Do You Ever Feel Like Your Style Needs a Palate Cleanser?

leandra medine minimalism man repeller

At the beginning of March, in the aftermath of Hedi Slimane’s second collection for Celine, which was decidedly unlike the first collection (née Saint Laurent), there were rumors swirling around Paris that this had been the plan all along — that, in fact, the second collection had been designed well in advance of even the first collection’s unveiling. I wasn’t there, but apparently, a soundtrack played to the click-clack of models walking in their shearling wedge boots and high-waist skinny jeans and expensive wool blazers that translated from French to mean, This was the plan all along.

I conjectured as much in advance of learning this detail and wondered if Slimane showed the initial Saint-Laurent-for-Celine collection as a decoy to derail the public perception. To wipe the slate clean of the purported heritage Phoebe Philo built as a way to level set and give a fair chance to the brand identity he planned to institute. I wondered if the first collection was actually a palate cleanser? We use bland crackers between sips of different wines so as to give the contrasting notes a fair chance to be evaluated. Why wouldn’t we do this with our clothes?

And that’s when I realized that I’m not a maximalist becoming a minimalist, as I have been speculating for the greater portion of a year and imposing on you as I try to work through it, I’m just living inside a holding pattern. A palate cleanse — an in-between phase where my style is changing, but has not changed yet.

This is important information, people, because here all these months I have thought that I am coming into a uniform — that my becoming a mother and turning 30 has totally changed me. That I no longer need clothes to speak for me because I can do it for myself, thank you very much. But underneath all this feigned self-empowerment has been an inkling of imposter syndrome, a nagging inner voice begging to answer the question: Do you really believe all of that?

Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely changing. Present tense. In progress. But I haven’t actually changed yet. I’m inside the cocoon — no longer a caterpillar, not quite a butterfly. Oooooh, is this what Britney Spears meant?

Maybe I’m coming closer by acknowledging that for as much as I thought I didn’t need my wardrobe to speak on my behalf anymore, that’s just not true. I don’t want to reinvent myself every single day — that shit is exhausting — but for me, clothes are more than just clothes. I challenge anyone who has ever woken up feeling like shit, but left home feeling like a million bucks for the simple reason that they love what they’re wearing, to tell me that fashion is trivial. When you nail an outfit that makes you feel so “you,” there’s like this echo that sounds, a mind-body connection that affixes your outer self to your inner self as if to exclaim: Here I am, world. Take it or leave it, I fucking love it.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 08: Leandra Medine seen in the streets of Manhattan during the New York Fashion Week on February 08, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Timur Emek/Getty Images)

Clothes maintain a transformative quality. They enable performance, and emotional connectivity and proactive choice. They spark joy when the flame has been seemingly extinguished. They let you choose optimism, even when nothing else will. Of course, this is a distinctly subjective viewpoint and I recognize that absolutely. But to assume that I have come into a uniform made mostly from dark sweaters and jeans does not support these tenets of my constitution. Imagine a chef, or better yet, a food critic!, deciding she’d only eat one meal for the rest of her life. How boring, how bland, how depressing is that?

Incidentally, I am in the pickled-ginger phase of the meal of my life. I’ve been eating raw salmon for so long that I yearn for a new taste, but I’m not sure what else I like. What else is out there? Can I be an uni person? Will I find that even after having denounced mackerel, I actually love it? This all remains to be seen, and it’ll come up — first in my clothes, then in otherwise proclivities and then, ultimately, in my constitution, but for now, I still don’t know, so I’ll have to keep chewing on what’s in front of me. Isn’t that the best any one of us can do?

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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