What to Do With Your Most Stylish Girlfriend’s Fashion Advice

Everybody has a stylish pal like Z.

It’s fall, and with fall comes the September Issue of Vogue and all the other guides to autumn fashion from the big clothing bibles: Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, The Nation (the latter says hemp flares are in). Fashion Week spurred innumerable online slideshows of trends for fall—trends like burgundy; mixing black and blue; a deep side part; oversized totes; and high boots.

Because I’m a journalist in 2012, I’m broke, so I can’t do a new-season shopping trip. But I can consult stylish friends for tips to help me look my best even when I’m not totally au courant. The best of these friends is a woman named Z who I’ve known since second grade. She lives in San Francisco and is my Yoda of all things style and fashion.

When we went to get mani-pedis together a couple years ago, the manicurist asked me which shape I’d prefer for my nails: round or square. It should tell you something that I don’t know what I answered, only that it was the wrong answer and Z had to rescue me from an impending nail disaster. Now when I get a manicure and they ask “square or round?” I just say, “Whatever you think,” and assume I’ll get the latest style.

Z also told me a couple years ago that women our age no longer wear silver. “We don’t?” I said, fingering my silver necklace with my silver-ringed fingers and tilting my head—silver earrings sparkling—curiously. It’s not a grown-up metal, she said. We’re adults now. Dear god, when did that happen? Since that conversation, I’ve hardly worn silver at all, and each time I do, I’m guiltily aware of having a classless, immature day.

Last weekend, though, Z and I were together again, and we strolled through her Mission neighborhood for some shopping. We saw a really cool silver necklace at a funky boutique, and she liked it so much, she tried it on. “I thought you said we didn’t wear silver,” I said, somewhat apoplectically. “I’m liking it these days,” she replied lightly. Fall fashion trend No. 384: silver.

Z is responsible for the single greatest style development of my entire life: shiny, pretty hair. At my old workplace, a guy who buzzed me in the door when I’d forgotten my key card once said, “I knew it was you. I saw the frizz.” That’s what existence was like. But after Z got me off of my drugstore shampoo, my hair was transformed. “Where did the frizz go?” another co-worker asked me. Let them talk about it at the water cooler. I’m going outside to throw my beret in the air.

Not all of Z’s interventions have been successful. She once encouraged me to buy jeans two sizes too small so I’d look super sexy when I wore them out with heels to clubs. That was in Italy, and the logic seemed sound. It wasn’t until I returned to Philadelphia that I remembered I don’t go out to clubs. Another time Z took me makeup shopping and bought me little pots of things made by Laura Mercier. I immediately forgot what they were for and haven’t touched them since. I’m afraid I’ll put them on wrong and end up looking like a cadaver.

It always amazes me that Z and I both started out in second grade wearing the same velour sweatshirts and then diverged, fashion-wise, like an InStyle Robert Frost poem. Is it because we went to different colleges? Or because she became someone who could afford to buy the clothes in fashion magazines and I became someone who could only afford to write about those clothes?

Either way, there’s nothing more heavenly than sitting on a couch with your friend from second grade, wearing pajamas and under a blanket, flipping through Elle‘s fall fashion guide to accessories together. At moments like that, it doesn’t matter what the trends for 2012 are. The most enduring trend is friendship.