Although I’ve been described as many things, “fashionista” and “clothes horse” aren’t among them. I don’t consider this a loss. I’ve been lucky enough to get complimented on my clothes, period, even though that isn’t the kind of praise I’m seeking out. On the other hand I’ve been pigeonholed as someone who has no discernible style and relatively invisible. I have no problem with that either.
If someone was to ask me about personal style I would tell them that my look communicates “I’m dressed” and to count themselves lucky. After all, Ilana and I have joked that if I had my way I would wear a bathrobe all day (while inexplicably toting a shotgun, living in an isolated farmhouse nicknamed “Cold Mountain” and twisting the heads off of roosters). Clothes keep me warm and protect my skin from the elements, but they aren’t my most immediate concern. It’s hard enough to be a girl and try to make yourself look presentable to the world -as well as yourself- every day.
But the thought occurred to me recently: even if you’re not trying, your clothes are saying something. And when you think about who has influenced what you’re saying, it gets a hell of a lot funnier. Or at least in my case it does.
Here is a list of my top 9 fashion inspirations- people who directly or indirectly influenced the clothing I wear. In some cases I’ve simply identified with what they wear and feel better about my “style” or lack thereof. In fact, I’d argue half of this list are people who have been notable for their reported “lack of style.” In other cases I’ve appreciated their fashion sense although I don’t completely integrate it into my own.
Enjoy. Or be prepared to get confused.
– – –
1) Edie Sedgwick
Edie Sedgwick is the only thing that interests me about the ’60s. Since her death in 1971 she has been idolized as somewhat of a fashion icon, and perhaps she is the only historical figure whose clothes are interesting to me. It’s because everything she wore was pared down and comfortable, at least by today’s standards. However, during her time she was considered outlandish.
In spite of this her clothes make sense to me. Near the end of her life she disclosed that many of her choices were due to “psychological disturbance” and were picked up by magazines and papers on accident. In fact, many of the things she wore harkened back to the disheveled, informal clothes from her stays in hospitals than the chic outfits she became known for in Cambridge.
When she rose to fame she was known for wearing tights and a leotard topped with a t-shirt or a coat. Her higher-end ensembles by Rudi Gernrieich were just as simple but stunning. Sedgwick wanted the ability to move and be uninhibited, no matter where she was. She even stated a distaste for buttons, stating that they made her nervous.
It’s this kind of simplicity and effortlessness that has worked its way into my closet. And although not everyone can pull off a look like Sedgwick’s, there’s no problem with being at ease in your clothes. I mean, seriously- tights and t-shirt are the simplest and most comfortable outfit I can think of.
2) Dita Von Teese
I hated wearing pants. Loathed them- mostly because women’s pants are cut to fit ten-year-old boys anyway. Then Dita Von Teese came along and said something like, “I never wear jeans.” After that I saw other pictures of her. This woman wears whatever she damn pleases, looking completely pulled together and amazing while she does it.
It was a revolutionary idea for me. I started to do whatever I wanted. For one thing I’ve never worn pants since, only tights, leggings, dresses and skirts.
During this time my mother asked me why I was suddenly dressing more femininely. I said, “Dita Von Teese.” She exclaimed, “Thank Dita Von Teese!”
I felt obligated to explain to her that Von Teese is a stripper and burlesque dancer. It turned out she didn’t care that much.
3) Kurt Cobain
If Kurt Cobain knew how many people aspire to look like him and wear his clothes he would be confused. Because he simply didn’t care. Although he was a successful musician he took pride in showing up places looking the same as when he started: kind of homeless.
It’s this lack of paying attention that I respect, and it also points out how strange fashion is in the first place. The Grunge scene was integrated into fashion and taken seriously, which is funny- the people setting these fashion standards didn’t give a shit. Many of them were poor to begin with, putting together outfits from whatever they could find. Cobain was one of those people.
Personally I love his sweaters, and as I’ve acquired some over the years I’ve nicknamed them “Opa Sweaters.” But maybe they don’t just relate to my grandfather. They could be Cobain’s influence but I didn’t catch on. After all, it seems both of us are dressing outside of our generation. It took a few years to realize this.
I’ve also developed a fondness for t-shirts carting logos for things I don’t know about or have no association with. It could be called “fashion randomness” or simply being poor and unconcerned, but it does harken back to Cobain in some way.
4) Alice Glass
Like Cobain, Alice Glass doesn’t really care either. The picture here is a photo-op on a red carpet, and what is Glass doing? Drinking a beer and walking away from the cameras. That’s a smart girl.
The main similarity between my clothes and Glass’s is that we’ve inherited many of them. When Glass hit the scene people would ask her about her clothes. She revealed that many of them were from her grandmother, who had passed away. At one point she was asked where her fashion inspiration came from. She replied, “Gotta say, dead old ladies.”
Glass is also notable for being one of those few musicians who keeps herself covered up. I find that admirable. There’s a rare exception here or there, but Glass has been outspoken on this issue. Sexuality isn’t part of her game; she doesn’t want to objectified. It doesn’t stop idiots from trying to take photographs up her skirt or grope her when she performs, but she knows how to handle herself.
5) Zachary Quinto
I’ve heard that people loathe Zachary Quinto’s style, but I love it.
Sure, he’s a gay man and I’m a straight girl. It’s stereotypical to believe it should be the other way around. And I don’t care. I think his fashion sense is bold and odd but completely charming. Besides, it works for him.
Anyway, if I own anything with horizontal stripes, it’s because of him. I also credit him with getting me to try purple, dark blues and some bright greens.
6) Marceline Day in The Cameraman (1928)
I don’t usually pay attention to clothes that women are wearing in films, but Marceline Day was absolutely adorable in The Cameraman. Like that striped swimsuit (above)? I’ve never seen a swimsuit I’ve wanted so much.
I even paid attention to her shoes. They’re featured here:
I liked the shoes so much I purchased a pair just like them, but they’re reserved for special occasions.
There are other outfits Day wears that are just as great, complimenting her character and the surrounding action. However the shoes and the swimsuit have stayed with me the longest. (For the record, they’re worn during the best “first date” sequence of all time. I highly recommend seeing the film in its entirety.)
7) Jack White
Jack White has his own distinctive style, but that isn’t what has influenced me. It’s the color red. After I became a fan of The White Stripes the color slowly has crept into my wardrobe. I wouldn’t have predicted this beforehand, and without him it simply wouldn’t have happened. I suppose I should credit Meg as well, but I have the feeling that red was his idea. I want to give credit where credit is due.
For the most part my closet has been full of neutral colors my entire life. Now there’s red, lots of red. It has even taken over outside of the closet, becoming a signature color for my electronics, accessories and kitchenware.
Since then he’s been wearing red less and less, but the influence is still there. I give him points for dressing like a gentleman, though (see above, right). I associate that with Tom Waits.
8) Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale
I don’t only value Little Edie’s strength as a woman, but how she chose to present herself in an unconventional, completely inventive way. If there was ever an example of someone creating an image out of nothing, she immediately comes to mind. And not only did she do that, she transformed it into her own unique presentation of beauty.
Considering the ups, downs, successes and hard knocks of Little Edie’s life, what she always retained was living without shame. When the Mayles brothers arrived to interview her and her mother for Grey Gardens (1975) did she let her situation, age and Alopecia inhibit her?
Little Edie was perpetually aware of her presentation, and within the confines of her cloistered world she did her best with what was provided. She wore swimsuits with heels, used sweaters as headwraps, layered her ensembles with lace and tied skirts to the side. A jeweled brooch would often complete her look, becoming a signature touch.
Although I don’t dress like Little Edie (and if I did I would simply be ripping her off) I respect her spirit of individuality and creativity. Her influence has been: “Do whatever the hell you want, especially when you get older. Who’s looking? Who cares?”
There was only one of her, and we will not see the likes of her ever again.
9) Mushtache Dad
If at this point you’re scratching your head and saying, “What the fuck?” Too bad, deal with it. I’m Team Mushtache Dad.
In fact, Charlie Swan is the only cool person in the Twilight film franchise (in the books he sucks like everyone else), which is not only an anomaly, but a miracle. And since the people I’ve mentioned before are cool, why can’t he be included? I don’t care if he’s a fictional character. Guy knows how to rock flannel and say all the right dry, sarcastic things in a terrible movie.
So why do I own some plaid shirts? I’m beginning to think there’s only one reason: Mushtache Dad. I also acquired a free pair of kickass Doc Martens last month. I joked, “These are the perfect shoes to wear when you’re doing rescue breathing on Harry Bongwater.”
I rest my case.