I think a lot about what is authentic these days – mainly with regard to style. How do we develop our own authenticity in our wardrobes? Perhaps it’s because I’m at a place in my life where I have identified what’s on repeat and the phrase “been there – done that” could escape my lips at the onset of each new season (or so it seems). For the record, it’s not the fact that I’m old enough to have seen the second generation of Laura Ashley (only the latest example) but wondering if fashion ultimately plateaus for even the most ambitious of style lovers.
Finding yourself in the throes of “fashion on repeat” does not necessarily need to be a moment of flatlining. Imagine yourself at Thanksgiving dinner where you have an amazing array of dishes ranging from multiple main courses to appetizers, sides, and desserts. Your first plate is a combination of your tried and true favorites along with some obligatory samplings – just to be polite. Then maybe you have seconds – where you go back for more of that one dish that surprised you (who knew Waldorf salad could have a renaissance?) along with seconds of those things that make your heart and taste buds sing. When you get to the end of the dinner, you’re completely satiated and don’t even think you have room for anything else. But you make room since….it’s Thanksgiving! What do you go back for because you can’t imagine leaving the experience without one more serving? This is how I feel about fashion when I come across that feeling of having seen it all. What do I want to go back for?
I press myself to find the things that really resonate with me. Over the summer my choice footwear became a pair of AGL ivory mules. I wore them more than any other shoe and found the profile more satisfying than a full-on ivory bootie. Wanting to follow my own advice and find my “cold weather” place holder, I started to contemplate the lace up boot.
Doc Martin’s have been in my wardrobe before. My first pair were brought back from London by a friend who was heading to her favorite thrift store and told us she’d bring us all back a pair of Martin’s to wear while I was slinging chili at Hard Times Cafe. This was 1992 during the grunge era and my influences were still straight out of Vogue with a dash of rocker chic thrown in. I tied shirts around my waist and wore Levi’s that I “borrowed” from my guy friends. Sunny Surplus, Commander Salamander, and thrift stores up and down the east coast became my source of ideas. Had known I would be looking at lace up boots that cost upwards of $500 to wear in my 50’s, I’d have held onto those long-lost Docs!
Moments such as this can happen to any of us at any point in our lives. You realize there were a few things that looked really good, but upon tasting them they were perhaps a little too rich or just didn’t meet your expectations. There’s a sense of accomplishment when you’ve stopped being on the receiving end of fashion and come to the realization, you’re comfortably full. I look at my wardrobe now as if I were cultivating a collection of my own brand and what pieces it should include based on quality, longevity, and how it will be utilized with the other components within the collection. If there’s a goal, wouldn’t this be a fine place to land?
So, if there’s an end game, why does the work need to continue? A wardrobe is like a living entity in my world. We are evolving and styles continue to change as well. The reintroduction of lace up boots into mainstream style begs the question whether the most authentic of versions would be appropriate for me now (short answer, no. I needed to get rid of the Docs but my daughter might lament that decision now). I have many pieces in my wardrobe that were authentic originals – my Wrangler pearl snap denim shirt purchased in Georgetown at a store that carried vintage denim – Deja Blues and the felt hat given to me by my father-in-law once he saw it on me. He insisted I keep it and wear it and I think of him every time I do. The comfort I’ve discovered in my own history of style offers me the wisdom and grace to guide clients to make similar connections within their own wardrobe when they find themselves spread in too many directions. There are times in our lives where exploration is paramount and then there are times where we need to trust in who we are.
In a post centered around authenticity, I would be remiss without pointing to the woman who is on my radar and currently inspiring me to contemplate the addition of lace up boots. This style icon has a discerning eye for style, knows who she is, and has stayed in her lane for most of her life. If you’ve dabbled in any facet of rocker chic, you probably owe Patti Smith some credit for her fearless existence. Her style has been described as ‘majestic dishevelment’ – could I aspire to such a description some day?! It sounds both liberating and comfortable. Something you may not know about Patti is that she is a self-professed fashion lover. She coveted not just Vogue but all continental Vogues – Italian, French, and the UK both in her youth and while on tour. She knows her designers and appreciates all aspects of fashion but has stayed true to what works for her. Above are her iconic boots on the cover of her new book.
Finding a place where you have established yourself with the pieces that best honor your history definitely feels like something to celebrate. I hope you’ll take a tour in your own closet and identify the pieces that feel most authentic to you. This process can help establish with purpose how you want your style future to look without riding the coattails of someone else’s story.