Sometimes we consider black, white and grey boring colors. Is that truly the case? Join us in discussion with style blogger Mel Kobayashi who has prepared some great ideas to share. Enjoy the show!

 

 
 

Margaret Manning:

My guest today is Mel Kobayashi. Mel is a style blogger who lives in Vancouver, Canada. She has a very unique sense of style based on comedy and art, and she boldly expresses it on her blog, A Bag and A Beret. Welcome, Mel.

Mel Kobayashi:

Hi! It’s a pleasure to be here.

Margaret:

It’s great to have you here. You look fabulous today.

Mel:

Thank you so much.

Margaret:

I’m really happy to talk with you because many women in our community have had years and years of practice dressing to conform. A lot of them are now ready to try something new and experiment with fashion.

Of course, many will say, “I actually quite like black, white and grey. I’m very simple in my style.” How would you respond to that kind of foundation for looking at fashion?

Mel:

I think black is a powerful, powerful choice to go with your clothing. If you couldn’t do any other color, black, white and grey put together will give you an infinite number of possibilities to express yourself, from really joyful to really cool. I really enjoy dressing in executive, androgynous style.

Margaret:

What does androgynous style mean to you, Mel?

Mel:

I don’t know if that is a politically correct term anymore, but it means dressing in a more traditional, manly looking style. Basically, it consists of what men would traditionally wear: a suit with a white shirt or blouse underneath.

Margaret:

It’s interesting that this is your definition. When I think of androgynous, to me it encompasses both sexes. It’s something where femininity has a muscular side and muscularity has a feminine side. It seems kind of gender neutral, so to me it’s a positive word.

Mel:

Mine is a more self-centric definition, where I don the clothing of the opposite gender and emulate their specific kind of swagger. I like your definition better though.

Margaret:

Today you’re wearing white and grey. It seems subdued, but it’s got an elegance to it. Tell me how you feel in that outfit right now.

Mel:

I love this outfit, grey jacket with a white button down shirt. Dressed like this I feel like a CEO who says, “Ladies and gentleman of the Board, we’re here today to vote on my executive pay increase, all those in favor say ‘I.’”

Margaret:

It certainly takes control of the situation and grabs the attention.

Mel:

Well, this is a thrifted Armani Couture suite jacket with a men’s button down top underneath.

Margaret:

People might think that this is a very basic outfit. What can you do with it? How versatile can a capsule wardrobe – shirt and jacket with pants or skirt – really be?

Mel:

I can wear the shirt and jacket with jeans, which makes for a really cool look, or with the matching trousers. I have very pointy men’s shoes that have a striking effect. Usually, I can’t wear men’s shoes, because they are too wide, but I was lucky with this pair.

What’s wonderful about capsule wardrobe is that it’s handy. It’s preferred by people who like to go RV-ing, because they don’t have much room, so they want to express tons of different looks with just a few pieces.

If I substitute the grey jacket with my black one and unbutton the top button of my shirt, I get a rock star look, which I really love. I’d also probably wear black glasses to complement the outfit.

Margaret:

I think there is a rock star in you. You have worked with rock stars, haven’t you?

Mel:

I have, but I never met them. I was here, and they were all the way in Japan.

Margaret:

Simple black and white makes for an elegant look, and it seems dark lipstick enhances the effect. I really love how you’re capable of taking any lifeless piece of clothing and creating a character out of it. We all have a gazillion characters within us, don’t we?

Mel:

Absolutely. We have kernels of characters within us. We have bushel baskets of characters and the clothes we wear can bring those out in little increments.

For instance, I’ll walk a bit different when I wear my rock star outfit. I might not necessarily wear the white button down, either. It’s more likely that I’d wear a really ripped up white t-shirt with little holes in it. That look gives me freedom to say, “Hey I’m Mel. What are you going to do about it?”

Margaret:

From what you’re saying it seems like your clothes influence your attitude.

Mel:

They absolutely do. If you’re feeling down in the dumps and you want to snap out of it, put something on that’s going to trigger that creative kernel in you. I can guarantee it will make you feel out of control.

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Margaret:

It does require the willingness to step outside of your comfort zone, though. I think a lot of women in our community are ready for that adventure.

When we conducted a little survey on the three words that would best describe your style, most women said ‘bohemian.’ To me, bohemian means defining your own rules of style and character.

Mel:

Bohemian for me has to do with constant traveling. To continue with the black-white-grey theme, I have a grey and white striped jacket and it brings a different vibe altogether. I can wear my blue glasses with it, which I know look weird but I like them. Or I could wear huge black-rimmed glasses.

Margaret:

How many pairs of sunglasses do you think you have?

Mel:

I have a lot. When you’re wearing black-and-white, you could always add a little color with a scarf or an accessory. For instance, I have a pretty clutch bag that would bring out the cheer in any boring outfit.

Margaret:

What you’ve shown us so far is really minimalistic and simple. There’s nothing over the top and totally extravagant or expensive.

Mel:

I feel at home with these clothes and I don’t need anything expensive. I have a white coat with black stripes and circles that my fairy thrift sister Sue gave me. It looks very nice, and it is a thrift coat. You would never know by looking at it. If you wear a little beret to top the outfit, you would certainly get attention.

Margaret:

Clothing has this special quality which lets you escape all the things that define you. It can get you to forget your worries and just enjoy the moment. It gives you freedom.

Mel:

It’s like a little ticket to somewhere else. Why not be your own unique self among all the other unique selves? Be the most unique self that you feel like being without feeling constrained about it.

Margaret:

And you don’t have to dress to the extreme and feel like a clown, you could go down the middle too. You could definitely wear a black-white-grey outfit with a flash of color that would make you totally unique.

Mel:

If you add punches of color, people would forget you are wearing just black-and-white. Adding color changes the whole nuance of the outfit.

I have a vinyl moto jacket in white. It fits nicely and I love it.

Margaret:

I think a moto jacket is on everyone’s must have list. What was your last thrift shop purchase?

Mel:

It was a hideous maxi dress, but I sometimes like that. It’s got huge flowers on it. It’s bold and bright, and it’s got a dropped waist that reaches down to just before my knees.

It’s extra-large, so I think the waist line is not necessarily supposed to be down there. But I can just swan in it and it’s just fabulous.

Margaret:

I remember a woman I interviewed said that she loved Japanese clothing that was very big, because her body was free inside it. I really liked that feeling of big clothing, but inside your body is naked and free.

Mel:

I would often wear oversized clothing because it’s billowy and creates this lovely train behind you when you walk. It’s almost regal, and it’s a joy. If I didn’t thrift shop I would miss out on so many style opportunities. For instance, if I go to a real store, I would go find my size and that’s it. Nothing creative there.

But when I go in a thrift store and I see a piece I love, I am going to play around with it. I’ll cross it over, I’ll tie it, I’ll hoist it up with suspenders. It opens up a lot more creative opportunities for me to express myself.

Margaret:

When I go to thrift stores, I shop by color or by texture. Then, when I find a great piece in a color I like, I think, “I don’t care what it is, I want it. I will make that work.” It’s very different than shopping at the mall.

Mel:

That’s exactly right. I’ll make it work. That’s what I do.

Margaret:

We have a recycling center in my town, and people take their plastic bottles and carton boxes there. What’s more interesting is the little shop that is right next to it. I visit the place every Saturday and I found a gorgeous necklace there. It’s totally plastic, but it looks like it’s got diamonds in it.

It cost me three franks, which is about two dollars. This is the kind of thing I’d buy regardless of the overall look. I saw the pearls and the bit in the middle and I thought I’ll find something to wear it with.

Mel:

It doesn’t matter that it’s plastic. Sometimes I’d get seduced by a brand name, but if I bought the thing just for the brand, I end up discarding it. So, I’ll go for anything if it’s cool.

Margaret:

Mel, you have inspired me – and I bet many other women in community – to try and use black, grey and white just as we would any dark color and extravagant textures. You can make a lot happen with that simplistic look.

Mel:

Absolutely, you can.

Margaret:

Thank you so much for sharing your inspiration with us, Mel. I really appreciate it, we will talk to you again.

 

What is your favorite black-white-grey outfit? Do you have special colorful accessories that go with a simple black and white or grey outfit? Please share below and add to the conversation!

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