Fashion in the late 20th century was not a kind industry to the world at large. Consistently providing images of tall, super-skinny youth, the fashion industry does not typically showcase the differences of women’s bodies around the world in a positive and encouraging manner.
Personally having grown up in the Vogue magazine shadows of lithe beauties such as German Claudia Schiffer, Canadian Linda Evangelista, Americans Claudia Mason and Michele Hicks, New Zealander Kylie Bax and Nederlander Esther de Jong, I was acutely aware I was as different from them as I was from the cheerleaders in my high school. Even blessed genetically with a high metabolism, a body proportionally balanced and the inability to sit still for more than 5 minutes, I did not resemble the images of the models in Vogue, a magazine I coveted in high school and college. The models all had gaps in their thighs, flat abdomens and long locks of hair. Breasts were either non-existence or perkily smallish.
While I did not relate physically to the models in Vogue, I secretly loved looking at the clothing designs, the bright colors and bold patterns, the set locations in cities around the world and the confident attitude splashed throughout the photo spreads. The shoes alone were beautiful creations of cruelty requiring grace of movement and superb balance, which this born klutz simply does not possess despite years of gymnastic and tap dance lessons.
At some point in college, I fell in love with my own body and embraced my curves, the lack of a gap between my muscular thighs and my perpetual pixie cut. As I became more confident in my personal abilities and attributes, I slowly started understanding how I could make fashion work for me while contouring to my individual body shape, personality and spunk. This is a minor achievement because I dislike shopping the current season, no matter the season: I am almost always too short, too bulky, too boobalicious or too pale in skin tone to wear the current trends.
Vintage and thrift shops have become the places I feel most comfortable shopping for clothing simply because there is no one current season in store. It is no surprise that I, as a book lover, would pick up a discarded library copy of the silver-covered The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own by Nina Garcia of Project Runway fame for fashion guidance to use during second-hand shopping trips.
For those who at first judge think this book will be vapid and brainless, think again. Garcia starts her work of art with an explanation that this is her list of essentials and that not all items listed are ideal for every woman. She encourages readers to find what works for them personally and to proudly run with those items.
I read The One Hundred on a day when I was recovering from bronchitis and was looking for something fun yet engaging to read. Being a past reader of Vogue, I appreciate the fashion examples and tidbits of fashion history Garcia blends into her writing. The book contains famous people quotes, pop culture references and illustrations from Ruben Toledo that are quirky and visually fun.
Of course, I made adjustments to Garcia’s essential list to make it my essential list. I am not a jewelry or makeup girl in the least bit and will happily give up those items in a heartbeat for something more practical, like a super soft T-shirt with great drape, or something in the Your Sexy Librarian genre, such as my favorite pleated short plaid skirt.
Being a whiter shade of pale, maybe a pearl bisque or an alabaster in hosiery tones, means I must take extra care not to burn my lovely skin. Three of my essentials are Hawaiian Tropic SPF 30 facial sunscreen (which can be used on the face, ears, eyelids, lips and the backs of hands), Banana Boat SPF 50 Sport Performance sunscreen for any exposed body skin and a packable Wallaroo Petite Scrunchie SPF 50 sunhat. I am still searching for the perfect Abby Sciuto travel sun parasol to use in my own personal battle against developing new skin cancers.
I recommend all women, regardless of age or body type, pack a mini-version of thumb-triggered mace for potential use when walking through dark streets or parking garages alone and an adequate supply of personal confidence with her everywhere she goes.
Having confidence in ourselves is the sexiest attribute available to mankind. It is through confidence that we learn new things, from making the perfect French macaron to tomahawk throwing to ballroom dancing, and how we learn to openly and genuinely let love in to our lives when we least expect its arrival.