Have you ever seen the TV show Dharma and Greg? It revolves around an extremely mismatched couple - quirky, free-spirited, yoga-teaching Dharma, and conservative, old-money, silver-spoon lawyer Greg. When my husband and I were dating, Dharma and Greg was one of the few shows we enjoyed watching together, primarily because we could relate to the lead characters so well. Like Dharma, I was eclectic and liberal. I came from a performing arts background and had wildly colored hair. My husband, meanwhile, was a young lawyer working at a midtown boutique law firm. He wore lots of Ralph Lauren, read Wine Spectator Magazine, and was president of his college's Young Republicans club.
As our marriage has evolved, we've both somehow managed to retain our individuality. I've gotten tattooed, remain fiercely independent, and spend at least two days a week digging through the racks at the Goodwill. My husband, meanwhile, is employed at a large, extremely conservative insurance company, where he sports expensive cuff links and rep striped ties and enjoys conversations about residuary charitable bequests.
A few weeks ago I met him for lunch at an upscale restaurant near his office, the kind of place visited by old-money Dallasites who wear couture purchased at Stanley Korchack and own private yachts. Visiting a restaurant like this always causes a bit of a crisis concerning the need to dress appropriately, and my desire to remain true to myself. I am extremely hesitant to sacrifice my personal style in order to appease those around me. It has taken me a good long time to fully accept who I am, and embrace all the qualities that make me unique. That includes my proclivity towards vintage clothing, and my loud girlish laugh. I truly appreciate who I am, and am proud that I don't blend in with the crowd. Furthermore, due to my tattoos and red hair, I am undeniably noticeable and unique. I couldn't blend in if I tried. And that's perfectly fine with me. Life is too short to be anyone other than who I am.
Yves said, “Fashion fades but style is eternal.” My personal style is here to stay. It is forever. I believe that too often women downplay their personal style because they are either too busy to refine it, lack the confidence to reflect it, or fall into the trap of dressing as they believe they're "supposed to." It isn't easy to be courageous and embrace who you are. You have to be brave and authentic, and take risks. That's what dressing with courage is all about. I realized years ago that I was never going to be the glamazon my mother wanted me to be, or the romantic woman dolled up in ruffles and lace. I am only comfortable dressing as me.
However, there are occasions where it becomes necessary to reign in my personal style in order to be respectful. Dressing respectfully often means "doing as the Romans do." In an establishment like the one I visited, that translates to subtle jewelry, covered shoulders and subdued make-up. I personally have no problem trading in my 1970's beaded sheer blouse for a simple crewneck sweater, if that's what the occasion merits. Furthermore, I understand that my value as an individual is not defined by what I do or do not wear. Just because I outfit myself in long-sleeves and simpler styles does not mean that I have abandoned my own beliefs to take on that of those surrounding me.
Respecting other people's beliefs does not mean you have to give up your own. It also does not change who you are.
[Thanks for this fabulous, insightful, and totally honest post, Elissa! You're one of my favorite Unexpected and Maybe Awesome style bloggers. Everyone, you should head over and check out (and follow, if you're not already) her blog! Seriously. I'm always inspired by Elissa's style and/or food-for-thought posting.]