For many years I believed that style was something I put on.
In college at Miami University, I wore worn-in Levi button-fly 501 jeans, half cowboy boots, T-shirts and blazers with shoulder pads. Early in my career, I was the queen of jewel-toned Ann Taylor suits (also with shoulder pads). I lost my college beer curves and step-aerobicized myself down to a size two. I cut my long hair into a professional bob and wore red lipstick. On weekends I ditched my suits in favor of the live music scene and wore Birkenstocks, cut-offs and cropped tank tops that highlighted my otherwise covert belly button ring. I got married and soon after was wearing maternity clothes, oversized shirts with leggings, and ill-fitting jeans complete with a belly pouch. (Where were those when I needed them back in college, after late night beer and cheese fries’ bloat?)
Later on while living in Europe, I dabbled in designer couture. I remember wearing a white Gucci pantsuit to a party in Paris, and it occurred to me that I actually looked like a sophisticated woman — a real grown-up. I got divorced and moved back to the states and gave up my elegant persona, happily dressing more like the nanny than the mom. Now I am all of those women rolled into one. I can wear cut-offs with Chanel. I am Target meets Neiman Marcus meets Free People meets Lululemon meets Nordstrom Rack meets Old Navy meets Amazon Prime. Best of all, I don’t really care. I’m not sure when I gave up fretting about fashion and started just being me, but I did. At a certain point women are emancipated by the realization that beauty is all about confidence and freedom. Real style is effortlessly sexy, comfortable and clean. I don’t want to look for clothes that make my body look good; I prefer to focus my energy on having a body that makes my clothes look good. Style is not about putting anything “on” as much as it is revealing what already exists.
Style is so much deeper than the covering we call clothes. Elegance is more about energy. Moxie matters more than makeup. If we spent as much time thinking about what our style reflects from the inside as how it represents the outside, we would be gorgeous and glamorous in all the ways that count.
There is no outfit that makes inner ugliness pretty. There is no lingerie that can make selfish look sexy. There is no surgery that can uplift a sagging spirit. There is no makeup to cover a heart that has grown bitter or cold. There is no jewelry that can make a judgmental woman sparkle. There is no accessory worth as much as a genuine smile. There is no workout regime that yields the attractiveness of softness. There is no mirror that makes a manipulative woman look beautiful. There is nothing about pursuing youth that is as lovely or as timeless as authenticity, intimacy and ease.
Today when I think about my style, what I project to my daughters or how I dress for a date with my beloved boyfriend, I think about my style on the inside. I want to be a woman who is generous, kind, empathic, present, authentic, forgiving, honest, confident, playful, open, warm, passionate, wise, fierce, soft, strong, graceful and surrendered.
I want love to be what I get up and put on every single day. I want to accessorize with integrity, compassion and joy. I want to spritz myself with freedom and walk out the door radiating the confidence that comes from knowing (and liking) who I am. Finally.