When Fashion is a Calling

April 17, 2011

It appeared to occur so naturally, organically.  1984. A snowy, cold Christmas morning.  I awoke to find multiple presents laying under the tree, two of which were filled with clothes. In one box was the most hideous outfit you have ever seen, a polyester suit, heavy and the ugliest pink.  I remember my mother making me try it on.  As the fabric hit my skin, I wanted to rip it off.  As I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror , that suit stared back at me.  The revulsion rose up from my stomach, to my heart, and finally my brain. I could not take that outfit on my body any longer. Just when I thought it must come off, I heard my mother begging from the living room to get a picture of the “wonderful suit.”  The pain in that smile lives on forever.

After I pulled off the ridiculous outfit, I opened my next present.  I shrieked in delight.  It was a blue sweatsuit. All over the sweats (pants and hoodie) were triangle sized zippers.  As I began to unzip, the brightest colors came bursting out.  Each zipper revealed a different neon color, a collection of tiny triangles all over the sweatsuit, each color more vibrant than the next.

This was my birth of becoming a fashionista.

You see, I had always loved clothes.  Princess dresses, jewelry, my favorite skirt. But this was the moment that I realized there were good clothes and bad clothes.  That clothes were not fashion or style, but simply the avenue in which one gets there.

Once this realization was made, I attempted to save my allowance and begged my parents give me money to spend at TJ Maxx, Burlington Coat Factory. I would search those aisles for the best deals, styles, and finds for the elementary, middle schooler, and high schooler I was. Seventeen magazine became my bible, with the September issue being my god. I couldn’t wait for school to start, only because I couldn’t wait for school clothes shopping. I would meticulously think and ponder . What would that first outfit look like? The mixing and matching would crowd my brain.

In college, I went off the deep end for Gwen Stefani.  I became a punk rock princess.  I needed to have her clothes, her rock hard abs, her incredible platinum hair, everything. My magazine habit became out of control: Vogue, Elle, Lucky, InStyle, and Allure.  Lucky and Instyle became the practical pages full of sticky notes. Vogue, the artistic mind trip down fashion lane.

Now years later, being a professional mom, when everything could take a backseat to my family, career, and getting older, fashion has become more expressive and exciting than any other time in my life.  I’m in a place where I feel confident, about my style and body.  Fashion is freeing and easy.  It has become a sensory experience like no other.

If any of this sounds vaguely familiar, then this is your story as well. The stores, inspirations, and role models might be different, but the feeling remains the same. Fashion is in our blood and oozes from our pores. It’s what makes us swoon over Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford.  Mourn when Alexander leaves us too soon.  Gush with delight when Karl brings out lion statues and giant fountains.  We know why Rachel fired Taylor, we cried when Brad left, and rejoiced to hear he got his own show. And understand that Grace Coddington is the artist behind Vogue.

We know what it’s like to be different and stand out, to be scared and proud all at once.  We are teachers, waitresses, assistants, secretaries, business owners, dentists, doctors, professors, baristas, and accountants. The regular guys and girls not working in fashion, but dream of leaving it all to do it.

Each week I’m going to give our perspective, the “born with it” crowd. This is what it means to be proud about loving the art of fashion, to never feel guilty or strange. All of us have a strikingly similar story on our fashion path, the rise and fall of each personal fashion moment. We may all look different, but deep down we are the same.  We are the fashionistas, unite.

Much Love,

Harper Leo

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