Thursday, September 1, 2011

Renewal: The Fall Fashion Magazines

For most, the idea of beginning a new year involves waiting for the dropping of the ball in Times Square, flowing champagne, and finally a round of "Auld Lang Syne". Mine, however, arrives when that familiar fall coolness bookends the still warm days after a long hot summer. September, particularly the wrapping up of the Labour Day weekend, is my time to reflect on the past, hope for the future, and become overwhelmed with excitement about my fresh start.

Perhaps this all comes from attending school for too long, but this is my new year. Refreshed from summer with a new game plan, I am ready to reveal my reinvented self to the world. Among the other more introspective emotions and activities, this is usually accompanied with a fall wardrobe to match. Our style, our presentation of ourselves, is a great form of self expression. The right ensemble – carried with our natural confidence – can capture attention, demand respect, and leave lasting impressions. It has the potential to be that finishing touch that sells us.

When looking for inspiration for new ensembles, there is no deficit of ideas coming this time of year. I usually begin with the fall fashion magazines. These highly anticipated, ridiculously thick (the September 2011 issue of Vogue is a whopping 758 pages), iconic issues are one of my great guilty pleasures. In the words of Valentino: “I love beauty. It’s not my fault.” From those with almost unattainable lifestyles, Vogue, Vanity Fair and InStyle magazines that flaunt advertisements for Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Vera Wang; to the lifestyle-article based, fashion editions of Marie Claire and Glamour; to the local Canadian editions of Chatelaine, Fashion and Elle Canada, profiling shops that we can actually visit; right down to the Zellers back-to-school flyer. From the inaccessible to the unavoidable, inspiration is everywhere.

A couple of trends that I’m personally excited about this fall include the long wool a-line skirts. These are so librarian chic, exactly like those worn by the librarians on the set of the Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy film Desk Set (1957). The look itself is a gentle reminder that beauty and brains are not mutually exclusive. The second are red lips. When are these strong, yet classically feminine emblems, not in style? These are perfect for me because of obviously my profession, but also for the up-coming busy social events that accompany fall.

Katherine Hepburn, Joan Blondell & others stylishly dressed in Desk Set

That being said, we should not look at style as conforming. Your own personal style is timeless and unique if it’s not about passing fashion trends. While the intention of these ads and the magazines are to sell, the trick is to use them as ideas, to fit into our own style. In the back of Vogue’s September 2011 edition, they profiled four women who used inspiration from the line-up seen in these magazine spreads to make it work for their own style. Arguing it’s important to stay true to oneself, confirming that: “It only works when you are you.” Trends come and go, and so many are ridiculous (cough – wedge sandals – cough), but the perfect-fitting dress is forever. (Or until your two year old spills grape juice on you.)

Red lips – always a classic look

Personal style matters because the way we present ourselves in public also matters. Yes, the lines of our public and private selves have blurred, thanks to the integration of our work-life balancing act and our social media activity. While I am grateful for this – my public life has made me a better person in private and vice-versa – we still need to stop ourselves before we get too comfortable with those lululemon pants and flip flops on the way to the office. It is important for our careers, for our image and it also helps the way we feel about ourselves. It matters for those who are just starting out and have big aspirations for their future, hence the expression, “we don’t dress for the job we have, we dress for the job we want.” It also matters that those in serious and respectful positions present themselves in a serious and respectful manner. How often do we see Michelle Obama (the first lady of the United States of America), or Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer) walking around looking like an absolute slob? Select a personal style and perhaps dust off the ironing board and wear that style with pride.

Laura Warner is a librarian, researcher and aspiring writer living in Toronto. She is currently based in the Canadian Broadcasting Centre’s Music Library.

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