08 January 2007

A three-way where no one wins.

Indeed, such a circumstance is possible.

I stumbled across one such misfortune this evening on ConnAve between L and M Streets.

The three participants: a trendy knit newsboy hat, a pair of trendy metallic flats, and the trusty trendy belt-and-tunic.

The kind of buy-the-entire-outfit-off-the-mannequin-at-Urban-Outfitters style this young woman was sporting is hardly ever spotted in my neck of the DC woods. By the looks of her male companion (he himself bedecked in the skull scarf you never see Mary Kate Olsen leave home without), I'm fairly certain this duo wandered a bit too far off the character-free reservation that is their temporary, over-priced home: Georgetown University.

Individually, all three pieces work. Even in permutations of two, I have no problem. But forcing them all to play nicely in one outfit is as awkward as that picture of Britney, Lindsay, and Paris together the day after Lindsay told reporters Paris assaulted her with a drink.

I'm not opposed to wearing multiple unique items in a single outfit. The well-dressed woman I saw at Borders earlier today had the shoes, the necklace, the belt, and the handbag, all of which were fashionable but subtly fashionable. It wasn't just that she had the right trouser cut for her frame or a perfectly tailored, pucker-free Oxford shirt, it was that every component of her outfit looked as if she wore it because she - and not Teen Vogue - approved it.

Every season, there are a handful of trends that are so touted by the fashion magazines and so ubiquitous among Hollywood starlets that even my Mother in mid-Michigan knows about them. The minidress, the ballet flat, the head scarf, and leggings are all examples of those that made this list in 2006. When picking from this grab-bag, it's best - no, it's imperative - you limit yourself to no more than two trends at a time. You go for three or more and you risk looking like Carmen Electra. Granted, she never looks bad, but when I look at her here, all I see is a stylist who was paid $1000 to tick off the black-and-white trend box, the opaque tights trend box, the nature-inspired jewelry trend box, and the minidress trend box. There's no Carmen in this picture; all that's present are the trappings of a woman who aspires to be stylish.

There are three vicinities to which people's eyes are drawn -- the face, the chest, and the legs. My rule is to have at least one of these three trend-spare. Following this, if I could alter the ensemble Rachel-Bilson-lite was wearing today, I would have either kept the hat (she had the face for it), kept the shoes, and replaced her tunic with a soft Ella Moss tee and cabled cardigan, OR I would have kept the shoes, kept the tunic, ponytailed her, done a little Gwen-poof with her bangs and topped it off with a modern take on the always classic mid-size gold hoops.

As I've advocated here so many times, the most important style rule is to know your audience and dress accordingly. If these two individuals were, as I suspected, two Hoyas who lost their way coming back from a crab cake lunch at Nathan's, then I really have no right to criticize them.

After all, they were just wearing the school uniform.

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