Audiences respond to one of two triggers: The Unexpected and The Common Experience. Both of these triggers are best expressed when your guard is let down. Here’s what I mean. Admitting to the fact that you pick your nose on the way to work is going to get a laugh. Some will be laughing at you because they didn’t expect it (and they pick their noses in the privacy of their own bathroom) and others will laugh with you because they do the same thing but were keeping it quiet. Everyday, people are playing to social norms and expectations. You stand out when you let go of those inhibitions and explore your creative freedom. Vulnerability and spontaneity can inform this freedom and help set you apart from the rest of the bloggers in your niche.
Q. I can no longer wear shoes with even a modest heel (seriously pronated ankles, plus a spinal cord injury that affects my balance). My legs are shapely and I look good in dresses and skirts, and I’m getting tired of wearing slacks all the time. Add to this a very modest budget for clothing. Given these limitations, how can I work with them to look great when I need to dress up for professional or social events? I’ve tried cheap, funky shoes and expensive ballet flats and loafers, but have not yet found a solution that doesn’t somehow call attention to the problem. I am now just going in circles and getting dressed is not fun anymore. I would very much appreciate your thoughts. I suspect that others in may be having the same problem. SUSAN
A. Since my expertise in recommending shoes is generally restricted to style and not comfort, I turned to a shoe designer and a self-professed shoe expert, Meghan Cleary (www.missmeghan.com). Her advice to you, believe it or not, is ballroom dance shoes.
“I have found ballroom dance shoes to be an excellent solution for seriously challenged feet and ordering one size up may account for your orthopedics as well. The reason for this is that the materials are created for extreme flexibility, and the architecture of the shoes is created not to slip off during wild dance moves — thus making them very secure shoes and very comfortable shoes — while at the same time very cute. The only downside is that they are indeed pricey, anywhere from $87 to $200 and upward for a pair. However, as an investment shoe it might be a solution for dressy events. I would probably take them to a shoe repair shop and get a very thin rubber sole put on the bottom as the very soft leather used in these can wear very quickly on city streets.’’
Q. I recall a column that you wrote a few years ago on what not to wear overseas to avoid looking like an obvious American tourist (as I recall, no chinos and don’t dress like you’re going to a pick-up basketball game). I have an opportunity to visit my niece in Paris and wonder what I should wear to be reasonably stylish. I’m not a fashionista, but not tourista either. I’m of moderate build, and my casual dress normally looks like I stepped off a yacht (polos, sweaters, Topsiders, etc. Ralph Lauren would be proud). What do you recommend, head to toe, especially footgear? PETER
A. You’re on the right path — especially if you’re reading my sage advice about what not to wear. My suggestion for anyone traveling in Europe is less casual clothing, more fitted shirts. Fitted does not mean tight, it means well-tailored. Don’t be afraid to go outside your US comfort zone. It goes without saying that you should leave your Crocs at home. Actually, you should toss them in the trash before you board the plane. But I decided to ask an honest-to-goodness European about your attire. Nick Sullivan, the Brit-born fashion director of Esquire, had this to say:
“The first thing I’d say is don’t dress like you just stepped off a yacht,’’ Sullivan advises. “It doesn’t travel all that well. I’m reminded of that guy from ‘Gilligan’s Island.’ What was his name? Thurston Howell III? I don’t think most people in France have seen that program. So the number one rule when you go to Europe is to wear clothes that fit a lot closer, whether it’s casual clothes, whether it’s jeans, or whether it’s T-shirts. The way that people make casual clothes look dressed up in mainland Europe is a life lesson for everybody. If you’re going to change your footwear, there’s nothing wrong with wearing a nicely worn pair of white bucks, or beige bucks. You could wear them with chinos or you could wear with jeans.’’ But the bottom line, my yachting friend, is to stay with fitted clothing. Blazers are great, but leave the navy blazer with the brass buttons as home. Dark colors are always a safe bet, and if you insist on wearing your Topsiders, make sure they’re well-worn and not freshly out of the box.