My professor yesterday turned up to the first class in a double breasted pin striped blazer, enormous tortoiseshell glasses with light-adaptive lenses, and two enormous silver rings on each of his pinkies. While he talked, he would clasp his hands, the metal covering the bottom third of each. Frankly, I’m not sure if it was the lecture on immersing oneself into conflict and literature rather than taking a peripheral view, the reading list, Du Bois, Rhys, Morrison, Coetzee, or the outfit that made me want to take the class.
I love thinking about why people where what they wear. The pinstriped blazer was an updated take on an old tweed look. Professional. The glasses could have been a functional choice. Enormous and statement making, the clear-to-sunglasses is, if nothing else, utility. But the rings. Those were just plain cool.
Right now I’m wearing a puff sleeved blouse, because I never wear it. I’m the worst at wearing pieces I think are beautiful. They always seem too fussy. I can play off a nice sweatshirt as utility, but a puff sleeved is simply not useful to anybody. If its only use is to make me non-naked and to be beautiful, it feels like something that needs to be kept as special.
But I feel nice. I feel fun. I feel like Anne of Green Gables in her first puffed sleeve dress. Begone utility! Let me enjoy my aesthetics in peace. Let me gain use out of the beautiful.
1. My application to art school was basically a bunch of pictures of me wearing a suit (some of which live, to this day, on this blog). Actually, it was a bunch of pictures of me wearing an thrifted blazer and some itchy black pants, climbing trees, running uphill, pretending to ski, and jumping into the freezing cold Connecticut river in October.
2. I honestly haven’t liked myself in a blazer since then.
3. Sen. Tammy Duckworth had to dress her newborn in a jacket so that the baby could go on the Senate floor.
4. This is the first time I actually wanted to wear a blazer in a very long time.
I’ve been slouching in grey sweatpants from a school I don’t even go to, sitting by the fire with wool socks on my feet. I’ve been avoiding taking too many pictures of myself, age? Self awareness? Laziness, preventing the narcissistic egoism that it takes to shoot life on selfie mode.
So let’s not worry too much about the pictures.
Last year I resolved, in somewhat flowery language (ha!) to bloom. In my personal style, in school, in the way I lived my life. To an extent, I think I did that.
I just finished reading the book Autumn Light, by Pico Iyer. Iyer talks about the fallacy of works with clearly delineated ends and beginnings. The book is a celebration of the seasons of change, but also how time loops back on itself, season repeating, the maple leaves budding, growing, yellowing, and falling, over and over and over.
I’ve noticed I don’t like wearing black as much as I once did. Part of it’s a byproduct of living with an exceptionally furry cat who likes to leave her hair on everything. A black turtleneck is her favorite canvas. Part of it is boredom, in wearing the same things I’ve been wearing for years. There’s nothing quite like the mirror-shock after coming home for the holidays and putting on the clothes of a self of five years ago. Part of it is wanting a little more light in my outfits. It’s so dark out: why bring the darkness with me everywhere I go?
(My trusty black overalls, don’t worry. This is not about you).
This won’t last. It’ll come and go as all style moods do, as all phases of life do, maple leaves yellowing. So much of fashion is searching for classics, for the perfect white blouse and pencil skirt that are timeless, ageless, personality-less, because how else could a shirt work from ages 15 to 52? Nobody is the same through time. Even these words won’t necessarily be here forever, something I learned about via a hacked blog and a necessary two month hiatus, along with a good amount of head banging on my keyboard.
Anyways, on to the new year. Bring on the glitter. For once, a LBD simply won’t do.
Beep beep! I recently rolled up (it rolled up to me?) to the Primark on Tour bus. There was a prize wheel to be spun. There was a candle mysteriously scented “cashmere”, which sounds like it would smell like smelly goats but actually smelled like a warm night in. Also there was me, because aforementioned bus came right to Harvard square. And as a college student who basically lives in a bubble and rarely leaves campus, that the bus came to the square was amazing (they parked about four minutes away from my bed).
Primark’s business model is almost completely opposite from most brands. We’re in the era of direct to consumer models, online first, cutting costs by cutting overhead by staying out of brick and mortar. And as much as that’s changing, with major DTC players choosing to open up more and more storefronts, a huge retailer like Primark that doesn’t actually have an online shop is an absolute rarity. You can’t tap through on instagram, you can’t do one click shopping. You have to go to a store (or a truck!), see it in person, interact with each and every piece in a tangible way. As branding today isn’t so much about a logo as it is about an experience, an alignment of views or interests on a deeper level than just visual, the truck stop with its games-and-freebie-fun mixed with fashion-fun really came together as a brand, not just some faceless store in a mall.
For the uninitiated, Primark is 50 (!!) years old, sells trendy things and basic things and lots and lots of fluffy things. My first Primark purchase was a pair of maroon sweatpants that basically started off my revelation that comfortable clothes are inherently superior to uncomfortable clothes. They also cost $12. I’ve worn them about once (okay, sometimes more than once) a week for over a year, and they still nail that tight at the ankle, thick but not too thick jogger style. I also recently got a pair of platform boots ($23!!) which prompted me to write about more being more, and are also great for stomping around and being approximately 1.5 inches taller. Primark is where I took my Freshman year roommates, who are all from the south, sweater shopping once temperatures started dipping under 50 last year. Affordable style is central to the brand, and as a college student, that’s pretty central to my brand too.
Snuggled up in some pillows by the back of the bus, surrounded by Gilmore Girl-esq fall clothes, I got to wondering more about the brand’s practices. Primark publishes a sourcing map, along with lots of information on employee training about sustainability and ethical practices (you can read it here). It’s the kind of transparency that acknowledges the difficulty for a major retailer like Primark to completely monitor all of its supply chain. They’re clearly trying; are a part of several ethical initiatives, and a part of the conversation about ethicality and sustainability in fashion. Which to me made the whole event much more meaningful and exciting.
So they’re going somewhere, physically, in the little blue truck, and less concretely, in a more environmental and ethical direction. Also, I got to spin a prize wheel, which made me feel like a little kid in a candy store. If you’re in Boston, check out where they’re headed to next, and definitely swing by!
This is a sponsored post in partnership with Primark and the InfluenceHer Collective. All words and opinions are my own
Traditionally I’ve prescribed to a version of balance where big complements small. If I’m wearing big jeans I’ll wear a little top, fancy pants and a junky jacket, frilly dress and functional kicks. Salad and french fries, less sleep and more coffee, nights in and nights out.
Sophomore year is a more is more time. It crept in first in clubs, where I started doing one in a much bigger way and ended up doing them all “bigger”. Then with classes, where I started out thinking I would take Spanish and ended up in a class on translation. Slowly everything is becoming more, more, more, until it’s not so slow any more, time, like everything else, speeding up.
The rules of balance seem to be those of give and take, a loss of pareto efficiency where if one side wins, the other side must surely be losing. But as ridiculous as it sounds, my big boots are adding value to my outfit, balancing not through detraction but through enlarging my sartorial pie. Clearly I’ve been spending too long in economics classrooms. And clearly I’m in need of grounding, of figuring out how to let all the big things in my life slide together, make space for each other. But I do believe that even if this pace is unsustainable, it’s forcing me to learn to balance through adding rather than detracting, forcing growth in a brutal but ultimately exciting way.
So big boots. And even on days when I only manage to scrounge up a small bit of motivation, big dreams.