–How the ugly duckling of the fashion world helped me define my personal style statement.
In an ode to the most influential blogger turned style guru of our generation, I want to pay tribute to Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine for motivating me to make my own mark on a movement. If you’re unfamiliar with her and her book, first of all: GO READ IT! Download it on your Nook, grab it off a shelf at Urban Outfitters, or steal it from your Fashion Design major roomie, because this book is funny, interesting, and brilliant all at the same time. In a nutshell, Medine tells about her trials and tribulations as a self proclaimed “Man-Repeller” due to her avant-garde and sometimes outlandish ways of dressing. With her artistic nature and inordinate love for overalls, she tells a story of embracing who she is and the things she loves (including things like terrible overalls).
While I was reading this book, I was simultaneously rethinking the way I approached fashion. Sure, I was a Fashion Business major with a focus in styling at a great art school that knew how to properly pronounce luxury fashion house names like Balmain and Givenchy before Kanye West dropped them in his tracks. I could tell you that Hedi Slimane is the head of Saint Laurent and Raf Simons directs Christian Dior. Shit, I could even (poorly) construct my boyfriend a button down from scratch.
But there was one thing I couldn’t clearly define: my personal sense of style.
I had all of the basics down. Plain Alexander Wang V-necks in monochromatic colors, a few pairs of BDG high waisted black denim, American Apparel circle skirts and anything else you’d think a fashionista would possess.
Then I started to look at pieces I wasn’t always confident wearing; thrifted boyfriend jeans, an androgynous men’s’ Yves Saint Laurent blazer, and the most repelling part of my closet–my black leather Birkenstocks. Sure, I had rocked the boyfriend jeans with my white Wang tee when I was bloated during finals last semester. And I had definitely worn that blazer to an interview and nailed it. But when I looked at the Birkenstocks–nothing came to my mind but an overwhelming reaction that read yuck. I had used them for photo shoots and things of the sort, but I couldn’t fathom the idea of ACTUALLY wearing those terribly hideous shoes out of the house. I bought them a few years ago, but I had always convinced myself that I could better correlate my outfit with another pair of shoes, or really any other shoes.
Let me just see how they look. Ugh, my boyfriend will probably vomit if I ever wore these around him. My pedicure looks really posh, though. What if I cuff my jeans like those cute fashion bloggers do? Oooohhhh… that’s cute. Wait. These are TOO comfortable. Let me Google ‘Celebrities in Birkenstocks.’
And there she was Leandra Medine in the same exact shoes, except hers were white.
And oh, she looked so good.
I couldn’t believe how many women were wearing these shoes. Heidi Klum. Mary-Kate Olsen. Even Kate Moss has a few pairs. There was my moment of clarity. While I was afraid to wear these shoes out of the house, statement pieces like these were what defined who I was: a true fashion connoisseur. I was so intrigued by the way these women owned what they were wearing, ignoring any negative stigma attached to their apparel. That is what made the shoes so chic. I had to actually convince myself to wear a pair of shoes outside because I was so fearful of what other people would think of them. In the very vain word of fashion, dressing to impress is constantly something you do. Even outside of the world of fashion, a physical appearance is one’s first impression. But then I thought: Whom exactly am I trying to impress? While I was reading this book, I was simultaneously rethinking the way I approached fashion. Having the satisfaction of others isonly as fulfilling as the satisfaction you have with yourself. I bought these shoes for a reason and let them sit in a box in my closet because I was afraid. Why should I let anyone else choose how I dress myself everyday? These shoes were on trend, comfortable, and (on a college student’s dime) pretty damn expensive.
Medine did not let her overalls define her, but instead defined her overalls. Just like Karl Lagerfeld defines his leather gloves and Azzedine Alaia defines his black turtleneck, decide to define your own clothing. Let fashion be a conscious choice. Wear what you want when you want, take chances and most importantly be comfortable in your own skin. The Birkenstock phenomenon acted as my personal release into fashion freedom. So even if slip-on hippie sandals aren’t your biggest fashion fear, I hope that when you find yours that you’ll wear your repellent proud because confidence is the epitome of stylish.
–article by ANGELICA RUIZ