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Loyal subjects, there are two types of wardrobe malfunction. There is the laddered stocking, fallen hem, exposed your nipple during the Superbowl half-time show kind, then there’s the ‘there’s something not quite right with this outfit and I’m not sure what’ kind. The second kind is usually easily picked as soon as you get dressed, and ignore those feelings of unease at your peril because they won’t go away. Call me shallow as a mirror, but The Wrong Top can utterly ruin your day for reasons you can’t quite articulate to those around you. So you can either wait until someone tips you over the edge into rage, wrap them in freshly spun silk, and bite their head off to feed your young, or you can actually listen to your instincts and Make It Work.

You heard the man.

An illustration

A few weeks ago I had this wonderful vision of cream lace, red stripes, lacquered roses, and floating through my day. I carefully put together what I thought to be a beautiful outfit, ignoring the little voice in the back of my head which said “you look like an amateur Lolita cosplaying as a candy cane*, not a confident, mature bureaucrat who would like to be taken seriously in the workplace.**”

Nevertheless I pressed on, and fortunately for you, my Loyal Subjects, I got to the photo stage before throwing in the cream lace towel. Behold:

Outfit details: skirt made by me and worn with white petticoat underneath, cream lace top with cream stretch top worn underneath, both from Glassons, cream lacquer roses belt from City Chic, shoes from Mischief Shoes (bows removed)

I would like to point out first off that this is not an issues of ‘flattering’ or ‘slimming’. It’s not even an issue of proportion – I look in proportion and these are all shapes I’m comfortable wearing (I mean, they all came from my wardrobe!). But… but. You see my issue? It’s not… right. Something was off, and I finally gave in to the misgivings, risked being late for work (I wasn’t, everything’s cool guys, it’s fine) and changed things up:

Ye gods, I’m even posing with more confidence! I had been reluctant to add a top to the skirt which was neither cream or red, but I needn’t have worried – this ink blue scalloped blouse is in the same shade spectrum as the deep red, so the effect is of a combination of jewel tones, rather than a myriad of clashing colours. The whole thing feels more modern (says Fifties Girl) and the matching blue wedge booties (Mi Piaci) and cream pearls tie the look together.

Now here’s the thing. I thought the solution was obvious – as a… buxom lass I didn’t feel comfortable in a light coloured top. Simple fix, right?

Wrong. Because Glassons brought out the scalloped blouse in more colours and this happened:

Outfit details: cream/oyster scalloped blouse from Glassons, daisy print skirt made by me, black leather bow belt by Karen Walker, cream heels from Mischief Shoes, Kakapo necklace by Boh Runga

Technically this blouse is ‘oyster’, being a slightly greyed out cream with a light sheen***, but really we’re splitting hairs. It’s a cream top. Which I’m rocking. And pfut goes my theory, no? Loyal subjects, this has kept me awake many a night, but I think it is this: The shape of the cream lace top is younger than the button down blouse, and there is a lot of cream going on in that first, rather outre outfit. For a not-quite-reformed goth who wants to be considered an equal and not a junior in the workplace (no, really) I think I’ve put my finger on why the wrongness of my first ‘cream top’ attempt, and why the rightness of the second. Keep an eye out for my testing the theory by combining the cream lace top with a more grown-up skirt, because I think I’ve cracked the code.

In conclusion, here is Tim Gunn chasing Swatch, the Mood dog:

*Actually I did theme myself in candy cane stripes for the office Christmas party last year. People were stopping me on the street to tell me how amazing I looked and I felt fabulous. This is not then, however. And those people had probably been drinking. Even the darling middle-aged ones. Drinking.

** Also you smell and your Mum dresses you funny.

***I’m a colour geek. So sue me.