The way I feel about my current wardrobe is similar to how I felt about life when I was 13, which is to say overall secure, sometimes too self-assured, perplexed by a few pieces, completely obsessed with one or two things and absolutely resistant to the unknown, the unfamiliar, to change. Clothes have filtered in and out, but my overall “aesthetic” has been the same for a while. For the same reasons you don’t need a new couch or comforter or soulmate once a year, I was content and happy.
This is all very dramatic, but I was thrown for a giant loop this November when my friends and I confirmed a trip for the end of December. We were going to go skiing in Aspen, an exotic snow globe of an idea when I first heard it; a source of total hysteria when the reality of what this meant (or what I thought the reality of this meant) set in. I would have to buy a whole new wardrobe and develop a whole new sense of style to fit in with a bunch of modern Slim Aarons characters and the town’s storied, posh surroundings.
(I know. CHILL OUT.)
I did the obvious and spent too much time and money on things I told myself I’d wear again. I called in a ridiculous designer sweater so large it doesn’t fit under a coat. I made a Pinterest board, which I do not do, and put the model Verushka at the center of it.
I began to source the advice of everyone except for myself. What should I wear, how should I pack, how should I act? Which was weird, because it’s been a long time since I’ve really had to question what my actual style is. It’s definitely been a while since I’ve worried about it. The most notable transitions of discomfort — attempts to establish new identity — aside from my freshman year of high school, all involved a suitcase. College. New York City. Moving to a grown-up apartment after a sublet. Flying home to San Francisco after a two-year gap to visit. It’s never the travel that makes me panic, but the person I decide I should be upon landing.
I sank deep into my current style a few years ago. Working at Man Repeller helped, because here was a place where I could wear whatever I wanted, where experimenting was part of the job and where, as a writer, I was typing out my identity daily. This same safe space that offered amnesty to my weird thoughts, anxieties and a short-lived culottes phase also housed beautiful delicacies that I couldn’t necessarily fit in — or if I did, didn’t look great in and definitely couldn’t afford. But whatever; I had worked in fashion for enough years prior that I’d come to peace with my reality inside a world of fantasy.
Just as people say you need to grow a thick skin to refract insults and shit storms, you need to get used to existing among that which you can’t have. Life isn’t fair, grass is always greener, the shoes on sale aren’t in your size, that guy you like has a girlfriend, etc. I learned this quickly and developed a style that felt true and good to me. I stopped buying things for the sake of trends, avoided the uniforms of others and learned what looked best on my body (or at least what I felt most comfortable in). Then I held on tightly and kept my eyes straight ahead.
It’s easy to forget about those raw, baby years of first settling into this city. It’s easy to forget that I had to come to peace with my gaping wardrobe inadequacies. Somehow, I learned to substitute wanting what other people had by looking at my closet (or stores I could afford) differently. Somehow, I learned how to accept that feeling of defeat by telling myself little white lies like, “Whatever, it’s not even that nice,” “It’s kind of ugly, actually,” or, “I’ll buy three of these when I’m rich.” Memories of these anxious years came rushing back in such a weird way during my pre-packing freak-out. It was so unnecessarily existential.
WHO AM I?
And does that version of me even wear high-waisted jeans?!
What ended up happening is that I packed like an absolute idiot. My suitcase was overweight. So was the giant duffle bag “carry on” that I lugged from Newark to San Francisco to Colorado and back. Ask me how many people’s heads I banged into on the plane.
Now ask me how many outfits I wore out of the twenty-five I packed. Including ski clothes, four. Ask me if the best ones changed my life, if the risky ones pushed me into a great big love or if the bad one (in retrospect) ruined anything at all. Ask me if anyone else except for me cared.
Of course not. I thought about this a lot on the flight home, wearing the same exact travel outfit I’d arrived in. I came to no real conclusions or epiphanies other than the fact that personal style, like every other damn thing, is a journey. Something not to take quite so seriously, at least where luggage is involved.
Feature Image by George Bartenkin via Getty Images. Embedded Photo by Ernst Haas via Getty Images. Luggage Photo by Krista Anna Lewis featuring a Steamline Luggage suitcase.