Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman. Coco Chanel http://www.thewheelhousereview.com
One can get used to ugliness, but never to negligence.Coco Chanel
The poet Robert Frost once wrote, “Style is that which indicates how the writer takes himself and what he is saying. It is the mind skating circles around itself as it moves forward.” Though he was expanding upon the art of writing, I believe that his words are true about life as well. How we express ourselvesnot only through our work, but our appearancesindicate how we view ourselves and what we want to communicate to the world. Despite our culture’s many warnings against vanity and judging based solely on looks, it is a mark of naiveté to think that how we look shouldn’t proclaim certain facts about usfor both the positive and the negative.
When it comes to writing, I like to tell stories and I often use a conversational tone and somewhat humorous language and phrasing in my writing. My co-editor Ryan revels in absurdity and rapid-fire jokes. My style is more personal, Ryan’s is less so. Both reveal much about who we are as peopleI am comfortable sharing a lot about my personal life, whereas Ryan prefers to remain an enigma with a nougat filling.
As with writing, sartorial style is a mark of personalityalthough it by no means tells the whole story. The type of person who will wear bright red shoes to the office is either a former pope or someone with bold streak. The type of person who wears loafers and sport jackets is probably someone who plays it safe and/or Thurston Howell III. Granted, they may ditch their prep wear for skinny jeans and flannels when not in the office, but it’s fair to say that they do so because they value some level of conformity in a professional setting.
Clothing also can tell a lot about your faithas a Christian, I sometimes envy my Muslim or Jewish friends (and then repent for my envy, natch) who can telegraph their beliefs instantly with a hijab or yarmulke. Wearing a cross, or as Maeby Funke would say, “a necklace with a t on it” does not always indicate devotion.
And clothing can unfortunately communicate your class, culture, standards of cleanliness, ageor feelings about your age, and your ideas about what looks beautiful or modest or ugly.
So it seems like it would be a no-brainer to give your personal style as much thought as, say, your writing. Yet, I am always amazed at how much this form of communication is not only ignored by many, but actively pushed back against, as though refusing to acknowledge that we read each other based on appearance. And that lack of participation, of course, reads loud and clear. I’m obviously talking about hipsters and the ultimate irony that you are trying super hard to show you don’t care. We get it, ok?
Don’t get me wrongI’m not advocating for everyone in the world to go out and buy Vogue or GQ and become fashion-victims. I would agree with those who are adamantly anti-fashion in this case. As Coco Chanel once said, “fashion passes, style remains.” Style, in the sartorial sense, is merely finding a way to express something uniquely and wonderfully true about who you areeven if that means communicating to the world that you refuse to be a part of their system.
So I thought I’d pay tribute here to some of the style icons that have influenced me the most.
I’ve written about my mother’s sense of style before, but it must be said again: my mother has probably done more to shape my love of looking fabulous than anyone. I used to love playing around with her shoes (pointed-toe pumps, of course). I remember a glorious pair of dusty magenta faux-snakeskin pumps that she donated for dress-up in kindergarten. I wish I still had those shoes now. I would wear them at least three times a week. She taught me how to wear makeup and I didn’t even need eight years of therapy and counseling to tell me that my punk-rock/riot-grrrl look in middle and early high school was a reaction against her. Still, even when we were most at loggerheads during my adolescent rebellion, we’d still relate over skin care and makeup.
Claudia Kishi (The Baby-Sitters Club).
Claudia gets the shout-out here, only because as much as I appreciated Stacey McGill’s sophistication, it was Claudia’s creativity that most influenced me in my “tween” and teen years. Oversized men’s shirt? I have two of them. Funky jewelry? I mostly favor funky bracelets over earrings. Side po? Natch. My favorite of Claudia’s outfits, and one that I have always wished I could perfectly replicate and still pay homage to every time I wear an LBD, was in Book 18: Stacey’s Mistake. Forget the fact that Stacey turns out to be an insufferable snob and jerk to the friends who embraced her when she had no one in Stoneybrook. Claudia is wearing some kind of black dress with metallic spangles all over it, which should totally compete with Laine’s “short black dress, black stockings, and simple black flats” with a silver bangle and a squiggle pin.” I meanthose outfits sound kind of exactly the same to me.
Courtney Love/Kathleen Hanna/Kim Gordon/Casey Niccoli from the Classic Girl video.
What can I say? It was the mid-90s. I toggled frequently between 1) babydoll dress and/or pleather mini/flannel shirt/ripped up tights, fishnets, and Doc Martens and 2) vintage flared jeans/ringer t-shirt/velour track jacket/Vans (or Converse or Pumas). And at 13 I’m proud to say, I sported this fantastic flight into fuschia.
I still sport her look sometimesturtleneck sweater, chunky boots, skullcap. Although be carefulit can veer quickly into Patty Hearst-land or straight up frump.
I have now had two phases with super-short pixie hair, also known as the Rosemary’s Baby. Every now and then, when the tannis root is in bloom, I chop off my hair. I can’t help it, it’s so chic.
Robert Palmer Girls/80s Sigourney Weaver.
Bad pun alert: who doesn’t find the dramatic make up and LBDs of the Robert Palmer girls simply irresistible? I am still trying to find people who will dress up as Robert and the ladies for the most awesome Halloween costume ever. I automatically associate Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters with the Robert Palmer Girls, but in general, her big curls, pencil skirts, and pumps just scream: when someone asks if you’re a goddamned professional, Ray, YOU SAY YES.
“But she’s everyone’s style icon” is what you’re probably thinking. Yes. And well she should be. I even channeled her morning after look for Halloween one year…