Although many academics used to see fashion as a frivolous topic, it has finally been realized that fashion has enormous power, especially what is known as the fashion system. Fashion influences culture, the arts, the economy, politics, cognition, emotion, social movements and it can be used to empower…and/or oppress. For me, fashion offers me a way to perform my identity in the world. Since I am always changing and evolving fashion is the way I communicate who I am at any given time. It is almost more important than language.
For me, fashion has always provided the language of rebellion and each social movement has its uniform so to speak. Since I am a rebellious person fashion has always given me what I need to make the statement I want to make at any given time in history.
There is one quote that most inspires me and conveys everything I feel about my style and the complexity of fashion. It is by Yohji Yamamoto: “Black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy—but mysterious. But above all black says this: ‘I don’t bother you, you don’t bother me.’”
My personal style is hard to describe. I would say minimalist, conceptual, provocative, monochrome, seductive, avant-garde. But my philosophy first and foremost is be authentic. I never wear anything on my blog or instagram that I do not wear in my everyday life. If a trend does not work for you, do not feel you must wear it to be relevant. Also, experiment with how you might style a trend in a way that is real for you. I am also not adverse to taking a risk with what I wear as sometimes I have been quite surprised about how much I like the garment on me, even if I did not think it would look good on the hanger.
As women age, they tend to become more conservative — much more concerned with the loudness of both their style and personality. They become afraid to shine as they grow older. I think this is part of why I have been successful. Someone once said to me, “You are exciting, but not eccentric.” Because I still have to move in a professional world and have credibility, I use conceptual design to push the envelope rather than loudness or color. I get away with a lot because I wear black which people automatically think is serious and somber, even though my Comme des Garçons skirt may have ragged edges. My measure is, I like to walk in a room and have people say that “nobody here looks like her,” but as much as we might want to say, “she is inappropriate,” we cannot say that is true.
While some people might say, “act your age” or “dress your age,” I believe those statements are simply ways society tries to control women and I am having none of it.
I really do not “do” trends. That being said I am always someone who loves a deconstructed shirt and there are many good examples of that in the collections for SS2016. The pieces that are standards for me are mostly from the Japanese designers I love and would include my black wool and my black leather moto jackets, beautifully tailored long black skirts, high waisted and wide leg black pants, long black jackets and vests and of course white shirts. These pieces are timeless and always appear and re-appear.
But, who am I? Why is any of this of importance to you? I am a professor of social work at Fordham although I was an adjunct on the School of Law faculty as the intersection between social welfare and the law is my area of expertise. While being a full-time faculty member, I am also a blogger — the Accidental Icon. The Accidental Icon project could easily be a full-time job in itself as I have gotten more popular. I post on the blog three times per week around one theme, and on Fridays I curate fashion articles on my “Bibliography.” So I am not having to create content every day. My life partner Calvin is also my photographer which makes things much easier.
Our process is very organic. We will get up on a weekend and I might have a designer I need to feature or I just pick an outfit. Then we ask each other where should we go today? We go to a place and start interacting with the environment and then we start shooting. The content will generate from something I have read about fashion that gives me inspiration for the post, or one of the photos might relate to an idea or trend. Sometimes something in my personal life will prompt a post. Living in New York City I am never at a loss for content inspiration.
At 63, I think that when people find it surprising that I blog, it is largely due to a hasty generalization about people my age. Most of my friends and colleagues are very connected because we are still working and that has prompted us to both use technology and to be “wired” as they say. Many people my age are reading blogs, using Facebook and Instagram. I wanted to start a blog because I could not find a magazine or other blog that spoke to a more urban, cosmopolitan, intellectual, working woman like myself.
Before starting my blog, as I am a social scientist with a Ph.D., I methodically researched other blogs. Many of them were formulaic like, “this is what I wore today and this is where you can get it.” I wanted to have more of a conversation with my readers about the clothes, the persons who designed them, how it related to culture. I had decided to “study” fashion as a topic and the blog was the vehicle I used to do it. There were one or two blogs that I really admired and they both contained really good writing. I think that my generation has a very different approach to aging than, say, my mother’s. We were the generation that burned our bras, demonstrated against wars and advocated free love and equality for women. To think that we were not going to age in a modern way and remain engaged in our culture seems surprising to me. So my reinvention as a fashion blogger is a very modern story.
Although others may categorize me as an “older” blogger, you might notice that in any of my social media content I never mention age or talk about aging. My stance is if you want to know what I think about aging just look at me that should give you a clue. I am “performing” aging. This approach allows people from all ages to look at me and have their own narrative whether it is about aging, a particular attitude, being rebellious or reinventing oneself. I do not want to make this a young/old, us/them conversation. I would not be who I am today without the influence of young people: both my students and the young creatives I have been blessed to work with. So when I write I am writing for everyone.
But if you do insist on me sharing a few things about aging, there are three myths I must debunk. First that anti-aging products will stop it; its inevitable and the sooner you accept that and work with it the happier and cooler you will be. Second, with good healthcare you can have a second life so to speak – I have and you can re-invent yourself no matter what age you are. Third, that there are rules about how you should act and dress. This, my dears, is never true.