I find that the more I write about fashion, style and clothes, the more I hate all three of those things.
Fashion made me the person that I am and since I dress people for a living, puts food in my mouth. It enabled me to visit my grandmother in another state every 3 weeks like clockwork for the last 18 months of her life. I will be able to retire and not end up eating cat food, all because of fashion.
I love clothes. I love to look at pretty pictures in magazines and see things that I can replicate in my own life and closet. I mentally run through my wardrobe and think up new combos to wear when I am bored at work. But sometimes I feel embarrassed by the very thing I've spent over half my life obsessing about.
I read women’s fashion magazines religiously as a teenager and well into young adulthood. But we had a major falling out in the 90’s when one of them featured these red velvet Prada platform sandals in a spread:
These are clearly a knockoff of the originals, but you get the idea.
Oh man. In my bones, I still remember how I felt when I opened that magazine and saw them. It was like they were made just for me. I saved my money and scrimped and saved some more. I worked a ton of extra hours and got together my $340. That was a lot of money in 1997 dollars. Hell, it’s still a lot.
I took my hard-earned money to the Prada Store in Beverly Hills. Luckily they still had a pair in my size. Too bad the salesgirls could not even pretend to be nice to me.
They rolled their eyes as I counted out my crumpled twenties. I had been saving my money in a mason jar, that’s why it was crumpled. I didn’t even know enough to apply for a credit card. Just to spite them, I lifted a Prada notepad from the store that I still have on my desk today.
Those platforms were proof to the world that I was a lady of style, leisure and class. I was no longer some dumb girl from the sticks. I had arrived! I was part of the club. There was nowhere for me to go but up.
Because I was in love with those dumb shoes, I did not complain when every strap broke off of them in succession. I politely paid through the nose to get them repaired. I didn’t complain when they rubbed and chafed my feet until they were raw and bleeding like a fallen caribou.
Later that same year, I opened my mailbox to a fresh fashion magazine. Within this issue was one of those snarky IN/OUT lists. Do you know what was on this OUT list? Of course you do -- my beloved red velvet Prada platforms.
I was so devastated. I remember that moment like it was etched in crystal: feeling actual physical shame that I was dated, last season, trash. Now it seems so silly to have felt all this over a ridiculous material possession.
Looking back, I realize that was the also moment I knew that the emperor had no clothes. That was the moment I started to trust my own eye and not worry about what anyone else thought of my thoughts, my style, my beliefs, my clothes, or me.
I ended up giving those red velvet Prada platforms away to my friend Samantha, who cried actual tears of happiness. She had never had a pair of designer anything. That’s the power of fashion, kids. That’s what I was after when I pressed those crumpled twenties from my sweaty hands into the palms of that snotty Prada salesgirl.
Fashion has always been synonymous with beauty, elegance and wealth. Even in the 1500’s, fashion was fast visual shorthand to determine someone’s social status. The messages have always been the same: Fashion will fix you. It will make you more loveable. You will be more beautiful.
But stuff doesn't fix you. I want better for you. I want everyone to be the boss of their own style. I want you to develop a sense of what looks good on you. Tune out all the chatter about what you should be wearing. Pay more attention to how you feel in what you wear.
I still love looking at pretty pictures of dresses and shoes. I still lust after stupid designer shit. I will somehow swindle a Chanel handbag into my closet before I leave this earth. I just don’t ever believe the hype anymore. It's a system designed to keep you on a hamster wheel of self-doubt and need.
I must admit that I have been following one current fashion story quite closely:
Choupette Lagerfeld, Karl's cat, may just be the person in fashion with the most to say these days.