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  • Black and Red Faux-Wrap Dress: Express, circa 1999
  • Red Cardigan: Vintage Michael Kors, mommed
  • Black Tights: HUE
  • Black Croc Wedges: Stuart Weitzman via Bloomingdale’s
  • Necklace: gifted

I didn’t plan it this way, but this outfit is doing the time warp in a serious way, blending a dress I got in eleventh grade with the first ever pair of “grown up shoes” I got when I had a job that could pay for food, heat and rent at the same time with a sweater that was the first of many workhorse items I’ve inherited from my mother. It’s one of the great—and continually surprising—things about clothes: I’m willing to bet every item in your closet has a story, and they come together in often-hilarious ways that reveal things about us. For example: if this outfit could talk, it would say, “yup! Still kind of into red. And still here. Really. If I were a person, I could have had a bat mitzvah by now, and I’m still in your closet.”

Setting aside for a moment the absurd age of this charming fire hazard of a garment aside (seriously, folks, the biblical prohibition on poly blends is there for a reason!), this last red-out look is another red-on-black combination. Instead of red on white and black, though, it’s red on wine and black, giving this red topper a slightly different kind of emphasis. And instead of using a neutral base to mute or calm a bright colored accent piece, here, I’m doubling down on the brightness, using the interplay between the sweater and the dress to downplay the slightly goofy pattern and make the bright sweater pop even more. It’s not a strategy for the faint of heart, but I liked the way it worked out here, making an outfit whose demure silhouette says “I know how to play by the rules” into something much more special.

Remixing a beloved and boldly-patterned dress can be a trick, no matter how versatile the piece originally seems. Drawn as I am to these items, after a few iterations, I often feel like I’ve run smack into the wall of cardigan-and-blazer rotation and am fresh out of new things to do. But it’s in the ability of these kinds of pieces to function both as blank canvases and as one-and-done standbys that their real value lies; as I was trying to get out the door this morning, knowing that I could combine this dress and a pair of black tights and end up having something to wear, no matter what else I did, gave me that little extra oomph to try something new, and end up wearing a 13-year-old dress in a way I’d never tried before. Partying, I suppose, like it was 1999.

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  • :) Jen

    I’m impressed that you can still fit into something from 1999.  I haven’t had a kid, and I still couldn’t hope to fit into something over 10 years old.
    :)  Jen