Teaching Creative Writing – Linda LaRoche, Author, Editor and Instructor at CSN
What Was I Thinking?
I love clothes, always have, always will. My fashion education began before I stepped foot in school, by counting the number of dresses hanging in my closet; I had 17 and went to my father stating how important it was that I have 20, in my mind of rudimentary mathematics I knew adding to my closet was a must.
Fashion pars with my love of furniture and house wares but if I had to choose one, fashion would be the winner hands down. One of my current woes is that for the first time in my life I have no place to wear nice clothes, the kind that make you stand different, walk different, and feel different.
In the last decade, I went from ABS evening gowns and strappy Charles David high heels while rubbing elbows with Placido Domingo at the opera, to saucy Nanette Lepore suits to lunch at the Four Seasons. When that ended, I had another incarnation donning Marc Jacobs sheath dresses for restaurant publicity events and Betsey Johnson cocktail dresses for the Master Chorale concerts. Then desert life rolled in beating to another drum; the rhythm of Anthropologie tee-shirts http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/index.jsp and Hudson jeans paired with boots for a romp at Trader Joe’s, and a dash at the post office. I have had so many lives rolled into one.
For years my wardrobe held several categories; professional, play, week-end wear, and dressy, but now casual is the largest and only contender. Currently the only person who comments on my style or taste other than my husband is my friendly checker, Carol at the supermarket. Today’s cultural fashions intermingle play with comfort and I see public displays of track suits, gym-wear, torn up jeans and even pajamas–all unsightly. Their mother’s probably never told them once they step out their door– look presentable.
My style yearns for the Parisian way of life; where a woman can be a canvas and what she has on reflects her mood, her outlook. Fashion is an art, and reveals our priorities, our aspirations, our liberalism or our conservatism. It goes a long way satisfying emotional or complex emotional needs and clothes can gauge our conscious or unconscious feelings about ourselves and our environment sending off messages.
Character Miranda Priestly played by Meryl Streep in the Devil Wears Prada stings with a retort to her assistant, Andy played by Anne Hathaway after Andy snickers that fashion is inconsequential. Although Andy believes she is exempt from fashion, wearing a cerulean blue sweater she in fact is wearing a sweater selected for her by fashion-industry people that surround her. The effect of fashion filters down to everyone and the power of image plays into her life as well as our lives.
Despite my love of fashion, I have never been a keeper. As a minimalist I turn my nose up to the trends and buy designer labels gladly recycling them to a consignment shop, when I’ve worn them repeatedly. Masses of clutter- even fine clothes stuffed in a closet make me physically ill. And I will gladly take quality over quantity any day.
I like the neutral hue of gray mixed with beige and for spring orange with pink. I admire those whose style never dates or those who are or were unafraid to test fashion limits, such as Audrey Hepburn, Jane Birkin, Coco Chanel, Audrey Tautou, Victoria Beckham, and Jackie Kennedy.
In my love of fashion I have made two gigantic blunders that I laugh over now but then caused me to hyper-ventilate. Living in Germany in 1991, I visited Portugal and walked into a lovely empty boutique. Eyeballing an all white handbag collection, enthralled with a leather shoulder strap drawstring bag piped in tan trim by Andre Courreges, inventor of the mini-skirt, I mentally converted Escudos into Marks but forgot to transfer it into Dollars to estimate the cost. I simply handed the sales clerk my Visa and weeks later my knees went weak when I realized my designer handbag cost me $300.00!
With a distinct admiration for French couture that same year in autumn on a birthday trip to Paris, I was determined to buy myself a Cartier tank watch. Exasperated by the sum and the stubborn salesman that wouldn’t negotiate I turned around and walked into Agnes B. http://usa.agnesb.com/en/ and bought myself a few affordable separates. I popped into several other boutiques but nothing caught my eye until I was smitten with a black dress in a store window. Inside I marveled at it, touching it, it’s design was a geometric shape that came from the drape and flow of the fabric, it was truly an innovative piece of art and space-age inspired. So many ideas played into my head as I tried it on, fitting like a glove out triggered, “I’ll take it!” Getting caught in the fascination I neglected to do my math. My Issey Miyake dress cost a staggering $500.00.
Dressing up is great fun. We need to get back into it to create a difference between a sparkly occasion, and an ordinary day. People today are confused and no longer understand boundaries of what is proper to wear to a BBQ, a cocktail party, a funeral or a professional interview. Marked differences in attire fit for the occasion, season or the hour will make you feel comfortable, and denotes respect.
One last word for the fashion traveler- don’t leave home without your calculator!