Monday, April 23, 2012

Freedom Of Expression

Clothing is my passion.
It always has been. Since my early teens, I have expressed myself through my personal style. Back then, I stood in awe of designers like Gaultier, Westwood, Betsy Johnson and Anna Sui. They stood apart from the crowd just as I did. I identified with how they broke "the rules" and made up new ones all their own. I dreamed of moving to Manhattan and going to FIT as I redesigned my thrift finds and sewed myself outfits that were 90% costumery 10% practicality. I was unlike any of the other kids in my school. Freshman year my best friend and I would redesign and style my mother's vintage nightgowns and wear them as dresses (much to Mom's horror). My senior year history class had many a day where my teacher would spend almost the whole period questioning me about what I was wearing and what inspired me to create such my ensembles. Pretty in Pink was one of my favorite movies because in so many ways, I was Andy. 

I turned down a chance to go to school in Manhattan because I was in love with a boy that would end up breaking my heart mid senior year. Instead of college, I managed and bought the merchandise for the coolest boutique any kid like me could work at. At age18 and 19 I was going to trade shows in Manhattan instead of classes. I lived with friends and used to stay up all night making amazing items to wear. I was stopped on the streets of NYC on multiple occasions to have my photograph taken by random people because I looked so different. I traveled to other countries where I would scour their thrift stores and antique shops and have to buy additional luggage just to get all my treasures home.

Nothing has changed much since those teenage years. I still play with clothing at work. Instead of wearing Doc Martens, I wear stilettos.  I still scour the thrift stores as regularly as I can. Instead of making major changes, I do time saving mini alterations when inspired, since my spare time is precious. I still don't fit in with everyone else. Friday night, I stood at my daughter's dance in a bright pink shift dress topped with a tan, linen blazer and nude platform heels. I was fully accessorized and carried a little leather clutch while all the other mom's wear either in track pants or mom jeans and sneakers and carried their logo blaring Coach bags. My closets are still bursting at the seams much like those suitcases I used to have to sit on to get home from my travels.

I wondered over the years if I have a shopping problem. I have always assumed I do. Was I repressing something? Stuffing my closets full because I was lacking something emotionally in my life? I even started this blog because I recognized that my closets runneth over. Recently, I have realized that the inner torment I struggle with regarding my excessive wardrobe is mostly unwarranted. Do I shop way too much? Yes, absolutely. Would I shop as much if I wasn't around clothing all day long? No. Those five months I just spent at home with the kids was living proof. I didn't go shopping anywhere but thrift stores the entire time. When I am around clothing, I see endless styling possibilities in items. I have bought many an item that I styled the way I envisioned, to never wear it again. I am getting better with that. I try to ask myself if it is something I will wear only once, or will it integrate into my wardrobe enough to be worn multiple times? I need to keep myself in check. I have been trying to live my life on the less is more principle but clothing remains my Achille's Heel. I don't just like to dress up; how I dress is part of what defines me.

This has been a very round about way of ultimately sharing with you how restricting the dress code is for me at work. At first I was excited about it because I thought it would simplify my life. How could I want to shop when I wouldn't be able to wear it to work where I spend 75% of my life?
But it hasn't worked out that way.
I hate it. It's demoralizing.
What I haven't shared with you is that we are able to wear other clothing to work provided it is from our Wear To Work collection and is not clearance. That means, once it is discounted at 50% or more, we shouldn't be wearing it any longer. The majority of employees just opt for the black and white because what good is buying something you can only wear for 4 weeks? I thought the same way initially. Initially being the operative word.
My job involves overseeing the stores where new visual and merchandising direction for the company takes place. To put into layman's terms, the first week of April, my stores received all the merchandise for May Week 1. Corporate visual team comes in and sets it, our CEO and the entourage of merchants and buyers come to walk it, approve it, it's photographed, documented and the rest of the company sees it all almost a month later. 
You know what I am driving at right?
I get to purchase these goods (at a fabulous discount) so far in advance that it makes them wearable to work for months, not weeks. As a result, I have been shopping. I need options people. The black and white is way too boring for me. While I have always known that I express myself through style, I never realized how stifling I would find life if that outlet was snuffed. What I have realized is how truly important it is for me to be able to express myself in the same fashion (no pun intended!) I have for over 20 years now. Simply put, it is who I am.

How do you express who you are?


  1. Eleanor, you are awesome. You hit the nail on the head about shopping. I too feel like over shop, trying to fill a void that I'm missing (even though you're not). What I'm missing is a way to express myself. So I shop, decorate house,take photos, still go to concerts, whatever necessary because my everyday life is pretty boring. This is a way to liven it a bit.

  2. i think the way i express myself may be the exact opposite of how you do eleanor! i lean toward having less to choose from, and i've always been this way. i get so overwhelmed with too much choice. it paralyzes me! so i get my freedom from self-imposed limits. isn't that weird?! good topic!

  3. I'm so lucky that there's really no dress code at my office and I wear what I want on a daily basis. I also used to buy something and only wear it once but I'm trying now to think of multiple ways to style it so I can create "new" outfits out of my own closet. I no longer need to constantly go shopping.

    The Tiny Heart

  4. I definitely express myself through clothes and fashion. Thankfully, no dress code at the office allows enough flexibility to dress to not only fit the task at hand for that day, but also for my mood :-)

  5. I'm sure my shopping has something to do with filling a void - but I'm not spending more than I can afford and I enjoy doing it, so there's really no problem, right? It's a good healthy hobby, and I am doing what I can to help stimulate the economy ...

  6. yeah...there really is nothing like the feeling from a fabulous new matter the price....when you just want to wear it all day all night and even in bed!!

  7. Wow - you have the fabulous of jobs. There is nothing like a fantastic new purchase, but I try and just enjoy a store and window shop sometimes and not just buy buy buy. I intentionally built a really really small closet for myself (my husband's is larger)

  8. Hi Eleanor, I enjoyed reading more about you! I think i am a bit like you too. Clothing is important to me as well. I love wearing different garments every day and combine colours & patterns. Clothes simply brighten up my day and give me power!

    Happy Day!

    Madelief x

  9. Hi Eleanor! At the moment I am taking great joy from the fact that I have cleared so much unwanted stuff from my closet! I think I can put better outfits together with less choice:) I also am only buying new pieces if I really like them and can work them a few ways with pieces I already own!

  10. I just found your blog and can really relate! In fact, I just stopped buying clothes, much like you did, to "cherish the excess" ha ha. The one thing I have learned to love about not shopping is remembering good times in old clothes that I haven't worn in years. Anyhow, I look forward to reading more!


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