I love clever designers, those who can keep secrets that you’ll discover later. Designers who don’t make me think about clothes as if they’re just something else to consume. Designers who when I look at their garments make me feel like I just walked into an art supply store filled with tools of expression like glorious fat tubes of paint or colored markers with brushes instead of a point.
I acquired this jacket at a Paul Smith sample sale. First, let me be clear; I didn’t go for the women’s clothes. I accompanied Calvin who has a collection of Paul Smith clothes because he claims no other designer knows how to make clothes that fit him. He wears them when he wants to connect with his Hong Kong grandparent’s bankster DNA and when I drag him to some of the events I attend. Most other times you’ll find him in t-shirts, Patagonia knickers, and Vans. I have appropriated some of the Paul Smith shirts he’s bought as I love the prints, the cleverly hidden details and trims that jump out and surprise you. The attention to tailoring also makes it easy for women to wear them.
I’ve been feeling very drawn to menswear this fall or maybe it’s reading Fran Lebowitz as I’ve been exploring my city through a lens rather than rushing through my day. I see the irony, humor, optimism, and grit that characterize this urban landscape that may otherwise just blend into the blur of all things digital. Sort of what happened to my life. I’ve been critically thinking about the times we’re living in. I’ve been writing about it.
I’ve also been feeling more aggressive.
I’m annoyed about how the press keeps lumping me and other women into articles that are restricted to over 50 Instagrammers (or even worse insta-grammas) and fashion bloggers simply because we all have grey hair or share a chronological age. This is the only way I am ever written about anymore. I feel erased as an individual; not empowered. I’m not the same as the women who appear in these features with me, nor are they me. I might have more in common with some 20 or 30 something Instagrammers who show content that conveys they are intellectuals, love photography, culture, and literature. Someone like Baddie Winkie may feel more at home with Miley Cyrus or other Coachella goers. Linda Rodin might reveal she prefers the company of fellow dog owners. You get my point here and there’s no judgment, it’s about honoring difference.
Everything else about me except for my age is now deemed unimportant or insignificant. In the guise of addressing ageism my multiple social positions, achievements, history, and uniqueness are discounted leaving me feeling ever more invisible. Putting people into “uniforms” strips their identity away and as I have found in my long career in social welfare, it makes it easier to neglect and do bad things to them. This is fetishizing age; not admiring it. When I first began this project 5 years ago it’s power was to make someone like me be seen. It was to allow others to feel seen. I was not part of a pack, I was just me; an individual who had style was a professor and loved fashion. My age was rarely if at all mentioned in those early years. And that in itself was what began to make the change. I was seen as a whole person who happened to be interesting and stylish and not just as someone who is old who (surprise, surprise) happens to be on Instagram.
Though I have a chronological age, I also have what researchers call a “perceived” age, the age or ages you experience yourself inside. For me this is very fluid; a song can make me feel 25 and back in a disco. The smell of patchouli incense can make me feel 16 covering up cigarette smoke, while a small infant snuggling against their mom takes me to 30. Walking into a library takes me back to 40 and getting my Ph.D. I want to be represented in ways that can accommodate all of who I am. I want choices about clothes that can help me convey those many ages and selves as well as different aspects of who I am.
So this loops us back to my jacket. Paul Smith as a designer can surprise me endlessly with how he uses color, prints but more so where he decides to place them. The turn of a white cuff might find a fuchsia and orange print on the underside. Though this jacket looks very somber and muted with earth tones on the outside, when opened it startles with brightly colored floating feathers and purple silk trim. It’s like popping a party favor and having brightly colored confetti fly all around you. I feel like yelping with delight when I reveal this secret, perhaps the optimistic, giddy part of me that lies underneath the serious and somber professor who’s still deconstructing tired old narratives. Clothing like this can carry many parts of you in it, including optimism and secrets. Unlike articles or garments that make unilateral decisions about who you are.
I can’t wait to hear what you all think about this one!