When I was a teenager, I procured many of my accessories from the costume section of Party City. Remember extreme cat eye sunglasses from Alexander Wang’s early days? I do, because Party City sold a Batman costume that came with (almost) the exact same ones. The miniature crowns from so many of the pre-scandal Dolce and Gabbana shows? Plucked one right off the top of a Rapunzel wig. The Louis Vuitton bunny ears from the F/W 2009 runway? That was almost too easy.
In an effort to become more of a grown-up, I swore off costume shop shopping in my twenties. But then I visited the Gucci store on Wooster Street, and it sent me sliding right back into the arms of glitter-smeared, faux-blood-stained temptation. The history of Gucci is now staunchly divided between the era before Alessandro Michele’s takeover (horseback riding and Tom Ford’s smoldering gaze) and his anno domini, lush with Elizabethan collars and Yankees memorabilia, a distinct blend of historical costume and fantasy. The problem with Gucci in its current iteration, however, is that one piece is never enough. The appeal is in the overall effect, a technicolor patchwork topped with a diamante bow.
I moped home from the store, contemplating selling an organ or two, until my fiancé (and fellow conspirator in style experiments) lifted my spirits. “You can do this,” he reminded me, “you love layering.” I turned to my closet and found that the essential Gucci formula can indeed be achieved with some heavy-handed layering: one part frilly vintage dress, one part more modern and masculine (a T-shirt, sports jersey, sneakers), and one part over-the-top anything (colorful fur, oversized jewelry, patterned socks).
When I was finished, however, I found a little space in my horror vacui of an outfit that was in need of filling. Cruella de Vil sunglasses, studded leather masks, a rubber cast of a baby dragon? I headed straight to the year-round costume shop Halloween Adventure with a self-imposed spending cap of $25. What follows is a work week’s worth of Gucci-inspired looks, borrowed from the Spring/Summer and Cruise runways, and homegrown from items I already had in my closet (plus the newly acquired costume accessories).
Look #1: A Green Gown and Clunky Boots
I purchased this vintage dress a few years ago to wear to a black tie event, but I struggled to find a way to re-wear it until now. Combat boots toned down the frilliness of the dress, but I thought it needed one more thing to make it casual enough for non-formal daily wear. Adding a Garden of Eden-themed shirt from a friend’s band seemed an apt choice, given that I can’t text and carry around an enormous rosary at the same time.
Look #2: A Frankenstein Suit
I love how Gucci dissolves gender-based style boundaries without resorting to neutral basics — maximalism for everybody! In this masculine-feminine mash-up, I had two types of stripes, Frankenstein on my shirt (have you gathered that I love Halloween yet?), and socks from this amazing place in London that sells Victorian pirate-themed wares and is, um, definitely not a costume shop.
Look #3: A Trip to the Château Marmont
I may have cheated a bit on this one. A friend of mine who works for the Chateau Marmont gifted me this shirt from the hotel’s gift shop after I gushed to her about the Chateau Marmont x Gucci collaboration. I was also inspired by an older Gucci lookbook where chunky socks and heels create a decidedly unladylike effect.
Look #4: A Grey Gardens x Gucci Crossover
If Gucci clothes could introduce themselves on a first date, they’d say something like: “I may look preppy, but I’m also a bit of a loose canon.” Coincidentally, I think I’ve said something similar about myself on a first date. The Peter Pan collar shirt I’m wearing here is a shopping secret that I have kept for many years. I order them in bulk from a school uniform supply store in a size 18.
Look #4: A Bit of Old Lace and Faux Fur, No Arsenic
Come April, I usually bury my faux furs in favor of just wearing a sweater and complaining that I’m cold all the time. The pairing of a lacy spring dress with a bright faux fur here is so refreshing — and, dare I say, almost sensible. I don’t have an amazing double-bag situation, so I used these 1950s enamel earrings as my strawberry topping.
My week of Gucci did not leave me feeling bloated from overindulgence in maximalism, as I had worried it might. Instead I was inspired, enamored by the clash of all the disparate items in my own closet. Even with a wardrobe full of things I love, it is easy to find myself grappling with the same sartorial concerns every day: Do these things go together? Are they “flattering”? Will I be warm enough? This experiment reacquainted me with the infinite possibilities that present themselves when I stand in front of my closet each morning. Each layer is an opportunity to bring together parts of my own story; to allow a tropical button-down from a cherished trip to Costa Rica to meet my perennial love of Victorian vintage, or perhaps to introduce a strand of pearls to a cotton T-shirt likeness of Alice Cooper.
This clash is the heart of Gucci’s enduring appeal. The brand offers not one single point of inspiration reference, but rather an entire library, rotating with new titles to be skimmed once and classics to be re-read ad nauseum. This spring, I’m putting an Old Masters textbook, an L.A. detective novel and a CD of the ‘Monster Mash’ on my shelves. What’s on yours?
And while we’re here, does anyone know where I can find a budget version of this magnificent thing?
Photos via Ruby Redstone and Gucci.