Monday, January 19, 2009

Fashion on my mind, as always

{houndstooth headband, sheer negligee dress from a questionable boutique in New York City, schoolboy blazer from the boys department at Nordstrom, sheer ribbed ankle socks from Target, Nanette Lepore ruffled booties}
I had my fifth college admissions interview today -- not only do I smell of eau de caffeine, but I'm coming to the realization that I have less than six months left until I graduate high school. I have friends who will be going into premed programs because they know they want to be doctors, friends who are entering engineering programs who don't even know if they want to be engineers, and friends who close their eyes and pick random majors. And somehow, all of these choices seem to make sense to me.

But not for me. Connie of Pretty Legit, who is graduating from college this year, explicates why she wants to pursue fashion journalism. And somehow, though she's four years older than, I can somewhat relate to her. Even though she's so much cooler than me.

I'm writing this because no one seems to understand why I don't want to major in fashion design or journalism in college. I'm writing this because I get laughed at for pursuing my interests -- that I've gotten numerous comparisons to Elle Woods from Legally Blonde (I'm not even blonde). I'm writing this because I don't equivocate fashion to shopping. I'm writing this because my thoughts have become distorted in my head and the only way I can come to a conclusion is through writing.

I grew up in Oregon (and then moved to California), where I got constantly teased on the schoolbus for having rainbow colored braids and wearing orange plaid skirts while my best friend was beautiful (yes, five year olds can be beautiful) with strawberry blonde hair and black Mary Janes. I was so shy and scared to speak up that I told the school bully that "it was okay" that she pulled out my hair. My mommy even had to chase off the neighborhood kids who taunted me after school everyday.

Also, I didn't speak English well either. So I hid myself in books and magazines and I fantasized about being a princess (and being an Easter bunny, but we won't go there). I was socially awkward throughout middle school too -- and I'm quite sure that my classmates in high school can attest to my current awkwardness too. I read lots of books and subscribed to lots of magazines because until high school, I really didn't know who I was. All I had was a bunch of identities I wanted to create.

My sophomore year of high school, I took a life changing course, AP Art History, and wrote a fifteen-page research paper about how Coco Chanel's lifestyle and designs were representative of the prefeminist movement. I was profoundly amazed at how art and fashion encompassed the political, social, religious, economic, and philosophical circumstances of the artist and the time period behind the pieces.

I know there are people (designers and gallery owners included) who would argue that fashion isn't art, and there are fine arguments to support that. However, I am arguing that fashion is art because there is something universally exquisite about it that can speak to a person whether or not they understand art, whether or not they understand fashion. According to Leo Tolstoy, "Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them." What's more human than fashion, than the ability to clothe oneself not merely for survival but for expression?

For a girl who can't draw too well and spent much of her childhood in muted speech poring over fashion magazines, fashion gave me a voice and an identity. There is genius involved in fashion, just as there is genius involved in anything that requires stretching the limits of the human mind. To be able to write about fashion, to be able to see fashion not for what it is but what it could become on the human body canvas requires a in-depth study of culture, art, history, politics, human anatomy, psychology, business, and movement. It's something I am still trying to perfect.

And perhaps, it is that drive for perfection that attracts me to fashion. I'm not talking about looking perfectly coiffed or dressing effortlessly chic (even when you know you spent two hours deliberating on how to achieve that look). I'm not even talking about having the latest Givenchy platforms, even though I think statement pieces are necessities if one is to embrace fashion. I'm talking about confidence. Confidence when it comes to making fashion faux pas, when it comes to walking to class in those four-inch stilettos, when it comes waking up in the morning and thinking not "What should I wear this morning?" but "What do I want to wear this morning?"

So no, I'm not going to major in journalism or fashion or communications, but that's not to say I don't take fashion or journalism very seriously. I see fashion academically, intellectually, economically, philosophically, creatively, practically -- perhaps even a bit spiritually. I see nothing trivial about it.

I've been told by many of my college admissions interviewers that it's hard for them to connect the dots between what I want to pursue at the school and what I want to pursue in fashion -- but for me, and probably even more for Connie who is entering the "real world" soon, it makes perfect sense. Now, if only I could communicate all of this in one concise sentence.

Miss Couturable

P.S. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! Dallas Clayton writes:
I think if he were alive today
he would be surprised
by how infrequently we use water fountains anymore…

Also, excited about Obama.
My thoughts exactly.
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