I was born in 1974. Right smack dab in the middle of Generation X. It is a teeny-tiny generation sandwiched between two much larger, noisier and, dare I say, sort of annoying generations, the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. Before we got the name Generation X, being called The Lost Generation was tossed around because, for a while, we were seen as insignificant.
I’m not going to get into all the reasons why being a Generation X’er is awesome. Other people have already done that. I am telling you this to give you context and to help you understand that I am part of a generation that never felt special. Most Generation X’ers were latch key kids, were the first generation to really deal with parents getting divorces. On a less impactful scale, we watched what our parents wanted to watch on TV (I can’t tell you how many episodes of 60 Minutes and M*A*S*H I endured before I was 10), we walked ourselves to school and quite often our parents had no idea where we were when we were out playing with our friends.
When I was in high school my two first cousins on my mother’s side were born. They being millennials, my sister and I watched how differently these kids grew up. VCR’s were in every home, as were Barney video tapes that my aunt would put on to keep her kids quiet at family functions. In stark contrast to my childhood, instead of “sitting on the floor and letting your feet hang”, as my dad used to say (because kids never got to sit on the couch if an adult didn’t have a seat), these kids would watch Barney videos in a room full of adults…and the adults just put up with it!!!! There were things like Gymboree and Baby Einstein, parents planned play dates for their kids instead of kids of our generation self-sufficiently making our own plans with friends, and sports games became instances where everyone got a trophy just for showing up.
As a Gen X’er, I have a natural inclination to hate Millennials, the spoiled, doted on, entitled babies that have no idea what it was like to not feel special every moment they are living and breathing. It’s bad enough that we had to deal with the Baby Boomers, who basically walked around like the world would have collapsed if it wasn’t for them, now we seemed to be stuck with these entitled cry babies too.
Yet I have come to realize it’s not hatred I feel towards the Millennials, it’s profound envy. Millennials were born into feeling special, Generation X wasn’t. This isn’t me complaining or pointing fingers at the injustices that my generation experienced. It just always seemed like the Millennials were born knowing their inherent worth. Over time, however, I have realized the struggle of not feeling all that important by being of Generation X has been my greatest teacher. It has forced me to cultivate my own experience of that feeling.
When I say special, I don’t necessarily mean it in the often-described entitled Millennial way. While I do feel envious by how doted on Millennials seemed to be as children, I know that many are walking around as young adults with their fair share of battle scars from their own messed up childhoods. These kids are dealing with their demons of helicopter parenting, a lack of independence and self-sufficiency and, because of this, likely deal with their own issues of understanding their intrinsic value. So when I say special, I don’t mean Millennial special, Baby Boomer arrogant special or even self-sufficient Generation X special. This feeling of being special transcends all generations. This type of special I speak of is the internal spark of you that is your gift to this world.
Women who call me for style help are often shocked by how deep I go with them. They think they are calling for wardrobe advice only to learn that there is a deep connection between who they are in the world and how their image and personal style reflects that. I have spoken to countless clients who have found themselves sitting on the sidelines of their lives, have dampened their spirits out of fear of being themselves, have struggled to look different than who they inherently are just to feel like they are allowed to walk proudly through this world. They don’t want to be the most fashionable, they just want to feel good and confident and important showing up in life.
During a recent conversation with a woman, as she told me how she was playing small, how her appearance, she felt, fell short, I told her plainly, “as a citizen of the world, it really hurts me to know this because by choosing to sit out on life the rest of us don’t get to experience you more fully. Do you realize the gift that you are denying us?” It’s probable that she never really heard it put to her that way, that instead of helping the world by hiding, she was hurting it. This is what I mean by being special. You are special because you have something unique to give that we can only count of from you to give it.
Now, we can argue that striving for the right appearance is a shallow endeavor, that there are more important things in the world than having the right clothes. After all, people are starving, there are terrible injustices, and so on. Yes, when looking at clothing and fashion from this vantage point, you’re right, it’s not all that important. However, when you look at fashion and clothing as an expression, a way to communicate, a way to put yourself out in the world that is true and authentic and honest that says this who you are and what you have to offer, how is that endeavor of authentic appearance rooted in shallowness?
Fashion shouldn’t be selected in order to be someone else, to hide or to put on some mask of protection that saves us from vulnerability, it should be worn to be an expression ourselves and what we have to give just by being authentic. It is a tool we shroud ourselves in to walk proudly, to feel confident, to express ourselves and to remind others that we are here.
As far as what you choose to wear, it doesn’t matter. Truly it doesn’t. Fashion for what it is is sort of boring. Without the life behind it, it’s just stuff on a hanger. It’s just fabric and seams, buttons and zippers made into specific shapes that either fit your body or doesn’t. It makes you feel good, or it doesn’t. It flatters your figure, or it doesn’t. It makes you feel old or young, short or tall, or it doesn’t. You are the key factor in the equation, your life force behind the clothing, bringing it to life. So the next time you feel frustrated or ugly, old or fat in what you try on, just know that it just isn’t the clothing that is going to support the magnificent being that you are, and move on. Your gift to the world of just being you doesn’t deserve to be suppressed by anything that doesn’t support it.
As the great Bishop Carlton Pearson said: “Self perception and your self experience are inextricable. How you view yourself is how you will experience yourself or how you express yourself or how you expose yourself.” What I believe about this in terms of personal style is that it’s never the clothing that changes the person, it’s how the person feels in the clothing they wear that changes the self perception and, therefore, their experiences. Life changes when we change, not the other way around. And if fashion is a tool that we can use to more fully do that, why shun it?
I never started my business with a great love of clothing at the heart of it. I started my business because I wanted to help other women embrace their power, uniqueness and authenticity. The quickest way in for me to make that career transition was through fashion because that is the world I came from. I had no real credibility to help women transform otherwise. However, as time has gone on and I’m going on 16 years as a stylist, the authentic truth of me is that my interest in fashion drives me less and less with each passing year. I know that some of my unique gifts lie in my ability to dress women, to understand color, fabrics, proportions, and so on, and I am grateful for that. But at the core has always been rooted in my interest in all people embracing their intrinsic worth and value. To feel fully alive as a stylist, blogger and person in the fashion industry I need to acknowledge all sides of myself, the one who has 25 years fashion industry experience and the person who is a stand for love, authenticity kindness, compassion and generosity for all. Fashion and kindness rarely seem to show up in the same conversation, but I believe they can. I have seen a small kernel of it coming across in my closed Facebook Group. where women come together in support of one another to look and feel their best, where no one bickers or argues, where opinions of all are valued and we give ourselves room to learn from one another. And it should be stated that keeping the peace in the group requires little to no effort from me. Perhaps this is a sign; that a new conversation that is emerging around the topic of fashion, one that makes room for each of us to be unique and special, that doesn’t make us feel less than for not looking perfect, that isn’t rooted so deeply in consumerism and wanting and one that celebrates the beautiful expression that we all have to give. Doesn’t that sound inspiring?
So, go live now, put on what makes you feel alive. If you don’t own it, go get it. Make room in your life for clothing that serves you. Live in your body, give it the permission to take up space. Most importantly, know that the world is waiting for you and your special spark as the most generous gift you can give us.