Today, my outfit was a soft pair of light pink chenille pants paired with a black blazer, blouse with a tie, and kitten heels. I felt like being dressy. Yesterday, I wore bell-bottom camel-colored pants with a peach-colored sweater, comfortable and easy. And the day before it was a long black skirt with super-high wedge black boots for an added edge. There was a moment this morning as I was getting dressed, when I asked myself if it was okay that my outfit today was so different from the one I wore yesterday. I actually started to question myself – isn’t it weird to dress so differently, one day from another? But then … I came to my senses! Fashion isn’t about sticking with a theme or dressing of one attitude one day to the next. Fashion is about self expression and allowing your clothes on the outside to reflect your mood on the inside. Who feels the same way every day?
It’s okay to present one version of yourself one day, and another version the next. It’s no big commitment, either – easy to change, easy to update – just a chance to express yourself for the day. This is simply, fashion versatility!
It was five years ago, the summer of 2012; I was starting Turning Fashion Inside Out and I met a lovely young woman named Farnoosh. Farnoosh shared her story about coming to the United States from Iran – with her parents and two sisters – and how they had to make adjustments to living in a completely new country and a new world. At that time, she was 12 years old and had to learn to fit in to a middle school environment which is not easy for any young person, let alone someone from Iran. She told me that initially, she chose to find her way through the clothes she wore. It was the first interview when I knew that we are all connected by our daily armour of clothing and our self expression, and when I truly understood the mission of my stories on TFIO. Five years later and Farnoosh is learning that she cannot travel to Iran, her home country, to visit her family. She is heartbroken. And I am heartbroken for her. I wish her and her family the chance to return to Iran very soon. I pull this story from my TFIO archives, and share again, Farnoosh’s story, as told to me in 2012. Here is Farnoosh:
“I always try to keep my style simple yet sophisticated.” Farnoosh
You meet Farnoosh and she looks like a typical American 22 year-old. Yes, she lives in America, and yes she is 22, but Farnoosh’s story is not typically American. Rather, it is other-worldly. The other side of the world, in fact, because Farnoosh was born in Iran and lived there until she was twelve years old. That is when she and her mother and father and two older sisters came to live in The United States. It was not her decision to come to America; “I was a little girl – I did not want to leave.” Farnoosh was living happily in Iran, in a city called Isfahan. She had her friends and her life, but her parents had three girls and they knew that their future would be limited if they stayed.
The year was 2002; it was not an easy time to be from Iran and move here, so soon after September 11th. It was certainly not easy for a pre-teen girl about to enter 7th grade and couldn’t speak a word of English. The first few years were very rough for Farnoosh – she remembers her Aunt (who had been living here already) picking out clothes for her, because she knew nothing about American fashion. Continue reading →
To look at Jess and me is to see two very different people. Jess is a 16 year-old high school junior with an edgy look of youth and fearlessness. I am a 56 year-old woman in the middle of my life, with a less-than-edgy look but a strong desire to push boundaries. The thought that the two of us can connect on any level is questionable. But then it happens. We start to speak. Jess tells me how fashion has changed her life and given her confidence and courage. And Jess tells me about her ritual of selecting her clothes for the next day the evening before. And then I knew that we have a lot more that connects us. I knew that we are not bound by our ages or our appearance or life experience. I knew that we are, in fact, soul sisters. Because like Jess my clothes are my salvation and the most important way I express myself. And because I also pick out my clothes the night before. I asked Jess about her story of expression and evolution …
“I never thought very much about fashion until the 7th grade. That was the year that I started to window shop with my best friend and she and I began to play with clothes, and have fun dressing up. That gave us both a feeling of confidence. Freshman year of high school was tough for me – I was very shy and didn’t have many friends. But something happened in my sophomore year that changed my life. I started taking a fashion class at FIT in New York; this class made me think that fashion can change what you think about yourself. The teacher talked about the importance of clothing and self expression and I began to believe it.I started to dress up and experiment with my style. I began to dress for school and to get compliments about my choices. It was such a nice feeling … Continue reading →
This week I was reminded of something my mother taught me: when it comes to clothing, almost good enough is not good enough for you! I had purchased a turtleneck sweater (my favorite piece of clothing!) in a deep, lush eggplant purple. It was part lambswool and the color and feel were divine. But there was one thing wrong – it was a longer, tunic style. I don’t wear tunics. I tried to imagine how I could shorten it, speaking to friends and experts. What it came down to was that it wouldn’t look right after altering it and I would be left with a less-than-perfect sweater. I then tried to see myself in a tunic and style it in various ways. It became clear – I was putting too much thought and effort into this. The thrill was gone. I returned the sweater and exchanged it for a a gray-knit dress that was more ‘me.’
You should love what you own. Truly love it. When you are shopping for something new, make sure it is worthy of you. Make sure that it brings out the best in you. Make sure it is as special as the things you already own (which hopefully are worthy of you, too!). If not and if you don’t love it, then lose it! My mother was right.
The earring police? Too often we tell ourselves when it comes to accessories; if it’s too big, too bold, too different from our usual, and even too age-inappropriate, we shouldn’t try. In these moments we are forgetting the most important thing about fashion: it is all about self expression and sometimes that means stepping out of our comfort zone. Especially when we really love something. These purple drop earrings designed by talented artist Heather Duetsch caught my eye – and there is no reason why I should hesitate to wear them – especially if the price is right. Inspired by the dramatic jewelry worn by style icon Diane von Furstenberg, I ditched my usual simple, button style earrings for something much more playful. Try it – step out and dangle a little!
Nina MacLaughlin Photo Credit: Jonah James Fontela
Nina MacLaughlin’s story is unexpected and inspiring. When Nina quit her job as a journalist, she had no idea what she would do next. A job on Craigslist as a carpenter’s assistant with the tagline: ‘women strongly encouraged to apply’ peaked her interest. With no formal training, Nina did apply and got the job! Since then Nina has been perfecting the trade and working as a carpenter in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Now, coming full circle as a carpenter and as a writer, Nina has chronicled her experience in her new memoir, Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter. Nina is busy with the launch of her book, but took time to speak with me about her life-changing experience and why mascara is her new friend …
MKG: How long have you been working as a carpenter? Do you love it?
NINA: I’ve been working as a carpenter for the last six years. I’ve found that the satisfaction that results from building a deck, for example, or a set of bookshelves, is one of the deepest I’ve experienced. Carpentry is consistently challenging, and there is so much left to learn. Some days I love it. Some days are sweaty and dirty and boring. Like any job, there are stretches when it’s incredible, and stretches when it’s tedious. I’m grateful to have the combination of writing and carpentry in my life; for me, the two compliment each other very well.
MKG: What surprised you most about being a carpenter?
NINA: I didn’t anticipate how powerful the satisfaction of building would be. That continues to boggle my mind. I had a sense it would be rewarding, but had no idea how much so. Continue reading →
I saw many changes in my son, Eric, when he came home for Thanksgiving. His first year at college is bringing great signs of independence and a new sense of self and self expression. But the one change that caught my eye was his new-found sense of style. This once oh-so-casual-dresser now loves wearing khakis and flannel shirts – keeping it neat and simple. Just a few years ago I couldn’t beg him to dress in khakis, except for holiday occasions and now he tells me that he prefers this way of dressing.
The interesting part in this fashion equation is that I am not a part of it. This all evolved without me. Left on his own, Eric has found his style (style of the moment, at least) without any interference or participation on my part. That is because how we choose to dress belongs to us. When left alone we learn what we like and don’t like and what feels best. And college is the perfect time to figure that out. As a grownup, I seem to recall that I found my own style during the college years. As a parent, I am blown away by the many transitions and moments of letting go that are weaving in and out of my life. As a lover of fashion, I am moved by the reminder that clothes are personal and our singular stamp of identification.
“The fashion world is focused on how you look. I’m focused on how you feel.” ~ Kathleen Baxley, Creator of Mere Basics
One thing that entrepreneurs seem to have in common (aside from their fearlessness) is their ability to find solutions to problems. That is exactly what Kathleen Baxley did a few years ago, when she developed her line of luxury underpinnings, called Mere Basics. After spending twenty-five years in corporate America, mostly working on Wall Street, Kathleen would find a new city (Seattle), and a new purpose; helping women feel good about themselves from underneath. You will be inspired by Kathleen’s story …
MKG: You were not always involved in fashion and design. What did you do in your former life?
KB: I started out in magazine publishing and although I loved that and the creative aspect of the job, it was financially limiting. As a next step, I went to Stanford Business School, and from there ended up working in Investment Banking on Wall Street. Continue reading →
Happy NY Fashion Week! For a brief moment, I was a fashion insider when I attended the presentation of Daniel Silverstein’s Fall 2014 Collection. Yet, tradition lured me back to Lincoln Center, for my bi-annual outdoor photo during NY Fashion Week. A call to action, NY Fashion Week says to me: stay alert, dress your best and remember that fashion should be fun. Furthermore, Fashion Week means taking fashion risks and being more fashion daring. Even if I have to do it while dodging icy bullets and freezing temps.
Being twelve years old isn’t easy. And I imagined, being a twin twelve year-old is challenging, too – a twin and a tween. But that was before I met Lindsay and Lauren. And their mother, Victoria. Because these twelve year-old sisters are growing up with a sense of confidence and grace. And their mother, Victoria, is supporting them in the very best way. I sat down with all three ‘girls’ to talk about life and fashion and why, as Victoria notes, shopping for a pre-teen is “very difficult” and “takes a lot of research.” Hey fashion brands – are you listening??
MKG: What is it like to be a twin? Do you dress like your sister or do you express yourself individually?
Lindsay/Lauren: Being a twin feels normal; it’s the only thing we’ve known. And we are friends with a lot of twins so that feels normal, too. We try to be individual but we do share clothes and end up dressing similarly much of the time. Our style is somewhat preppy because we like to dress simply. Continue reading →