All Dressed Up: Five Stories About Style

In my not-so-past life as a fashion magazine addict (let’s be real—I bought seven of last month’s fashion mags for a quarter each at a recent library sale), this time of year was crucial to me. What kinds of skirts would appear on the pages of Seventeen? Would I be able to afford them? Would one-piece swimsuits finally be cool? Was this the year I started blow-drying my hair?! Each issue was a mini-New Year’s. Anything was possible.

These days, I love fashion for its feminist and political sensibilities, and I am far more into comfort than trends. I work at a job where I push the style envelope, but hey, no one said anything to me when I wore combat boots every day this winter. (That doesn’t mean I’m going to start wearing shorts to the office, though, much as I crave a temperature-sensitive dapper aesthetic. Even I have my limits.) But style? Style has no limits. Wear socks with sandals. Dress as a different character every day. Admire your reflection in the subway windows. Here are five stories about our connection with the clothes we wear.

1. “Sole Cycle.” (Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, March 2015)

My middle-school peers went nuts for Birkenstock knockoff clogs, which seemed stiff and uncomfortable to me. Little did I know that was the point. Birkenstocks were created hundreds of years ago to strengthen the foot, not to make a fashion statement. Now, everyone from Céline to Givenchy to the women of Vogue are head over heels for ‘Stocks. What changed? Rebecca Mead investigates, with delightful turns of phrase. (I can’t lie—I checked out the website after I read Mead’s profile. There are silver Birkenstocks! Silver!)

2. “Goodbye, Beautiful.” (Arabelle Sicardi, Rookie, 2014)

I wanted to include something about fashion from Rookie because teenagers have such a unique connection to clothing. Recently, I watched Arabelle Sicardi talk fashion with other queer fashion figures, and here I include her love letters to clothes and accessories loved and lost.

3. “How Everlane Turned Hipsters Basic.” (Emilie Friedlander, The Fader, February 2015)

Oh, Everlane. Your simple, finely wrought silhouettes will never look good on my expansive hips. I can admire you from afar, via the Manic Pixie Minimalist Girls I follow on Pinterest. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this profile from The Fader. Everlane doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar presence. It has waiting lists, not overstock, and it operates under radical transparency, posting the costs of every step of production and the conditions of its Chinese factory workers. It caters to a very specific demographic: comfortable, but not wealthy; young and arty, but gainfully employed.

4. “Idle Threads.” (Ann Friedman, The Baffler, March 2015)

Ann Friedman can do no wrong, y’all. Her writing inspired last week’s Reading List, and I couldn’t wait to read her analysis of three recent releases about style. As always, her thesis is on point:

Women have long been culturally saddled with the knowledge that they are how they look, and that therefore they are what they wear. The pursuit of stylishness is not something they opt into, but rather something they must opt out of at great social cost …If you can’t control the fact that you’re going to be judged on your appearance, why not derive what pleasure you can from conveying to observers how you wish to be judged? The inadequacy of clothes—their inability to express the depth and complexity of female experiences—probably explains both why women invest their wardrobes with so much significance and why their clothes so often fail to satisfy them.”

5. “Wearing the Pants: An Interview with Amber Doyle.” (Sonya Abrego, The Hairpin, March 2015)

Amber Doyle is a tailor, and one of the only women creating custom bespoke menswear. Is tailoring a man’s world? Sure, but Doyle doesn’t mind: “I feel like when you’re in the tailoring community you end up meeting a lot of people, and there are a lot of women who end up doing it. Not as many as men. But to me it’s such a simple idea—I feel like there are so many men designing for women, so to me, it’s something I really don’t think about that much. Why wouldn’t a woman design for a man?”