In my pre-teen years at which time my identity was unknown, I dressed like a hippie. I loved Peter Max scarves, suede handbags with fringe, “Easy Rider” sets (minus Dennis Hopper’s motorcycle) and those long bell-bottoms.
Everything was cool until one evening when my parents and I had enjoyed dining in a nice restaurant.
The co-owner of the establishment, a tall, elegantly-dressed woman, took one look at me, then turned to my mother, who thought it humorous to say of me, “She wants to be a hippie.” Mom was joking, or so I thought.
But the co-owner just smiled, and from the corner of her mouth emerged these words: “Oh, no, no…You don’t want to be a hippie now, do you?!”
I never ate there again.
But, it is true, I didn’t really want to be a product of “Woodstock,” I only wanted, more like, needed, to express my freedom.
Today, Stacy London, top stylist, fashion consultant and former host of the reality television show “What Not to Wear,” would probably scream, then faint, if she caught me imitating and repeating the ‘Born to be Wild’ look.
And, as London states directly in her book, “The Truth About Style,” it is far better to be yourself than attempting or pretending to shoot for the stars, so-to-speak. According to London, it is a mistake to only wish for fame, whether striving to become a model like Cindy Crawford, or thinking it will be so easy to rise above fashion designers who struggled to become owners of a top-notch fashion company. In the world of fashion, anything can happen.
A designer might be rich one day, then in serious trouble financially the next. Sadly, this is what happened recently to the kind and beautiful girlfriend of (Sir) Mick Jagger, L’Wren Scott. Family, friends and stylists were devastated to learn that the designer committed suicide most likely due to her owing her fashion company millions of dollars.
After reading London’s book, I discovered that any woman of any age can define her own unique personality by learning to trust herself. And many times, that trust requires change.
Throughout her book, London reveals case studies and stories of shame, heartbreak and negativity from women who feared change.
It could have been their physical appearance that they hated, or their emotional stumbling blocks that prevented them to accept themselves just as they are.
But it is of even greater importance for the reader to discover some of London’s own struggles as a child. She developed a fascination for fashion at an early age. She also had to deal with a long, painful skin disease, a severe case of psoriasis, brought about by her contracting strep throat, which, at the time, was quite unusual.
Once the doctors knew where the itchy, red splotches derived, she was treated with penicillin. Looking back at this painful age, London now believes that she became stronger and more determined than ever to make her own personal goals and dreams a reality.
Her fashion interests have resulted in mixed reviews from others, but she doesn’t mind her critics. London seems to laugh as she dedicates her book in part to “All my haters.” Then, the language gets a bit toasty and blunt.
“The Truth About Style” is well-written and engaging. The photos of the female models who received makeovers are tasteful, as are the fashions they never imagined wearing.
Another plus: the shopping guide at the back of the book consists of a list of designers that are based on the kinds of styles discussed in every chapter.
After 10 years of makeovers on the televised “What Not to Wear,” the program took its final run in 2013. London continues to keep busy with assorted projects.
Her advice to people regarding the fashion industry?
“Truly have an earnest love for fashion” holds true for everything, no matter what you want to do. Being famous is not a career goal, and it certainly was never mine.
You still need a skill, you need to enjoy a craft. The way that we see ourselves is very much connected to our physical self-image, and there has to be a way for us not to be at war with that.”
Carol A. Wright is a former Manhattan resident who currently works as a freelance writer.