Wendy Wasserstein, the late (and greatly missed) Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (“The Heidi Chronicles”) and author, was a remarkably honest writer about her own insecurities and fears. When I had the opportunity to hear her speak at a gala luncheon for Dress for Success, I pulled out the checkbook because Dress for Success is such a wonderful organization and Wendy Wasserstein would be the cherry on a seven layer cake.
Wendy began her speech by confessing she had always admired Louis Vuitton handbags and had written an article detailing her mixed feelings about owning one. The price was one issue (they are very expensive), the bag’s image was another (status object) and finally, she didn’t feel she was elegant enough to carry one. Well, the company that produces Louis Vuitton accessories read the article and asked Wendy if she would like to borrow one of their most expensive handbags and wear it for a week. The goal would be to see if the handbag changed the way she felt about herself.
The handbag was delivered to her apartment and the experiment began. Wendy took the bag ‘out for a walk’ and noticed she felt thinner. The next day she took the bag to the Upper East Side and felt more confident and admired. Each day the bag created deeper feelings of self-love and acceptance. It was surreal — she spoke about the handbag as if it had magical powers.
That is precisely what clothing and accessories can do for all of us. We don’t need a handbag to feel thinner and taller — we need to wear the pieces that give us the extra oomph to shut out the negative voices that can derail our trajectory. When we look amazing, we do bold things. We reach out to shake a hand, introduce ourselves to a stranger or ask someone who is sitting alone to join us at our table. Don’t you love yourself when you’re that generous and bursting with charm? On those days when I’m me at my best I can always remember what I was wearing as the clothing or the accessories (or maybe the socks) gave me the power to grab life with two hands, not just one.
Wendy Wasserstein’s borrowed handbag reaffirms the transformative power of style. The LV handbag had given Wasserstein the self-acceptance she obviously craved. To this day I find it mind-boggling: A renowned playwright needed a vinyl bag to make her feel confident.
Go. Shop your closet. Wear something with the talismanic power to make you do something really crazy.
Like love yourself.