Thursday, May 11, 2006


Matchy Matchy

I first heard this term a few years ago. I was at a sample sale for high end costume jewelry, completely stunned by just how many racks of fake pearls (glass, not plastic the sales woman kept telling me) and crystal a 300 square foot showroom could hold. It took a lot of work for my hunting and gathering instinct to ferret out the nice pieces from the glitz.

I was hunting for a bracelet to go with a crystal and gold plated necklace I had found, and I mentioned this fact to an overly tanned (think leather) woman with a patient-bordering-on-disgruntled husband who kept sighing and coming in and out of the store.

She said, "Oh. I don't worry about things like that. I'm not matchy matchy."

It was one of those moments which reminded me that, no, not all women want to be friendly. At least I got a long suffering look of sympathy from the husband.

It was also my introduction to a new term.

Apparently, to worry too much about "matching", as in "matching in an obvious way" is considered very suburban and therefore not New York. Not at all.

Case in point. Last week I complimented a young designer acquaintance on his outfit. He said to me: "Really? I think the whole green tie and green shirt thing looks suburban to me. Like a set on sale at Macy's. Too matchy matchy."

I assured him that the very fact he was wearing so much green made up for the matchiness, but he wasn't convinced.

The trick in fashion, apparently, is to buy things that go well together, but don't obviously go well together. This is how you have style, how people look twice at your clothes and admire your ability to put an outfit together. It is what stylists do for starlets, what magazine editors seek out in the never ending quest to identify trend-setters. It is what makes someone's personal style interesting. I guess that, in the language of a writer, avoiding matchy matchy is the same as an ability to write without cliches.

In my never ending indoctrination to New Yorker rules, an awareness of matchy matchy is something that I simply cannot shake now. And, no less than Lucky Magazine, that wonderful bible of women's shopping has advice this month on how to avoid looking too "matchy." So, the term has legs and now will most likely be read by women across America. The Lucky styling guru, a woman named Andrea Linnet intones that it is best to "match" elements in dress (ie a polka dot skirt and a polka dot blouse with different sized dots), but to not match them perfectly. Therein lies the art of dressing. If you don't match your clothing elements to some degree, your look will not be "pulled together." If you match too many things, you will look matchy matchy.

(Sidenote: Linnet's an amazing stylist. I have fun going through Lucky trying to guess which shoots she supervised and which she didn't. You can usually tell because her work has an extra un-matchy and funky sensibility).

Of course, avoiding matchy matchy hinges on a few things. It means that you have to have a lot of clothes in the closet. You will have to try on several combinations of things to ascertain that you have the right version of matching-but-not-matching. You also have to trust some sort of inner sense that tells you that you have matched well, but not gone overboard.

Getting dressed is hard.

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