I have had a love hate relationship with fashion my entire life. I’m envious of the women who have a passion for fashion. You know the ones I’m talking about, the true fashionistas of the world. They look like they rolled out of bed styled and put together. I always wanted to be one of those people.
My journey with style has left some many emotional scars. Let’s face it, the 80s weren’t nice to more than a few of us. I’ll spare you the embarrassing stories. Fast forward to the 90s, and I was wearing my sister’s hand-me-downs, most of them unfortunately had gone out of style already. I was rebellious in my teenage years, wearing jeans when other girls were wearing dresses and skirts because I just didn’t care what other people thought. Or so I claimed.
Ironically my first job at sixteen was in retail. I worked as a cashier at a clothing store. The only problem was this store was not a hip, young clothing store. It was a grown up, thirties and older kind of store, and I had to dress the part. Oh I was made fun of plenty, especially when I would run into classmates at the mall. I heard comments like, “you’re wearing THAT?” What made it even worse was that I actually liked most of what I picked out my co-workers picked out for me. I was terrible at dressing myself and therefore hated it. In time, I was promoted to a sales associate and women twice my age were coming to me to wardrobe them. Yes, wardrobe. It wasn’t just about that one shirt or one outfit, I kept track of their entire closet to help them mix and match as they added new items. I became very good at it, earning an award for selling over $329,000 of clothes in one year. Little did they know, I still hated dressing myself.
What broke my heart the most during my thirteen years in retail, was the negative body image many of these women had. My mission became to make each woman feel good about herself again through her wardrobe. It was about finding those pieces that make you feel special. You know what I’m talking about. You put it on, and all of a sudden you feel like super woman! You can take on anything! Anyone! You no longer look at all your flaws, the ones that only you see. They just fade away because you feel empowered! That became my mission throughout my career, to make women feel good about themselves again, one outfit at a time.
Little did I know, this mission would become my mantra for myself. Many years later, my days of wearing the current collection, forced accessorizing, and always looking “effortlessly” put together were over. Getting dressed was quite the challenge at first. I no longer had fantastic, stylish co-workers to help dress me on a regular basis. Then there was the BIG adjustment. You mean I don’t have to wear three accessories if I’m going to wear jeans? I can wear my favorite shirt from last season again? I don’t have to wear boots and fall clothes in August when it’s still summer outside or summer clothes in February when it’s still cold? #retailproblems. I had found fashion freedom!
Armed with my extensive business causal wardrobe from my various retail jobs over thirteen years, I began to play in my closet for the first time in my life. It was a winning fashion threesome. Me, my closet, and pinterest. My closet had NEVER brought joy or fun into my life, until now. More like dread and loathing. Fashion still isn’t always effortless for me, it takes a bit of work, coordinating, and trying on a million things when packing for a trip, but it has become FUN, a form of self expression, and a joy to feel good in my clothes and consequently in my own skin.
Ironically, just like in high school, I still receive comments and backhanded “compliments” about how I dress. Apparently, there is such a thing as looking too put together. Remember, I do have an extensive wardrobe and loads of accessories. If you worked in retail as long as I did, you would too! Instead of being encouraged, supported, or celebrated I have often felt belittled for how I dress. But that doesn’t deter me. I get dressed every day for me, not for you. Because I feel my best when I love what I’m wearing. Audrey Hepburn said, “Why change? Everyone has his own style. When you have found it, you should stick to it.”
As the seasons turn and you pull out your favorite boots, chunky sweater and that fabulous scarf you bought on sale, whether fashion is your thing, or you could care less about it, remember, “A personal style is like a handwriting-it happens as the byproduct of our way of seeing things, enriched by the experiences of everything around us” according to Mossimo Vignelli, and I couldn’t agree more!