Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Year, New You, Old Art

I have a small handful of post ideas brewing for TBN, but sometimes something jumps up to the top of the pile. One of my unspoken (well, not anymore!) New Years Resolutions is to be more bold in my appearance, be willing to be the 20 year-old again who wasn't afraid of anyone's opinion of what she wore. So when I was cataloging magazines today and came across this article in the current Oprah Magazine, I was inspired.

I had a hard time making myself look like Cheryl Tiegs on the cover of Seventeen magazine: Unlike Tiegs, I had flappy ears, chubby cheeks, tiny lips, and virtually no eyelids or eyebrows—all of which made me look more like the Parisian ladies of the evening in a 1930s Brassa├» photograph than a California-blonde cover girl.

The gulf between the reality of my looks and the cultural ideal only widened when I began to work in the fashion industry. Early on, I decided to ignore the industry's dictates—so stifling, unattainable, judgmental—and make my own rules. I had long admired women with strong signature looks—Anna Piaggi, Diana Vreeland, Isabella Blow—for whom the fashion world seemed to make an exception. And I found myself reaching far outside the box for role models: to the women in Pre-Raphaelite paintings (those floaty clothes suited my physique far better than jeans and a T-shirt); to silent-movie heroines (their pale complexions were easy for me to replicate); even to Victorian dolls (whose round faces and rosebud mouths reminded me of me).

Inspired, I started experimenting. The copper henna I threw on my head to give my hair a quirky tint was a miracle—coating my limp bob and making it bouncier than I'd ever dreamed possible. And maybe there was nothing to be done for my abbreviated lids, but I could work wonders with my lips, exaggerating them into a dark Kewpie-doll shape that, unlike eyeshadow, suited me to perfection.

People have asked how I get the courage to walk the streets in, say, a shredded Comme des Gar├žons coat over a tutu, with metallic orange hair. I owe my confidence at least in part to my parents, who were convinced I was the cutest thing on Earth and told me so every single day. (Recently, seeing my reflection at a party, I could almost hear my mom saying, "Lynnie, you look so pretty!")

Though some of my more extreme choices have provoked laughter or incredulity, I also get more compliments than I could have imagined. This may be because I live in New York City, where a certain level of eccentricity is appreciated. But I like to believe that no matter where I lived, people would come to respect—maybe even like! admire!—the steps I've taken to create my own nutty, undeniably unique, and for me, deeply satisfying, look.


Bryony said...

Oh yes, I can only begin to imagine what an amazing sight it would be if everyone ignored the mainstream and wore whatever they wanted!

OdetteO said...

I really agree with Bryony - this world would be so much more entertaining & wonderful if people wore whatever they were inspired to wear. It would be like a crazy, silly fashion show every time you walked out your door.

I really envy Lynn Yaeger her supportive parents. I had a mother who told me literally every other day throughout my adolescence that I was ugly, & it was only because of my close friends contradicting her that I managed to feel at all attractive. I know that's a rather extreme example of unsupportiveness, but so many women are given the message, either explicitly or subtly, that they are only acceptable if they fit into a certain standard of weight/height/coloring/body type/style. How wonderful this world would be - visually, at least - if people could simply focus on being healthy & artistically expressive, rather than fitting themselves into some dull, unimaginative, universal standard of beauty.

Grace said...

I really wish I could get away with wearing medieval and Victorian aesthetic gowns every day. Sadly, they are no longer practical at all, with work and such. But I really want to *feel* bolder about my choices.

I agree about her parents, Odette. She was quite blessed to have them.

Jen Parrish said...

I saw that very same lovely lady when I went to NYC for the Vintage Clothing Expo! She looked amazing, with bright pink blush and a striking outfit.

My mom always asked why I dressed "odd" and wanted attention when I was so shy and hated to be looked at. I just always felt like it was more important to wear what you like and not worry about fitting in. The one time I tried to do that in Jr. High, I nearly got beat up so I took it as a sign to follow my own trail :)

Grace said...

Jen, how wonderful! I would love to see more pictures of her unique style.

I always would have to pause a moment when people would exclaim over my purple medieval-ish wedding gown...because to me, it's not "dressing weird" or "costuming"'s dressing the way that feels the most right to me. You have one of the best wardrobes I've ever seen, btw. You, Lisa, and Merle. (closetlust)

RowanDeVoe said...

for me, i was never trying to be outrageous or go against the mainstream. what i wore just made sense to the little world in my head and felt "right". i make it more tangible by doing and wearing what i want, making my hair red or whatever i want. dressing the way i want(even though everyone has always thought my twin and i were very 'odd' in high school and in college they thought we were foreign exchange students-from what country-they had no idea! we didn't say a word so we kept them guessing-pretty funny then and now!). i just got out all my prom and formal dresses that i made for high school and college dances-wee-hoo! way-out there-a lot of silk fringe and tons of velvet, fortuny and greek kouri influenced pleating, lots of gowns encrusted with rhinestones and each one had a name and mitts-of course-oh, and specific shoes made to match. i don't think your purple wedding dress is unusual at all. my twin had her purple gown, my grandmother had her cobalt blue silk velvet wedding gown and my great auntie from russia wore a black silk velvet wedding gown when she got married in NYC. they didn't think twice so don't think and just do! i promise you will be so much happier! no regrets!

RowanDeVoe said...

oh, and i do have clothes that i have to wear that are work clothes and they are boring and "every day"-we all do. it just makes getting dressed when you can even more special!