When I was 7 years old, I carried around a red pleather square shaped purse on a long strap. In that purse, I had extra socks and underwear, a change of jewelry, some hair ties, a brush, Bonne Bell Lip Smackers (root beer flavored), crayons, and a sweater. Semper Paratus, ladies!
I remember wearing it with a blue leotard with snaps between the legs and a matching wrap tie skirt with white trim. And a hat. I wore this ensemble with a large, straw hat through which I would peer as I pulled the brim down low…
Fast forward to the summer of my 18th year, when I decided that since I would probably spend the rest of my days post college in and around the fashion capitol of the world, New York City, it was a brilliant idea to attend the University of Vermont. They had a Fashion Merchandising program that would be the perfect way to annoy my father, a dentist who preferred his children study something worthy like law or medicine. I would look at pretty mountains and grass for four years while learning everything I needed to know about fashion before returning to New York to start an illustrious career in “the industry”.
Never one not to at least consider participation in a trend, I found myself surrounded by “crunchy granola” Vermonters. College students are not known for their meticulous attention to style, let alone those in the Green Mountain state. I remember freshman year, trudging downtown for drinks every weekend in mohair Benetton sweaters, short skirts, tights, and over the knee suede booths. Sub zero temperatures be damned, I felt more comfortable in this than sweatshirts and Timberlands. Until….
It starts to seep in, the hippie culture. The crunchy girls, with their long blonde hair, baseball caps, birkenstocks and baja pullovers. “I can rock ripped jeans and a sweatshirt!”, I thought. Oh, and I did. For four shameful years I wore turtlenecks, the aforementioned ripped jeans, and sweatshirts. Lots of them. Emblazoned with college names. You see at 19, I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be a part of my surroundings, and apparently looking horrible was a requirement.
I emerged from college to begin a career in Fashion. Well, retail. I worked for Ralph Lauren just weeks after graduation and began my immersion into what I know like to call, “The Equestrian Years”. Lovers of design have the dubious pleasure of appreciating and finding the beauty in all styles and aesthetics. Wanting to dabble in all of them is a job hazard AND a gift for me as an Interior Designer. Where I might want to redecorate my entire home changing from antiques to uber modern in a months time, I can now thankfully scratch this itch in my clients homes. But with clothing, a tweak here, an accessory there, and voila! I’m a blue blooded socialite on her way to a polo match in the Hamptons.
After working for Ralph I went to work for the speciatly retailer Banana Republic. What this did to my sense of Fashion was two-fold. First, I went from Equestrian Luxe to Movie Theater Usher in 60 seconds flat. Black pants (pleated of course) and a crisp white shirt (that literally had the name, “the Everybody Shirt”) were revered, washed, ironed, and put in the windows of our many stores over and over and over again. Oh, there were jaunts over to the crazy side — for one season, I remember wearing a Bouganvelia twinset and something no one over the age of 8 should wear, a skort. Second to my immersion into uniform chic was a loss of interest in other designers and lines. My passion died a slow death beneath piles of sales reports and concerns of gross margin as it related to an items’ in store placement……yawn.
For the most part, as thankful as I am for all that I learned and experienced in my career (the people, oh, how I love the people I met), these were decidedly lean years in terms of what I believe Fashion should be. A personal expression of who you are, how you are feeling, and want you want to convey to the world. Leaving “the indsutry” was the only way for me to make the long journey home to enjoy something I love so very much. I find myself, lo these many years later (you do the math), helping women–intelligent smarty-pants women– find their own true style. Talk about a labor of love.