OR from the island of misfit toys to the red carpet
The evolution of a fashion girl…
Before we get to THE dress, the one that is so symbolic of my 2017, of aging on my own terms, we need to travel back in time. To 1982 when I looked like this:
Yup, that’s ME on the left. Bad perm, 17 layers of clothes. Totally rocking what was the fashion at the time, but playing by every rule. I was so awkward and geeky I thought if ONE preppy rule was good then following ALL OF the preppy rules MUST be better! I assure you that when I removed those skates, I slipped into my sporto duck shoes with my argyle socks. As I look back on this I wonder, “why did I ever think wearing footwear named for a DUCK would attract a boy?” Quick sidebar–how about my friend Kris who totally knew how to pop that leg forward at age 12?
I spent all of the 80’s following almost every fashion expectation touted in the pages of Seventeen Magazine. Fortunately, I learned from that terrible perm and owned an era-defying plain bob through high school. My folks knew I loved fashion, but had boundaries so I (like all of my peers) LIVED for the Limited and Esprit . Canned outfits we plucked straight off the mannequins and duplicated in total. The day that Janet Fernando walked into class with her shaker-knit Forenza sweater on with the V in the back, I almost fainted! Wait! You can wear it BACKWARDS???
No acid wash denim (Mommy Mac hated it). I wasn’t even allowed to wear black until I was a senior in high school (BK said it was too mature). I was a typical insecure teen trying desperately to fit in but also be noticed. Very few teen girls in the 80’s took any REAL fashion risks.
Just before college, I “accidentally” went blond. My friend Michele and I thought painting highlights was an excellent idea. After a couple bills to fix the orange with a professional colorist, I was a blond. I was ready to reinvent myself as a college co-ed. College wasn’t exactly what I expected when it came to fashion, though. We all played it SO safe. J Crew funnel neck sweaters and Laura Ashley dresses for date parties. My fun and formative years were spent dressing mostly like a little girl in flowered dresses. I sometimes think it’s remarkable that I met Himself at this age. Really! This is from an early date. (Shudders uncontrollably)
The good news is I lived with 56 other girls and had access to their closets. The bad news, we all had the exact same stuff, so outfits were recycled and replicated time after time.
Through my 20’s and even early 30’s I worked full time. Suits by day exclusively. “Working Girl” had told us that to make it in a “man’s world” we needed that power suit and nothing else. If I did try to get creative with my style at work, I’d get the side eye from co-workers and go back to boring black suits. Weekend wear was just as predictable. Sadly, this was also when overalls were HAWT. Before kids, young, unencumbered, and hitting the gym daily, I chose to dress like a banker or farmer, no exceptions. You’ve heard of the ROARING 20’s? My wardrobe was the BORING 20’s. Important reference here–aside from a visit to my grandfather where I dressed as Farmer Ted, the other two images below are vacation photos. Because NOTHING says VEGAS and SOUTH BEACH like a twin set. (face palm)
Then…the babies came. Oh, so many mistakes were made. I thought I handled it fashionably, but when I look back I shake my head. In fact, there may have been some maternity overalls and kitschy pigtails. A substantial GO FUND ME campaign will be required to get me to post those photos…
Fast forward to my 40’s! I now work for a luxury fashion company (W by Worth) as a stylist with the best quality, loveliest designs that are always on-trend but also timeless, and what could be better? Playing with fashion and image is what I do EVERY DAY FOR MY JOB!!!!! Poring over glossy fashion magazines and fashiongrams of NYFW and studying how to take those bold new looks home to the suburbs of Pittsburgh is what I actually get paid for. People seek out my opinion as they plan outfits for major presentations, job interviews, travel, and date nights. Most days I have to pinch myself that this is a real career. HALLELUJAH!!!
As I meet with women to style them, so many still want to play it safe. We shop in the same places and gravitate towards the same styles. I work with some drop-dead stunning women who still don’t feel bold enough to try something new and have fun with their wardrobes. Women’s bodies change so many times over those 10-15-20 years and they don’t really feel confident enough to push their limits. Working with exceptional women and empowering THEM in their own style has made me much more creative and brave in my own fashion. As I coach in this idea, I make sure I’m pushing myself as the student, too.
Ok, so tell me about this dress!!!
Moxie Mama has been percolating in my brain for awhile. For almost two years, friends and followers urged me to start a blog. In January, I pulled the trigger and challenged myself in this bold new endeavor. Around the same time, Himself and I scored an invitation to a black-tie gala for the Pittsburgh Film Council–an event I’ve wanted to attend for years, complete with a mile-long red carpet. I searched for the perfect dress and tried on several—most were safe and respectable choices—but I was attracted to a fully sequined, body con dress that plunged to the waist. I ordered it on a whim and expected to return it to Nordstrom as soon as it arrived. I’ve had two kids, I’m over 40, I’m out of shape, what will people think–the insecure teen was nagging in the back of my head that it was NOT the appropriate choice. BUT I kept dreaming about it. It was taunting me, especially every time I thought about building Moxie Mama.
You see, I spent 2016 trying out new things. It was my year of COURAGE. My son Tbone challenged me to start singing again for the first time in almost 30 years. I performed at the Hard Rock café with the School of Rock adult band and rediscovered my teenaged passion for singing and music. I even dressed “like a rockstar” for those performances.
Ziplining through the trees to overcome my fears of heights, public speaking, starting to write again were all anxiety-inducing things I’d pushed through, but this DRESS . But did I have the moxie to wear it?
The day the dress arrived, my sister “Mignon” (obviously not her real name, but an epic family joke, so I’m running with it) was here. I couldn’t exactly ask my teen boys to help me into a dress, so she zipped me up. Mignon and I have very different styles, and I wasn’t sure what reaction I’d get. She LOVED it! She knew what I was trying to portray for the Oscars party and the launch of Moxie Mama. I felt sassy and bold and knew THIS was the dress!
I am not sharing this looking for validation, because the beautiful and liberating part of my 40’s is that I honestly have zero f’s left to give. I’m sharing it because it is symbolic of the journey TO my 40’s and where the next 10-20-30 will take me. I says “I’m just starting.” This dress was something that I NEVER WOULD HAVE WORN 20 years younger, 20 pounds lighter, with my girls still high and tight before breast feeding. Back then I would have dressed for someone else and perceived rules. Why? I didn’t have the MOXIE.