Back to School: Reminiscing


Back to SchoolI just spent a relaxing morning with my 5 year old, watching her scour the J. Crew website with a keen eye, and adding all the things she loves to our wishlist. The kid doesn’t mess around. There’s more cashmere on that list than exists in all of Nepal. Even though we are still enjoying a beautiful summer, fall fashions are creeping in, and it’s time to start thinking about what to wear in September.

When I was a kid, I pretty much started planning my back-to-school shopping the moment summer started. It sounds absolutely nuts in retrospect, but I was so incredibly passionate about my style, my image, and standing out from the crowd. I don’t know why I didn’t realize at the time, but when you’re 5’10” at the age of 12, you stand out. Add to that a head full of long red hair, and there’s really no hiding.

I would spend hours sitting on my bed, Teen and Seventeen magazines spread out in stacks. Devouring the pages of fall fashions and beauty tips, glamorous photographs of Cindy Crawford and Niki Taylor, countless ads for Bonne Bell and Noxema products; this was my ritual. Next, I would crack open my diary and make a list of all the looks I really loved, and then break down the looks into individual pieces. I kid you not, this was a full-fledged project. We are talking Mr. Sketch scented flow charts, hand drawn spreadsheets, and the best part: drawings of yours truly sporting the ensembles of my pre-teen dreams.

Studying for A LevelsOnce the fall fantasy wardrobe had been decided upon. I would take to my closet and drawers, and make a full inventory of what I already had. Maybe there would be a t-shirt that I could re-work, or some old jeans that I could cut off (at a hideously unflattering and decidedly unfeminine length). With the “Wardrobe: Present Status” assessment complete, the shopping list was drawn up, and so began the fundraising campaign.

Of course, my parents would buy me clothes when I needed them, but if I wanted something outrageous or expensive, I was on my own. My diary was full of money making ideas. Saving my allowance, having a yard sale, babysitting, returning bottles. When I got a bit older, I would go to those seedy places where you could buy used CDs, band shirts, incense and pipes, and sell the CDs I didn’t want anymore. Sometimes, I’d even copy the discs on to tapes so that I could sell them. For the love of fashion!

With my hard earned cash in my hot little paws, the shopping would begin! Seeing as I knew precisely what I wanted, it didn’t take me long to make my purchases. A full and proper back-to-school wardrobe, for me, was not limited to clothing, shoes and accessories, but also required a new fragrance, makeup collection and hairstyle. The perfume and cosmetics, I would allow myself to buy in a fit of spontaneity, but everything else was carefully planned to the nth degree. When I think about it, my September wardrobe was probably the only thing I ever carefully planned in my life. Hm.

Waiting for School to StartI can still conjure up that feeling of total confidence that comes from knowing how you want the world to see you, planning the transformation, and then walking into class knowing that you made it happen on your own terms. I’m pretty proud of little me, and if I could go back in time, I’d tell me so. High five, lil’ H!

My daughter has certainly inherited my flair for the unconventional. We let her wear what she likes and feels good in. How she presents herself is very important to her, and you can see it in her eyes when she feels beautiful. So what if she’s wearing three mismatched skirts, layered like a wedding cake, or a sequined cat mask and formal dress. She’s comfortable being herself and having fun, and I couldn’t ask for more.

With kindergarten on the horizon, I’m pretty excited to share in the ritual of annual self-discovery and re-invention that was such a fundamental part of my growing up. In fact, I might a take a tip from the junior edition of myself, and spend an afternoon with the September issues, a pot of coffee and a spreadsheet.

Sitting in the Apple Tree

1. Vintage Gingham Dress – Fox and Rook. Owl Necklace – model’s own. Nail Polish – Sally Hansen Insta-Dry in Sonic Bloom.

2. Vintage Little Red Riding Hood Sweater – Fox and Rook. Jeans – H&M.

3. Vintage Dress – model’s own. Accessories – H&M. Wicker Suitcase – Fortnum and Mason.

4. Vintage Gingham Dress – Fox and Rook. Swedish Clog Sandals – H&M. Sunglasses – H&M.

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