fashion forewarned

Made you look!  I’m guessing you did a bit of a double take there but now it’s clear–that’s not me in that photo, that’s my model/actress sis Julie Henderson.  I thought I might be able to draw you in with her fabulousness; you see, she’s got the style chops in the family. Not that anyone would be so inclined, but don’t look here for style advice.  I spend most days walking around in some ensemble resembling the pic below:

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Double photo op: a normal day’s outfit (minus the hiking boots!) plus me climbing a mountain! 

You won’t catch me reading too many style mags or scrolling through fashion blogs, although I will concede that I am entirely envious of the stamina many of these ladies have. I’ve got bloggers in my newsfeed posting pics of themselves in 10 different outfits a day, and I rarely find the energy to put one together–much less photograph it for the world to see!

When I first moved to New York in 2010 I had some ideas and some dreams, but no solid leads on what I was going to do to keep a roof over my head. I worked for one day at a restaurant in Brooklyn and decided that although I was desperate, my days of waiting tables were over (8 years was long enough!).

One day my sister, who literally supported me in every way my first year or two here, came home from a job with an idea. That day she had been at work regaling everyone on set with my adventures moving to New York and my struggle with finding work. As luck would have it, the wardrobe stylist (sweetest woman ever!) jumped in and offered to train me a bit as an assistant.  I followed her and her regular gal on to several different jobs and started to learn about pinning and double sided tape and steaming (my God, the steaming!! it never ended!). The stylist was so generous-she not only eventually hired me for several jobs when her assistant was unable to join her, she recommended me to other stylists and I was able to start freelancing on a semi-regular basis.

Funnily enough, the aspect of the job I found most difficult started before I even left my apartment in the morning. Being a stylist assistant required that I “look the part”, or as my sister would say, “reflect your unique personal style.” Problem was, I had no personal style. Truthfully, I’d just come off a couple of years where there was so much “real stuff” going on in my life that dressing for comfort was about all I could manage.

Most days I sheepishly walked into studios wearing borrowed pieces (graciously lended by my sis) that I didn’t really feel comfortable in. I never felt “put together”, a state I’ve now learned is less dependent on the chicness of the clothing than it is the confidence of the wearer. I’d spend the day fidgeting with my sweater and trying to steal glances in mirrors that weren’t meant for me. It didn’t help that the other primary skill required in the fashion industry is the ability to make small talk. I was always able to connect with individuals on mutual genuine interests but had a great deal more difficulty chatting about the weather or the current events according to TMZ (I’m not a snob, I swear).

Although working in fashion was clearly not my calling, I’ll forever be grateful for the gig. These small jobs began my trek towards independence in a city I still wasn’t positive wouldn’t eat me alive. I met so many amazing people–one of whom introduced me to a producer who gave me my first job as an intern on a film (a film that never got made, but that’s another story!).

Now that I have found a little nook and am consistently working in an industry I feel like I fit into (at least for now), I have to admit I have yet to make any giant leaps forward in terms of personal style. However, a while ago, I decided that a certain group of people are my new fashion inspo…wardrobe assistants!!! Go figure, right? If I’m being truthful, I’m inspired by pretty much everyone who works in the wardrobe departments on the films and tv shows I’ve been on…although not for the reasons you might think. You see contrary to what most would imagine, working in costumes is not a glamorous job. It involves a lot of heavy lifting and schlepping and stressful running around, tediously purchasing and returning exorbitant amounts of clothing. Most of them put in 12-16 hour days–hours I switched departments to avoid.

Despite all this, most of these ladies (not saying there aren’t fellas in wardrobe, I just don’t envy their fashion savvy!) manage to come to work everyday in pulled together yet effortless looks. They’ve found some way to balance their own style with comfort and functionality. You’re not going to spot them flaunting full-fledged hair and makeup and 5-inch heels, but you also won’t spot any yoga pants and old tees. When I see them I think to myself–“come one girl, you can do that.”

While these ladies make it look easy, it’s obvious they put at least a little time into their looks every day. I think that’s what usually stops me when it comes to fashion–the time and the effort. If I made a list of things I prioritize, you’d have to turn the page to find words like clothing, or style, or fashion. Most mornings I get up between 530 and 6, and I’m either headed to the park for a run or off to the hot room for yoga. Some days I skip the workout and opt to get a couple hours of writing in. Without fail I’ll always choose to squeeze in an extra mile or get a little more work done before I reserve extra time for styling whatever I’m wearing that day. Before I know it, I’m out of the shower and I’ve got 10 minutes to get out the door.

I used to get resentful when I heard people say that what you wear says something about who you are. To me that seems so superficial and flimsy. I feel like I’ve worked really hard to become the person I am up to this point- so the idea that my American Apparel T and Converse give you some sort of insight into who I am just doesn’t feel real or even fair. I’ve seen insecurity walking around in a hoodie and also in Manolo Blahniks; you can only take so much from the outside.  Lately however, I’ve been broadening this concept just a bit (since it seems to be so widely accepted), and trying to identify with it. Perhaps what I’m wearing is not a direct window into who I am, but it sure can reflect where I’m at, or how I feel, especially in that day. This doesn’t mean that every day I show up to work in yoga pants I’m feeling blah or down–but sometimes, that assessment is spot on. What I started to want to change was the image I saw staring back at me on days I felt great. I don’t feel fidgety or uncertain when I look in the mirror anymore–so why not let my hair down and reflect that confidence? It seems like in my 30s I’ve been developing this growing desire to have my outsides match my insides. Life isn’t beating me down like it was in my early twenties, so I guess I want to stop dressing like it is.

You’ll still find me running around my neighborhood and maybe even one day a week headed to work in stretchy pants–you’re never gonna convince this girl that comfort and functionality are not king. You also won’t see me posting pics of cute outfits I’ve put together–if I’m wearing pants I have to zip, do you really think I have time to take a photo?

Just be assured I’m making more of an effort. I don’t really believe in having it all; but I do believe you can have a little bit of everything. So some days, I skip that extra mile, or I put away the laptop- and I put that additional ten minutes towards looking the best I can in that day.

How about you? What do you prioritize over fashion, or what does looking your best each day come before? Do you ever shift one priority to make room for another? Does how you dress say something about who you are?

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