I was decluttering and KonMari-ing my home office recently when I came across a blank book I thought I had lost ages ago. It was a scrapbook full of clippings and images from magazines of clothes and style that caught my eye. (Yes, people used to keep scrapbooks before Pinterest! Imagine!)
Leafing through it was an unexpected trip down memory lane, because it was assembled in the years before I had a baby. I probably kept it for a good 7 or 8 years. It’s really only halfway full.
It’s an interesting document, though, because it basically tracks my style whims, all the way from my time in San Francisco to my disco days as a freewheeling NYC film school student to settling back home in the Midwest to do the whole writer-and-picket-fence thing.
But in a weird way, it’s strangely timeless, because I still like a lot of the things I see in it: clean, almost tomboy shapes; neutrals with pops of brights here and there; an occasional quirky print; a soft and flowing dress in an artful pattern; a punky or sportive touch here and there.
But more than anything, it’s aspirational — all the images are streamlined, pristine. The fashion photo shoots are like images from a movie I once lived in: girls swanning around a city, having drinks with suitors and friends, indulging in cool, adventurous vacations. It looks nothing like the life I live now: there are no messy toddlers, chaotic living rooms, desks heaped with manuscripts and bills and drawings.
It’s kind of a nice coincidence to find my style scrapbook, just as I’ve been contemplating my #goodenough style: the new take on clothes and wardrobe that fits my current busy mama lifestyle. I’m trying to find a bridge between my past, present and future selves through clothes in some way — while still having fun with self-expression and style. It’s nice to have a visual record of what I like, and what I want to bring with me into my present life in terms of clothes.
Some might find it funny or shallow to start defining my #goodenough life with clothes. In coming up with my #goodenough life operating instructions, I began with style because it’s the most fun to define and write about, being both practical and pleasurable.
Clothes have always given me some joy in life. During those tough post-partum months when I was rightfully preoccupied about caring for my new baby and trying to survive post-partum depression, a part of my brain always missed style. Once things — hormones, mostly, but also my body and my baby — stabilized a little, I jumped at the chance to tackle my wardrobe game, even if progress is slow and sometimes emotional.
And being happy with ‘good enough’ is strangely easy for me when it comes to style. In some ways, I’m less beholden to the demons of imperfection because I’ve been writing about fashion for so long — and have always had my hackles up against the Fashion Industrial Complex. So I’m more adept at tuning out the dross that bugs me when it comes to style.
It’s also very easy for me to let go of fashion dictums because my body is so far from the super-fashion ideal, even before I had a baby. I had to make peace with the body I had even before pregnancy to enjoy clothes. Of course, every body type can be stylish — but sometimes it’s a journey to get to that realization within yourself.
In some ways, it helps to remember that figuring out my own #goodenough style is really just another chapter in an ongoing evolution. I’ve already been on a few journeys when it comes to clothes. You can see it in my scrapbook: I used to be much more fashion-y and designer-y, which made a bit more sense when I was in New York and had more avenues of life to dress for (and more places to shop!) I’ve also been through my super-Parisian/neutrals/Emmanuelle Alt worship phase — which was super fun — and I also used to be attracted to more avant-garde things, which translated into a love of Maison Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester back in the day.
But now I realize that I need just a bit more whimsy, color and goofball spirit to keep my spirits up. I can see my sartorial character emerge, in the pages of my scrapbook: practical yet romantic French-y/gamine tomboy with bright, almost ‘anime’ touches of punkish fun and quirk here and there. These days I’d probably paste in more super-coolio workout clothes, because they’re comfy, practical and I don’t mind if a toddler messes on them in some way or another. (And yep, I’d feature more sweatshirts!)
This new #goodenough chapter is just another step for this persona — and I’m finding she’s quite portable into my new lifestyle. These days, I stick with tried-and-true casual-cool shapes and silhouettes that work for me: skinny jeans with higher rises, slightly boxy tops or tops with some drape, sweatshirts, straight or A-line skirts or loose but not too billowy dresses. I try to wear color and patterns and sometimes wear something that’s just kind of goofy, just because I need to have FUN.
It’s actually not completely far from how I used to dress — there’s just a lot less trendiness, I suppose, and less ‘aspiration’ overall. It’s more comfortable in the true sense of the word. I don’t have to prove my intellect via dressing seriously or artfully; I don’t have to prove my inner punk-rockness that way either. I can just use clothes to somehow achieve the brightness of spirit that toddler-wrangling, intensive work commitments and being in the fast lane of life threatens to muscle out at times.
Beyond aesthetics or practicalities, though, I’ve realized what’s ‘good enough’ in terms of clothes — and maybe other areas of life — is really about how you want to feel and act in them. I’m more attuned with how I want clothes to help me feel vibrant, sturdy, even powerful. I want clothes that help me move freely and fully in my life, that make me feel like myself on a really zestful, energetic, inspired, on-fire kind of day, where I can contribute something good to the world and make some wonderful memories with my son and partner.
And since I know how I want clothes to make me feel, what’s ‘good enough’ is anything that evokes those emotions. It won’t get me photographed by a street style blog, like ever — but that is A-OK. ‘Good enough’ in this case lets me get onto other things in life that now require most of my time and attention, while still giving me pleasure and anchoring me within myself.
I guess I’m ready to make a new scrapbook. Well, not really — I don’t have the time anymore to collect clippings, cut them up and paste them anymore. (Argh, trying to finish this novel!) So I guess I’ll have to just ‘live the scrapbook’ as it happens — which is more ideal and fulfilling right now at this busy, crazy, wild yet beautiful crossroads in life.