Last week I read "The Gospel According to Coco Chanel" by Karen Karbo (in one sitting), and realized the sad state of affairs to which I have sunk, wardrobe-wise. My basic uniform is jeans and a T-shirt; if it's cold, jeans and a sweater. (The selection criteria are simple: Does it smell bad? Is it stained? Does it fit?) I have a closet full of ridiculously girly clothes that seemed like a good idea at the time, but even when I want to look especially presentable, I just trade out the jeans for black pants. Needless to say, Coco Chanel's style appeals to me, for the simple fact that it's simple.
Last summer I went to The Mercantile with a girlfriend who can afford to buy clothes there, and is on a first-name basis with the staff. The saleswoman helping us (okay, her) was older, maybe sixty, with lovely silver hair and what I judged to be the perfect outfit: an exquisitely tailored, crisp, white oxford, untucked, over slim black pants and fabulous loafers. I told her that if I had her build (tall and lean) I would wear a variation of that outfit every day. (My body does NOT resemble that of Mademoiselle Chanel's ideal model, herself: flat-chested and boyishly lean.) The saleswoman laughed off my compliment, or more likely laughed at the fact that her "simple" ensemble cost more than my monthly mortgage payment. She left an impression, however, one that was brought to mind the other night as I read Karen Karbo's wonderfully enjoyable account of the life and sensibilities of Coco Chanel.
A few days later I was to meet with a woman charged with the daunting task of treating the anxiety that has frequently paralyzed me since my car accident in July. I dressed that day with my renewed appreciation for simplicity: crisp white oxford, untucked, over jeans and loafers. (The stupid black pants didn't fit.) Since the woman's business card included the words "life coach" and "hypnotherapist," I assumed she would be a hooey-wooey type, complete with flowing skirt, beads and, possibly, incense. Imagine my surprise when I was greeted by the (almost) spitting image of the saleswoman from The Mercantile: crisp, white tuxedo shirt, untucked, over slim black pants and fabulous loafers. I thought to myself, "Huh, I think I'm gonna dig this lady." And I did. Not only was her outfit no-nonsense, but so was her approach to healing. No digging around in the past or looking deep within; rather, she encouraged me to look forward and start behaving like the person I want to be. Pretty cool, and I believe quite consistent with Coco Chanel's own philosophy. Strangely synchronistic, and very reassuring for my mental health, not to mention the future of my personal style.