Like many women our age, I’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with Fashion over my lifetime. I remember pre-teen me thumbing through glossy fashion magazines at the grocery store while my mother shopped, and dreaming about growing up to be that stylish and glamorous. Well. Even though I realized fairly early on that a) I’d never be able to afford those clothes from the dreamy editorials and b) even if I could they weren’t designed with women of my size, shape, and lifestyle in mind, the infatuation dragged on. I went through various phases of fashion rebellion throughout my young adulthood (including a year in college wearing a homemade cotton wrap dress, tights and Birkenstocks every day), but always kept drifting back to those magazine racks.
After our son was born, I had trouble losing my pregnancy weight; between that and the demands of caring for a special needs child and working full-time, fashion and style dropped off my radar. Sure, I needed clothes for work, but a few simple pantsuits sufficed. When I finally did lose the weight and looked to rekindle my relationship with style, I saw little that inspired me. It felt like Fashion had lost the plot, and had become lost on me. Everything seemed to have swung in various theatrical (and impractical) directions. I found magazines like (now-defunct) Lucky and InStyle more engaging than Vogue or Elle.
For the next few years, I’d look hopefully to each season’s runway shows, searching for signs that clothing for grownups (with actual lives beyond a dressing room) would make an appearance. I never expected to actually wear high-end designer clothing. But I did hope for some direction that would trickle down. To quote the imperious Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada…
This… stuff’? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select… I don’t know… that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it who showed cerulean military jackets? … And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.
But she’s right in a way. Or was at the time.
Fashion is in a huge state of flux right now, from the creative to the business side. Designers move from house to house, and the showing/selling schedules are being upended. Last week Tom Ford decided to show fall fashions in the fall, which were then immediately released for purchase. Though the show was being streamed live and we could have watched from our laptops, Lisa sniffed out the location where it was being held (conveniently a couple blocks from our hotel), and thanks to a tip from a young woman standing next to us watching arrivals, we were able to view the entire show live through the windows in back of the Four Seasons. Equally as thrilling as seeing the show was seeing the attendees: Diane von Furstenberg, Carine Roitfeld, Julia Restoin Roitfeld, Cindy Crawford, Julianne Moore, Jon Hamm, Iman, and I think we spotted Grace Coddington…all just 15-30 feet from where we stood outside.
Unfortunately the sheer bead curtains in the windows confused my iPhone camera, and I couldn’t get anything inside to focus. At the top of the post and above are some of my favorite looks from the show. (Leopard and sequins? Oh yes!)
It was the capper to a very serendipitous visit to New York. For the past year or so, I’ve been feeling a bit in the doldrums, style-wise. I’ve wanted to be inspired, to add elements that express my playful, creative side, but for the most part, have come up “meh.”
On a whim, I spent a few hours on Labor Day at The Met, to catch the last day of the exhibit Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology. I’d captioned the Instagram I posted from the exhibit, “Having a religious experience,” and it was only partly tongue-in-cheek. Yes, the clothes shown are haute couture pieces and well outside of the realm of anything that could be worn in day-to-day life. But oh, those gorgeous details! The mind-blowing craftsmanship! The imagination! It was breathtaking and reminded me of what drew me to fashion in the first place: a way to try to incorporate beauty into everyday life. It was a moving experience, and made me look at fashion and style with new eyes. (Above: a gown from House of Dior, 1949. Will have more from the exhibit in a later post.)
So I was primed when Lisa arrived in town and was ready to get close up with some Fashion Week events. We hit the ground running, spent the morning exploring Soho to do some retail reconnaissance and street style spotting. Lisa operates on the “it never hurts to ask” principle, something I need to get better at. We were allowed into the foyer to people watch for the Parsons MFA show, and later were granted admittance to the WHiT presentation. (Clothes not my style, but cute and well-done nonetheless. Held at NY Academy of Art; I liked the format, with art students all around the room sketching and painting the models, as if it were a class.)
And then, of course, our serendipitous Tom Ford experience. While I’m still not expecting to “shop the runway,” I’m feeling excited about Fashion again. It’s not about chasing trends or the latest “It” thing, or taking runway looks literally. It’s about appreciating artistry and imagination, storytelling through clothes, remembering that beauty feeds the soul, and it’s especially about keeping an open mind. And perhaps, teasing out what speaks to me and finding ways I can incorporate more of that into my day-to-day style.
Above: another fashion celebrity sighting…that’s designer kate spade in the dress.
Are you still inspired by Fashion? If so, what has influenced you most recently?
You can read Lisa’s recap of New York adventures, both our’s and what she did after I flew home here.
Tom Ford images source.