After all my highfalutin’ about spectrums and experimentation, ol’ Mother Nature has offered up a rather poignant reminder of how much influence our environment, be it cultural, political, or meteorological, has over our outward expression of self. However, we must not allow these restrictions to thwart us in our personal style journey – note jaunty angle of scarf. From hemmed school kilts to stylish hijabs, there is always room for personalization. Plus, fogged glasses grant a person total freedom from outside judgment – although it might be nice to bloody well see where I’m going!
How do you engage with the world? Our clothing plays a major role in communicating the nature of our engagement with both society and ourselves. Generally, those who dress ‘fashionably’ have the most to gain from being perceived as ‘plugged in’ to their culture (ie: Vogue interns), while ‘style’ is more an expression of a person’s confident engagement with self (Vogue’s Grace Coddington). It’s no coincidence that the most successful people (according to our culture’s standards) exhibit a combination of both (ie: Michelle Obama).
Yesterday’s outfit was a preliminary experiment in engagement. Which is to say, I wore a blazer around downtown Calgary. Sure, I still had on my jeans and Nike baseball cap, but by replacing my hoodie with a fitted brown velvet blazer, the look was entirely transformed. Not only did I immediately become more conscious of my posture in the structured jacket, but there was also a marked increase in public attention (from both men and women). I felt suddenly more conspicuous, and at the same time, somehow more involved with my streetmates. It was as if they wanted to recognize me as one of their business-class clan, which, of course, would open the door to my being judged by their standards. It was an odd feeling, and I’m not sure yet if I’m open to living it daily. I’ve always relished my role as an observer, especially being a writer, but there’s a power in setting yourself up as an equal – a power that must be explored…
How would you define your personal style? Stop what you’re doing and take a peek in your closet…
“Self Imposed Utilitarianism,” was how I described my current style status to a ‘Funky Eclectic’ friend recently. “Why?” she asked, with obvious concern. I mooned on about the after-effects of high school uniforms and about never understanding why Goths and Emos are always so eager for public abuse.
Truly, I’ve never been able to muster much sympathy for people who expect humanity to throw eons of intrinsic human nature to the wind just because little Gregory wants to ‘express’ himself. If you look different – you get treated different… not rocket science here people. Why fight a basic survival principle? Of course, running screaming from it hasn’t gotten me very far either.
I’ve always lived my rebellion on the inside, keeping its gestation safe from outside assault. Before my adult uniform of jeans plus solid-colored top, my plaid kilt and white oxford shirt kept the fashion pressure to a minimum in high school and let me blend into a wide variety of peer groups without ever having to label myself. In an interesting aside: my marks shot up a full 10% when I switched from skirt to navy dress pants in grade twelve. It remains a mystery whether this was because my teachers assumed that I was suddenly, spontaneously, more credible, or simply because I happen to be someone who learns better with warm knees. We’ll never know…
I did, however, let loose for school dances in wild fringed party dresses of my own (not so Catholic school girl) design. I’m still shocked the chaperones never kicked me out! Ah yes, no one ever suspects the band geek in gold lamé… but really, as everyone knows, we’ve got the glass slipper market cornered! And so, pour moi, up to now, fashion has always been about the occasion, about picking the day/night’s character and maxing it out. But what about day to day? Now that I’ve comfortably defined my own character, I’m certainly not about to condemn her to a lifetime of Self Imposed Utilitarianism – the horror!
Note: I made this sketch as a handy, albeit excessively nerdy, shopping aid – Stay tuned.
Despite the dust in one eye, the redness and squinting. Despite my lifeless ponytail and lack of concealer. Despite the scotchtape holding my glasses together. Despite the cyclist who bawled me out on the bikepath this morning, when I was only trying to give him MORE room. Despite everything, I went ahead and waved my wand in front of the office bathroom mirror.
For the first time, I understand why lipstick sales spiked during World War II. My lipgloss isn’t about conformity, it’s a rebellion. I’m taking a stand against entropy. Beauty doesn’t have to be the final touch. It can be the beginning – a tough revelation for any perfectionist.
Every “Despite” up there can be changed to a “Because.” This simple switch in semantics gives us back our power. Rather than victims of circumstance, just trying to catch up, we move up to the offensive line. Besides, who wouldn’t want to start off the day with a little taste of ‘rasberry sorbet’.
Ah yes, my ears are still ringing with the roar of the arena. Russell Crowe, circa 2000 AD, muscles bulging under sweat oiled brown skin, soaks the hot sand of the Colosseum with the blood of his enemies. Sure, we all wanted a piece of him (oops, I mean of the action), but was anyone really thinking “ooooo I’d love a pair of those sandals. What delightful footwear, so stylish and eminently practical.”? While it’s true that the gladiator sandal is the go-to shoe when it comes to protecting your shins from those pesky 5th Avenue gladius weilding dog walkers, Mondrian themed tan lines are not the best way to accessorise your vintage Yves Saint Laurent.
The gladiator sandal trend has followed the classic pattern. Just like when learning a brand new word, the trend always looks awkward and ungainly the first few times you see it in action. But then it slowly worms its way into your vocabulary, and before you know it, you start seeing sentences (and short black jersey dresses) that just wouldn’t look right with anything else.
For those of us in the “know”, the gladiator has already begun to look (how do I put this?) “un peut passé”. It’s time to move on to other synonyms. It’s time to get in tight with its relatives. It’s time to stop messing around with these metaphors and get down to business.
So then what do we put on our feet? You can go with a more subtle version of the trend, or my favorite alternative: flat (or slight wedge) heel, and a non-superfluous system of dark leather straps featuring a bronze embellished T-strap and a single ankle strap (set low on the ankle to visually maximize leg length). I’d link to a pair, but I’m still hunting for them ; )
The best part of the gladiator trend is its irony. Thousands of New York (and millions of american)fashionistas have wholeheartedly embraced a trend with decidedly middle eastern roots. The saying “to understand someone, walk a mile in their shoes” has never been more apropo. But it’s too late for the one pair of feet that really matter. If Hillary was still in the race, America might have a chance. Cultural understanding starts from the ground up (heehee possibly literally in this case). But something tells me Barack wouldn’t be too gung-ho about strapping his calves into these puppies. Someone should remind him, or Mccain (if that’s how it pans out), that the greatest warriors in history were, like, so, all over the gladiator trend in their day. The Coloseum’s arena was oval wasn’t it *wink*
(comic source: fashionista.com)