I would never declare myself a fashion diva. I have always been one of the misfit wanna-bes when it comes to style. I reflect on childhood pictures and see a kid of the 70s with bellbottoms and peasant shirts on a chubby little frame. My hair was blonde then and my skin even fairer than it is now. The confusion I think came from the conservative household I resided in. My sisters, teenagers at the time, were my first fashion influence. I believe my mother, a regular in silky polyester mu-mus, used them as a template for my hippie-influenced wardrobe. When not in the staple shorts and tee-shirt, I had all the glamour of a Woodstock child with moccasins on my feet and braided locks. I thrived on the scent of Herbal Essences shampoo, Phisoderm and Charlie cologne.
My love of bubbly started early. I still believe the taste and affect of champagne is accentuated by wearing a night gown.
My elementary years were easy when it came to savoir-faire. I went to a private Catholic school and woke each morning to the white blouse, plaid jumper and black and white saddle shoes that the nuns required. Before this was a discussed fashion trend in itself, I was considered a dork among the other neighborhood kids not knowing that adopting this at a more voluptuous time would get me plenty of sexy offers. When not in said uniform, it was back to shorts and tees and the occasional dress for going to funerals, weddings and dinners out for Chinese food. I was the only kid in the neighborhood who went to private school and this left me with fewer choices when it came to weekend jaunts, but that was OK since keeping up with trends was considered a grown-ups worry, not a kids. My anxious thoughts were concerned with my Barbie’s wardrobe, Charlie’s Angels and getting good grades in school. Boys were full of cooties so there was no need to impress them with my charms, which I only used with the intention of getting another piece of candy or the must-have Christmas gift of the year.
Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” Coco Chanel
The 80s mullet - party in the front, business in the back.
When I did enter the unforgiving world of pre-teenhood I was amazed by my ineptness at keeping up with the Jennifers. Thrown into public school for the first time, my lack of worldliness left me open to ridicule and contempt from the other girls who knew the proper “uniform” of this violent environment. My stepmother refused to take me shopping for anything that would have classified me as “normal” so I was stuck with handmade clothes in clown colors and motifs, as well as old-lady shoes and a bare face. She was a whiz at sewing, but knew nothing about fashion (her own wardrobe encompassed the realm of crop pants, knit tops and caftans along with a variety of house slippers.) I was lost. My hip friends, of which I only had a couple, had cool moms who dressed fresh and stylish teaching their offspring how to pull off designer jeans and Nikes in a way that I never could. All I wanted was a pair of Calvins and Nikes (leather), but when I finally got them, they weren’t me at all. Calvins were made for girls with no asses, in fact all designers seemed to turn their noses up at the voluptuousness of the behind so all those pants made my rounded derriere look that much bigger (where was J-Lo when we needed her?) I was left to wearing no-name denims and knock-off Keds since there was no way my parents were going to spend a dime on helping me transition into the world of acceptance.
There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist.” Ayn Rand
Past the mullet, we have the swooshed look with the high collar - trying for a bit of Russian Socialist chic.
High school emptied my soul of trying to keep up and I went the other route, being as odd as I could be. Artsy and smart, I straddled two worlds with cool punk friends and being the apple of my teachers’ eyes. I had a mullet, which at the time was more inspired by Paul Young and Robert Smith than Billy Ray Cyrus, I wore thrift store clothes from a variety of eras and I dreamed of being Chrissy Hynde. I also wanted to be Ally Sheedy in the Breakfast Club, but hated admitting to desiring the Princess garb at the end of the film. I wore tee-shirts and cut-up jeans with ratty loafers and an embroidered handbag, but wanted to be like the cool kids with “Feed the World” emblazoned on their chests and rows of Madonna black O-ring bracelets. My limit was not so much creativity, but money and the psychological bonds it put upon me. My friends all had it and I didn’t which left me a bit shell-shocked, along with the aspect that they were all thin and I had curves in what I considered all the wrong places (if only I knew then, what I know now – watch out). Pink or purple hued hair completed my rebellion which was only accepted at home if I kept my grades up – straight A’s baby, except for math.
Fashion is what you adopt when you don't know who you are.” Quentin Crisp
Starting to take charge of choices, though bland. My first NYC trip and dressed like a comfortable tourist. This is when I realized in some parts of New York (the Village here) no one cares.
Moving away from home and going to college left me even broker, but did help me start coming into my own. The realm of fashion at college was all over the spectrum and I tried my hand at almost everything from the Polo-wearing prep to the black-laced Goth to my hippie roots and New York chic. I learned to alter thrift shop finds to make them my own, wear sexy things like stockings (more punk inspired than streetwalker) and high heels. This continued through the decade as I struggled to find who I was inside and out.
Fashion condemns us to many follies; the greatest is to make ourselves its slave.” Napoleon Bonaparte
Audrey Hepburn at an Oscar party - I now take a lot of my creative energy for fashion and access it for the right occassions.
The only rule is don't be boring and dress cute wherever you go. Life is too short to blend in.” Paris Hilton
Over the past ten years I have come into my own and finally come to the conclusion that fashion should be fun and not hard work. I find it hard enough to keep up with my own whims much less the whims and worries of others. Nicely not fitting into any group, my style is finally all my own. I learn from those that I watch and make the choice over what is hot and what is not. Like the people I keep company with, my sense of fashion is refreshed on a daily basis by mood, setting, weather, occasion and whimsy. From Ann Taylor to thrift store finds to handmade scarves and diamond jewelry, I have finally accepted that all those things that made me different and odd fit me when I don’t work so hard fitting in. Sexy lingerie under soccer mom gear or a blue wig with a little black dress are just parts of all the women that are crying to get out and strut their stuff. So be it. Like a friend said to me on turning 40, “You no longer give such a shit about it all. What is important is how you feel, not how you look. What’s funny is when you feel this way you look great – all the time. If only I’d known this sooner.” Amen.