I Finally Figured Out How to Explain My Personal Style

Leandra Medine Cohen explains the art of buffet dressing.

Your heart says yes but your self-consciousness says no. So you plop down on your bed and appraise the situation, wondering how you could feel so strongly about an outfit and why, in the good name of rhinestones, you are refraining from wearing it. Don’t you know better than to abandon your gut? What, after all, is the worst that could happen if you are to wear a raffia hat with a wool turtleneck? The heart wants what it wants! Yesterday that may have been workout wear with a tweed jacket. Tomorrow that might mean cotton knickers you’ve owned (and slept in) for years, that suddenly require high heel sandals in order to be understood and right now, dammit, it’s satin shorts and sandals and knee-high socks.

Against your better judgment (good for you!), you put the outfit on. You walk over to your mirror, confirm that you look ridiculous and off the fuck you go. While out in the wild, no one stops you or looks at you funny, but you begin to wonder: How do I describe my personal style? How do I explain what compelled me to wear all of these pieces together? And then, like a lightbulb in a basement full of precarious objects and tapestries that you inherited from your wacky aunt Suz, it occurs to you: I’m a buffet dresser.

Buffet dresser?

Buffet dresser!

Buffet dressing!!!

Recently, I posted a photo to Instagram wherein I was dressed in dramatic jewelry, flat raffia mules and exercise clothes — Man Repeller cap notwithstanding.

One commenter (by the name of @donttrythisusername) acknowledged the seemingly nonsensical manner of matching various chains and cuffs made of gold to a sweatshirt and utility jacket as an excellent example of buffet dressing. In that moment, my life was changed. Here I had been searching for ways to describe my style when prodded for years — “Personal,” I would say, when I was too tired to deliver my regular spiel: “I can’t explain it — if I did, that would put it in a box that it doesn’t fit inside.” But now, finally, it had been perfectly articulated in one fell phrase: buffet dressing.

Let the plate be your body and the food, your clothes.

Now imagine the plate as your body and the contrasting food stations as your closet. The ham is a pair of leather loafers, the granola, a bathing suit and cover-up. The eggs might be a satin evening clutch and the almond butter, running sneakers. Now how about that jam on kiwi? Camp beads (or a bungee cord!) paired with ~diamondzzzzz~ to be sure. When you are versed in buffet dressing, you often look like a human non-sequitur and this is where the strategic element of creating two-meals-for-one comes in, which (and here’s the zinger) also applies to travel: Pack a carry on suitcase full of random shit and just watch as the outfits unfold once you reach your destination.

I could go on forever but I think you get it, so I’ll just say this: Buffets are thoughtful, they are friendly, they are catered (pun profoundly intended) to appease your personal proclivities and rarely get in the way of a passersby relationship to the very same experience. It may just be, as a matter of fact, that seeing your plate in motion inspires their own.

Think about it.

Go for the pancakes.

Do not cheap out on the chunks of parmesan.

Or do. Whatever, it’s your buffet. That’s the whole damn fun of it.

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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