When I slipped into a squeaky desk seat, folded my patterned mini dress under my new leather tote, and took out my untouched notebook in my first fashion class, I felt I couldn't love clothes any more than in that moment. Here I was, listening to lectures on runway trends that sparked entire movements, as slides of Givenchy and Dries flicked on the projector. My classmates were sartorially fearless, my notes were dotted with "Wear it backwards? Try pairing with boots? Cut off the sleeves?" as I distractedly recorded their looks. Fashion was an art, one I could spend hours musing over, reading about, and creating in my own life.
And then I woke up from my daydream of Jean Paul Gaultier in the world of the business of fashion. Buying, selling, the mathematics that make it all work together, and then repeat. I became disenchanted with fashion when I was exposed to the mechanics that made it possible. Just another season, another mark up, and another reason for me to question why it ever mattered to me so much in the first place.
It's been years and a jaunt in Iowa later, and I'm finding myself gingerly reveling in fashion in a new way. Or should I say, style. Fashion will always be a business, a multi-billion dollar one, at that, but style remains holy. It's personal expression in the fullest sense-the versions of ourselves we drag out the door on a Tuesday morning onto the F train or the ones we practically dance up 2nd Avenue late on a Saturday night.
Paid sponsorships and fast fashion have tainted this art by making it more purchasable. But when I think of true style, it's never been about trends or attainability anyway. It's always about the person wearing the clothes, the character, not the wardrobe. She tucks in the button up a little crooked and cuffs her jeans haphazardly as she hails a cab on her way to a meeting with an investor. She leaves her hair untouched with only a swipe of red lipstick as she puts on Blue by Joni Mitchell for a dinner party in her apartment with friends.
Being in my early 20s, with what feels like nothing tying me to anything, clothing serves as anchor of expression. I don't have the space or a long enough lease to paint my walls or haul up a plush, velvet sofa. I don't have a car to tint the windows of (do people actually do this?) or serve as a status symbol. I have my clothes. They're my sense of surrounding.
And I'm animated to create a more honest version of my style by icons that have done so in the past. I used to copy pages from fashion books from the library in full color on our home printer, tape them into my journal, and score the page with what I adored about the look. The funny thing is, I still do, in a sense. What's fascinating is that the women I was reading about at seventeen are still my personal style guiding lights. I'm excited to dissect what it is that makes them, and as a result, their outfits, so endlessly inspiring.
They're pillars of what it means to create the lives we want, starting by dressing ourselves accordingly. In that case, I'll have what she's having.