Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 3/17/2008 [Archive]

The Color Wheel

The Color Wheel

By Martha Randolph Carr

'You're a classic chic,' said Dan, a new friend in the big city. He was referring to my somewhat vague style and was trying to help me get a clearer image to start building a wardrobe around. He was using the few clues offered by my current wardrobe to make a reasonable assumption.

For a moment the label felt comfortable and more than a little familiar. I'm a tall blonde Irish woman who went to a private school and became a writer. It sounds like the only option was classic chic, even if most of my wardrobe was muttering, 'I'm really not sure, ask me later.' Dan had to parse the answers from too many basic tops with three-quarter sleeves worn over neutral pants and paired with nice, flat shoes. It looked a lot like a blank canvas that had the background painted in, but no interesting details had been added yet. No real information was being given away. The hair and makeup were pretty much the same.

My clothes were a good reflection of my waiting room mentality. In the past, I had been unsure of any of my choices in life and was often making half a choice, mixing it in with what others were saying would be better and coming up with something acceptable. Sort of. What really happened was my behavior was teaching me not to trust myself and resigned me to always feeling like I wasn't quite at my destination, in any part of my life. The voice in my head said, 'this looks good, but I'd really rather be over there.' However, without that belief that what I want for myself is all the excuse I needed, I wasn't willing to risk it all and change course. I was settling in a way that felt a lot like walking up a steep hill. It was doable but always difficult and out of a desire for what was in my heart, my eyes stayed fixed on the horizon hoping relief was coming soon.

I wasn't catching on that the only way off of that tough road was to choose not to walk on it anymore. Instead, make different choices, trust myself, and head directly for what I want and I would get to know myself better. Trust that who I am is enough and just maybe I do know what's best for me.

Fortunately, my friend Dan had also handed me the book, Nothing to Wear? by his friends Jesse Garza, and Joe Lupo, which is about using your wardrobe to discover your true authentic self. Rather than starting with body type or fashion trends or even lifestyle, the book asked me to consider my internal views of myself.

Using that method it was clear that I was the avant guarde category -- someone who likes to stand out, make a statement, follow their own path -- but I was making it nearly impossible for anyone else to see that. I had moved to New York, was writing for a living, but was still not quite being true to myself. Not only that, it explained why it was always took awhile for people to get to know me. My first impression was based on false information.

Nothing to Wear? was saying, get over it and step out as your true self. No waiting around for optimum conditions like losing that last ten pounds. Start right where you are. My feelings about my own life are completely up to me anyway.

So, three bags of clothing for charity later, I now have a much better view of who I am and can see that I had even managed to make some good clothing choices.Armed with my short list of what to buy next to fill out the wardrobe I've been left with I'm setting out to get a better idea of what I'd really like to present to the world. One more corner cleared out. It's a little scary to strip away all of the subtle excuses but I'm doing it anyway. No backing up. Next week I'm heading off to Barney's for a makeup lesson with Raychel at, another recommendation from Jesse and Joe. No more blending into the background because there is more to be lost from waiting around than there ever was from risking it all. Further adventures to follow.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, is available everywhere books are sold. Want to have Martha come speak at your event?

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