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If It Ain't Broke, Then Just Fixate On It

By Design | FASHION / SENSE OF STYLE

June 06, 1996|MIMI AVINS | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

I had flung the morning newspaper belly-down across the table, and the full-page Macy's ad caught my eye--a pale, fine-ribbed, V-neck, sleeveless knit dress with matching cardigan. I wanted it, as surely as I wanted the bowl of cereal growing deliciously soggy beside it.

Of course it looked like something destined to live in my closet. If it wasn't a copy of the black Donna Karan dress and sweater that I already own, then I'm a bigger believer in coincidence than I used to be. I always feel terrific in that outfit. Let me count it's virtues: It's comfortable, sexy, doesn't wrinkle, goes from the office on into the evening, packs easily. An ankle-length tank dress with cardigan is another favorite.

So if two versions of the look are good, wouldn't three be better? Before some smart therapist told Jackie Onassis to get a job, she trolled the boutiques of Madison Avenue, scarfing up one (velvet jeans or Kelly bags or little Italian Ts) in every color. The time-honored tradition of buying in multiples is either a smart, efficient way to shop or evidence that, for some, more is never enough. I'm searching for studies that explain why some of us grow into variety-seekers, who see a dress they already have and think, "Got that. Next?" and others crave variations on a proven theme.

In "Instant Style: 500 Professional Tips on Fashion, Beauty and Attitude" (HarperStyle, 1996), Emily Cho and Neila Fisher write: "One of our quick formulas for personal style is experiment, copy, edit." That method encompasses both types. The multiples shopper is stuck in the copying phase. Her opposite continually experiments.

The Angel of Shopping munched on a Cheerio and whispered, "When you find something that works, stick with it." The she-devil on my other shoulder said, "Ever hear of repetition compulsion? I can't wait till next fall when you start buying turtlenecks by the dozen." All that bickering killed my appetite, but I tucked the paper away for future reference.

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Dummies' Tummies: Designers are often blamed for creating clothes for an idealized, fleshless woman as thin as an alien. But no less a style-setter than Giorgio Armani features mannequins in his boutiques with subtly protruding stomachs. He obviously believes there's nothing wrong with a real woman's body, even when it curves.

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