Like any other person, there are people and personas that have helped me shape my ideas and fashion sense. Coming out of the 80s, there were more than a few vibrant characters that lead me to believe that I could be as truly outrageous as I wanted to be.
But in the stark plaid and demin grunge of the 90s, I did my best to fit in and disappear amongst the would-be Ivy Leagers and preps. I wore black t-shirts from Target, jeans for Lerner’s New York and black Doc Martens. I admired people with style, but had none of my own. Sequins were retired to the dress up steamer trunk.
Whether due to age or insanity, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find my fashion voice. Even though my body is not in the best shape I’d like it to be, nothing is off limits anymore. Red leather jacket? Check. Sequined dress and cowboy boots? Check. Wildly colored hair? Check.
Here’s how I got here.
Jem and the Holograms.
My mother wouldn’t let me watch MTV. What was closest to MTV without the sex, drugs, and dirty rock n’ roll? Jem and the Holograms.
An 80s pop band with a good-doing girl who inherits a record company and a super computer that can turn her into a glamorous neon-pink haired superstar? Totally legit concept to a five-year old. At 29, it’s still one of my favorite things ever. When I had a Jem costume made a couple Halloweens ago, I repurposed the dress with faded denim jacket and glittery Steve Madden platforms for an Elton John concert. I’ve even met Samantha Newark, the speaking voice of Jem (now indie electro-pop diva), but that’s a whole other blog. Jem is very much alive in my life, from the fashion to the principals the show taught young girls.
Also known as the woman my mother despised, and probably the main reason why I couldn’t watch MTV. I was in third grade when my mother picked me up from elementary school and I asked her what a virgin was. She didn’t give me a straight answer then, but I knew there was something dangerous about Madonna.
This made me love her more.
In a world before the Internet, Madonna was inescapable. She was on all the music channels, the nightly news, and the radio at the Fantastic Sam’s where I got my hair butchered as a child. And she was everything I wanted to be. She was strong, unafraid, carefree, and deep. The Blonde Ambition Era — the time she toured for her Like a Prayer and I’m Breathless albums — remains my favorite. She synthesized retro glamour while remaining modern.
The ultimate loner girl. I’ve been a Tim Burton fan before Disney decided to make him commercial. Batman Returns was my first semi-adult movie theater experience, but thank God for HBO and its constant reruns of Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. It led me to other films I still love today: Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael, Reality Bites, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Winona Ryder had great style and taste in first-edition books. Supplementing casual goth with intricately beaded dresses at award ceremonies, she was the best of both worlds. And Johnny Depp gave her a diamond ring and tattooed her name on his arm forevermore (now reduced to Wino). She bought him a star. Then they broke up, she shoplifted, and her career has been reduced to epic cameos (Black Swan, anyone?)
I’ll be in love with Winona Forever.
It was the hair color. The iconic shot of Claire Danes dying her hair while her parents were out in My-So-Called-Life became the ultimate image of 90s angst and rebellion. I tried dying my hair with semi-permanent color for years to get this color to no avail. I also adored her crazy printed pieces and thrift store finds. Although I started thrifting in middle school, I never went too far out with my outfits. One piece of jewelry here, maybe a vest there. Never too much. Thankfully, 90s style is back in, so I can do it right this time around.
In 1997, Titanic was released, and my long-standing obsession with Kate Winslet was born. From having Titanic prom dresses to helping update the news for the long-defunct Kate Winslet Fan Club, Kate Winslet was my It girl. Through the years I’ve watched her lose out to less-than-talented or highly-hyped-for-the-moment actresses, see her get married and divorced twice, have kids, chop her hair off, sue a magazine for photoshopping her figure and FINALLY win an Academy Award. Although the Golden Globes where she won two and cried to Leonardo DiCaprio about how she loved him was too much.
In the sea of herion-chic models of the 90s, Kate Winslet was my voice of reason saying “This is me, you can like it or lump it.” Thank you, Kate.
Bringing this blog full circle is Lady GaGa. Much like Madonna, she draws on influences from the past, present and not-yet-realized future. From making her own costumes to wearing vintage Versace or current McQueen, she’s one step ahead and not afraid if a tabloid doesn’t like what she’s wearing. In a lot of ways, I feel like she’s the human incarnation of Jem as well as the second coming of Madonna. She’s driven, hard-working, and intensely talented. She also uses her image to educate on a variety of tough subjects, such as bullying, AIDS/HIV and gay rights, all while telling her Little Monsters to love themselves and celebrate their strengths.