“This… stuff’? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select… I don’t know… that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.”
Miranda Priestly – The Devil Wears Prada
I was quite a bit like Andy Sachs, the recipient of the above tirade, as a youngster and into high school. I accidentally stumbled across a nice classic every now and then, as I managed to do with my senior picture wardrobe (thank God!). But I was one of the last in my demographic to let go of the tapered leg jeans. And then it took a full semester of college, at that. They had to have been out of style for a good year or so by that time.
My first wave of fashion education came when I began a part-time job at Vanity during the fall of 1998. It wasn’t Runway magazine by any means, but it did wonders for me.
But I wasn’t there yet. I basically pulled stuff off the racks and threw it on, not really trying to personalize it and only dismissing an item if a co-worker shook her head no.
My friends Kate and Lexi were the first to challenge my fashion boundaries. I worked with both of them at Vanity – first Kate, then Lexi. Kate point blank told me if something looked good or not. Usually, it didn’t. She also had a unique way of selecting items off the clothing racks. Kate had lots of tie dye items, which I have grown to love. The best part: Kate let me borrow her clothes a lot.
Lexi could (and still can) spot something across the room and say, “That’s you, Melissa.” And she is ALWAYS right. She can connect my personality to an item of clothing instantly. That’s why she was such a diva in retail for so many years. Lexi introduced me to halter and tube tops. I falsely assumed I needed more on top to wear those, but that wasn’t so. And Lexi took me out of the frumpy medium shirts into small shirts. Not too small, just right.
I by no means have fashion and/or my personal sense of style all figured out, but I knew I was darn close when one of my friends told me back in 2003, “You don’t dress like a Republican.” I know many Republican ladies who have a sense of style, but we normally don’t associate Republicans with the cutting edge of fashion. From that point on, I thought about the comment when buying work clothes. What could I find that was professional and had a little bit of sparkle?
My current job at Target Optical requires that I care about fashion. Our motto there is “Simple, Fun, and In Style”. I constantly strive to find ways to rock the red and khaki. When I am dressed well, I sell more. Who wants to buy stylish frames from a frumpy looking chick?
I am excited to see women finding their personal style every day at optical. And I enjoy seeing smart women in the public eye who have a sense of style. I recently read the book “Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style” by Kate Betts. The author explains that women used to be considered smart or fashionable, but now we can be both.
My style is something between cute and sassy. I like to wear a variety of colors. I like to make dramatic hair style changes every now and then. I don’t care what the size on the tag says, as long as it looks good on me.
Remember, there is an “I” in “FASHION”. Make it your own!