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
Photo: Kim Naci
It’s a dilemma for sure, but not in the way you would imagine. One of the joys of dressing has always been the spontaneity of it. I dress to express myself, to match my inner feelings with my outer shell – always in the moment. Since starting my full-time job however, (I just celebrated my one year anniversary!), waiting to choose what to wear for the morning has become really stressful for me. And so I force myself to think about it the night before. Sometimes there are last-minute decisions about shoes or other accessories, but for the most part, I have let go to make room for a less stressful morning. Like many of us who work full-time, drinking that first cup of coffee is about the only thing possible in the morning!
Photo: Kim Naci
Photo by Lauren Hagerstrom
There is a reality to my life: every moment, every day, every event – comes down to one question … what shall I wear? I dress for work – what shall I wear? I am invited to a party – what shall I wear? I take a college tour with my younger son – what shall I wear? I move my older son to college – what shall I wear? Small moments – big moments – all moments of my life – I am thinking about what to wear. It’s never been about shopping for the clothes. It’s about self expression and telling the story of my life and who I am in the world. Clothes are the way I do it. And eventually, these very choices will become my memories.
Photo of Jess, courtesy Jess
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
There were numerous, “I have to have that!” fashion moments watching Sex and the City; sometimes it was Miranda or Charlotte or Samantha, but mostly it was Carrie moments. She was over-the-top, yes, but I related to her fashion-forward style. Her pieces, especially her accessories, were unique and expressive – they identified her persona and character. Certain moments come to mind, especially those of Carrie wearing a series of flower pins. I had my own Carrie Bradshaw moment today when I added a vintage Dolce & Gabbana flower pin to my blazer – just for the fun of it. No one had seen anything like it and I was happy to wear something unique. Don’t be afraid to have a good time with your accessories; they are what set you apart from the crowd. They will give you that edge and confidence to be your most individual self. And that is what clothes do best.
Pin, Dolce & Gabbana; Blazer, Valentino; Blouse, Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti
Photo by Abrina
Alicia Keys at the BET Awards – Getty Images
“Look, I love makeup too. It’s about how you feel. It’s about who you are. It’s about just being who you are and not letting anyone tell you who you should be. Even this conversation shows our obsession of the standard we hold women.” – Alicia Keys
I have been drawn to this season of The Voice – and to Alicia Keys in particular. There is something about Keys: her warmth, her genuine encouragement, her appreciation of the artistry, and hearing her own voice. But there has been something more – I couldn’t put my finger on it until I finally realized – she wasn’t wearing makeup! What I didn’t know was that Keys made the announcement she would be going without makeup last May. Keys has explained that the decision came after years of growing as an artist and reaching a point where she felt content in her own skin: “I don’t want to cover up anymore.” The result has been incredibly inspiring to others.
Inspiring, too, is Keys’ skin regimen. W interviewed Keys’ longtime makeup artist, Dotty about what keeps it looking so fresh and beautiful. On the list was the use of oils and how it’s important not to be afraid of using them. “People get freaked out about oils. They think if they’ve got oily skin they don’t want oil,” Dotti complains. “But yes you do!” I agree wholeheartedly, and love using oils in my daily regimen. In fact, I have noticed a huge difference in my own skin.
I love how Alicia Keys is inspiring women everywhere to embrace who we are, just as we are!
Dr. Karen Rezach, Director of The Middle School and The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School
Having just celebrated the last day of summer marking the beginning of fall, my thoughts turn to the start of the school year and everything that means to parents and their children. Back-to-school shopping for clothes can be especially trying for teens and their parents.Three years ago I interviewed Dr. Karen Rezach, Director of the Middle School and The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School and we talked about the value of wearing school uniforms. I realize that our conversation is as relevant today as it was then. Much has changed in three years – the sons I reference are now 20 and 17! – but what hasn’t changed is the pressure that teens feel and how wearing uniforms can be a release from that pressure. I went into the TFIO archives to bring back this important conversation with Dr. Rezach … for you …
My two sons go to public schools; one is in 8th grade, the other is a senior in high school. They don’t wear school uniforms and I have been curious about what life would be like for them if they did. Especially for my younger son who is in his early teens and at an impressionable and vulnerable age. I spoke with Dr. Karen Rezach, Director of the Middle School and The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School, an all-girls school from Kindergarten through the 12th Grade. We talked about the role of uniforms and why they are so important for the self-image of the students of Kent Place School. Dr. Rezach also helped me to see why this is not just about clothing and the choices our children make. It goes much deeper. She is a formidable woman and I must confess that I was a bit nervous before our conversation but the minute we started talking, I knew that I had come to the right person:
MKG: Kent Place School has adopted a “uniforms with choice,” platform from Kindergarten through the 8th grade. How does that differ from a basic uniform?
Dr. Rezach: It’s a question of Kent Place School’s mission. Traditional uniforms were not in line with the mission of Kent Place to develop independent leaders. We chose to offer choice for our students; in the color of the tops and in the different styles of skirts and pants – offering the students a degree of self-expression as well as maintaining a sensitivity to all body types.
MKG: Why do you think wearing uniforms is so important, especially for girls and younger teens?
Dr. Rezach: There is so much pressure on young people today, everything is “Like Me” on Facebook. What kids are wearing becomes a big issue; they are often judged and made fun of. In addition, there is a broad-range of economic backgrounds among our student community which may affect clothing choices. And wearing uniforms creates a mindset for students and a seriousness of purpose to their academic study: They know they are in school and they are here to learn. For all of these reasons, wearing uniforms is a valuable aspect to their life at school. Continue reading
Photo Credit: Tim Hall via Getty Images
In Time Magazine’s poignant essay by Susanna Schrobsdorff, ‘The Daughter Dress Code‘ Ms. Schrobsdorff paints an accurate picture of what it means to be the mother of girls and dress them – only to be stripped of that part of the mothering job by their tween years, if not sooner. Says Schrobsdorff: “I knew there comes a time in every daughter’s life when whatever her mother chooses is absolutely, horribly awful. Eventually they all turn, and it is a sad day. Because the dirty secret of being the mother of little girls is that we kind of like dressing them up.”
As the mother of sons I never really had that particular sad day. I never had to deal with the notion that I see my daughter as an extension of myself, I never dressed up my own little doll, never had the emotional connection between clothes and identity, and never had the discussion about what is considered ‘age appropriate.’ Sure, I had to remind my boys to dress up a little more, that track pants were not meant to be worn every single day. But you cannot compare the experiences of being the mother of girls and the mother of boys.
I am a daughter, though, and one with a strong need for self expression. My own mother must have found tremendous courage mothering me. I often tell the story that by the time I was three years old my own mother could no longer dress me. My expression was my own and there was nothing she could do about it. But on the flip side, my mother’s opinions did matter to me and if she expressed concern over a certain outfit I did pause and consider changing. That’s the power of a mother but that’s a different story!
If you were to ask me about my favorite article of clothing I would always say – the sweater. I can’t think of anything else that says ‘this is my favorite way to be Melissa‘ than a cozy, chunky, fitted, sleek, colorful, plain, vibrant, sweater. It can be any of these things – the specifics don’t matter – it’s the fact that it’s a sweater that matters to me most. I feel the same way about sweaters now as I did when I was younger. A sweater is my forever go-to piece. Especially now, as the weather is cooling and fall is in season.
When I was a just-arrived freshman in college trying to find my way in a new environment and with a new set of people, it may not be a surprise to you that I turned to clothing for help. That first semester, the sweater became my foundation for self expression. Continue reading
My mother Claire, and me
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.