Fascinating thread! I'm still figuring out my core style, so I haven't really thought about wild cards for me. But I think it might be something different from the rest of my closet, outside my comfort zone, that I fall in love with and that pushes me to try a new direction or new looks in order to step up to the fabness of the wildcard. So maybe for me, my new Bionica Corset boots and WHBM denim jacket are wild cards at this stage.

Mine are the things that I perceive (at first) as a little too "out there" for me - I have a quite good sense of my style by now but I'm overly cautious about things that feel just on the wrong side of too noticeable.

My best example is the Converse wedge "shroud" sneakers I got at NAS. They turned out to be total winners.

My R13 x-over jeans were also a wildcard for me! Like the Converse they spoke to some really key part of my style interest but required a bit of bravery.

I don't do as well with wildcards that pull me in a different direction vs pull me further towards an exaggerated version of my own style.

I've also really been craving some light pink recently and I can't figure out if it's the successful type of wildcard for me but I'll try it and find out.

Um, 3/4 th's my wardrobe?

delurked - I think that's the hardest thing for me to manage, lemming. I've made more mistakes buying something I loved on someone else. I think the trick is to know when they are wearing something totally right for you but not buying something you adore on them but doesn't feel right. Kudos to you for knowing the difference!! Glad that's worked for you!!
Gigi - again, I think that's the real crux differentiating what "like and admire" and what is really "us" That's definitely been the trickiest thing for me. And leopard booties do sound divine!!
Rachy - you so crack me up!! You want to garden in your clothes and I need to sleep in mine!! We are such a pair. Your pieces are always unique and interesting, and I find that pretty amazing!!
Staysfit - that's exactly right a wild card can be anything and if it integrates well and becomes part of the core style then it's not so "wild" anymore. Isn't it interesting that thing that can feel so out there at first, become natural and standard over time. Your plaid suit sounds fantastic and I bet the pieces are incredibly versatile with the rest of your wardrobe!!
Sterling - don't you love it when someones expresses your thoughts so well all you can say is, "YES!!!"
Brooklyn - I think the "toe in the water" approach is very sensible. It hurts to drop a lot of cash and then and item does not work out. And you are the queen of dark moody florals. I'm still kicking myself for not buying any of the Allsaints flora mortis collection. Those prints were amazing!!
Runcarla - I do think wild cards have a big emotional component. A real sense of self, a rightness that may even be hard to verbalize initially but when you think it over makes perfect sense.
Bijou - your wild cards are "art" Unusual wearable art!! I love that totally unique, that's fantastic. And no shoes that are uncomfortable are a total fail, agreed and I have made that mistake too.
Lisa - you are such a sweetheart!! And so articulate!! You said what I am trying to express but 1000 times more eloquently!! I love that your wild cards are coats and they just "come" to you. I think the best purchases are like that. As you say on the "hunt" we may settle. Wild cards are never second best!!

Kaelyn - yes that's the thing about people who love us, they see things in us that we often miss or under value. It's awesome when they reveal to us, a part of ourselves we've missed. That is so cool!! I agree staysfit nailed it. It's a wild card until is becomes an essential!! That's definitely like leggings in my wardrobe. Glad you are enjoying your orange scarf. What a happy color. I bet it lifts your spirits every time you wear it!!
Jaileen - that's interesting that pink is really speaking to you. Just enjoy it. It's such a pretty, flattering and feminine color. As you say, enjoy it and if the love lasts you can upgrade pieces and if not you had a great time with it for a minimal investment.
smittie - what beautiful and unusual pieces. As Angie always tells us, have fun with fashion. Enjoy this stage of experimentation. You'll find what feels just right and have so much pleasure doing it!!
Laura - test driving a trend would definitely be a wild card. How else can we evolve!! A great way to put your toe in the water and decide if something feels right to you!!
Angie - many of my belts are old so there are no links. But here are a few examples. I don't wear a lot of jewelry. I go all out of interesting belts. Blazers over most, an interesting buckle is a must.
Gaylene - I like that term, fashion lightening. That's exactly how it feels. I total recognition and surety.
Karen - I totally agree. I think wild cards always push "the envelope" Just a little outside ourselves but still self, giving us a wider view of who we are.
Greyscale - yes, exactly. Wild cards require bravery!! But they speak to something in our core being. I admired those jeans on you and cocolion for so long. I finally just caved and said I need to get them, they speak to me. But like your shroud sneakers they will cause comment, you need to be brave and confident to wear and enjoy them. But that's freeing, like finding a part of yourself you never knew existed.
Anna - ROTFL!!! No one, but no one is more a risk taker in fashion!! You are so brave and adventurous!! It's beyond awesome. It's that fearlessness, that ability to enjoy and experiment with the new that I admire most in your style!! It's like watching someone splash and enjoy the cold ocean when the rest of us put a toe in the water. Your ability to revel and enjoy the moment, yeah girl, we know you are having more fun!! You are our poster child of brave and adventurous!! Awesome!!!!

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The "shadow self" definition of wild card resonates with me. I started a Pinterest board and was amazed at what turned up there--leather, lace, fringe, embroidery, ornamentation of all kinds. Nothing like what I actually wear, at least not since Haight-Ashbury days, but still there's that feeling of recognition.

So I'm moving in the direction of that shadow self, but cautiously because I don't want to look like a throwback. I've worn my new (vintage) fringed suede jacket a couple of times, with otherwise current and not-boho outfits, and it feels just right.

Laura - I think the shadow self always lives on the edge of fantasy. I don't mean buying for a life you don't lead, but I mean it taps into the hidden self - the personal not necessarily the public persona. It's probably our most intimate and unguarded expression of self - our dressing table self vs our living room self. "A pattern language" was a book on interior design recommended by Sarah Susanka "the not so small house" and it described a home as a sequence of spaces from public (living room) to private (family room) etc. I see shadow style and wild cards as the private part of style. It's on the edge of what the public self allows others to glimpse. That's why it always seems a bit more fantasy, as in a glimpse, an edge of personal truth.

Gryffin -- A Pattern Language is one of my all-time favorite books! Such a deep understanding of how human beings work, and so far removed from the ego-monument architecture one sees everywhere. When my husband and I were ready to design and build our own house, we made the 500-mile trip to consult with the authors, more than once.

Back to fashion...so a wild card is something I didn't choose. It chose me. Of course I want those things in my wardrobe, but not exclusively--that would make me a community of one. As several people said in another thread, there's value in self-expression and also value in considering your audience.

Laura - omg that book is amazing and, without a design background, it had a profound impact on how I see space. It resonates on so many levels. You are so fortunate to have worked with the authors. That must have been incredible. I agree completely with your thoughts. And too many wild cards, well it takes away the mystery. It's like a stranger revealing too much. Or like APL, it the mystery of what's around the corner, the glimpse but not a full unobstructed view, light edging in from different angles. The glimpse of ankle, or of the personal, within an otherwise traditional outfit. I think that's what I look for from my wild cards

What an amazing discussion! I can't believe it led to A Pattern Language and Laura has actually consulted with the authors! What an amazing book and amazing story (and would I ever love to see your house, Laura!) Perhaps I'd better find another superlative than "amazing" before the trip, though.

Gryffin, I love your jodhpur leggings and your belts -- I remember you posted a few of the belts long ago and I have always like to imagine the way they light up your darks and also add a bit of subtle contrast -- the idea of a western style belt with a blazer and jodhpurs is such a fun and clever juxtaposition. I'll bet you look great in those crossover jeans, too. I love that style also and have been sorely tempted by it myself.

What an interesting question about wild cards/ shadow style. I found myself nodding along with several people's comments. I think on the whole I agree with Staysfit -- it's something the moves my style along a little bit and over time it tends to become incorporated into the style and does not feel "wild" any more. My most successful wild cards often (though not always) have an element of luxury, as Peri said. Part of what is "wild" is treating myself to something so nice -- but that is not the whole story because my Reiss blazer is definitely "nice" and luxe but did not feel in any way like a wild card. Some become workhorses, and some are only occasional wear. Many strike me as "fun" in some way, whether that be because they inject an element of whimsy in and of themselves (a conversational pattern, say) or for some other, less-easy-to-explain reason. And every now and then, a wild card will be something that seems almost out of character. I do have to send some of those items back before cutting the tags, though. My EF skirted leggings fall into that category. Bought a pair last year at NAS, tried to wear them at home to see if I could love them -- and alas. They are not for me. A wild card gone wrong.

A few examples of ones that worked:

My Rebecca Minkoff hobo, which was a wild card because I truly prefer a structured bag. But this one won my heart and I use it all the time!

My BR sequinned culottes. While I liked culottes from the start and could see myself wearing them, we were 3 years into the trend before I found my first pair, and those were a very fancy sequinned version marked down to $25! I bought them and love them, even though I wear them only twice a year.

My lilac cocoon coat is a bit of a wild card...the style is expected but the colour was not. It's a great winter brightener.

My new red crops are similar. I don't know how they will turn out.

My Club Monaco silk dress is not a wild card in the sense of style -- but it was a wild card purchase in that I fell in love with it when it first came out but could not justify the price given infrequency of need for this type of item in my life. But then I saw it on sale, and simply had to have it. I wore it more than I expected simply because I love it so much!

My silver crushed velour top is also a kind of wild card, I think! It's a bit silly, a bit fun, but also surprisingly luxe-looking with a navy blazer over top and extremely comfortable!

Fantastic discussion. I am fairly experimental with trends and things, and willing to try a lot and see what sticks, but a true wild card for me is when I have initial resistance toward something and then over time manage to distance myself from that resistance and actually come to appreciate it.* Pointy shoes (now a staple) and currently sneakers are my most obvious examples but there are others.

*pretty sure this is inspired by (lifted from) a yoga program I do

Suz - I'm wondering if you agree that's lemming and wild cards need to be differentiated. I have really admired some pieces on other fabbers. Even purchased them. Example the madewell moto vest that una made so cool. God I loved it so much I bought it. But I never wore it. I'd put it on and take it off. You see a professional princess of darkness just doesn't wear black leather moto vest. I love the style and item but it was a lemming yen. For me a wild card is different and unexpected but still self..not other..if that makes any sense. Now when I have the "omg that's so awesome" I try and distance myself and ask my "core" is this what a P-POD would wear? Do you think that's you and leggings. Something you admire on others but fundamentally other?
Shevia - that's very interesting. I have been kicking around a post question on evolution of style vs recognition of style. To me, having my eye adjust to something new and wanting to experiment with it is evolution of style. To me a wild card, by my personal definition, is a recognition at the most basic level that this is "me". A "me" which cannot be denied but one I have never seen, worn, or even imagined before. Fringe but totally self, new but unequivocally part of me.

I love this thread--it's diving deep!

I can't believe A Pattern Language came up either, and that there are three of us (maybe more) who love it. Suz, drop by any time, but let me stipulate in advance that the house was designed by me, not by Silverstein and Alexander, and that my previous design experience was in software

Laura - did you read Sarah susanka's books too? My husband and I renovated our house and added a sunroom, full basement room, expanded the kitchen, decks, patio, pooI etc. we used an architect and interior designer but we did the floor plan w them, they were a resource to help us but the space is almost all us. I could never have gotten exactly the effect and perfect use of space without those books. Also I never could verbalized why I loved the house enough to go through that upheaval and expense. Amazing books!!!

That sounds like a good book!

Gryffin Yes, I bought and devoured (repeatedly) Susanka's books too! And there were one or two other Pattern Language acolytes...can't remember the names now. Been in the new house almost ten years. Not at all sure I got the perfect anything, but we're comfortable here and so is everyone who visits, and that bottom line what I wanted.

Laura G. What an amazing experience you must have had building your house! I read those books plus another called House, prior to the design and build of our house. House is about the experience a couple has designing and building their house. My step father was a home builder, so he had a lot of good advice, including reading that book which was excellent, but he did not build our home because he lived in another state. Our home isn't small, because there was a minimum square foot requirement for the houses in our area, but the design principals follow the same ideas as the Susanka books. We have been very comfortable and happy with our house, and wouldn't change much. (Although DH thinks we should have included a second study just for him! )

Great thread! Another Susankah fan, too. And isn't it so frustrating that so few builders ( or buyers) seem to value her approach!

Anyway, I think of wild cards in 2 ways: one is the style " stretch" or take- a-chance item that works out great, as others have mentioned.
The other type is more about " saving" budget or space for an unexpected find- it would not have to be edgy or shadow style but as Suz said, might be luxurious, or not on sale, but you know it's perfect for you. Could even be an essential, but it's something you hadn't planned or "needed".

Rachy - if you like interior design and want to understand space they are astonishing books. Easy reads, not pedantic. Also "Us what you have Decorating" by Lauri Ward, which is out of print but still available on amazon is fantastic. Those books were the basis of my remodel. Wonderful.
Laura - we were so fortunate to be constructing at a time these books were available. You, of course, worked with the "masters" themselves, but the books were invaluable. I hope they are classics reprinted into perpetuity because they are an invaluable resource!!
Staysfit - isn't amazing so many of us found that book. And unprepossessing in it's plan yellow dust jacket that just hit such incredible treasures!! And SS's books, I have a completely opposite decorating aesthetic but it was immaterial. Every principle a gem!
Unfrumped - we have quite a club of fans!! And, yes, don't you walk into other homes and mentally lament the lost opportunities to make the space work better. excess hallway, no circular flow, dramatic but uncomfortable space. We are very fortunate to have had that information. I think "saving" part of the budget for the unexpected is very clever. Most os us would plan a big purchase, but having a nest egg ready to go when you stumble onto one is a brilliant plan. Plus I think when you create the situation where those splurges are possible you might be more open to them. That's a fantastic idea!!

My wildcards are usually blazers that are not classic suit types. They always have some unusual shape, design details, color or pattern. I don't look for them and the best ones were bought on impulse. At first I feel self conscious wearing them because they feel like attention grabbing, and not me, but soon enough they become workhorses and they start feeling like me eventually.

Anchie - there was a great article on whowhatwear by emerson fry http://www.whowhatwear.com/how.....k-for-fall
She talks about exaggerated details and how they make simples pieces very special and timeless. Being a blazer girl, I hear you loud and clear. How many plain black blazers do you need, but special fabric, details, amazing construction make them so special and timeless to wear! LIke my Smythe - cutaway styling and a jacquard lace fabric is very subtle but special.

I have read excerpts from A Pattern Language. I was mostly interested in light, and their views on light on two sides of a room (double aspect windows). I probably found this book via Susan Susanka's Not so small house website. Anyway, I should actually read the whole book since it is so highly recommended!

I've been trying to think of some wildcards that occurred via recognition that this is "so me, at my core" AND am not copying a current trend or someone else AND it's not already part of my current style. There are two things I can think of:

- active outdoor wear. Things that you would wear in the woods, like bush jackets, thermal leggings, ski socks (LOVE SKI SOCKS) , rubber boots, wooly tuques, and in the summer, voile cotton tops, utilities shorts, gearish raincoats, boat shoes, tennis shoes.

I wear a little bit of active outdoor wear, but I live in the city and work in an office so I have to tread carefully.

- Boho. Embroidery, ikat patterns, gauzy tops, floral patterns, distressed jeans, fringe.

Again, I wear a little bit of this type of thing but I feel too unprofessional at work. This is probably the shadowiest of shadows now, because I really don't have any opportunity to wear these types of items.

I guess one thing to think about is how I might incorporate more boho in a professional setting. (Ironically, boho is too delicate to wear for outdoor activities, I find!)

A Smythe jacket, for me, might be in the same category as Una's Moto is for you: so completely awesome!!!!...but best left for others.

For me, a Wild Card is something I wouldn't normally buy that pushes me in a different color and/or style direction. This week, I bought a couple of open-front duster cardigans--one navy and one army green. I've never worn a cardigan like this before, and army green isn't a color I normally choose. It looks more like olive green online, so I want to try it. It's been years since I've worn that color. My reason for buying the cardigans is pure practicality. I work in a cold office and don't know how cold this cold this coming Winter is going to be. I don't have that many sweaters (last Winter was unseasonably warm) and think layering might be the best way to go. This style of cardigan is something I've never worn before, and it's available in petite sizes, so I'm ready to give it s try. It's probably just normal clothing to other YLF'ers.

The embroidery trend hasn't actually been a Wild Card for me because I embroidered my own jeans and denim jackets back in the '70s. Still, I don't see other women in my area wearing embroidered clothing, even though my embroidered jeans never fail to garner compliments.

Smittie - the use of light in APL was one of the elements that really blew me away. Because of circular flow, I've been able to incorporate light from three directions in some rooms and it makes a hue difference in the experience. I think it would be very exciting to add bits from your outdoor capsule into your work wear looks. I do some really dressy pieces but wear black leather hiking boots. I know sounds totally off but somehow it's not. It feels cool to me. Also perhaps elements of boho very refined a silk ikat blouse, smocking, a beautiful sleeve.. details that would resonate. And exactly, I might love love love your boho pieces but not feel authentic in them any more than you'd want my blazer. It's possible to love and admire without being comfortable sporting the look.
BC - those duster cardigans are very elegant and practical. I hope you enjoy them!! A dear high school friend is an artist, she embroidered her jeans with lions and gorgeous animals and flowers. She promised me a pair but I never got it. When I saw the gap embroidered girlfriend jeans I just had to have them so fun and they dress up just fine w booties and blazer but very special. You are so lucky to be so talented that you can do your own embroidery!! Jealous!!

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Another "Not So Big House " fan here! Now I need to go read "A Pattern Language." For my clothes and accessories, I've found that the key to successful wild cards is when I just don't want to let something go, even if I'm not sure exactly how much I'll wear it. If I try it on and just want to keep it, no matter what, then it's usually a success. I think that is also partly because both my budget and my closet space are limited. So saying yes to a particular item definitely means saying no to others. That helps me consider potential wild card purchases carefully- but also encourages me to trust my instincts, if that makes sense.

Pat _ that's exactly right. If you put an item on and don't want to ever take it off that's a terrific sign it's going to be a winner. Also if it works with a lot of things on your closet. But that feeling that someone is going to have to wrestle you to the death, to get the item off is usually a sure fire win.

I used some images from the Not So Big House book in our remodel...our house really *is* "not so big" and as an old row house it lacks the flow of the ideal prototype, but it does have a coziness and sense of containment and I like that.

Gryffin, weirdly, the skirted legging experiment was not a lemming for me. Maybe the first purchase (the ones I copies LisaP with). But I only went for them because they instantly felt like something that really *could* work on me -- leggings my way, if you know what I mean (since I don't like wearing tunic and leggings). But then, no, it didn't work.

I didn't bite when many suggested the EF version because I worried about fabrication weight not being right for my climate/lifestyle. But when my hair went grey, Angie urged me to try them again -- and when she suggests something to me, I listen! Alas, they still weren't right. I think perhaps I am between sizes in this item -- the skirt felt really short, though the legging part was fine, it also felt snugger than I would feel comfy with in public, and overall, something was just off. So I returned with tags intact, and with the idea that maybe someday a version that works for me will come along.

I suspect Angie was trying to help me incorporate/ amp up the drama and focus the avant garde side of my style. Alas, this was not the piece to jumpstart the process!

Thanks, Gryffin. I see a Western Horse Gal as part of your Equestrian style persona. NICE.

Suz, sounds like you need a longer skirt over those leggings. When you bump into one - try it for fun and see how you feel in it. (Thank you for trying my suggestion).

Suz - well those leggings were a very well thought out purchase and I'm sorry they did not work out. Curious, have you tried pants under dress/skirt? Thought? It's not the same but similar. The skirt on the EF is short. I wore a lot of minis in my day with tights so it's more within my comfort zone, as long as everything is black out, I don't wear short skirts with sheer, but many fabbers prefer a much longer skirt length to be comfortable. Also 5'3" me is "all leg" and I do like to show them off, as long as I'm wearing opaques. I would second Angie, if you like tights with skirts, try and duplicate the same skirt length, that might make all the difference. As in all things, the right iteration of any trend is key.

Angie - yes the lure of the horse in all its forms, love it!! Love the western influence as well as English style. Often I wear both styles together, I know, but it works for me!!