I wasn’t a conventional girl in high school. Some dental issues caused me to have braces until I was a senior in grade school, I was tall and lanky, and I wasn’t revered by the boys at an early age, who were enamored by the girls who were growing into their developed, adult bodies. I was a young girl with a crisis of confidence.
Those ages are definitive in a young girl’s life.
They are the times where we are old enough for people to begin shaping us up for the women we will grow up to be. The grade school mentality is to start assigning superlatives to the most esteemed individual – “the next beauty queen”, “best dressed”, “best smile”, “most likely to succeed”. For some, they are able to receive one of these recognitions to begin building the framework of what makes them as an individual. For the rest of us, myself included, we are left in the shallow waters to figure out who we are for ourselves.
What a tragedy – for the few to be defined by a tallied vote as a recognition from the many, and for the many to deal with the conundrum of not being recognized at all.
Who am I?
The question all young women are forced to face in the defining moments of young adulthood.
Having two parents in apparel business, clothes were never restricted from my life. It wasn’t just the newest brand names that I was able to wear, it was jewelry, accessories, costumes, etc. that I could experiment with. I was able to mix and match styles suited for different generations, flip the trends on their heads, and develop a style outside the norm. Deriving my style from a broad range of sources evidently, led me to searching for vintage dresses and jewelry at resale shops, flea markets, and the corners of my grandmother’s lace filled closet. It wasn’t the “best smile” that made me feel good, it was my confidence in the expression of my ensemble . I learned to use fashion as a reflection of the voice that I wanted to be heard. While the telenovela of grade school wanted to leave me forgotten, or worse, lost in the crowd, I was shaping my own standards through a style I called my own. Sure, I faced those who didn’t understand. Sure, I rolled the dice sometimes and had to live through the embarrassment of a lunchroom that didn’t understand why I was wearing what I did.
But at the end of the day, the ability to use fashion to be bold, to be different, and to live within my own standards for beauty, is what allowed me to explore the depths of who I am.
Fashion is forever fleeting, but style is equal parts expression as it is reflection.
Style is discovered, it accentuates the confidence and character of its beholder.
The majority of my audience are comprised of girls of ages where the question is asked:
Who am I?
There are a plethora of ideas and ideals for them to conform, and in many cases, constrain themselves to. Popularity, trivial superlative awards like “most beautiful”, billboards, brands, social constructs and ideals, parents, the voices of their peers, etc. The voices of the many drown out the voice of the individual.
“When you don’t dress like everyone else, you don’t have to be like everyone else. Fashion can be bought, but style you must possess. Style is about learning who you are, which takes years. There’s no how-to road map for style. It’s about self-expression, and, above all else, it’s about attitude. I see myself as the world’s oldest living teenager, because I have such a good time, and I try to get as much of a kick out of life as possible. Go in confidence in the way of YOUR dreams. Live the life YOU’VE imagined.”
This is who Iris Apfel is.
This is who Iris Apfel helps me be.
This is why the ninety year old Iris Apfel needs to be a voice heard by a generation of tweens.