The September issues

One of my favorite memories of my mother involves sitting on her bed and reviewing the September issues of all the big fashion magazines. Then, as now, they were as thick as phone books and full of fantasy—a kaleidoscope of color, texture and style.

We studied every page from the front cover to the last, including and most especially the ads (which she taught me were simply “editorial” in another form). For once, there were no battles over food, (my) weight or failure to meet her standards. We were simply art lovers in search of visual stimulation.

Back then, there was no body positivity movement. Diversity—ethnic, gender, age—was not a thing. It was pretty binary: skinny, young white women in front of the camera while mostly white men dressed, photographed and styled them.

But I was unaware of that then. I just loved what I saw before me and, more importantly, those rare intimate moments with my mom. Now, of course, things have changed. Ashley Parker and her mannequin sisters are redefining beauty at every size. “Glamour,” long an advocate of women’s achievement, is committed to recruiting more women behind the camera (Hollywood, are you listening?) and “Teen Vogue” has been on the forefront, in this category, of speaking truth to political power.

After a break of many years when I didn’t look at them, I recently picked up a couple of September issues that caught my eye at the checkout aisle at the grocery store. And I’m happy to see that the clothes are still glorious (if not mostly out of reach). The makeup, still beguiling. And the ads, still worth deconstructing. (After all that maternal training, is it any wonder I turned out to be an advertising copywriter?)

But there’s more substance now to the fluff. More thought-provoking and inspiring articles along with the eye-popping accessories. More women of all ages, sizes, backgrounds and outlooks. I wish my mother were here to see it.

Like any high-calorie treat, these September issues are meant to be consumed sparingly, without guilt. You don’t have to look like the girls and women on those pages to be beautiful. You are beauty enough. Instead, just enjoy them for what they are—a buzzy, blingy distraction designed to delight your most aesthetically minded { self }.

What are some of your best September memories or rituals? Share them in the comments below.

Through the (looking) glass door

True story: I was invited to participate in a focus group held by a well-known specialty retailer (hint: one of Michele Obama’s faves—and mine). I was thrilled. I love the clothes, the customer service is non-pareil and the catalogs make better reading than most fashion magazines. So off I went to the Four Seasons in anticipation of a memorable morning. Which it was, but not in the way I expected.

I was just about to cross the threshold of the hotel and I froze. That old fear of walking into a room full of strangers—whom I imagined to be much chic-er and younger and more accomplished than I—stopped me cold. The old tropes, which I thought I had put behind me long ago, re-asserted themselves: I wouldn’t measure up. No one would talk to me. And what was I doing there anyway?”  

Whether it was the swish of the door or an impatient throat clearing behind me, I somehow made it into the lobby. And thought, “Jerk!” (addressing myself in tones far less kind than I recommend to you, my faithful readers). “What is wrong with you? You look perfectly fine. After a lifetime in marketing, you can just about write the questions and answers yourself. What would you tell a client?”

I knew what I would say. “You can do this. Just straighten those pearls, smile and walk through that door. You never know what’s on the other side.”

And so I did. The retailer’s marketing and style team were welcoming. I met delightful women from all over the city, working in marketing, government relations and the law, on the Hill and for a variety of startups—all with just on thing on our minds. Our wardrobe.

I learned a lot about the coming season. Color! Wide pants! Statement jewels! But more importantly and once again learned something about pushing through the discomfort zone.

We all have our fears and insecurities. The trick is to power through them.

How?

Just smile, straighten those pearls and walk through that door. Your bravest and best { self } is waiting.

What would Iris say? Wise words from an icon.

Last night, I spent an enjoyable hour or so in the presence of fashion icon, art collector, quintessential New Yorker and 93-year-old “It Girl,” Iris Apfel. No, it wasn’t at a TED talk or even face-to-face (alas). It was at a showing of “IRIS,” one of the last films directed by Albert Maysles (he died in March) and it is a tribute both to the documentarian’s art and his subject’s singular personality, taste and vision.

The sheer richness of Apfel’s fashion and home furnishings collections and her unerring combinations of couture and kitsch are remarkable enough but the lessons here go way beyond aesthetics. What gives meaning to her life (and depth to this film) is her old-fashioned work ethic (she grew up during the Great Depression), love for her husband (a centenarian) and a self-renewing desire to share her knowledge with new generations of students and acolytes of art and style.

Four “Iris-isms” to live by:

"If you’re lucky enough to do something you love, everything else follows.

"I don’t have any rules because I would always be breaking them so it would be a waste of time…I like to improvise. It’s like jazz.

"It’s better to be happy than well-dressed.

"People say that I inspire them. That I give them courage to do things they’ve never done before."

See IRIS and be inspired. Be inspiring in your turn. Most importantly, have the courage to be your best, most authentic { self }.

Let them eat cake?

The French word for diet is “régime.” (Faire un régime = to go on a diet.) So what better place for a “régime change” than France, the land of haute couture, which now has turned its attention to “dangerously thin models, websites that promote unhealthy weight loss, and commercial photographs that digitally alter the appearance of models’ weight.”

 Vive la France, right?

It’s certainly a step in the right direction. Anorexia (and the websites that promote it) is a health threat and not just in France. Extreme photoshop fails would be funny if they were not so pernicious. A little industry self-monitoring is a good thing.

But why stop with the models who, after all, are just trying to make a living? Why not go to the source—the designers themselves, whose traditional aesthetic demands a body shape with little more heft than a clothes hanger? Or the retailers that, for the most part, make any woman whose size is in the double digits feel like she’s taking up too much space?

We are so used to mostly white, flat-chested, mini-hipped teenagers strutting on the runway that we don’t think twice about the message it sends. How it undermines not just our physical health but our self-esteem. (We can never measure up.) How mothers judging their own bodies (and age) pass on their discontent to their daughters who, no doubt, will perpetuate the same warped view to their girls…unless we take a different approach. One that encourages us to find and celebrate our own healthful beauty, to see past the scrim of fantasy, stylists and digital enhancements and simply to appreciate the art for art’s sake that Fashion Week bring to our every day life.

So, by all means, let’s bring some sanity to this rarefied world. But remember, it’s just clothes. Not a value judgment on your beautiful { self }.