Sometimes the people in my life query about the the root of my fashion affinity (dare I say, fashion obsession?). I had to stop and ask myself the same question. My dad was indeed a snappy dresser. And my mom definitely has a sense of style.
But we never sat around the dinner table and discussed Coco Chanel’s modernist philosophy nor did we herald Prada’s originality; I certainly don’t remember my parents lauding Ralph Lauren’s influence on the world of fashion.
But now that I think about it, as I child it often seemed to me that my parents spoke a second language. While learning how to add and multiply, I was also learning a vernacular that would later supply and shape my own artistic views.
As a child, I usually used context clues to decipher words such as hounds tooth and tortoiseshell. I knew camel to be a lovely neutral hue, beyond being a hoofed, humpbacked mammal. I now understand fashion as a second language. This doesn’t make me a fashion expert, but this I know for sure: I love fashion as an art.
I once had a professor in a Communications class explain that every morning when we dressed we made a decision. We were communicating something about ourselves to the world around us. We were expressing ourselves.
Really? I had to wonder: did my outfit that day scream, I am juggling three jobs with a full load of classes so I picked up the first sweatshirt I could find on my dorm floor when my alarm went off – oh, and it’s my roommates?
Today, when I observe the people around me, I often think that, like me, many moons ago, perhaps they are not choosing to share anything at all. That black t-shirt? No underlying message. Just the first thing they reached for this winter’s morning.
But what about that guy on Marion Street I saw walking past with the Ghostbusters t-shirt on? Does he consider the movie a cinematic classic or is he just a Bill Murray fan? Was he trying to encourage me to see the movie? Perhaps it was just a gift from his mother-in-law?
What about that young man with the Save Darfur t-shirt on? Does he know and care about the genocide? Is he a survivor? Perhaps he is an activist hoping that we’ll be galvanized to action.
Often I perceive a deliberate statement – a visual expression of one’s self: I am an artist; I am the man in black; I am a nonconformist. I admire and respect the designers who conceive and conceptualize the apparel that allows us to be comfortable, feel glamorous, to be conscientious shoppers or to share who we are.
Fashion can most certainly be an expression of ones individuality: a platform for ingenuity and imagination. I consider it an opportunity to articulate myself creatively. While I love to paint, and I love to write, I was thrilled to find there exists yet another creative outlet: a wonderfully tactile way to tell a story.
And so when I acquired my first sewing machine, over twenty years ago, I came to understand, with great satisfaction, that I could tell a fantastic tale of teal or an inspired tale of tulle without ever uttering a word. And yet another way to express myself.