Fashion Sewing & Wardrobe, Ruminating

MEDITATIONS ON DEFINING STYLE

This is going to be an intensely personal post. You’ve been warned…

The great Wardrobe Architect series on the Coletterie blog has me thinking deeply about my style this week. I’m really digging the order and logic Sarai is applying to something that is inherently emotional, personal and hard to quantify.

A clear definition of my personal “sense of style” has always alluded me, especially when limited to a few buzz words like “boho”, “minimalist”, “classic” etc. Whenever I’ve came across one of those “Are you an Audrey, Jackie or Cher?” style quizzes, I’ve always fallen squarely in the middle of, well, everything. My inner Audrey, Jackie and Cher are all crammed up in here, and it gets REALLY confusing when we need to get dressed in the morning. (FYI, feather headdresses do NOT go with everything).

I love fashion in a way that informs my life, deeply. I’m the weirdo who pauses movies to take photos of costumes, and waxes rhapsodic about Joaquin Phoenix’s high-waisted pants for days after seeing Her (such a brilliant choice). I’ve always been consumed with clothing; what it signifies, how it allows you to present a dimension of yourself to the external world. Often, the choices I made saw me straining against the mold I was forced into by my circumstances.

In high school, I was a bit of a wannabe badass. Forced to wear a Catholic uniform at school, in my off time I was listening to Hole & Nirvana, trying to buy cigarettes (memorably, one time in a trench coat, head scarf and vintage shades in the hope that my Jackie Oh look made me appear older), writing truly terrible poetry and crushing on skater boys and (secretly, confusedly, passionately) the high school quarterback. Aesthetically, this translated into a grunge/riot grrrl anti-fashion cloak I wore proudly for years. Because I turned my nose at the designer clothes worn by most kids my age, I was able to carve out a unique-to-me identity that wasn’t part of the homogenous whole.

When I moved out at 18, I started working full time in an auto factory. I was living on my own, going out all the time and making more money than I knew how to spend. My fashion memories from this period are a hazy mix of thrift store vintage and trashy 90’s mall junk. Knee-high pleather boots, tight black jersey and lots of cleavage, with a ratty lamb coat thrown on for patina. Looking back, it was clear I was pushing back against the working class culture I was immersed in. I was aiming for glamour, but the end result was a small town facsimile of sophistication. A footnote in a John Cougar Mellencamp song.

Leaving my blue collar town for a more cosmopolitan city, my style shifted and evolved frequently as I tried to figure out who I was and where I was going. Looking back, I remember my hip hop b-girl period (including Erykah Badu inspired headwraps from old white t-shirts), my menswear dandy phase (Cravat? check, Kangol? check), and the Visa-broke boho era of layers and lockets, rolling around town on a third hand bike trying not to let my fluttering hems get caught in the spokes. And for a large part of my 20’s, I lived in black. It was only after I started design school 8 years ago that I started to be really adventurous with colour & print (I haven’t posted a single black garment in 3 years of blogging but that may change as I’ve kind of got back together with the ol’ man. Black is the new black. It feels fresh after ignoring it for so many years….)

This evolution is still happening, continually inspired as I am by film, art, blogs, trends. I’m finally truly comfortable in my skin, and while what I choose to wear is governed randomly by my hormones, the weather, my relationship status, or what group of friends I’m spending the most time with, I’m settling into something that feels like me, or at least a few versions of me.

I have a secret. There are really three Heathers.

9-5 Heather is a J. Crew via Jenna Lyons devotee. For the office it’s vintage blouses, skinny trousers, pencil skirts, jewel toned sheath dresses, loads of costume jewelry. Quirky, colourful, classic. A lazy day is an oversize men’s oxford shirt and a silk scarf.

Cuddle/Cottage Heather likes domestic luxury. Leggings and oversize cashmere sweaters, silk slips, suede moccasins, accessorized with a cup of tea and a french braid. Monochromatic and minimalistic comfort.

Night Heather gorges on Icing. It’s tight, or short, slit to here or cinched and full skirted, war paint on, high heels, let’s party. A handmade, low-budget Carrie Bradshaw. She makes a dress for every occasion and needs to take a cab home.

The baseline thumping through all of these me’s is an almost exaggerated femininity. Growing up in a rowdy house of older brothers, I had a small epiphany recently when I realized I go full femme to counteract the inner tomboy with the big mouth who swears too much and still tries to wrestle with her siblings. The femme-y ying balances out my trucker mouth yang. Wearing a sexy dress makes me feel confidant that even when I’m bellicosely arguing a political point, or playing poker with my Shit Talk on, or laughing at crass jokes, I’m still very much a woman. I need the contrast to feel balanced.

The other undying theme is a love for vintage. I’ll never be a true blue head-to-toe retro girl, but I have always loved mixing it with more modern pieces. I have some pretty amazing stuff I’ve collected over the years, and now it’s simple for me to recreate silhouettes that fit perfectly out of the finest materials. That love will never change. I’ll probably be 80 years old in a New Look party dress, yelling at the orderlies to fluff my skirts while I watch my stories in the old folks home.

I have some mood boards I’ve been working on, but I may share them next week so I don’t overshare all at once. Have a wonderful weekend and I hope you have a lovely day, either treating yourself or someone special to you with lots of love.