Friday, October 2, 2009

Leader of Fashion - that could be you!

Having the Wisdom and Courage to be Individual

"My mother always said, 'Be original!' but I didn't understand until I changed to be like everyone else. Once I did fit in, I was like, 'What have I done?' "
-- Actress Sandra Bullock

I'm sure we all have at least one memory of not fitting in due to what we're wearing. I have a memory that features the great discomfort of a close friend at being associated with me in a public place -- not because I was inappropriately dressed, but because I was individually dressed.

Wearing a BN polyester punjab/tunic suit at a summer outdoor concert,
cool but covered.

I decided in 2001 that tunics enabled me to wear trousers modestly.* Ezibuy's Spring 2007 catalogue caught up with the charm and practicality of the garment, declaring tunics to be the IN thing. I smiled. I'd beaten them to it.

*For tunic examples, see BN's Outfit for Summer Outdoors, Tuning in to the Tunic Suit, Fashion Forum on the Farm II (the latter half), or The Great Shirt Hunt continued.

Six years ago I began to focus on stocking my wardrobe with dresses. They were comfortable, I liked the look, and I enjoyed the feminine feeling they gave me. Surprise, surprise, fashion pundits declared that Summer 2007/2008 was for dresses. I already knew that, and had the garments to prove it. I laughed at myself for doing so, but I got quite a kick out of my sense of triumph.

It's hugely ironic that the fashion of the masses brings such pressure on individuals to dress alike when garments they treat as uniform were made fashionable by an individual who dared to be original.

Coco Chanel (1883-1971)
20th Century Fashion Entrepreneur

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel's appearance was always different from her peers. Her individuality caused her to stand out from the crowd, but that same characteristic spawned a clothing style that women have loved and copied for nearly a century since.

A Chanel design from 1938

The Chanel Look

A standard form of feminine elegance today, when Coco introduced the Chanel Suit it was wildly radical. Coco's style guidelines were simplicity, comfort, and yet perfect grace and elegance.

Unlike most designers in Europe at that time, she kept the woman inside the clothes at the center of her creations. "I gave women a sense of freedom; I gave them back their bodies: bodies that were drenched in sweat, due to fashion's finery, lace, corsets, underclothes, padding."

A Chanel Suit, circa 1955

Coco was highly practical, but she also had a shrewd understanding of the way that the fashion world operates. She said, "In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different."

Coco Chanel is proof against the adage that you must conform in order to be valued. She had the wisdom and courage to be herself. What about you?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
-- Akeelah and the Bee

The Chanel Suit, still popular in the 21st Century

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