Fabulous In Lace Or Denim: Fashion Tripping Through A Life And Closet – Forbes

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When I was two years old, my grandmother sent me my very first dresses, the cute kind with bows. I was in heaven. I twirled in them for hours and then, promptly begged my mom for black patent Mary Janes. Those marvelous shoes with wonderful, smooth leather and a mirror like shine you could see your face in. I think perhaps, Mary Janes were to little girls, what white sneakers were to rappers in the 90s, unblemished and reality defying. After those dresses, I was a goner for the world fashion, fabrics and colors. It was a magic kingdom that could transform me into a princess, a rebel, a fairy and I’d just been given the keys.

How can you describe to those who don’t know, the magic of a piece of gold silk? The way it catches the light and wraps softly around you like the hug of a lover? The drama of sheer organdy whose unyielding crispness speaks of perfect posture and the stiff discipline of sophistication and elegance? Taffeta with its mysterious liquid patterns and stiff noisy rustle? The dream-like quality of chiffon as it floats on the air? Elegant fabrics were like romance novels but I loved casual fabrics too. They were like a meal, fulfilling and comforting. I loved the “I can go anywhere, handle anything” vibe of denim, the youthful Summer Days by the pool feel of cotton, and the tomboy in me held a soft spot for corduroy pants.

That day, twirling in the sun in my two year old dress began a relationship that, like so many, was going to challenge and uplift me all my life. First came denial as the word of law came down from my mother. “No more dresses,” she said. I would realize later, when I understood such things, that my mom was trying to protect me.  She didn’t want me to turn into a helpless female in dresses, but at the time, it felt like the cruelest banishment. My world was plunged into darkness as I longed for ruffles and lace and fabulous bow-ties. They say heartbreak fades with time and it’s true that pain of my lost dresses became easier to bear as the years passed, but it was a love that was unquenchable.

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Age 9, I put my foot down and demanded the return of my dear departed dresses. If my mom had only known what she was unleashing by saying yes. Gone were pants! I refused to even look at those grubby things and stoutly wore dresses every day for a year. I wore them to gym practice. I climbed trees in them. And they weren’t just ordinary dresses. They were long and pretty and covered in ruffles, as many as I could pile on. Looking back, I imagine other kids must have thought I was crazy, out there on the soccer field running flat out in a floor length gown, but I never saw their looks, if indeed there even were any. I was flying and alive in my magic kingdom of beautiful clothes.  Eventually, I came to love pants again and to give them equal time in my wardrobe.

Parents always marvel at how their kids have such a strong sense of personal style, but I think it’s normal. Kids get it.  Clothes let you be anything you want to be.  A child’s love of clothes is pure and without judgement. You don’t love one type of clothes only, or love each outfit because of what it can do for you (get you a job, help you fit in, help you stand out). You love clothes because they exist and they make you feel good. You love your rainbow dress because the vibrant colors make you feel alive, that sparkly top, because, well, what kid doesn’t love sparkle? It’s like fairy dust. And those jeans with the hearts on the pockets because your best friend has them too.

High School, brought another change. It was the first time that clothes weren’t just about how I felt, they, like my body, had an impact on the world. I began the transformation to womanhood and they became part of my process of discovery, of trying to understand what was happening. I had curves in new places. Boys were a mystery. Yesterday, these creatures were only good for bossing around and ignoring. Now, they looked at me in ways I didn’t understand but somehow liked. I began to test, trying things that were demure and ladylike, dressing in ways that were overtly sexy. As I tried out different clothes, I got different reactions – too much attention, notes home, approval, power. It was a confusing world and my style fluctuated as rapidly as my moods swung.

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