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What not to wear: When your fashion sense misses the mark

A detail from I Actually Wore This: Clothes We Can’t Believe We Bought, by Tom Coleman.

As Globe Style prepares to unveil its 2017 Best Dressed List, Caitlin Agnew reports on a book about fashion risks gone wrong

There's a fine line between the best- and worst-dressed lists. Take pop star Rihanna, a consummate risk taker if there ever were one, and the yellow Guo Pei gown she wore to the Met Gala in 2015. The fox-fur trimmed cape put its Beijing-based designer on the Western fashion map, while simultaneously garnering comparisons to a giant pizza.

In his new book for Rizzoli, I Actually Wore This: Clothes We Can't Believe We Bought, author Tom Coleman catalogues bold fashion moments that just didn't work out. "The idea is people celebrating the worst thing in their closet," he says over the phone from his home in Brooklyn, New York. "It's not that they hate the clothes, and that's why they kept them."

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The 80 subjects featured in the book come from all walks of life, and include art advisor Jean-Michel Placent in a printed Versace blouse he describes as looking like it came from a "Navajo-themed Cirque du Soleil production," and actor Molly Shannon in a floral Banana Republic jumpsuit bought for a moms' getaway weekend in Carmel. "Molly was debating what to wear because she had these Halston sequinned hot pants and she was like, 'these are actually sort of cool. I think I like these. I don't think I have any regrets. I think I'd wear these again,'" says Coleman.

Over the three years he spent conducting interviews, Coleman noticed there were some common themes in shopping mishaps, namely purchases made at sample sales, thrift stores and while on holiday. "At sample sales, you think you're getting away with something and you think you're winning, even though, later on, maybe you realize that a fuchsia silk smoking jacket isn't something you're necessarily going to be wearing a great deal," says Coleman.

Travel offers people the opportunity to experiment with their identities, resulting in some unconventional wardrobe choices, like the lilac cashmere Che Guevara sweater screenwriter Sid Karger bought after a boozy lunch in St. Barth's. "When you're travelling, things are different. The money is different. The bathrooms are different. So it's like, maybe I can be a little different," says Coleman. "When you try to go a little outside yourself, that's how you sort of end up with things in your closet that you normally wouldn't buy."

I Actually Wore This reveals a sense of humour often lacking in the fashion world, and something all consumers can identify with. "Fashion takes itself so seriously," says Coleman. "It's fun to laugh at yourself."


  • Designer J.W. Anderson is flexing his curatorial chops with a new exhibition. The British Fashion Award winner has put together Disobedient Bodies: JW Anderson Curates the Hepworth Wakefield (Mar. 18 to Jun. 18) at England’s West Yorkshire gallery. The show will feature artwork in dialogue with clothing, including pieces by Henry Moore, Louise Bourgeois, Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake. For more information, visit
  • Montreal’s Want Apothecary has opened its first location in the U.S. Located at the NoMad Hotel, the boutique carries international brands including Acne Studios, Jil Sander and Fleur du Mal in addition to a dedicated Want Les Essentiels feature wall and in-house apothecary. The brand also recently announced it will open its second Toronto location later this spring in the Lawrence Park neighbourhood. For more information, visit
  • Artisans from Hamilton, Ont. and the Greater Toronto Area have a new creative space in Oakville. Dove + Arrow is a recently opened boutique that combines retail, workspace and maker collaboration under one roof. Goods by more than 40 local artisans will be available, including accessories, lingerie, ceramics, personal-care products and wooden objects. For more information, visit www.
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