My life was heading due south. Not south like South Beach – all balmy breezes and sexy cocktails – but south as in steadily downhill. My then-boyfriend was ping-ponging between me and his ex, clipping my heart with each volley; my career was adrift; and I couldn’t get a decent haircut to save my life. These poor outcomes were so vastly disproportionate to my effort that I sought the services of a Vedic astrologer, as one does.
His small office was tucked in the back of a New Age bookshop called The 100th Monkey, located on the second floor above what was then a KFC in the Village at Church and Wellesley in Toronto. I shared my tale of woe and asked, “When will my luck change?” After studying pages of astronomical data, his answer was so absurdly far into the future, he might as well have said, “2215.”
I was not amused and told him so. He sighed, “So, you wear a lot of black, do you?” My ensemble du jour: Black Burberry trench coat, black beret, black Donna Karan catsuit, black leather boots, black gloves. I looked like Darth Vader's distant cousin. His remedy: Lose the black and the second-hand clothes. Easier said than done because, a) my Champagne tastes didn’t match up so well with my barley-water budget, and discounted designer vintage closed the gap; and, b) my entire wardrobe was black.
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My astrologer’s rationale was that Saturn – also known as “The Great Malefic” – was creating obstacles for me. Since Saturn is associated with black, by wearing it, I was unwittingly strengthening its negative influence. Also, according to him, wearing second-hand clothing transfers the previous owner’s “energetic” residue onto the new one. This was not recommended practice.
Giving up my vintage finds would mean a steep trade down from my beloved Yves Saint Laurents and Chanels to, what, Le Chateau and Suzy Shier? Shame. Feeling desperate, I pitched some options: “What if I dry clean everything? Bath them under a full moon? Chant purifying mantras?” The only reliable cleansing agent, he said, was fresh cow urine. I briefly considered befriending a farmer.
My sartorial choices got me into this mess; they would have get me out. By Dries Van Noten’s shears, I would do it! I invited friends to plunder my closets. They questioned my motives but left my apartment smiling, their arms full of really nice things.
After years of wearing black, the eye adapts to the absence of colour. My first new purchase was a pair of navy pants and a sweater. What the outfit lacked in Saturnian rigour, it made up for in corporate blandness. Yet, as I added new purchases, instead of opening my closet to a dark cloud, joyful pops of colour greeted me. My daily life also showed rays of light. The turbulent romance died a natural death. I met new, more upbeat people. Forced to shop less, I became more discriminating. I smiled more.
However, as in every fairy tale, right before the inflection point, comes the big test. In my case, a dream job at MAC cosmetics, then one of the coolest beauty brands. Pen in hand, I was poised to sign on the dotted line when the human-resources manager casually said, “One more thing, our corporate dress code is black.” Whaaa? As I looked around the office at the wan complexions of the women and men working there, I imagined returning to black. I couldn’t do it.
So, I carried on with my experiment while perusing the job ads. Never one for half-measures, I knew I had reached escape velocity when I landed the job of senior editor at Flare magazine – my interview ensemble a hot pink Donna Karan cashmere crewneck worn with tobacco-hued wide-leg pants and zebra-print boots. After Flare, I moved to Elle Canada, where I was the editor-in-chief for nearly a decade. Except for Anna Wintour of Vogue who shuns it, black is de rigueur among the fashion flock. My “flying down to Rio” palette marked me an outsider, which was, strangely, a boon. Except for the usual tsuris – garden-variety aggravations – I had to admit, life was pretty good.
Eventually, the demands of frequent transatlantic travel forced me back into a relationship with black. I convinced myself that I could only wear black on Saturdays (Saturn “rules” Saturday), or in a pinch, Wednesdays or Fridays (days ruled by Saturn’s planetary “friends” Mercury and Venus) – a sartorial offering, as it were. Eccentric? Absolutely, but no more so than “meatless Mondays” and less arbitrary. Ever mindful, I wear black the way I partake of squid ink risotto or black truffles – a little goes a long way.
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