I’m flipping through the pages of a recent issue of New York magazine and I come across a two-page spread of a look that’s trending – split skirts. Immediately my mind goes to a blue linen Kenar skirt I bought at the Neiman Marcus outlet back in the early 1990s.

I mean, this thing was spectacular. A bit flowy, but most of one leg was visible because of the way it was cut. Its debut came at an ice-breaker cocktail party at a professional conference I was attending in San Francisco; I didn’t know a soul there.

Not even five minutes had elapsed when a woman approached me and said this: “I need to know the woman who would wear that skirt.” Stephanie and I hit it off immediately and she introduced me to a few other women. During a lull in conference activities, we went shopping and had a blast. In the years that followed, that conference took us to Miami, Seattle and Austin and it was like a sorority reunion every time.

All this from a skirt. How about that? Fashion as connector.

As you’re reading this we’re in the middle of New York Fashion Week and while there will always be those who find it frivolous or a showcase for things they can’t afford, I find it to be a creative outlet and a bit of an adventure.

Women particularly seek out other women in networking and friendship by sizing up another woman’s style. When we were much younger it felt like a catty kind of judgment. Now, at least for me at age 50, it feels like a wonderful launching pad, sort of commonality as kick-off to get a feel for what makes the other tick when it comes to personal expression.

“It makes so much sense to me that your [colleague] approached you about your skirt because it is likely she made a judgment about you that, in her mind, was something positive or with which she felt an affinity and, therefore, felt compelled to want to connect with you,” style expert Bridgette Raes tells me. “It was through the skirt that you connected, but it wasn’t about the skirt, per se, it was about her perception of the skirt and the type of person who would wear it.”

Raes, president of Bridgette Raes Style Group, notes that statistics have proven that non-verbal communication, including body language and image, are the “biggest way we communicate with others.”

I recall having a boss many years ago who was about to leave for a trip abroad and we got into a conversation about travel. He was dismissive when I mentioned a treasure or two I had brought back from places I’d gone, saying he’d “never waste his time shopping on vacation.”

While I get that it isn’t everyone’s bag, so to speak, it is impossible for me to imagine what life would be like without that aspect of travel. Again, as connector.

Suddenly I am transported in my mind to Rome, on a bus, trying to find my way to the renowned Porta Portese flea market. I hear two women speaking English and they turn out to be Canadian, also heading to Porta Portese. They invite me to browse with them, help me pick out a beautiful necklace, find their own goodies. Then they ask me to join them for lunch. A wonderful day.

Fashion. It all started with the fashion.

That necklace, incidentally, the very first time I wore it in New York, captured the attention of a woman on the bus and we wound up in a lovely dialogue about Rome.

Connector. Again.

Sure, shopping can be a drug. A false pick-me-up like any other addiction when it gets out of hand. I was in that for a while, but now, with no credit card debt, I pick and choose and appreciate. It used to be about the quick high. Now it’s about pure pleasure. Honing one’s eye. Loving the feel of silk or suede. Marveling at what some creative soul has crafted in classic black or some eye-popping color.

And then doing something with it that expresses on the outside how you feel on the inside. Think of it in Seinfeld-esque terms – remember when Jerry pegged sweatpants as a sign a person was giving up on life? Well, I’m talking about the contrast of that.

“I’ve had many women reach out to me for help and tell me that they feel they’ve been overlooked for opportunities because of their image or who have avoided getting involved in their lives because they didn’t love the way they looked,” Raes tells me. “It’s sad to say, but image often sidelines people from living. Yet, when they change their image their confidence completely changes and, magically, their life turns around. Often they credit my help and the clothes, but the clothes often just play that supporting role in helping them feel better about themselves and therefore creating a greater connection with those whom they share an affinity with and want to know.”

I think again of my skirt and Stephanie. We are still in contact. I saw her in Las Vegas a few years ago and I was happily sporting a quirky Rachel Roy jacket I knew she’d appreciate.

Not to impress, but to connect. We laughed like hyenas.

 

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.