I just passed my 4-years-in-California mark at the beginning of this year. It seems like it's been longer than that. And at the same time, I still catch myself saying "oh, I just moved here." Not true. I'm officially kinda "from here" now. In the sense that I've been here long enough that I've planted some roots and they're only getting deeper.
|Frieda Khalo (source)|
When I first moved here (to Chico, more specifically), I was (relatively) urban. I had been living in Portland for 5 years. I wore my baby on my hip and wore a miniskirt at the same time. I shopped at Whole Foods almost daily, as it was a stone's throw from my house (and what the hell else are you gonna do when you're at home with a toddler all the time? Bonus! the library was right next door). I was barely 27, and at the time I had been deeply immersed in the Portland 20-somethings culture, which involved a lot of hipster fashion, hipster art, and other general hipster activities and institutions. Our days in nature meant walking to the nearest park (Portland has parks a-plenty) and laying in the grass and eating lots of food (probably from Whole Foods, or from New Seasons). Occasionally, we would go big and drive 45 minutes to the river, which was usually lined with lots of other city folk, and also lined with lots of garbage.
My point is this: when I moved to Chico, I felt determined to bring the big city with me. I would wow this small town with fashion and style, I would bring a big perspective to the narrow streets. I would be marvelous, and it would be fun.
One of my very first weeks here, I knew hardly anyone, but in a small town, that's enough. At a thrift store, I ran into one of my new acquaintances; I was wearing my boots (always), a bomber jacket, and my navy blue shiny spandex leggings from American Apparel. You know the ones, right? At the time, they were all the rage in Portland. They year before, they had been cutting edge, seen only on a couple very hip girls out on the town. They hadn't even hit the big time yet. In LA, they probably had. In Portland, no.
So anyway, I was at this small town thrift store in my shiny leggings, and the new-friend-acquaintance saw me and threw back her head, barking a laugh. Those are hilarious! She yelped. I scowled. Why? I asked. Well, they're just so....shiny! she grinned, turning back to the racks.
I bristled, then softened, then sighed. We're not in Kansas, anymore, I thought to myself. Perhaps my fashion statements here would not inspire transformation, but instead they'd confuse people. Perhaps a fashion statement is not a fashion statement when it's taken out of context. Style is style, no matter where you are. We all have our own personal styles, and each community has it's general style, certain rules and norms that infiltrate the masses, regardless of how large or small that community is, but what style and edginess are in one place, they can be something completely different in another. And this begged more questions: is my style personal, or is it canned? Am I repping my style because it's me, or because it makes people look at me?
|Sisters Shannyn Sossamon and Jenny Lindberg, photo by Mia Kirby (source)|
These questions were not answered in that moment at the thrift store. They still come up for me, and for anyone who gives a flying fuck about what they wear. This is one aspect of why I am a stylist and why I am so fascinated with clothing -- style is deep. It is not just what is on the outside, it is an external function of our deepest secrets, it is a public display of our belief system. It is an intricate network of expression that co-operates with our surrounding energies -- people, places, structures, and policies. Style expresses who we have been and who we hope to become, it gives hints about who we are today, what parts of us are hurt, what parts are radiant, what parts we love the most.
|Mara Hruby, via Style Like U|
Sometimes style can be affected by external sources and energies. Often, we can adopt a style that is not authentic to ourselves but it makes us feel like we are part of something, like we belong. Sometimes, too, style can even have too much inward expression forced outward. Like Miley and her vagina flaunting: some secrets are better when kept a secret. Wear your heart on your sleeve if you must, but don't tear it open and let it bleed for the world to see. Be centered. Own your spirit, own your style; those who see you clearly and who are attracted to your true style will be people who, for whatever reason, are destined to cross your path, if even for a moment.