Why You Should Have A Role Model That Dresses Nothing Like You

On a good day when sweatpants don’t take over, I like to look like the opening scene of Funny Face — my ultimate source of style inspiration. I’d swan dive into a pile of twill skirt suits, cropped little jackets, sassy little hats sitting diagonally on top of curls, and pastel colored dresses that have pleats and exaggerated collars. I might not be as chirpy as the ladies fawning over pink in that scene, but with my vintage style, I could tip toe into the room while they were huddled over the magazine layouts, and no one would notice a stranger. These Katherines and Bettys are my fashion role models, and I feel more like myself when wearing a dress my grandmother would wear to church than wearing a pair of jeans or knits.

As you’d probably gathered, when I try to stick words onto my style, feminine, vintage, and delicate come to mind. So why do I have pictures of Rihanna, Iris Apfel and Illana Glazer taking up prime real estate on my closet door?

Rihanna dresses insane. Insane in a rad way, but insane nevertheless. Iris Apfel's style is wildly eccentric and she appears like she might tip over with all the jewelry she has strung around her neck, and Illana Glazer's fashion makes her look intimidatingly urban with her blue frosted lipstick and her crop tops. These three are about as faraway from my Audrey Hepburns and Doris Days as I could get, and that’s exactly why I love them and look up to them. I find it important, in both life and in fashion, to have role models that are starkly, shockingly different from myself. You need to allow yourself to feel taken aback by people’s divergence from your way of life, and then become cozy with that shock to the point where you enjoy and appreciate it. You need to have women that influence you with their presence and attitude, even though it wouldn’t be instinct to act or think the same as them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not championing for everyone to become ad hoc with their style. I wouldn’t wear a mesh dress like Rihanna and I wouldn’t wear a magenta pink wig like Illana, but I still glance fondly at them every time I stand in front of my closet in the morning, trying to decide which gingham dress to zip up.

Why? Because, 1: They make fashion look crazy fun. And 2: It’s important to surround yourself with other styles so you don’t become style-centric. We all fall bait to those “nose up in the air” moments, where we see a girl with a wild dress pass us on the sidewalk, or another with a Nickleback tee sitting in the booth over from us, and we feel meangirl thoughts start to buzz in our heads. Sometimes our inner Reginas win and we flick a “how dare you” type of look in their direction.

But that’s the thing: It’s important not to believe that your way of dressing is the only right way of dressing. I’m sure I’d have to practically pin a couple of you down to force a full skirt over your head. You might appreciate my nod to the '50s if we pass each other on the bus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’d be caught dead heading out your apartment door with a beret on your head or a silk scarf around your neck. And you wouldn’t want to hurt my feelings by snickering at me behind your book as we meet eyes on said bus, either. In that moment where you’d flick your eyes down to my granny heels, I’d feel impossibly embarrassed and would want to tear off all the things that make me, me and, instead, slip into jeans. I’d want to be normal and I'd wish I didn’t feel so excited about finding outdated, curtain-looking dresses so special.

That’s exactly why I have RiRi with her cameo puffer jackets and her black lipstick taped to my closet door. That’s why I like to wink at Iris and her fabulous cokebottle glasses and her red fur every time I decide on a full skirt that’s messy with flowers. We don’t look alike, but we still inspire each other.

They make me appreciate the creativity, the courage, and the frank and open love for fashion that it takes for another woman to dress the way she feels inside. They keep me grounded in a way that has made me realize style isn’t so much about the rules that make your sweater match your shoes, or that govern how your jeans fit around your waist. Rather, it’s about being open, being curious, and above all, being excited to live out loud.

So who am I to judge one living out loud with a Nickleback tee? I’d never again.

Images: Author's Own; Getty