Why do we all want to blend in so much?

by Sylvia

Do you blend in or stand out

I have talked before about the enormous amount of black and dark clothes on the streets in Europe. I imagine it’s similar in the colder US states.

I understand it. Really I do.

Dressing for the winter or colder weather is tough and black is just practical. It does not stain so much and goes with everything. I’m sure I would wear more black too in winter.

Or is there another reason that we all opt for the same kind of clothing? In summer it’s not that much different.

True. There is a bit more variety in colors and black is not so dominant, but very few people stand out from the crowd.

Why do we have the urge to blend in so much? Are we afraid to stand out too much?

It starts early of course. I see it with my cousin and how much she wants to blend in with all the other teenagers. There is barely a hint of color and she is wearing almost exactly the same as all the other kids. I recognise that of course. I was not much different when I was young.

Many of us hardly grow out of that stage though. There are really very few people that stand out on the streets and that you especially notice.

And with standing out, I don’t mean that you have to be super bright, wear something crazy, have a funny haircut, be incredibly beautiful or wear a high hat. Standing out simply means that for some reason I notice you.

How to stand out

But there were still people that stood out on the streets and that I always turned around for, although it is surprising how few times that actually happened. So what did they do different? It could be any of these:

  • They highlighted their body strengths to perfection and created a great silhuette.
  • They used texture and pattern to great effect.
  • They combined neutrals in new and exciting ways.
  • They wore color!
  • They showed a unique sense of style through the way they put themselves together.
  • They had a great hair color or cut that exuded style and hip ness. And that includes a great grey hair style too!

Why would you want to blend in so much?

Don’t you want to get noticed, even just a little bit? Don’t you want to show us a little bit about your personality?

Even though we are not all extroverts, why would we want to completely hide away behind the sameness of our clothes? Surely there is a way to blend in without completely surrendering our own style or do exactly the same as everybody else?

I don’t exclude myself from this either. Although I feel that I dress more for myself now and not so much to blend in, my style is still not that different from many others. I also like to incorporate trends.

But I do try to give it a bit of an edge. To make the style my own and give a clear message about my personality. I absolutely WOULD own a few coats other than black if I lived in a colder country. And I do play with a seasonal trend to make the look current although I will adapt that to my own style.

Like I heard from many women over 40, I feel more daring now and know myself better. So it’s easier to do something different.

So rather than becoming invisible after 40, use that power of confidence and self knowledge to stand out a little bit more and show your personality through your clothes. Display the knowledge and style you have acquired over the years!

You never know. You may just attract more people into your life and have a bit more fun. In any case you would really please people like myself who greatly enjoy seeing men and women on the streets that stand out and show something of their unique style.

Let’s make the streets a little more interesting and beautiful together!

I’d love to hear your opinion on this? Does anything in this article resonate with you?

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Images sources: black / white dress, green / blue, neutral outfit

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{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Natalie Wold

I am definitely guilty of trying to blend in. I wonder if it has to do with the changes I see in my face/skin, hair, body. My confidence is just not there. Since finding this blogiI am hoping to rebuild that confidence. Over 40’s united:-)

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Sylvia

I hope you succeed Natalie and great to know that this blog has helped you in some way. We are all getting older and I sure am not always happy with my aging skin and thinning hair. But that’s where clothes and accessories can help so much!

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Rita

On the wearing black issue, it is the same in the U.S., and not just in colder climates. I’ve seen it all over. I’ve heard people say, “It’s just easier”, or “It’s slimming” (hard to nicely tell them it really isn’t), or “I like black”. To me, wearing black is a big downer. Spectrally, it is a total lack of color…a big black hole from which light never exits. I’ve just always gravitated to lighter colors because they are happier as well as earth-tones because they seem very natural and soft.

I honestly don’t care about getting noticed, and I find trends interesting but I don’t feel compelled to follow them unless it’s something I like anyway (like florals, or when burgundy came back for fall winter). I am just aiming to dress such that it compliments my shape, my lifestyle, and I enjoy what I’m wearing. I buy cute shoes so I can look down at them and get happy. If no one else notices, that’s OK.

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Sylvia

I think that if you do that right Rita you will still get notice, which is still nice no? But you are right you should always dress mainly to please yourself and give yourself pleasure. Shoes are great for that!

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Tangobabe

I could not agree more, Rita. Could have been my words;-)

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Trina Grandinetti

Sylvia, great message you are sending our way. There is a great difference between being noticed and standing out. I think being noticed reflects a sense that you took the time to carefully put yourself together and in doing so, you also carry yourself with confidence. Standing out is just that, you stand out.

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Sylvia

Yes agreed. Getting noticed is all you need.

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Deborah

Sylvia, I hope you don’t mind me first addressing the issue of wearing black. I love black and wear it frequently. In recent times I have started to add a touch of colour to my outfits but I don’t wear black to blend in, look slimmer etc, I wear it because I love the look of a dark column, I find it elegant and edgy and modern. Now in my 40’s I have very little concern for what others think and I have no desire to blend in. I don’t want to stand out in an outrageous way but it is nice to be noticed. Being confident and well presented is one sure way of not becoming invisible. Being 40 is way better than being 20 in my opinion as we no longer find ourselves subjected to peer pressure and a desire to conform. 40 and free I say! xxx Deborah

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Sylvia

Yes, and you’re not the only one who feels that way about black 🙂 Black can be beautiful although I usually (certainly with older women) appreciate it better when it’s either mixed with another color or bare skin. On its own it can be fabulous.
It’s just that when everyone wears black (and they do) the streets become so dark and moody.
But of course it’s up to everyone to make these choices for themselves. Confidence and good presentation will certainly get you really far in getting noticed…

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Deborah

Thanks Sylvia, and I do understand where you are coming from. I’m from Melbourne and it is a city where people wear a lot of black and you are right it can be quite depressive on one level. For me tho, black is a very clear and intentional choice. One of my struggles with colour is that I find I can become bored with it very quickly, so I have to be sure before I invest and as a result the colours I do wear are quite limited. However I am always open to inspiration and love seeing how other fab 40+ women wear colour.

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Sylvia

yes I recognise that too. I think the key is to take baby steps. Start by adding color with accessories like a belt of a scarf or a bag. That can already make a lot of difference. After that you may (or may not) venture out a little further….

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Lorraine

Greetje had mentioned in a post that most of the winter coats in The Netherlands were black. I find this surprising as there were beautiful colours available here in the UK – cobalt blue, emerald green, pink and purple. In fact my hubby bought me an amethyst coloured coat for my birthday; it’s really bright and certainly attracted attention (although that could have been my furry hat or my lime green skirt!). LOL!

I did read something very interesting about colour – it seems that sales online have seen a marked increase in people buying brighter colours because black doesn’t show up well in photos.

I don’t want to blend in but I only want attention for the right reasons (I look great rather than ridiculous). The trouble is I am still trying to figure out the difference! Ha ha!

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Sylvia

It’s all trial and error but I doubt you will look ridiculous. But even if you did. What’s the worst that can happen? Better risk that, than always looking extremely bland and boring….

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Greetje Kamminga

You are right Lorraine, there were coloured coats this year in The Netherlands. I forgot about it because they were all just a little too short.

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Lorraine

Greetje – funnily enough my coat was from Precis which is for petite people who are 5’3″ or under (I am 5’5″)!

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Jacqui

Sylvia your comments made me consider my style. I am a lover of colour and wear it with panache (if I say so myself). I occasionally make faux pas but who says we have to be perfectly approriate all the time! This summer (Southern Hemisphere) I have taken the colour orange to new heights and mixed with hot pink and red. I received complements on how great I looked – had I lost weight etc – nobody said that is a great dress etc so I guess it matched my personality. While I do not take your comments to be a condemnation of black I agree that often it seems that black is a default rather than a choice.

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Sylvia

Well done for experimenting with color and taking risks! Of course it’s a lot harder to wear color and you will not always get it right, but when you do, you will look amazing, rather than just ok.

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Annette

Great article, Sylvia!
I find myself guilty when I check my winter wardrobe: black, black, beige, black – especially winter coats and jackets! I am so fed up with it, I really am, especially with our long and cold winters.
Therefore I have already started my personal colour challenge for this spring/summer season and it feels great.
My next winter coat will be a bright colour, I swear! And I will show it on my blog come autumn 😉

Annette
Lady of Style

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Sylvia

Great Annette, you have to start somewhere. I was the same of course, which is why most of my old winter coats (and the only ones I own) are black….

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Claire

I used to wear black a lot – it is after all what is for sale in the shops – an awful lot! But i found as i got older it was just too harsh on my face so i moved to softer colours – since i have been designing my own clothes and finding all the fabrics in such wonderful colours – and i am not necessarily that bright – i love a camel and neutral i find myself blending in less and less – but i feel more at home in my clothing than ever

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Sylvia

Love that last sentence Claire. It sounds that you are completely on the right track!

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Marie S

I like the photos you have used especially the lady in the red jacket. I love brightly coloured coats. I used to have a long red fitted coat and currently have a 3/4 purple coat, a purple mac and a black and white spring coat which is more white than black! I do wear black but usually with other colours. I don’t mind standing out but only for the right reasons!

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Diana Zubani

Yes, I agree too many women get to 40 and they feel invisible anyway, so then they just want to blend in. Some lose their fashion mojo but I say time to throw some wonderful colour with that all black outfit , hold your head high and wear your clothes with confidence, don’t be afraid to be a little more adventurous.

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Redcurlyhead

I like black. It makes a nice base for a wild pop of color and shows off my blazing reed hair nicely. 🙂

I wanted to blend in when I was younger. Now that I’m 40 I find that looking like all of the other soccer moms is just not for me. Now that I’m comfortable in my own skin and with my not-at-all perfect body, I dress for me and me alone. I even bought a beautiful colorful walking cane because I don’t want it to blend in either (I have arthritis and need help with mobility).

I’ve found that life is too short to blend in.

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Sylvia

Well said!

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Jeanette

I agree black has always been the colour to go to in the winter time for all the reasons you mentioned. I do not like to blend in so I am always dressing a little different But I use to be that person who wore black and blended in. I have to confess when I look in my closet my coats are all black but now I have a lot of colourful tops, pants and dresses.
When I started reading your articles last year I decided to change and be me I wanted more colour and style in my life so I have been buying items from scarves, belts to tops dresses and cardigan in bright colours or they look different not just that plain T shirt. I wear tops with neutral pants or if I wear a colourful pants then I pair it with a neutral colour or bright scarf with outfit but I make sure I do not look like a Christmas tree. In spring, summer and fall I try very hard not to wear brown , grey and black
My daughter once said she likes to blend in with the crowd but when she is with me she feels like everyoneis looking at us. LOL I guess thats a compliment. I must be doing something right I hope

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Sylvia

It sounds to me like you are completely on the right track and I’m happy that I played a small part in that. I think you are teaching your daughter a powerful lesson too. She may perhaps not like it now but I’m sure it will rub off on her and she will be more confident to be her own person.

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Kathleen Lisson

I think the fashion industry teaches us to blend in. The act of following trends means that you will be blending in with all the ‘cool’ people. Fashion reporters write articles about which aspects of the designers collections are similar. “It was all over the runway” is an excuse to wear something. I have even seen articles about what’s ‘IN’ and what’s ‘OUT.’

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Spashionista (Alicia)

What a great post, Sylvia!

I am so lucky. Because I have Cerebral Palsy and am either in my wheelchair or on crutches I couldn’t blend in if I tried. I understand that I always have an audience so I’m careful to look stylish, but in my own way. I don’t own a lot of black because I find it hard to wear on it’s own. It has to look crisp or edgy otherwise it just looks depressing, especially on someone who is disabled. I prefer color and texture. It tells the world that I’m happy and approachable. Hopefully it also sends a message that disabled women shouldn’t be ignored by society in general or the fashion industry in particular.

Spashionista (Alicia)

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Sylvia

You’re a funny one. Calling yourself lucky.. I’m sure you have lots of challenges. But I so applaud you for celebrating who you are and dressing accordingly.

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Tangobabe

Great topic and article, Sylvia. And what a fantastic comments of your readers! I have never wanted to blend in, if we are talking about what I wore. I used to dress quite extreme, when in my 20s. That extreme has gone; I do not want to look ridiculous. But I still wear color a lot and accessorize a lot as well. My motto is ‘more is more’, so that sums it up, I guess.
At the same time, I did very much want to blend in! I used to have a nose that got me mockery, heads turning, fingers pointing and children screaming:’Is that a witch, mommy?’. I suffered a lot. When I was 33 I decided it was enough and went to a plastic surgeon with the request to ‘normalize’ my nose. Not to be pretty or have the perfect nose, but just to not stand out in that painful way any longer. It has been life-changing, in terms of happiness and confidence.
And something else: I have just been in India, where I stand out 24/7. I find that a bit tiring. Candid photography is almost impossible for me there, which I regret. But it is no biggie, just tiring.
Btw: I have coats in many colors and patterns;-)

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Sylvia

Totally get that Anja. (perhaps share some pictures from your 20s just for fun! Love to see your outrageous clothes)
I guess I don’t mean really standing out but like Trina said, just getting noticed…. I can imagine it’s quite tiring in India.

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Lorraine

Your comment about India made me think, Anja. I have been lucky enough to have many holidays in south east Asia etc and have been on the receiving end of a lot of stares where people have not had much, or any, exposure to fair people. I have been asked to pose for photos with them too! However, I have no idea whether this is because I look like a freak to them; having said that my husband and I were once asked if we were film stars!

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Tangobabe

Hahaha! No, I’m pretty sure it’s not because they think you (or I) are a freak. I was told it is simply because you are ‘a foreigner’ and therefor interesting to have a picture of or with.

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Lorraine

That’s good to know! LOL!

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dan

I have had a strong personality since I was young ( and that happened to be a disadvantage!) I have always been just myself even if I have been feeling inadeguate more that once. Now that I am well over 40, I have learned to live in peace with myself!
Back to the point: I definitely stand out!

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cabellin

I’m of the ones that think that black is easy. I use it a lot, but also I combine it with conversations pieces: a bold collar, a colorfull or contrast duster or sassy shoes (this last are my favorites) And, when in a doubt? I wear black!

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Christina

Great topic for discussion!
For a LONG time – I did want to blend in. I felt that style was way too complicated for me to figure out personally. Most of the time I wore dark colours – jeans, t-shirts, hoodies(!), athletic shoes, etc. I consoled myself by focusing on other things I did well, but the truth was, my appearance was affecting me on every level. I was also 30 lbs overweight until a couple years ago, and a little self conscious about it. I now realize that one can look great regardless of weight. I’ve always admired people who did have great style, ( and most important, understand what works for them!!), and appreciated the artistic insight required for this. I thought they were born with some sense of how to dress themselves, that was just missing in me.

Another thing – I was in my 20’s in the 1980’s – the most dreadful decade for fashion in the 20th century. I can look at photos from any other decade and find lots to like, but not the 80’s!! Because I ‘opted out’ of the whole style thing during those formative years, I did not have a chance to work out what suited me.

In the last couple of years, I finally discovered the joys of dressing well. Not ostentatiously –
but in a way that I think reflects my inner happiness. Lots of colour!!! I really don’t want to blend in now. I don’t go for a ‘custumey’ look, but I do put effort into presenting myself as someone who has an aesthetic sense, and creative side, and I’ve definitely felt the difference this had made in my life. I have had random strangers approach me on the street to give me compliments, and I love it – never imagined this could happen.

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33

Congrats Christina! I like what you said about how you dress reflects what’s inside. As for sense of style, some people do have it in them, not from studying. But I suspect that most stylish people have been studying both the trends and themselves (body type etc.) for some time to refine and redefine their sense of style.

There are two camps: 1. incorporating trends into your style, and 2. stick to your “signature” style regardless of the trend. Many stylish people actually belong to the 2nd camp. Yes it is predictable but they sure look good in their signature look.

Have fun and take your time to learn about what make you look good (body) and feel good (mind). You may find you start to build a reputation for being unique, stylish, and timeless in due course.

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Sylvia

Great story Christina and so good to hear that making an effort to look good has made such a big difference.

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Greetje Kamminga

I missed is post. Actually, I am a few days behind I think.
On this topic I like to add: Blending in? Me? I hope not.
It is not that I want to make a spectacle of myself, a piece of art. I am not daring enough for that. But blending in? No…
As for black… I like coloured coats and have a few. But my thick, for every purpose cold weather and rain – coat is black. I don’t mind black either and you don’t see so many stains on it hahaha.

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Lorraine

Oh Greetje!

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33

Hell NO to being invisible! Since I turned 45 I made a conscious effor to NOT dress head to toe black like in my younger days. Black is terrible for older skin, no matter what skin color you have.

Another resolution was to NOT dress like a soccer/suburban mum. I am single and no child but I can see how easy it is to adopt that mum look. Most retailers for mature women in US sell that kind of “safe” items, capris, knit top, t shirt, etc..

For the past 3 years I have not bought a LBD, a capri, or a T shirt. I lost 40lb two years ago and since then i can buy junior clothing, which offers more youthful cut, on trend, and cheaper (compare to misses clothing).

So I say yeah i do stand out because nobody believes me when i say i am 48 (in chiffon sleeveless top, boyfriend tank, super skinny jeggings, and ballet flats). 😉

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Lorraine

Dear 33, I wear capris (the slim variety not the leg-flapping ones) and t-shirts/tops and felt quite chic and youthful. I am not a mom, safe or suburban……at least I didn’t think so until I saw your comment. Perhaps it is a transatlantic thing – we don’t have that soccer mom thing in the UK.

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33

http://www.torontoverve.org/2013/04/marie-adoring-tilda-swinton.html
check out Marie’s outfit from this blog! Love her red coat (fits so well) and black buttons. Her skinnies and shoes are perfect to set off the coat.

In Orange County part of Los Angeles, there’s a huge concentration of middle class women who are mums (married or divorced) and there’s a “look” they adopt (not at all Real Housewife in Orange County-ish). It is either yoga pants or capri + a T or 3/4 sleeve knit top.

The middle class women in Santa Monica/Brentwood/Venice/West Los Angeles dress trendier (tight jeans and flats or mid heel sandals) because they tend to be slimmer (yoga/pilates studios have to get paid to survive) so that they won’t look too off being seen with starlets and fit young ladies who live near the beach.

I think women who are Audrey Hepburn slim and blessed with shapely legs at any age can pull off capris. But it isn’t for me and many many middle aged women I see in Orange County. The line falls in the middle of the calf is not flattering on bulky and/or untoned legs.

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Rita

Oh, I love Santa Monica, and Los Angeles, in general, is such a fun placec to visit. I lived there in the late 80’s/early 90’s and have travelled there often for business ever since. My routine is to get off the plane, pick up my rental car, drive to the new shopping center in Santa Monica, and have lunch at the Blue Stove restaurant (tapas restaurant) in Nordstrom. It’s so good! Then I walk down to the pier, if it’s nice, and window shop all over town. So fun!

One thing I’ve always loved about LA is that because it is so diverse, I can pretty much wear anything I want and no one cares. I never feel like I stand out or blend in…everyone is just cool with whatever. I haven’t spent much time in Orange County, so have never noticed “the uniform”.

Ah…the capris issue. It certainly is a hot topic. I think there is a wide definition of what constitutes a capri in the range of shorter than full-length trousers. It’s like the question I had on the forum about ankle boots, booties, shooties, and assorted other “ooties”. (And why do women’s clothes have to have a cutsie, “ies” at the end of the word, anyway?) Where does one end and the other begin??

I’d certainly agree that the sort of “short pants” that are wide at the bottom and hit at the widest part of the calf are not very attractive. I do think that trousers that are slim to the calf and hit just above the ankle or slightly higher, however, can look great (that’s what I think of as the Audrey Hepburn style…”cigarette pants”). I have several pair like that and think they look rather nice with cute little flats (and I have very honest friends, including men, who would tell me if it were otherwise). I’m also not Audrey Hepburn thin (darn it!). So, I think it’s just a matter of experimenting and finding what works for the individual.

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Lorraine

Just booking my ticket to LA and heading straight to the OC! I think I will feel right at home there! LOL!

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Greetje

Rita, don’t you love friends who are honest?

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Lorraine

I’m licking my wounds Greetje! There I was, thinking I looked a little bit Audrey H, a little bit chic, a little bit preppy – and in reality I looked like a soccer mom from the OC. And that was just the front! Heaven knows what I looked like from behind!!!! LOL!

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Rita

Haha! I can always count on them to keep me from doing/wearing/saying something too dreadful! 🙂

Lorraine, I’m sure that since they weren’t leg-flappers, you were totally channeling Audrey from all directions! 🙂

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Lorraine

Thank you Rita! Now that’s what I call a friend! The leg flappers went to the charity shop…..ha ha!

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Ann

I find I wear “blend in clothing” if I’m in a hurry with work and just need to get a lot done. If I want to connect or just be seen, I wear something that feels great usually with much texture and these days with color. I find I’m selling my black coats and purchasing orange, magenta and as much pattern as possible. For me keeping my hair cut and colored plus a great coat, helps promote my general happiness.

blue hue wonderland

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Karen Daniel

Whew read through so many comments. It’s hard to break the habit of reaching for a black garment. One fashion group suggests my type should not wear black at all. But I love the way it accents bright colors. Black and bright red for example. Like stained glass. When you wear black you don’t have to choose. After taking Sylvia’s course I feel more confident to choose colors and patterns. It’s fun and expressive and people are noticing!

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Sylvia

You are on the right track Karen. I don’t feel there is a need to banish black altogether as there are many ways to combine it successfully!

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Blonde

I definitely stood out more with my clothing & accessories when I was younger. Before I was married, actually. Hm. Anyway I blend in too well now. Very vanilla in J. Crew naturals. I am working on this though.
Thanks for the post! Please keep reminding us to boldly own our own style!

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Sylvia

Thanks. Will do Blonde!

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Kathryn

A couple months ago, I played tourist in Hendersonville NC. It wasn’t as cool as I thought it would be. I wore all black with a large red handbag and silver jewelry. My jacket was a Peter Nygard with faux leather trim, and wore skinny black jeans and high heel boots. Needless to say, a few heads did turn to the direction of this 67 year young lady. (I’m sure the 3 yorkies in the stroller might have had a part in the heads turning, too. )

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