Saturday, February 11, 2017

Stuff I Love: How to Dress Like a Woman

Ladies, I don't know about you but I honestly don't remember the day in school where they taught us how to dress like a woman. I recall the incredibly awkward day where all of us girls got to learn about getting our periods and feminine hygiene products (but not about how much money we'd have to spend on said products). If my memory is serving me properly, there was definitely a terrible video about the joys of being a woman and how our periods make us special or some such nonsense. I definitely remember sex ed class in high school. My health teacher was really excited when two of us, me being one of the two, got perfect scores on the test about pregnancy. Her exclamation, "You got a perfect score on your pregnancy test," still haunts me.

But I can't recall dress like a woman class. I would think if something was this important, so important that our president has issued some nonsense "decree" about women visiting the White House needing to dress like women, I would have learned about it in school. Right? Isn't that how this works? We weren't as concerned about grizzly bears roaming the halls back then so I would think my public school could have added "dress like a woman" classes. Thanks for nothing high school.

Most of my fashion choices come from one of following sources of inspiration:
  • 80s and 90s teen movies (still even all this time later) and sometimes tv shows
  • Rock stars I like
  • Costume design reference books
  • The children's section at Old Navy. For the patterns - seriously why don't they make an adult version of the dragonfly shirt? Am I the only one that feels this way? Don't answer that.
I'm not joking or trying to be cute. Most of my fashion inspiration does come from the movies. I think I speak for many women out there who grew up in the 1990s that I still crave Cher's closet from Clueless despite the fact that none of those clothes are right for me. My mother occasionally reminds me what a willful child I was when it came to wearing dresses, pink, and changing clothes multiple times a day. Mom, I'm sorry. Figuring out your personal style and the sort of statement you want to make with clothing takes a long time to accomplish. It's takes a lot of trial and error. It takes a lot of embarrassing combinations of oversized sweaters and stirrup pants (it's was the late 1980s). And it takes a lot of inspiration.

Continuing with Stuff I Love, let's grab some popcorn and a glass of your favorite movie-watching wine and settle in for a little fashion inspiration with from some of my favorite movie ladies who, in their own unique ways, taught me how to dress like a woman.
  1. Andie in Pretty In Pink (1986): I have very strong opinions about the prom dress in this movie; most people who have seen this movie have very strong opinions on that dress. Even Ringwald hated it but it works in the context of the movie. What I love about Andie is her sense of self within her clothes. Her look was modern and retro at the same time; that's something I love to do myself. I can trace my love of thrift store sweaters to Andie. My favorite outfit was the gray one she wore on her first date with Blaine. I always thought she looked so sophisticated and very unlike any teenager I knew. She was who she was and her clothes helped tell that story...even that terrible prom dress. Pretty in Pink turned 30 last year and there was a great article about the costumes from the designer that I enjoyed very much. What's interesting about the movie is that if you look at it today, so many of the fashions are back. It's timeless in a way I don't think anyone ever thought it would be.
  2. Jo Stockton in Funny Face (1957): I love this movie so much! It's a fashion movie wrapped around a mildly awkward love story between Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire set in a very hazy/dreamy 1950s Paris. What could be better?! Hepburn plays Jo, a bookstore clerk who is "discovered" by fashion photographer Dick Avery (Astaire) and becomes the new face of Quality magazine. The magazine whisks her off to Paris to launch spring fashions and we are treated to a fantastic fashion photo montage in front of the sights in Paris. Jo wants nothing to do with fashion but wants to go to Paris to meet her favorite philosopher and wear cigarette pants and dance tables in a jazz club (as one does). My favorite moment of the movie is when she's helping Dick set up one of the shots on the steps of the opera. It's so good. Audrey teaches us all many things when it comes to fashion but for me, this movie is really about taking a risk. Jo could have stayed a bookstore clerk but she took a chance with fashion and found something new. You literally never know where you clothes might take you.
  3. Elle Woods in Legally Blonde (2001): We can learn much from Elle Woods: that you can never wear enough pink, sparkly bikinis are the law school admissions applicant must-have, the rules of hair care, how to be a true friend. As I've discussed previously, Elle is the perfect heroine to have as you approach adulthood. She's smart (although no one thinks so), she's kind, she goes after what she wants (even if originally it's just a dude who doesn't deserve her), and she knows how to get stuff done. Fashion-wise, Elle Woods and I could not be further from one another but what we share is the idea that fashion should empower you. Your clothes shouldn't be a hindrance or an afterthought. Women in positions of power, whatever those positions might be, embrace this idea. Look at someone like Michelle Obama; she used fashion so well while First Lady. She conveyed elegance, power, femininity, strength, and killer arms over and over again. She curated her fashion smartly just as Elle does throughout the movie. You don't have to wear that much pink to learn from Elle.
  4. Allison Reynolds in The Breakfast Club (1985): Allison's transformation at the end of The Breakfast Club is the kind of movie moment that elicits very strong opinions from viewers years after watching the movie. Allison goes from the weird girl with "all that shit under your eyes" (eyeliner) to a mini-me version of Claire (Molly Ringwald) in what seems like only minutes. When I was younger, I was disappointed in Allison's makeover but I also understood why she did it. High school sucks, even if you enjoyed your experience. That's how I originally viewed Allison's makeover; a way to deal with the fact that high school sucks and she wanted it to suck a little less. I didn't love her motivation but I understood it. As I've gotten older and "wiser," I've re-watched the movie a few times and my opinion has changed again. I don't necessarily think Allison was dealing with the fact that high school sucks and she wanted to fit in a bit more. It was about trying on different personas as part of figuring out who she actually is. That's a huge part of growing up. Even if I didn't realize it when I originally watched the movie, Allison inspired me to do the same. I went through so many fashion phases in my youth: semi-goth, hippie flower child, trying too hard preppie, wearing too many floral patterns girl to get myself to where my fashion life resides today (a quirky librarian with mild punk undertones and a love of whimsical patterns). Maybe the following Monday, Allison reverts back to her original style of clothing. Maybe she figures out how to combine her style and Claire's style into one wonderful statement. Maybe she does something completely different. That is the best part of fashion: you can do whatever you want.
  5. Marcy in The Matchmaker (1997): I love Janeane Garofalo. She's hilarious and talented and feminist and awesome. She was the best part of Reality Bites and made Mystery Men the delight that it is. My favorite of her movies from the late 90s will always be The Matchmaker. Marcy was everything I aspired to be as an adult (I was 17 in 1997): independent, funny, adorable, fashionable, and she had super cool job. She also got to go to Ireland by herself. This was all very exciting to me. Also, she eventually falls in love with a handsome and sort of dorky Irish guy; basically my romantic life goal. But it's her clothes that I love. I will always love the fashion of the 1990s. I'd sing "I Will Always Love You" to the fashion of the 1990s if that was something I could do. I love chunky shoes, skirt or dress with tights combos, awesome coats and jackets, vintage/thrift store chic. I still dress with these elements in my wardrobe because true love never dies. Marcy epitomizes this entire decade in one movie. I wanted that brownish/reddish (is it burgundy?) coat she wears on the ferry with Sean. I craved the dress she wears when stomping on the rental car. She wears scarves like a champ. Marcy was adulthood and independence and occasional poor choices all rolled into one. Every time I put on my three favorite skirts (two are striped, one is black) with brightly colored or black tights and throw on some chunky heels, I feel like Marcy. I also feel so very Mary Tyler Moore. 
  6. Louise Bryant in Reds (1982): Valentine's Day is right around the corner. I'm not a huge fan of this holiday but my personal V-Day tradition is to watch Warren Beatty's sweeping epic, Reds. While it is a film about John Reed, the journalist who wrote Ten Days That Shook the World, it's also a movie about the love affair between Reed and Louise Bryant, also a journalist, that unfolds against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution. The movie is gorgeous to watch; the sets, the costumes, the story. Every piece of it works to form the story. The cast is stellar and I can't help but fall into the world of Reed and Bryant each time I watch it. Diane Keaton is stunning as Louise Bryant; she takes up so much space in every scene she's in I'm surprised other actors could handle it (but it's because they're all so good). Bryant was not always well liked in the circles she and Reed ran in; some felt she was no one or attaching herself to his fame but she had her own career and her own successes as a journalist. I have zero desire to wear the fashions of early 1900s but I can appreciate how Keaton's Bryant does. What I gained from her in this film is that confidence; you wear that fur coat and you wear it like a boss. That's how a woman dresses.
  7. Dinky Bossetti in Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (1990): Everyone has their favorite Winona Ryder movie; mine is Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael. This movie is after Heathers and Beetlejuice but before Mermaids, Edward Scissorhands, and Reality Bites. Heathers is my second favorite but there's something about Dinky that wins over Veronica Sawyer every day of the week. Since I'm sure most people have forgotten this little gem, a quick summary: Dinky is your typical movie loner. She doesn't quite fit in her small town or her high school. She's adopted and she begins to believe that she's the secret child of a woman named Roxy Carmichael, who left town 15 years ago to become a movie star. Roxy announces she's coming back to town and Dinky sets out to prove Roxy is her mother. You can fill in the gaps with what happens next (or find it somewhere to watch; it's not on Netflix). Anyway, Dinky dresses exactly like I dressed in high school (for most of high school): oversized sweaters, weird shirts, and the same black shoes. Dinky didn't teach me to enjoy the comforts of baggy clothes. (PS: Baggy clothes are not the answer. They don't hide things, they make you look larger. Wear something form fitting but not tight that plays to your assets to truly feel comfortable. It took me a very long time to figure this one out.) She taught me about contrasts. Towards the end of the movie, Dinky dons a bubblegum pink dress and combat boots. It's so good. It's girly and feminine but also edgy and totally her. This where I learned to combine heavy boots with a whimsically patterned sweater or a breezy summer dress with a structured jacket (although I don't wear this anymore because I can't find a jacket I enjoy much). This is probably the fashion lesson I've carried with me the longest. All from a forgotten Winona Ryder movie. 
There is no one way to dress like a woman. One of the reasons I like fashion is because of its ability to push boundaries when it comes to personal expression. Clothes say a lot about a person whether they spend time thinking about it or now. I invest a lot of time into what I wear because I want to. It's not for anyone but me. If I spent time thinking about dressing for other people I'd never leave my house and most of my closet would be Spanx. I have zero for time for that. So whether it's my classic black skirt/purple tights combo, my unintentional Freddy Krueger sweater, or yoga pants, when I get dressed each day I know I'm dressing like me.

Pretty In Pink
Funny Face
Legally Blonde 
The Breakfast Club
The Matchmaker 
Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael

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