I have been compiling and writing this story (née “What I Wores”) at the conclusion of New York Fashion Week for nine seasons and find that I almost always open with a disclaimer. Sometimes this disclaimer candidly addresses my vanity (“Finally! An excuse to Google myself!”) and other times it is more self-deprecating (“I look like I’m joking, but I’m not”). It is always tied up with some version of a resolution bow and never do I dread putting it together. On the contrary, I enjoy it. Because I use style as a vessel of expression beyond the obvious fashion implications, this story has served as a way to reflect on the emotional vicissitudes of my week as told through the clothes I wore. I can genuinely tie outfits to feelings. They’re like a diary that doesn’t require writing — until, that is, they demand a recap. And when they do? New opinions! Ideas! Modes of operating are born.
On tap this season? A couple of things.
To start, I’m ready to templatize my wardrobe. I think it’s happening on its own. After writing for years on both the merits and perils of living within the margins of a uniform, it’s finally happening. Mine is forming. This can be evidenced in the denim shorts and clogs and black leggings and tuxedo blazer; the jeans and trench coat; the reliable white linen henley that got me through the summer and gigantic off-white jeans. I barely thought before I put these clothes on. No iPhone notes, no hunching over in front of my closet, I just did it, and felt great. Like myself. Or at least the “me” I’d like to be.
A dose of fanfare still pops out in less expected places (a green mini skirt to compliment a lurex polo, for example; a crochet bra with a dangling-ball hem as another) but that, I believe, is just part of the language of the uniform. It wants to lean on wardrobe basics — the predictable but also dependable clothes that we all know, but then run wild like a leopard on grassland where accessories come into play, with sunglasses and earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Even — no, especially — hair pieces and hats (not pictured). These are punctuation points that change the uniform sentence’s syntax but never mess with the actual words.
Yeah, that sounds right. That feels right.
But with the templatizing of my wardrobe, I’m also less concerned with using clothes to explain myself. And if that is the case, if I plan to simply wear what I will, like a cartoon character who never changes yet always looks “right,” what’s the point of this story? Does it accomplish the purpose of serving as a diary entry? Does it inspire or suspend reality or delight and surprise as it is supposed to? If it does not, it’s not really sharing. At that point, it runs the risk of becoming a case of showing.
And this distinction, too — between sharing and showing — is one I have been considering at length. As I’ve come to define it, showing appeases the grisliest parts of our egos, the ones that rely on validation by way of satisfying the superficial tenets of another person’s gaze. But sharing (the process of putting yourself out there with the intention of pick-up — connecting to another) often leaves us slightly uncomfortable and vulnerable but so rarely feeling like it wasn’t worth it. It can happen, but this motivation is never informed by making another feel less-than as opposed to understood.
I’m not sure if demarcating showing from sharing indicates a natural progression from almost-adult to actually-adult, but consciously recognizing the disparity is forcing me to consider this work’s place and purpose. Am I sharing or showing? If I’m less energized by capricious clothes that say a lot and more satisfied by the regiment and dependability of sure-fire basics that are quiet, what am I actually sharing? Doesn’t the same point made over and over (and reliable clothes tend to) start to sound redundant? Like you’re just showing? A better question to ask might be, why do I feel that my dressing behavior must be erratic or inconsistent in order to be worth expressing?
Maybe it is insouciantly stashed between the waistbands of my plain blue jeans and the hems of my t-shirts that a new narrative is forming. I can’t be sure, but I will listen.
Feature image by Christian Vierig/Getty Images.