Following this, I was reminded of the “Green Lady”, Elizabeth Sweetheart, whose love of green has made her famous. Interesting fun fact: I live in the same Brooklyn neighborhood as Elizabeth and see her all the time. What you see is exactly how she is.
I watched both these videos and I had the same exact reaction: When I get older I want to be them. I don’t want to walk around like living artwork, nor do I aspire to live in a green world. I was inspired by and drawn to them because I want to live as authentically and freely as they seem to.
Authenticity is likely one of the most attractive qualities a person can have. It’s hard to find fault with such honesty and realness. I have always been drawn to anyone who has the chutzpa to throw it all out there. There is a sense of ownership that comes from authentic people; as if instead of looking outside themselves, or through others, for their own validity, they have learned to become completely emotionally self sufficient by looking inward and finding their joy from within. As a result, authentic people seem to glow, making others magically drawn to them.
Fashion is an extremely powerful tool for communication, which you can see in how both women featured have chosen to dress. While it can be used as a form of self expression, it can also be used as a mask to show the world what we want it to see while hiding what we don’t, like concealer on a blemish so to speak. This is what makes Susan Kreitzman and Elizabeth Sweetheart so endearing and difficult to judge. Clearly they have found enough comfort in their skins to be vulnerable enough to let us all take a peek inside. This is what I aspire to.
How to Discover Your Authentic Style
I know I am still striving for some comfort in my own skin and to peel back another layer of my own vulnerability. Perhaps this comes with age? But as I work to live as fully real as these two women are, I have some thoughts on developing your own authentic style.
It’s probably not hard to believe that it’s easier to dress others than myself. I have my own internal filter and fears like anyone else. To be good at what I do with others requires being intuitive. When working with a client, I dig deep within them to pull out their style. This is how I know that style resides inside of each and every person. Some clients make it super easy for me and others make it virtually impossible because they are so guarded or out of touch with themselves.
So I assure you, your authentic style cannot be found outside of you. Inspiration can be found out there, but the voice of who you are is inside you. The key is to get in tune with that, to trust it and to embrace it. For some people, this is easy, for others (typically more cerebral or emotionally closed people) this can be a huge challenge.
I’m not suggesting you read every self help book on the planet or go to therapy five times a week to get in touch with who you are, but a little introspection will go a long way. When was the last time you even checked in on yourself or looked to a new way to learn about what makes you tick? What you decide to do to get closer to your inner self is really up to you, but I have found learning a new skill or doing something that I’m not particularly good at to be a great way to get to know myself better. Remember, we’re going for vulnerability here. There is no better way to tap into it than not being to ace something.
Perhaps it is more alone time, meditation, taking long walks, doing something creative (even if you aren’t artistic) not blocking out the world with social media, being more social, whatever. The what doesn’t matter as much as the act of reconnecting with yourself is.
Next, when you get dressed try asking yourself some questions:
- Do I feel understood without the need for a lot of explanation?
- Do I feel energized?
- Do I feel alive?
- Do I feel at ease?
- Do I feel comfortable?
- Do I feel content?
- Do I feel a little vulnerable?
All but the last questions are a likely self explanatory. Why should you not choose clothing that makes you feel comfortable, at ease or energized? The last one may be harder to understand. Vulnerability isn’t about putting yourself in a compromising position as much as it is about allowing yourself to be open and accepting of who are. All too often we get used to using clothing as armor, not as a tool for self expression.
Clothing is the conduit
Having been on the other side of the fashion world as a designer, I know how the “sausage is made.” I understand it is a business and, like most seemingly glamorous industries, the fashion industry is far from glitzy. It’s a business and one that could use a ton of changes. I don’t particularly love the fashion industry and I really don’t love how fashion has evolved in recent years. Clothing has become a cheap, homogenized commodity that leaves little room for self expression. It’s sort of boring, actually.
I don’t stay in this industry because I love clothes or have this insatiable passion for fashion. I continue to do what I do because I love to help women more fully express themselves. Since my first day starting my business I viewed clothing as no more of a tool than a plunger is to unclog a drain. It serves a function and a purpose. One of the best ways to discover your authentic style is to see clothing as that tool or a conduit to express yourself.
This does not mean you can’t get excited by the clothing that you wear or to be an evolved person you can’t appreciate fashion. However, you can’t allow yourself to become intimidated by it either. Women so often get scared off by fashion for fear of not getting it right or for being judged. Yes, dressing authentically requires way more guts and nerve than working hard to look like everyone else.
We all play parts
It is important to point out that we all play different roles in our lives. Let’s get real. Few live the lives of Sue Kreitzman and Elizabeth Sweetheart. We just don’t have that sort of freedom. Sometimes we need to be the hardcore executive, other times the kind and soft mother, the loving daughter, the sexy girlfriend, and so on. Clothing plays a big part in helping us play these roles. Yet, this does not mean that authenticity needs to go out the window. Playing roles in life does not mean you can’t infuse yourself into the outfits that you create for the roles you are playing. Instead, it is about learning how to dress authentically within the parameters of what your life demands. And, honestly, I think we can use more of that in the world.
Authenticity comes wth age
Lately I have found myself saying, “I know myself well enough to know that I won’t <blank>.” I think this comes with age, and being in my 40’s, I have become comfortable with what I will and won’t do, what does and doesn’t make me comfortable, what I will and won’t spend my time doing, and so on. My interest in pleasing the world and figuring out how to fit into it like a perfectly shaped puzzle piece wanes more with each passing year. Therefore, it comes as no surprise to me that some of the most authentic women are usually older. With all the sameness in the world, along with the pressure to conform to one ideal, it’s nice to know that with age comes tremendous authenticity.
So many of us are striving to remain youthful, to be able to fit ourselves into a box of preconceived beauty where we all look the same. To that I say, f*ck it, life is way too short to feel like the only thing holding you back from being you is you. Whatever your authentic style is, I say be it and be it to the biggest and boldest that you can. And if you’re worried about judgment from others, don’t be. They’re all too worried about what you think of them anyway.