How Dying My Hair Blonde Changed The Way I Dress

"What do you mean, I’m not blonde?” I asked my friends, wide-eyed and horrified, over lunch a few months ago. Someone had made a joke about the blond-brunette ratio of the group, and after puzzling for a moment, I realized that I’d been counted as a brunette. To me, it just didn't make sense — because inside, I’ve always been a blonde.

Finding yourself with a rogue hair color happens perilously easily these days, as enduring trends like dip-dye and ombré and bronde continue to blur the lines between shades. I suppose in these slippery salon times a hair-color identity crisis like mine is almost inevitable. But I’d always assumed, even as I lazily let my natural mousy-brown roots grow, and my highlights, um, "evolve," that I remained on the blonde side of the fence. On those mornings when I’d stand sleepily in front of my wardrobe, bereft of inspiration, I’d call to mind my army of sisters: Kate Moss, Brigitte Bardot, Twiggy, Debbie Harry, Drew Barrymore, Lauren Bacall, Soo Joo Park, Cher Horowitz. Suddenly, I’d fall in love with the clothes in my closet all over again.

But, merely dyeing my hair didn't solve all of my problems — in fact, it created an entirely new one in the style department. I should have perhaps predicted that some shades I’d previously looked good in — gray marl and hunter green, for example — just didn’t suit my coloring anymore. But mainly, my new wardrobe issues fell within that nebulous, fascinating realm of fashion references, inspirations, influences, and identity. A hot-pink Uniqlo T-shirt suddenly made me feel too "Barbie goes to the gym"; a battered, vintage faux-fur leopard jacket that once seemed so rock 'n' roll, now leaned too far toward Mrs. Robinson. On the plus side, I now glowed in navy, and a white faux-fur jacket that had been languishing at the back of my wardrobe suddenly had me channeling Grace Kelly. I finally understood why I’d mysteriously lost my fashion mojo over the past few months: I’d been trying to dress as a blonde, when I was a stealth brunette — and that doesn’t always work.
Blondness, as with all hair types, is already a statement. And you need to make sure your outfit doesn’t contradict this. At the moment, I'm still figuring out what works (and what doesn't) when it comes to my clothing and hair color; accordingly, I've made these five discoveries about my style when it now comes to getting dressed:

1. Go easy on pink, frills, and general froufrou
I've found I've needed to tread much more carefully with pink, glitter, lace, or any shades or textures that make me feel too girly. Just imagine Taylor Swift in Katy Perry’s cupcake dress. See?

2. But I knock myself out with structured and tailored pieces
On the upside, classic items that I once thought looked a bit too cold or Working Girl look great again. A well-cut blazer? Yeah, that's become a saving grace.

3. Navy is to blondes what gray marl is to dark hair, or hunter green to redheads
My hair colorist, Caitlin Richardson, at Blonde/Blond, taught me this one: “My favorite colors for blondes are charcoal gray, navy, olive green, and denim,” she explained after my original wardrobe panic. “Brunettes can rock lighter shades of those colors, adding in a hunter green instead of olive, and lighter denim. It comes down to contrast; the lighter shade of gray marl, for example, gives definition to the end of brown hair, and navy does the same to blonde.”

4. Beware of animal print, or anything else that makes me feel a little too Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle
I found that the combination of my bottle-blonde hair and a battered leopard-print coat pushed me beyond Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8 into grotty Showgirls terrain. Sigh. “My take is that if you have a piece of leopard anything, as a blonde, it has to be amazing quality," Richardson said. "A designer pair of leopard or cheetah loafers pairs fantastically with a plain white T-shirt and boyfriend jeans. A poorly made or ill-fitting rayon tank in animal print can look sloppy, particularly on blondes.”

5. Recalibrate my fashion references
As much as I’d love to channel Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth, or Diana Ross, the fact is that my best looks happen when I call to mind my blonde role models. On those mornings when I stand in front of my wardrobe bereft of inspiration, these are the women who’ll help me piece together the rest of the sentence.

So, my mission for summer is to make my wardrobe blonde-friendly again. And this doesn’t mean yanking out the Color Me Beautiful swatches. It means assembling a wardrobe that all my blondes — Kate, Drew, Brigitte — can work with. Because I’m back in the gang.

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