Almost everything we buy comes from a display that indicates how the seller viewed the item. Was it from the Women’s Better Dresses section? Was the bracelet in the Women’s Fashion Jewelry section? Those labels only represent where the seller thought the item would attract the most attention or maybe just repeats the information that the manufacturer used. Creative dressers take their pieces from wherever they see something attractive or useful, and labels be damned.
We’re surrounded by labels that simply don’t mean a thing when it comes to our own wardrobes. One of the most obvious examples is the divisions that Sister House uses in its Boutique. Shoes in the Evening Shoes section are there because there’s something about the fabric or decoration that would look overdone at 2 p.m. (assuming you’re not at a wedding), but most of the regular heels would also be perfectly acceptable for an after-six event. A simple pump is always in good taste, and if you want to ramp up the pizzazz, put a rhinestone clip on it. Just because it wasn’t in the Evening Section doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good shoe for evening.
Another example is the gender divide. Women have been raiding men’s closets for as long as there’ve been closets. Turtlenecks are turtlenecks no matter who’s wearing them, and just because a belt came home with a Men’s Department label on it doesn’t negate the fact that it might be exactly the color and material that you need to finish off an ensemble. If it’s a bit large, fasten it creatively with a loop-over or simply carry it on around and tuck it under. I assure you that when it comes to clothes, where there’s a will there’s a way.
Jewelry is one of the most surprising areas where labels often don’t mean a thing. If you look in a jeweler’s display case you’ll see many of the same types of things displayed in both the men’s and women’s areas. Gold chains, earrings, bracelets . . . jewelry seems to have gone very unisex, and this can be very useful for taller people. I myself am 5’9, so wearing a tiny little Barbie-scaled bracelet by itself doesn’t have the punch that it should. I’m tall and need jewelry that makes a statement.
One of my very favorite bracelets came from the men’s display counter. It’s perfectly plain gold in a medium-size (for men) link, and it’s just the right proportion to look good on my arm. It doesn’t come with the words “From the men’s department” engraved on it, and over the years I’ve had countless compliments on it.
The same with my wedding band. After a number of years of marriage I decided to get a new band, so my husband and I looked and looked without seeing anything that seemed to call my name. Then suddenly I saw a beautiful 2-tone gold band winking at me from a different counter. It was gorgeous in an understated way, and it was also sitting firmly in a display of men’s rings. To me this mattered not a whit, and neither did the sales associate indicate in any way that I should turn back around and choose from the women’s display. A beautiful gold band is just that, no matter where it’s residing for the moment, and to this day I love the look of that ring.
As dressing styles have become more and more unisex I’ve seen some truly amazing items labeled for men that in my admittedly old-fashioned view most certainly did not belong on a male body. Last year I saw a beautiful 1-1/4 inch wide rhinestone bracelet that was being sold by a mainline jeweler as men’s jewelry. It was a great bracelet, and if it were still available we’d probably offer it in out Boutique, but if it turned up one day in my husbands drawer, I would steal it for myself faster than I could blink.
Labels are useful for organizing, but don’t ever let someone else’s label limit what you do with an item. Use your creativity, and don’t be afraid to use pieces with unexpected labels to make your wardrobe the very best that it can be.