweater around my waist, thus forging the effectivity of two belts even if it doesn’t look like it (efficient optical illusions!), then I added a pair of flat slingback sandals styled with grey socks to keep the weight of the look at center.

Attersee caftan, Sable World belt, Venstore sweater, Falke socks and sandals and sunglasses from The Row

Judith Leiber
Skinny Metal Belt
$225 USD
Julius Small Leather Belt
$380 USD
the next chapter in studded wunderkinds
Judith Leiber
Snakeskin Belt
$123 USD
Judy comes in hot again
Buckled Calf-leather Belt
$438 USD
Etro on sale but still expensive for a cool $438

#4: A kooky bag

Venstore polo and sweater, Mango skirt, Calzedonia tights, The Row sandals and this bag is from a store in Ibiza called La Galeria Elefante (this weird thing from Etsy evokes the same spirit; and I loooove this one)

Kept the tones in the grey family across the board, playing only with the shades of charcoal grey I’d employ. It’s a good color to use as a springboard to brighter, more vibrant colors, in particular when those colors register as risks (I don’t wear a lot of yellow), or when the item you’re going out on a limb with has so much going on that you either have to go balls to the walls with how much you’ll put on or really find confidence letting it take center stage.

Welcome to the portrait from inside my book jacket.

Alternative to kooky bags is the time-tested style of layering one on top of another:

Veronica de Piante dress, Maria McManus shorts, Toteme boots, Blooming Dreamer straw basket, Roger Vivier satin clutch (smaller than it seems, can’t even fit a phone! So many (!) good non-designer ones here too…)

Bouquet Embellished Satin Shoulder Bag
Roger Vivier
$1,295 USD
Silver Tina Sparkly Mini Handbag
$69 USD
Vintage Brown Satin Handbag
$19 USD
Vintage Beaded Satin Evening Bag
$65 USD
Vintage 1950's Jolles Original Embroidered Purse
$240 USD
Big Vintage 50s Sequin Beadwork Evening Purse
$64 USD
Yellow Velvet Bag With Embroidered Flowers
$135 USD

Originally approximated on the Bottega Veneta runway for Spring 2023 in September 2022, then recreated in the aisle of cereal the subsequent October, this is still a pretty good way to add a dose of maximalism to whatever minimalism you’re engendering. I like it in particular with an all-black look because the straw bag breaks up the harshness of that bright orange against the black. Straw is like an equalizing neutral that can balance the severity of two other colors (or black).

And finally, not really #5, but kind of #5, this one is more of a reminder because it’s still cold enough: wear colored tights!

Consider it a primer for next week’s full-blown analysis of whether leopard print is coming back, whether it can even ever actually do that (does leopard print go out of fashion?), and how to wear it in spite of the above without feeling like you’re in leopard! print!. I’m wearing a Toteme fisherman sweater here, a skirt from Saint Laurent (a real leopard slip would work just as well), tights from Calzedonia (which have since sold out, but I really like these too) and Manolo Blahnik mules I found on The Real Real one night while I was breastfeeding. Most of the shoes I still own, I think, I bought on TRR while I was breastfeeding.

It’s hip, it’s cool, it’s funky, it’s fresh.

And that sums it up, thanks for tuning in and see you next week at the Cafe!

Leandra “the standpipe” Medine Cohen