Adrift on whim I spiral here and there during the short summer in Vermont. On the luckiest of days I answer to no one, dismiss errands, and banish have-to’s completely. Apparently, according to several research studies, “The mere thought of pleasant alternatives made people concentrate less” (Konnikova). Beyond my morning ritual of brewing a cup of strong black tea, I set my day’s course as casual as possible. Hot afternoons are spent near a local lake, cooler evenings cruising along on the bike path. In my back field, among the hillside of green ferns, purple flowers grab my attention; I waste away an afternoon photographing countless budding lupines. My fascination over this wildflower originated from a children’s book, Miss Rumphius, which I read to my daughter over and over. Lupines produce offspring freely, and these grow to flower and make more lupines than you can count. Fields are quickly over-run with these colorful spikes and while the environmentalist might look at them as an invasion, I see the rainbow of lupines as pure joy!
A friend of mine gave me a sweet compliment when she remarked, you always look put together, and then said something like, if you were to give 6 pointers to help a woman pull her look together, what would they be? The question was framed with, you know, you’re dashing around with children, doing errands, just home from work: how can you look put together then?
As soon as she asked I pictured the most glamorous woman of my youth: my mother. I thought back to my mother’s house and the downstairs half bath with small glass shelves in a gilded wall unit lined with lipsticks. In her selection there was always a bold shade. Always an orange red. Always on hand before she dashed after one of her six.
Getting dressed for your day can be a daunting task if you are feeding kids and packing lunches. Or even if you’re not. Getting your whole look together in the dark dawn can often mean pulling on that same old thing too many times. My daughter, once she reached 7th grade and decided what she wore to school defined her, began arranging her outfits the night before. She carried this habit into her adult life, especially when she has an important affair, she plots out her whole look beforehand, tries it on, fiddles with accessories, to works out the whole ensemble. Smart girl who grew to become a professional stylist. As of today, I rarely get that far with my wardrobe, but I do stop before I head out the door and view my whole self, then add a flourish here or there to make my look as signature as my spirit. I encourage you, tomorrow, reach for something new, switch up your hairstyle, don a neglected pair of earrings, a colorful bracelet, just play with your finishing touches.
Snow arrived to blanket my mountainous Vermont world, and if winter follows tradition, all will stay covered until April. So what to do while a chill blows and daylight flits by in a flash? Keep your chin up and your looks fresh. Embrace the garb of the season. Toss a red scarf around your neck, a brighter hue on your lips, and head outside to revel in all nature brings your way.
Last weekend I attended a local fashion show, which might as well be held in a high school gym: with few exceptions all the models were teens. Bored and provocative ones. Youth culture glorified for an hour and a half while all I could think was here we go again. I mean really, is Lolita as far as we are ever going to aim for in women’s fashion? Must we be subjected to one slouched anorexic 15 year old after another in lieu of confident and poised women? Don’t get me wrong, youthful designs inspire me, a reminder that life can begin again and rejuvenate endlessly, but there is a vacancy that I object to, a detached apathy, as if our greatest achievements are better shrugged off. Kate Moss has that practiced look, as does her younger version Cara Delevingne as evidenced in their latest ad campaign. Smudged eyes, messy hair, with a “Oh? You’re here to look at us?” look. No matter that they are sporting ONE $2,000. Burberry trench for the TWO of them, we feel only disdain under their gaze, as if we are the intruders in their private game and not, as they are, only models used to sell some thing.
I decided to pack what I love. Those are the first words my dear friend spoke when she arrived back in Vermont after spending the winter months in the Sunshine State. She greeted me wearing white studded jeans, stylish wedge sandals, and an open cardigan that took the breeze with charm. I don’t care what Vermonters wear, she said, I’ve brought clothes that make me feel happy. Then she gave me the once over. You don’t look like Vermont! 100% true in the stereotypical sense. There’s not a Carhartt or LL Bean label in MY wardrobe. Welcome to the new Vermont, I said, where there doesn’t seem to be any fashion rules. I step to one side of ready wear but stay on the edge of costume, teetering on the fringe I feel exactly right, exactly me.
But my friend’s assumptions got me thinking. Where a person shops dictates how they look. If you shop in a box store, you tend to look like everyone else in that box, right? Luckily for me, Vermont is a place where local is plentiful, and this is as true in fashion as it is in our abundant farm to table market. Plenty of East Coast designers are showcased in our boutiques, but even if they aren’t local, they are small companies keeping their pulse on trends and using natural materials with consideration for the natural world. Shopping with this consciousness a woman can feel good creating the look she wants.
On this July day, I decided to visit three favorite, woman-owned boutiques, and see what’s on their shelves for summer. Continue reading