My closet used to be an ode to Doris Day: It was all tea length dresses, sherbet colors, and gingham skirts. That's why I know first-hand that changing your style can be a scary thing. I used to scour estate sales, tripping over fur hats and bright pink two-piece sets, imagining the fabulous stories the women before me played out in those same pieces half a century ago. Did they wear this during dinner parties they'd throw in their suburbian home, feeling chic as they served cocktails while the records played loud and happy? Or did they slip this on while riding the train to the city, on their way to their typewriter and corporate ladder. It was fascinating, and it was completely charming.
Now, however, my closet is filled with white and navy, with clean lines and simple shapes. The Joan and Peggy dresses were replaced with shift and shirt dresses, and the polka dot skirts with high-waist pants. While I still love vintage, you'd never guess I had a whole closet of it just a few months back. Change — especially radical change — is uncomfortable and more than a little nerve wracking. We like things to stay the same. Our "comfort zone" is called that for a reason, and anything outside of it is cause for a fidgety, sleeve-pulling sort of panic.
But feeling your style move in a completely new direction is exciting because it means something inside you shifted along the way while you weren't looking. You've grown, even if you weren't ready for it. Especially if you weren't ready for it.
For me, my vintage era was my in-between stage. I fell into it right as I finished college and got my first studio apartment in downtown Chicago — it was just me, my bed next to my fridge, and a closet full of Peter Pan collars and plaid skirts. I didn't feel like I had quite yet grown into my adult shoes, and instead felt like I was pretending to be a grownup with my office job and my rent checks.
On the inside, I felt like I was keeping it all together by the skin of my teeth. I'd find myself looking slightly dead-eyed in my reflection as I'd wash my hands in the work bathroom, tired with the effort of being somewhere I didn't want to be.
I was stuck somewhere in the middle, and to make up for that weird limbo I allowed myself to play pretend with my dresses and hide behind the style of glamorous women from a glamorous time. I slipped into their sleeves, pulled their zippers up my back, and felt safe in the classic and timeless security blanket that were my Audrey Hepburn dresses. Those sweet midi frocks and novelty print tops helped bring something a little fanciful into my long 9-5 days. It wasn't even a question of having a bold style — for me, it was an outlet to add something beautiful where things weren't so beautiful.
But this year, well, things changed. I found my stride and my ambition; I was finally willing to roll up my sleeves and work long and hard for what I wanted. And somewhere along the way, I was finally ready to let go of my '50s fantasy that helped me cope. I didn't need to find happiness in its cotton candy colors anymore — I already had it. And as my lot in life changed, I felt like the rest of me had to change with it. The clothes were still beautiful but they felt... wrong. I still very much loved the style, but not when I was wearing it. It didn't feel like me, because that wasn't me any longer. The cherry red sleeves and pleated skirts felt like strangers.
And so we broke up.
Your style changing is a scary thing. It means you're leaving something behind and that you're unfolding — but whether or not you are moving towards something better is the question. You can't be sure, but what you can be certain of is that it's going to keep moving forward whether you like it or not. Let yourself be scared. Let yourself live inside that excitingly jittery feeling. And let yourself let go of the closet that no longer reflects who you are on the inside. Your style isn't just the colors you choose to paint yourself with or the cheeky patterns you play with. It's a reflection of who you are, of how you think, and how your personality would look if it had a face.
So when you feel it start to shift, let it.
And think of what that means is about to come.
Images: Messages On A Napkin/Marlen Komar