Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Don't be Afraid to Have Style

Have you ever received negative messages about the things that you love? In my life there have been two things that I've received some real negative messages about: style and performance. I'll talk about performance another day but with my wardrobe consultation coming up Thursday, my mind's on style.

Ever since I was a little girl, I loved clothes. I remember my red shirt with the frills down the front, my pink blouse with the ballooning sleeves, my crazy yellow oxfords, my red skater dress with the twirling skirt - all of these I wore in public school. I remember spending hours pouring over pattern books my mom brought home, choosing from each page which sleeve I liked best, which collar, which length, expressing my preferences and honing my taste. Clothing was a daily act of creative self-expression.

I don't just remember how my clothes looked. I remember how I felt in them - both how outfits amped up a particular aspect of my personality and also how they sensually felt against my skin. The mood of a flouncy skirt and sandals was so different from a pencil skirt and heels - and I loved them both. Over time, my changing wardrobe expressed different periods of my life. They represented me as a dancer, as a student, as an artistic director, as a club chick.

It came as a shock to me in grade 7 when I discovered that clothes could also define your status, and that people could use clothes to pigeonhole you. That was antithetical to my take on fashion but it was certainly a popular view. Over time, it also became clear that in many people's view, being concerned with fashion meant that you were materialistic, superficial and quite likely, a snob. And if that wasn't bad enough, we all know the impact that a limited view of beauty has had on the self-esteem and confidence of countless women and girls!

How could I in good conscious love fashion?

I think the answer comes in taking a stand for love. It's crucial to our expression of ourselves that we be allowed to love what we love. Fashion can be a way of expressing our love for colour, for texture, for shape. With fashion we can celebrate our uniqueness, our sexiness, our sensibilities, our sense of humour. Where fashion turns against us is when we let someone else dictate what is loveable and what is not, the latter often being our poor, tender bodies.

So many wonderful things in this world can turn into cages when they're accompanied by 'shoulds.' Fashion, work and life can all become oppressive when we feel we must follow rules that someone else prescribes. And fashion, work and life can be fulfilling and expressive when we define for ourself what is beautiful, what expresses our sensibilities and our spirit.

So, don't be afraid to have style...

Your style.

By the way, the site I used to come up with my wardrobe inspiration board is Polyvore and it could be a fun way to create a dreamboard. Full Moon Dreamboards are coming up on July 7th. If you're in Toronto, I'm hosting a live Dreamboard Circle on Sunday, July 5th. You can find out more here. You can email me at jamie(at)openthedoor(dot)ca for details or to RSVP.


Anonymous said...

Think about couture fashion -- it's more like architecture! And it is so obviously "high art!"

This is such a HUGE topic. We are allowed to be playful and creative in EVERY act of expression.

I remember very clearly the day this stopped for me.

I had always dressed differently -- like you, through high school and into college. In high school, I even wore hats! Yes, public school.

In college, I continued to dress up. Until the day a boyfriend told me I should just stick to jeans and sweatshirts like everyone else. Why did I have to look so fancy?

At 19, that hit me like a punch.

And crazy! I am STILL trying to recover this part of me.


Suzie the Foodie said...

You have always had a ton of style and this comes from someone who used to borrow your clothes...a lot! LOL. I think there is a difference between love of clothes and an obsession with fashion. Fashion as status, bites. Wearing clothes for fun because you love them, rocks. Wear what you love and be happy.

Thanks to Circe's Circle I am getting a better understanding of my personal style. My only issue is I never get to go out so why bother buying the clothes? Maybe one day I will be able to do more than just stay home. Today I am happy in yoga pants, a cotton t and barefeet.

mermaid musings said...

wonderful! love this! and clothes and of course, style!
hugs to you and please keep writing and being this way.
I actually need to say that I printed your profile and give it to my daughter to read, i think it was great the point you make about saying how you decided to be you (i think this was in the wish studio blog?) I thank you for what you share, and the challenges, too, for sure, thank YOU!

Tori said...

I, personally, have never understood fashion. I guess part of it is my family, and part of it is where I live. Jeans and a t-shirt are the norm for everyone around me. I'm okay with that, I like it. =) But now I'm going to school in September for Restaurant Management so I am required to wear white button up shirts and black dress pants. Yikes! I'm going shopping this weekend- for clothes- so I'm going to have an adventure!

I'm glad that you decided not to listen to the negative messages about your love of clothes. If you love it then that's all that matters!

Heather Plett said...

My 13 year old daughter has a real passion for clothes (she wants to be a fashion designer) and it's made me realize the baggage that I'm carrying with me on this issue. I want to affirm her passion, but at the same time, I'm holding back a bit because I know all the negative stuff that can come along with it.

peppylady said...

I’m pretty much in free spirit when it comes to fashion. It depend were I’m at in ones mood.
Like today I want something simple and easy. I had a bit of up sit stomach. So I got on jeans (elastic band) and tee shirt.
But it bothers me when people were mismatch patterns in there clothing.
But I’m actual more interested in home d├ęcor.

All in all I can put a fairly nice outfit together.
Coffee is on.

Judi said...

I know that this will shock you - but I'm a bit of a fashion rebel myself. Really!!

I live what you're saying - certain styles bring out different aspects of your spirit.

I currently get a kick out of wearing my Tinkerbell Tee with jeans and moccasins .... cause I'm too old for them!!! But I also enjoy throwing on black dress pants, heals and a silky white blouse with a pinstripe vest.

Dress to express yourself.

Holly said...

Having always been a woman of a certain size, I've always had a battle with clothes. And, I've learned to pretty much ignore them. When I was working every day in an office, regardless of my size, I always had a professional style. Was complimented on my clothing. I worked as an upper middle manager and V.P.

As a consultant in the marketing and communications professional, I had the freedom to be more expressive in my fashions. It was almost expected of me since the client was hiring me for my 'creative genius,' so to speak.

I still always like to look good when I'm seen in public. Even though I will never be close to a fashionable woman.

As to your passion for fashion?
Fashion is living art.

And, you are an artist, after all, my dear.

I used to tell the people who reported to me, and to my students, "Dress for the position you want to hold, not the one that you presently occupy."

Fashion can move you forward professionally, or hold you static in the opinions of others about your ability.

It's not fair, perhaps, but we judge through our eyes first. And, that's the hard truth of fashion.

SO endth the lesson. Nice post, Jamie!

Melinda said...

hum...I don't think I have a style other than "comfortable" and I realize that is probably not ideal anymore. I work from home...spend most of my time at home....so some days I do not even get out of my PJs!

I am not so hung up on clothes and never have been hung up on shoes...I am pretty low maintenance. Give me a man's shirt and comfy jeans and I am good to go.

However...the ME I see in my mind's eye is different. IN real life years ago I did dress more like what I see in my mind. I don't anymore. Not sure if it is because my body image has been depleted and I don't feel the same about myself anymore...or lack of funds or both....and to top it all off...I do not really go too many places anymore outside the home or family visits...so maybe the need is not really there.

Perhaps this is why I am still single....

and now with all this deep thinking on top of deep thinking I had already been doing......my brain is cramping

Girlie-Queue said...

OMG, thanks so much for posting this. You totally rocked me back to the days immediately before I entered the 2nd grade (aged 7 years). My Mom and Godmother had taken me garage sale hopping one Saturday afternoon and I found the most *EXCELLENT* shoes...multicoulored, mismatching bowling shoes...they were fabulous. I loved them immediately. My Mom asked, "are you sure?" And I emphatically said, "yes!" So, there I am, on my first day of school wearing my most fabulous shoes and everyone (even the worst picked-on kids) pointed and made fun of my shoes...I was broken hearted and never wore them again except in my bedroom....

So totally right - I never remembered what I wear, just how it makes me feel...and I want those bowling shoes back :) Cause they made me feel spiffy.

Tess said...

In my 20s and 30s, when I was thinner, I used to use clothing as weapon, message and to delineate roles: stay away, fun, fuck you, arty girl, status, seduction, hippie chick, executive etc etc.

My clothing choice was very, very deliberate and thought through to the nth degree. Nothing spontaneous about it.

Now what I wear is more utilitarian, but I think I'd have to undergo a personality transplant before you'd ever see me in a pattern (other than the occasional stripe) or anything overtly feminine.

Mmmm, maybe I need to think about that.

Erin Hoffman said...

Hi Jamie. :) I clicked over to your blog to see what was up with your web launch and found and enjoyed this post.

One of the things we're dealing with in the kids' game space right now actually is related to this. There's a dominant notion in society now that liking "things" fuels our "consumerist society", that it's buying into the man, keeping classes separate, etc, etc. This sentiment is being echoed across our online world space as a condemnation of games like Club Penguin or Gaia Online that allow kids to have "things" -- where the majority of what they want to do is acquire favorite objects and show them to their friends. While I've never been fashion-oriented (though this is something I've been opening up in my life in the last year or so as a neglected part of my personality), I sympathize with the anti-consumerist mindset, and it's certainly an important thing to consider socially, that we don't require people to be defined by what objects they possess -- but when I encountered this mentality recently at a conference I was really taken aback at how this reflects an intensely derogatory judgmental projection at the kids in these worlds.

I'm very much of the Steven Johnson/Gerard Jones approach of looking deeply into the things that drive us, and asking WHY they drive us -- not just assuming that because our popular IDEAS (which are as much fads as clothing, something we tend to forget) say one thing that we must reject our human nature. And there is something in the notion of appreciating WHY we are drawn to things like fashion, style, visual image -- it is very much, as you say, tied to personal expression, which is such an important thing for a child to develop, and such a natural desire.

I'm working on a blog post to this effect aimed at the games and academic groups, addressing this issue of consumerism -- as usual, the answer is to have compassion, and understand the so-valuable things that drive us. Apathy is the enemy -- when we find something that motivates us, we need to harness it and use it as an engine to achieve the greater goals in our lives. Condemning a desire for personal style or fashion, condemning the natural human expressive (and even possessive) desire, is counterproductive because it ignores this potentially powerful and life-enabling engine.

Gretchen Wegner said...

Jamie! This is delicious. I love hearing your lifestory in regards to fashion. I've never thought about MY journey in that regard, but now you've got me thinking... I'm definitely going to check Polyvore out, too.

Joanna Jenkins said...

I love fashion but fashion doesn't exactly love me. I have a hard time looking "pulled together" so I tend to wear a basic boring "uniform" of sorts. Lots of jeans and tailored blouses (yawn) but I do have great shoes and handbags. I'm working on the rest :-)
I'm new to our blog via Holly/What your Mother didn't tell you. i'll be back again soon!