Dress Code

The 2022 book shown above should be required reading.

The author is the Fashion Features Director at Elle magazine.

It’s a biting, incisive critique of the fashion industry, the Instagram Influencer trend, and the obsession with self-care.

I was born in the first year of Generation X. I have zero interest in engaging in the white-women influencer self-care practices or in buying the products they’re hawking.

The only form of self-care I’ve adopted is eating well, walking everywhere, and exercising 2x per week for 30 minutes as often as possible.

In 2011 when I turned 46 I decided that I had to start doing strength training. Before that I hadn’t lifted one 5-pound weight.

In January 2014 three years later I could dead lift 205 pounds at the gym.

No–I didn’t start “lifting” to lose weight. I didn’t do this to attract a man.

In February 2011 I was in a pizzeria having a slice. I could only eat half the slice, and threw the rest away.

I had the sense that something terrible had happened and this was verified that night.

I decided right then that I must start strength training. When women are going through a hard time I doubt most of us in an instant think that the solution is to lift weights.

I’ve failed at performing other acts of self-care. What struck me about Dress Code is the idea that self-care has become an impossible standard to live up to.

I don’t light candles (I’m a firefighter’s daughter afraid my apartment would go up in flames).

Nor am I keen to buy a product like Glossier lip liner in an attempt to feel good.

“Shopping in my closet” to create new outfits doesn’t cost a dime. Listening to music on audacy.com is free too. Checking books out of the library saves money as well.

What upsets me (why?) is the reference to how other women’s ugly bodies are not displayed and fawned over in the fashion media and Instagram accounts.

First: Everyone living on earth is beautiful. There are no ugly bodies in my view.

Why do critics persist in using the term ugly to describe bodies that don’t fit the fashion norm the critics rail against?

Too often women internalize shame about our bodies.

Do you want to know the only reason I exercise and eat well?

My father had Stage 3 colon cancer that spread to his liver.

My great-aunt, grandfather, and 57-year old cousin were in comas at the end of their lives.

My mother had breast cancer. One other aunt had cancer.

With that track record in my family history I won’t take chances by sitting on the couch watching TV all night.

In the epilogue to Dress Code author Hyland gives the rosy view that things appear to be changing and will get ever better in terms of the representation of women on social media.

Do you want to feel good? Then do good. I found a way to do this that I’ll talk about in a coming blog entry.

Finding Happiness

Throwing out four donation bags sparked me to examine the effect of my wardrobe on my happiness.

Wearing dull drab colors head-to-toe did nothing to spark joy.

Could wearing bright colors boost a person’s mood?

Some of us look sharp dressing in gray and brown.

I realized those colors weren’t for me.

The point is: We could all use more hope and joy going into the third year of wearing masks and distancing from each other couldn’t we?

Anything healthy that could help me feel great I was willing to try.

Bring on magenta! Hello yellow! Blast off in blue!

It was clear that saving your health was equally important as saving the planet.

Dawnn Karen in her fashion psychology book Dress Your Life wrote that what you wear can alter or amplify your mood.

Something that the sustainable fashion crowd hasn’t explored:

That having and wearing a ton of clothes that make you feel crummy or tired is a great reason for not buying them in the first place.

The trick is to shoot a selfie of yourself in an outfit in the dressing room or at home after the package arrives.

Photos don’t lie. They’re how I’ve discovered what clothes to ditch and what to keep.

I feel lighter and freer after filling the donation bags.

May you find your way to happiness too.

In the coming blog entry, I will talk about a new book I’m reading that continues where Fulfillment left off.

Unraveled: The Life and Death of a Garment exposes the real truth about the fashion industry’s role in global warming beyond the usual suspect practices.

Maxine Bedat peels away the layers that cover up what goes on.

In a country like America, we can afford to buy the clothes that make us feel good wearing them as well as look good in them.

I don’t take this luxury for granted. The fact that how I dressed could’ve been dragging me down was a revelation. It was crystal-clear to me that the connection between the colors I wore, and my mood and energy was indisputable.

Right after realizing this, I started to read Unraveled. Understanding that sweatshop workers in Ethiopia don’t have the option to dress their best so as to elevate their prospects in life.

Those of us who are well-off owe a debt to society to help others lift themselves up too.

The real deal:

If how I dress can help me overcome depression this enables me in the end to have the energy to do good for others.

This is the win-win we need to have a conversation about:

Buying a $2 tee shirt in Telco is not an option. The female workers who labored to sew that shirt should be paid a living salary so that they too can feel good and not be dragged down living their lives.

Fulfillment

I have just read the book Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America.

Alec MacGillis the investigative journalist exposed the dark side of the Amazon.com reign over retail.

Employees have gotten killed working at Amazon warehouses.

Jeff Bezos pays lobbyists millions of dollars to get elected leaders in Washington and elsewhere to do his bidding.

The million-dollar tax breaks given to Amazon to build its warehouses everywhere in the U.S. turn into higher taxes imposed on residents of areas where Amazon sets up camp.

No–I haven’t ever been a fan of Liberals. I detest them as much as I despise Conservatives. The fact that Democrat leaders cozy up to Jeff Bezos will be no secret when you read Fulfillment.

Yes–I have decided it’s too risky and unethical to shop on Amazon anymore.

I use Amazon’s books category to search for new books. Then I order the books from a local independent bookseller to pick up at the store.

Fulfillment exposes the regional economic inequality that is at the root of the income divide in America. Where you live determines your income level and your prospects in life.

It explains how people in rural and other disadvantaged areas voted for Mr. Toupee / Donald Trump.

Another book that I haven’t read exposed the dark side of Mr. Toupee’s Economic Development Zones. That book’s author alleged the ordinary citizens living there were fleeced not given great jobs.

It begs the question that the tide is rising for no one in America regardless of who we elect.

Fulfillment ends with the author’s hope that Joe Biden will regulate Amazon and other big businesses. I doubt this corrective action will happen.

Coming up I will talk about my private reckoning with the stuff I own. Firsthand I have seen incontrovertible proof that how you dress can heal or harm you.

Never mind the harm done to workers in sweatshops and the pollution of waterways and farmland with chemical waste from clothing production.

Though we should care about this.

Wow–I discovered another bona fide reason for caring about your clothes. How you dress can hold you back or help you grow.

This is a radical idea that no one in the sustainable fashion brigade has talked about: How limiting your clothing choices can spark more joy, energy, and opportunity in your life than you’ve ever had before.

Let’s face it: this self-interested motivation is a great gateway to choosing and using wardrobe items with care and attention.

My journey to freedom and happiness started this month when I filled up four donation bags with clothes, jewelry, and barely worn shoes.

The connection between what I bought and how I felt was the wake-up call for doing things differently.

Style Therapy

I bought the book Style Therapy: 30 Days to Your Signature Style by Lauren Messiah.

So far I’m in Week 3 of the challenge to alter your wardrobe so that you can get what you want in life.

Messiah crafted her career as a personal stylist after hitting her own roadblocks in life.

Now she’s a million-dollar entrepreneur.

The memoir aspect of Style Therapy is the part that inspires me the most. At the end of this blog entry I’ll link to Messiah’s website.

She used to be a Hollywood stylist. Her life turned around when she decided to go into business for herself helping ordinary women.

In Week 2 of the 30-day challenge you confront other people’s opinions of who you are and what your body looks like.

Messiah confessed that after a hurtful comment about her thighs looking fat in shorts she didn’t wear a pair of shorts until she turned 36.

Her defiance to rock short shorts inspired me to get over my own gaga about my thighs. To buy and wear a pair of shorts too.

Like Messiah I think being open and honest is the way to go.

My literary agent told me that maybe I should archive this blog and focus on other things.

Counter-intuitively I decided to keep posting blog entries here that tell the truth.

Messiah links rocking your authentic style to achieving your goals in life.

While working on the exercises in Week 3 I was empowered to reach for the stars.

Later in life I find myself becoming only more ambitious not less motivated.

See the Lauren Messiah website to download a free e-book.

Reading the emails she sends me is one of the highlights in my inbox.

Favorite New Book

By a happy accident I was able to get a copy of this book.

The subtitle is a misnomer. This is because there is one rule to this guide:

Only women who can afford the $100 and up shirts featured in this book have this kind of street style.

For everyone else this is a useful guide with Q&As and checklists that can help us recreate the looks in lower-cost versions.

What does ring true about this beloved borough of New York City is this quote:

“People who thrive here wear their freedom of expression.”

So–go out and treat yourself to this irreverent guide to fashion.

“Mix This With That” and “Build a Working Wardrobe” were the two sections that were my favorite.

Brooklyn celebrates everyone’s multicultural roots. People come here from all over.

Isn’t that what everyone wants–to be loved and accepted for who we are.

Brooklyn is the broken land where soul pilgrims land to find ourselves. Free to be the same selves we have always been.

Finding Beauty in a Broken World

Everyone living on earth is beautiful.

Finding beauty in a broken world can be a tonic for the hard time you’re going through.

Smearing on a new shade of lipstick won’t bring about world peace.

Yet I find myself wearing lipstick on Zoom meetings. This makes all the difference in how I feel.

Now that 3 bags of clothes are gone (I can see my bedroom rug again!) I feel like my load has been lightened.

Fashion is where you find it. I take inspiration from books.

My latest haul from a trip to Barnes & Noble were two books: Anatomy
of Style
and How To Not Wear Black.

The first book features famous models and actresses and talks about their
style preferences. With photos of the women in their standard outfits.

My favorite models featured were Kate Moss and Liya Kebede.

I find this book to be like taffy: sweet candy yet hard to chew. Your
confidence could nosedive seeing the photos of these attractive women.

Too for inspiration I recommend the first book by Scott Schuman The
Sartorialist
. In the book he features photos taken on the street of often
ordinary people dressed in distinctive digs.

This book was published circa 12 years ago. It stands up to the test of time.

I own easily over 15 clothes and style and makeup books. You need to have a
hobby to cheer you up when your city has gone into lockdown. Reading the books gives me joy.

Being able to find beauty in this broken world is nothing to be ashamed of.

Everyone living on earth is beautiful.

Define beauty.

I’m happiest wearing my world indigo hoodie black trainer pants and sneakers
to make a run to the deli.

“You look adorable” the woman behind the counter tells me.

I’ll take adorable over sexy.

I’ll take blogging to the beat of a different drum.

We can’t all have Liya Kebede’s cheekbones.

Yet we can take inspiration from how she dresses and from her humanitarian business ethic.

National Clean Out Your Closet Week

The third week in March is National Clean Out Your Closet Week.

Every year I write about this theme in the blog. The Salvation Army truck driver took off my hands 3 bursting donation bags full of belts, clothes, and pocketbooks.

It is strange to be in the position of having size 2 Petite summer pants become so loose that they no longer fit.

When other size 2 Petite pants are so tight not even a snake could fit into them.

Oh–the perils of the sizing system in the U.S.

That’s why a lot of American women run out of a department store dressing room in tears.

It’s not unusual to have pants and jeans of four different sizes in your wadrobe.

2, 4, 6, 8–no one appreciates the guessing game as to which item will fit when you order online and the box arrives at your door.

On the other hand it is not odd to suddenly fall out of love with the clothes you used to wear.

Goodbye, khakis. Hello, black jeans.

To stay young at heart you should refresh your wardrobe every so often.

The older I get the more obsessed with clothes and dressing up that I’ve gotten.

As a Generation X girl I don’t want to fade into the woodwork.

Millennials can have their avocado toast as they’re so famously accused of coveting.

I’ll take a good coat and boots in this NYC chill that doesn’t warm up until early June.

Fashion is where you find it–and you can find joy in the clothes hanging in your closet.

Donate the items that no longer suit you. Get rid of the pants that no longer fit. Say farewell to the colors that make you look ill.

The spring is here in one week. Having hope is called for.

Editing the contents of our closets can spark joy.

Who wants to spend the morning agonizing because your closet is bursting with items you don’t wear?

Keep the items you love.

Call the Salvation Army truck to take away good-condition clothes that could bring joy to a person in need.

This is a win-win.

Looking in a Cheer-View Mirror

The year is ending. A time when a lot of us look in a rear-view mirror to take stock of our lives. I say it’s time to look at our lives in a cheer-view mirror.

The memories can be sugar and spice or a bitter pill to swallow. Either way I think it’s wise to view our past with acceptance and understanding instead of regret.

Though I appear to be in my thirties or early forties I’m on the cusp of 56. Are you readers younger? Or are some of you older like I am?

The end of the year finds me thinking of the time I was a disc jockey on FM radio in the 1980s.

As I examine my life I take inspiration from Eric Daman the costume designer for Gossip Girl.

In his book You Know You Want It Daman says that we can use elements of our personal history to create our outfits today.

So too I think we can mine this history to uncover facets of our early life that we want to reclaim post 50.

To ask: “What do I want to keep in my life? What do I want to get rid of?”

You can make a comeback at any age. I’m thinking of my younger self with awe and reverence for how I broke the rules.

No–I didn’t conform when I was 22. I played alternative music on the radio. I subverted traditional beauty by using dramatic makeup on my face. I dressed in Avant Garde clothes.

This points to the reality that I don’t want to fade into the woodwork–to be rendered invisible–as I get older.

As a Generation X girl I want to make a statement once again.

Today I swipe on sassy rhubarb lipstick as a way to be bold.

I’m screwing up the courage to call the guy I’m interested in.

A fortune cookie I cracked open years ago proclaimed: Fate loves the fearless.

Hello tomorrow.

Spring Cleaning in December

I identify as an Artist. I’ve always thought that wearing clothes was a form of self-expression.

As the new year comes on I persist in thinking “I dress, therefore I am.” As if the right outfits will take me where I want to go.

It was time to let go of the clothes and the thoughts and the feelings that held me back. Out, out—with the old—and in with the new.

I’m doing spring cleaning in December to get rid of clothes that no longer thrill me.

I’ve tossed blue and faded jeans into the donation bag. An olive cardigan too dull and drab to continue wearing.

The beige-and-black summer blouses I washed out of my sartorial hair too. Couldn’t I command attention without having to wear shirts that made me look like a 1990s office worker? Wasn’t there a better way?

The urge to purge my drawers, closet, and storage rack was stronger than ever.

For me change starts with my wardrobe. Sorting and organizing better what I own. Not bringing into my apartment new clothes that won’t see the light of day.

Like the multi-color zig-zag pattern rayon cardigan. I’m not a disco diva so what was I thinking when I bought it?

Resisting the allure of buying things that catch my eye has always been hard. Who isn’t taken in by an item of clothing that beckons you to believe that if you wore it you would become a superstar? Or at least—a spectacular version of yourself.

At the end of the day to a lot of women a dress is just a dress. They don’t imbue their clothes with the magical power to engineer a positive mood in the wearer.

Only I’m ready to test the theory that dressing up in black jeans and different color pants and colorful tops could cheer me up.

My thinking was that clothes could have the effect of vitamins.

Living through 2020 has been hard for all of us. I firmly believe 2021 will be better.

What better way to bring in the New Year than to clear out your closets?

One day we will be able to go out and paint the town red or gold or whatever color catches our fancy.

Until then I stand by the maxim that whatever gives you joy shouldn’t be discounted in this time when the COVID-19 outbreak is still in effect.

Unlike a lot of people I enjoy cleaning out and organizing my closet.

What gives you joy? Just Do It.

Dressing for Yourself

Heck–I accidentally posted 2 blog entries about the Mally Roncal book.

In this time there’s a lot to be preoccupied with: staying free from the coronavirus, shopping for gifts if you do that, and caring for yourself and loved ones.

It pays to take joy where you can get it.

For instance: the Harper’s Bazaar November 2020 issue. The essay “Performance Dressing” was right-on.

Leandra Medine Cohen had championed the ethic of dressing for yourself.

In the magazine she wrote that writing about this online she went so far “as to suggest that if we all tried to dress to reflect our multitudes, we could actually start to become them.”

No doubt because of living indoors during the pandemic she saw things differently today:

“Clothes…hid me when I was vulnerable, magnified me when I wa strong, but their power was limited. This work of figuring out the kind of person I want to be, don’t want to be anymore, and the ruthless self-examination that comes with it, that’s on me.

What a terrifying and liberating and thrilling thing.”

Should the November 2020 issue be on the newsstand still I recommend buying it to have on hand this essay alone.

One thing that Leandra Medine Cohen wrote rings true with me: that testing the boundaries of your style allows you to be more than one thing.

It reminds me of the Psychedelic Furs’ song “Pretty in Pink”: the lyrics get at how the girl will be who she wants to be–until tomorrow.

And who will you and me be tomorrow after the pandemic ends?

The journey to our future selves is worth taking.

There’s nothing better than dressing for yourself. For the person you are today. Changing up your style as your life rolls along.

Remember the 1980s? Those clothes are best left in the dust bin 🙂