It was only upon finding it again that I realized I had lost a sense of fun in regard to fashion.
I love clothes. Rather than expound on why fashion is not frivolous or how different clothes make me feel like completely different people (this can be great or a nightmare) I’ll give you three of my favorite quotes on the subject from people who say it all far better than I ever will:
“Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.”
— Bill Cunningham, New York Times fashion photographer since 1978, best known for his “street style” candid photos
“Why are people scandalized by spending money on clothes? I think there is something against fashion in the world. Everybody is so passionate about this, there’s a resistance to fashion, an idea that to love fashion is to be stupid. I think this is for two reasons. One is because clothes are very intimate. When you get dressed, you are making public your idea about yourself, and I think that embarrasses people. And two, I think that fashion is seen as women’s work. My conclusion is that because fashion touches your intimate life, it embarrasses people.”
— Miuccia Prada, from an interview in New York Magazine last year that I cut out and taped inside my closet.
“Style is a simple way of saying complicated things.”
— Jean Cocteau, 1936 and he probably wasn’t talking exactly about fashion but clearly.
In New York City, the very same sentiment that can make a person feel isolated and lonesome (“Nobody cares what I do!”) can also set her free (“Nobody cares what I do!”) That second take on it, when applied to fashion by a fashion lover, creates potential for extreme joy.
In my former downtown Chicago bachelorette life, I got pretty fancy. I knew just where to find fabulous, high-end designer clothes on the cheap. And find them I did. The tailored jacket, the well-turned high-heel, the lined, custom-fit trouser; I rocked that classy-sassy look because I wanted to, I could afford it, and I think in some small-but-probably-huge way, I needed to prove to the world that I was making good, that I had transcended my awkward, pasty Iowa self, that I was cultured and polished and that I gave a damn about art.
But in New York City, unless you live on the Upper East Side or in TriBeCa and have a record deal and/or a plastic surgery practice and/or a driver, etc., being fancy isn’t that big of a deal. It’s actually a bit outre, honestly. Here, and especially where I live in Lower Manhattan, it’s all about the high-low mix, or blending fancy pieces with vintage, super-cheap, or borrowed/begged/stolen items to create a kind of “yeah, whatever,” layered look that is exactly right. I mean, I can’t wear my Celine suit on the subway! Are you nuts?? I could sit in gum! Better to wear a pair of ripped jeans with just the Celine jacket! Ah, yes! And some bangles. And the real diamond earrings I have. And sneakers.
Discovering — remembering, perhaps — that I don’t have to search so hard for head-to-toe designer apparel has made fashion fun again. I’ve come back ’round to the truth that that a shirt from Target with pineapples on it (my new favorite shirt!) is totally acceptable and actually preferable to a discounted-but-still-pricey Alexander Wang tank top. I love pineapples! To eschew the pineapple shirt because Marni had nothing to do with it is madness.
New York, thanks. I’ll wear real Keds and fake pearls for you any day. Why, I’m wearing them now!