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Zany Outfit: What it is, how to style one

What a zany outfit is

Section nine of the Simple Wardrobe Styling guide which you can download absolutely free, writes about mix and match techniques that you can adopt now to ensure that while you stick to simple guidelines to ensure that you dress well and stress-free each day, your clothes don’t become boring.

In the section I mention the zany outfit. And that is the subject for today’s blog and also podcast.

A zany outfit is an outfit that you wear when you want to be yourself, are bored of your normal everyday clothes, or just want to mix things up a little bit.

The zany outfit is an antidote to the humdrum of dull, tedious and sometimes stressful daily routine of life.

I termed the idea “zany dress” because I wanted to infuse this idea of an unexpected, playful, non-conforming way of getting dressed. A path to follow that doesn’t take you down the road of your work uniform or your tried and tested safe clothes combination.

By zany, I don’t mean crazy. I looked up the definition of zany. Most of the definitions seem to have been written with a slightly disapproving undertone.

For example, this was one definition: “very eccentric or absurd”.

And another definition that I found stated, “strange, surprising or uncontrolled in a humorous way.”

I did find a more positive description which was, “amusingly unconventional and idiosyncratic” that feels more positive but still not overwhelmingly approving.

The definition I prefer for the zany outfit is, “sophisticated playfulness”.

A zany outfit is not some kind of absurd oddity. At its heart it is playful. Playful with or without intention. And to be playful is not to be odd. Rather being playful connects us in with ourselves. It also helps to connect us with that part of our nature that is sometimes ignored or trampled on once we start to have responsibilities in our life and start being ‘serious’.

A zany outfit is not fancy dress

I have a slight issue with fancy dress and fancy dress parties.

I sometimes struggle to understand why a wonderful occasion, like a party, to dress up and wear an amazing dress and some gorgeous jewellery and a pair of amazing shoes is ruined by the idea that the party should be themed and involve fancy dress.

Why would I want to dress as a pirate or a clown or a circus animal, or in the dress of a certain decade in order to ‘have fun’? I wonder if it’s because people lack the ability to know, or remember, how to dress for fun, or celebration, without resorting to playing a character. So, instead of having party outfits and a zany outfit, they don’t know how to express fun in their lives at a party in any other way than saying, “Come as your favourite cartoon character”.

Anyway, maybe I’m being too intense. After all, a party is a party and they’re there to be enjoyed not endured. And I understand that I may be in the minority here and that most people seem to enjoy getting dressed up in fancy dress. And I may be taking it far too seriously. But I think I’ll stick with my zany dress idea.

The idea behind a zany dress is that it provides you with a break from the normal every day life. A zany dress or zany outfit is your goto outfit for when you open your wardrobe and everything seems really boring. You don’t want to wear the same colour, same jewellery, same style.

You want to feel different and you want to wear something different.

You turn to your zany outfit.

woman with dark hair in a leopardskin coat. Accompanies the blog post on a zany outfit.

A zany outfit is an opportunity for you to become more you

The idea behind the zany outfit, with its ‘sophisticated playfulness’, slight eccentricity and ethos that you are trying to dress to meet an inner emotion rather than an outer expectation, is that you become more you.

Wearing work clothes all day can create an armour. Your uniform becomes your prison. Your hour, day and week are characterised by order and your weekly clothes match that routine.

But when it comes to Saturday morning, or Friday evening, or a holiday, or a day off..

well what are you going to wear?

When you don’t want to wear the jeans … again, or the maxi-dress … again, or the, well you get the idea.

When you want to be you and remember who you are, it’s your zany outfit towards which you’ll be able to make a bee-line.

So let’s go through the characteristics of a zany outfit. Because then you can create one yourself, or adjust an existing outfit to be, well, more you.

Yes, we want more you, not less!

Characteristics of a zany outfit

So, if you are interested in creating your own zany outfit, or want to know a little more about what exactly constitutes a zany outfit, according to Working Frocks, here are some helpful guidelines

Colour

The colour for your zany outfit can be any colour you like. If it is made from an unsual colour and/or an unusual colour combination all the better. A zany outfit should life your spirits out of the ordinary every day and colour is a great way to do that.

Your zany outfit could be in your favourite colour, or it could be in a colour that you find intriguing but might not wear all the time. Mustard yellow, chartreuse, purple, lime green.

Fabric

Zany outfits can be made in any fabric. I personally like the idea of silks, satins and the finest cotton lawn fabrics. But for you it might be (p)leather, velvet or wool. A mix of fabrics is great too. It is playful, so don’t overthink it.

Style

The style of your zany outfit is completely up to you. There is no prescriptive pattern of garment to wear. It most probably won’t be what you normally wear. So it won’t be a trouser suit or dress suit in your normal type of fabric. It could be a really amazing pair of trousers in a fantastic fabric with embroidered details, paired with a jacket or a cape. But it won’t be your every day style.

Patterns

Patterns that clash or are unusual in some way are very playful. For example a striped fabric matched with a floral fabric can be great fun. Or a patterned fabric used as a trim can be very ludic.

Comfort

Your zany outfit is comfortable to wear. This is really important. You want to feel great in your zany outfit. Comfortable doesn’t mean frumpy, it means to feel good and feel at ease.

Uniqueness

Zany outfits are entirely personal. It’s whatever makes you feel liberated, and free. It doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s zany outfit, in fact if possible it should not look like anyone else’s zany outfit. It’s yours and it’s personal.

Zany outfits aren’t ‘leisurewear’

Zany outfits might be comfortable, but they aren’t sportswear and they’re not comfort clothes like tracksuits. It’s a proper outfit. It’s not a comfort blanket.

Flair

Zany outfits can have an air of theatricality about them. They might have bows. Or full skirts, or lots of fabric, or big sleeves. Or they might be really simple in design for example a shift dress, but made in the most sublime fabric, and then worn with a jumper. They are a way for you to be yourself in whatever way you want to express the idea of, yes that’s right, fun!

Unusual combinations

A zany outfit can incorporate clashing colours or patterns and slightly unusual combinations. For example your zany outfit could be worn with a pair of tights and shoes that jar the senses ever so slightly.

The zany outfit probably won’t be paired up to look all matchy matchy. This is not what a zany outfit will be like.

At the same time, a zany outfit can fit into your capsule wardrobe collection. It can tie in with other elements of your wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe collection, or any collection of clothes, should contain a wide enough choice of clothes to give you a variety to wear. And if you consider your zany outfit part of your capsule collection and you wear it every Saturday as a way of beginning your weekend, then this is hugely acceptable.

Not only is it acceptable but it’s really healthy because it’s a way in which you are using your clothes to live out your life, as an expression of your life, and that’s a great, healthy way to wear your clothes.

woman sitting at a bar in a zany fur coat, drinking a cocktail. Accompanies the blog post on a zany outfit.

How to be playful

Your zany outfit is not designed to make a statement, that’s not its intention.

It’s an inner representation of self. It’s playfulness that comes from within. What is it that you want to wear that makes you feel that it’s fun?

I suppose that i should say that the ‘fun’ element means leaving behind what you might ordinarily wear. It’s not the comfort of normality and conformity or of your usual style. It’s the fun of the dressing up box.

I don’t know if you had a dressing up box as a child. I did and I did love it. My mother made long dresses with puffed sleeves and put them in the box. I remember one dress with red satin sleeves and a white floral printed dress. And another dress that had a blue background and purple flowers. I’d get the box out and have this feeling of anticipation and fun. What would I wear today? Who would I be? That’s the fun element of the zany outfit. Who will you be today, how are you going to dress?

One woman’s zany is another woman’s normal. You may wear your zany outfit and it might be too extreme for one woman, and another woman might consider the same outfit to be safe, dull and not at all playful.

It really is a question of personal preference.

Despite the variations in what different women might regard as playful, there is an air of non-judgmentalism around the zany outfit. You wear it because it makes you feel fun and playful and unselfconscious. It wouldn’t occur to you to criticise another woman wearing her zany outfit or to feel that you were in turn being criticised.

It’s not high art

Your zany outfit is not high art. It’s not couture for example. Couture tells a story, has a lineage both in the way the garment is made and also in the way the ‘house’, or maison, styles its designs.

Of course your zany outfit can tell a story, but that’s not its primary purpose, which is to have fun. And conversely couture can be fun and have a zany element. We would definitely include couture under the umbrella term of ‘sophisticated playfulness’. However they are not one and the same.

Close up of a woman's earring - it's a large chandelier earring. Accompanies the blog post on a zany outfit.

Creating your own zany outfit

So the big question now is how are you going to create your own zany outfit, or choose it from your wardrobe?

What will it look like? Do you already have something in mind?

If you want to create a zany outfit for yourself then use the criteria at the start of this post as a starting point, that is:

colour, fabric, style, clashing prints, comfort, uniqueness, playfulness

So what are you going to ‘create’ in your wardrobe. What outfit are you going to pull together so that the next time you want to feel like yourself, not dress like you’ve dressed all week, and just stop and be for a little while, you will have exactly the right outfit to wear?

Let me know in the comments!

Have a great week,

Sarah

Sarah Banks is a designer, blogger and internet entrepreneur. Having started her entrepreneurial life with a couture wedding and day dress company she then got hooked on all things on-line, bringing her businesses online and fusing both worlds. Her experience and knowledge in creating one-off garments for her clients was the foundation for Working Frocks and she is uniquely placed to give styling advice, being not only a blogger, but a couture designer too.

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