Halfway through the holidays, you may realize you've worn every party outfit you own at least once, and there's another round of toasts before the New Year begins. What most people found under the Christmas tree won't help them meet this challenge, but they might be underestimating the mismatched assortment of tops and bottoms that Santa, or somebody, left behind.
Can a skirt that glows in the dark find happiness with a bulky knit sweater? Does a tulle skirt belong with a tweed blazer?
For the moment, apparently so. This holiday season, women are resurrecting a version of a 1960s look that crosses thrift shop whimsy with rich hippie hipness. They wear long, sheer, evening fabric skirts with sporty, tweed blazers or with thick, bulky sweaters.
Half the outfit seems too fancy for a workday; the other half, too casual for a dressy night. Together, they're just right for a wide variety of day or night scenes.
Rather than integrate the two halves, the office part of the outfit extends only from the waist up, while the evening part moves the opposite way. Sit at a desk and no one will notice that below the tweed blazer is a skirt made of sheer chiffon, lame, French lace or gold damask.
Some of the world's leading designers have given this look their imprimatur by featuring it in recent runway shows. In Italy, for example, Giorgio Armani matched wool suit jackets with sheer skirts. In Paris and New York, his fashion equals were on the same odd-match wavelength.
Maybe it's the season. At the same time this style of dressing is being brought back from prior incarnations, a lot of people are wondering if they too have lived different lives. It seems an apt consideration for followers of fashion, because clothes always seem to be making comebacks, so they ask: Why not souls?
Just last season on the Paris fashion runways, a slim-waist dress, an Empire style, was a trend-setter. It's the style Napoleon's Josephine wore in 1810. And women who decide to wear it may be making a fashion statement they haven't considered: The way people dress says something about who they used to be.
"When a style is reminiscent of an earlier period, the one who chooses to wear it could be responding to a past life," said Louise Ludwig, who has a doctorate in psychology and has taught parapsychology. In her private practice, she counsels married couples by using past-life regressions.
"You walk into a clothing shop and see something that reminds you of a previous life because it gives you a picture from that time," said W. H. Church, who writes about reincarnation of souls in his book, "Many Happy Returns," published by Harper & Row. When he applies the "souls" principles to clothes, he says "mixing odd combinations of clothing, old and new or plain and fancy, has an element of deja vu. "
Of all things to wonder about in the return of a fashion trend, Matilda Casselberry wonders whether it happens because clothes have a place on the karmic wheel.
"A person might chose a dress because she's drawn to the rustle of the fabric," she said. "Just the sound of it could remind her of a past life." Currently teaching at the Thomas Institute of Metaphysics in Los Angeles, Casselberry studied fashion at the Traphagen School of Fashion in New York before she became as student of metaphysics.
"Maybe a person hasn't let go of something from the past that a particular garment represents," she suggests. "Something they want to work out in this lifetime."