Is dressing well a question of bravery or of permission? From the clothes we wear to how we decorate, isn’t style the willingness to explore “the new” with equal amounts of curiosity and honest self-appraisal? In all of life we must rid ourselves of anything akin to “contempt prior to investigation”- it is provincialism disguised as intellectualism. Practice “big thinking,” beginning with the new clothes you try on every season.

In today’s fashion there is something for everyone to  consider. Of corse not everyone can be, nor should be, as madcap as Italian Vogue fashion editor Anna Piaggi or an original like Iris Apfel.  An Isabella Blow is a once-in-a-lifetime being. Non the less we do not wish to bore anyone ( especially ourselves). Balance is the key in smart individualized dressing. Never totter literally into an entire collection, head-to-toe, but do try at least one novel thing, and always have some daring pieces you can throw into the mix. A new silhouette, a different sleeve, a fuller sholder, a pretty dress instead of pants for work…look for something each season that refreshes and alters the proportions in your wardrobe.

Fearless fashion? Eccentricity?Edgy dressing? Here is where women who are not classic beauties have it over those who are. Anyone who does not look like Grace Kelly or C.Z.Guest then, or Blaine Trump or Brook de Ocompo now, is culturally freer to groom and dress unto a chic all her own; she owes it to herself to invent the look with flair and originality. Women we knew, or our mothers knew, such as Elsie de Wolfe, Diana Vreeland, Helena Rubinstein, Elsa Schiaparelli, Barbra Streisand in the sixties as seen in Vogue, Elsa Peretti, Marie-Helene de Rothschild, and Chessy Rayner, came to their allure because they wanted it. Never dressing cookie cutter, they practically willed themselves elegant until elegance was their second nature. If they hadn’t been constituted this way, they would have looked like everyone else in a tracksuit in the airport. Although a mere mortal would have hid herself when told by an astronomer that the distinguishing moles and freckles on her face replicated Ursa Major, Elsa Schiaparelli ran with the compliment, imagining herself forever blessed and beautiful.

“I was an ugly child, and I lived in an ugly age,” observed Elsie de Wolfe, so she transformed herself with discipline, well made clothes, diet, and exercise.” In my struggle to lift myself out of the rut of ugliness and mediocrity, I did everything I could to keep fit.” If she couldn’t be Garbo, she could have been attractive.” She wore short white gloves, not to be lady like but to cover her hands, and pearls to cast their milky blush on sallow skin. When the years accumulated, her hairdresser concocted a blue tint for her gray hair: all the things that were considered eccentric in their day, just as when, in the late sixties, the former first ladies Claude Pompidou of France and Jacqueline Kennedy went to Courreges (not on the same day) and bought modernist pieces, things like white pantsuits with short sleeves. If it gives you any courage, remember: Today’s avant-garde will be tomorrow’s classic.

Dare to dress daringly. See how you look in the ebb and flow of this falls new collections; you may end up not only buying the frock but also redecorating your house! Give yourself permission to buy the dress, the scarf, the eyeglasses, the bracelets, the jacket and pants, but one piece at a time, lest you end up in wacky chicks wasteland. The energy of imagination, deliberation, and invention are the ingredients of personal style and originality.