It is a well known fact that you will be judged within the first three seconds of meeting someone. Clothing, posture, grooming, mannerisms…all will make an impact before you even get the chance to say “hello”.
Being a bit of a chatterbox (and a fast talker), I always hoped my “hello” reached others about 1.3 seconds prior to any visual impact and judgements. I like to think that I have been successful in my attempts. But I need to face the reality that I am getting older and my vocal agility is slowing down — not to mention the fact that I am always distracted by my 2 year old twin boys!
So what is a weary mother of toddlers to do but to fall back on the old standard of looking presentable. At all times. Just in case.
Presentable. This word is so subjective. For example, it has become the norm in society to look ‘presentable’ while wearing fuzzy blue slippers, haggard pajama bottoms, and a grubby sweatshirt. I will admit that while this ensemble would be quite comfortable, I just don’t think it would give an accurate impression of my persona.
If I want to accurately portray who I am to others, then I must begin by asking myself the question: “Who am I?”
A wife, a mother of rambunctious toddlers, a physician… these answers are easy enough. But I also enjoy classical music, fine dining, nature, laughter, reading, antiques, traveling… and so many other things. If I could tell others about myself, what would I want them to know? Could I say it in three seconds? Would it involve fuzzy blue slippers?
Taking a good look at myself in the mirror, I realized that the person I saw staring back at me was a complete stranger. Instead of seeing the confident, elegant, silly, attractive, and intelligent woman that I know I am, I saw a frumpy, ill-kempt woman with a smear of grape jelly on her left sleeve and who was in serious need of a haircut. And that was only after the first second.
When did a woman who was once considered “fashionable” by all of her friends/relatives change into this unrecognizable, dowdy creature? Did it happen overnight or did it evolve over the past 2 years? I understand that the catalyst was a serious life-style change — but I was amazed to see I had succumbed this far.
I will admit that chasing kids around in stiletto-heeled shoes and a pencil skirt is not only impracticable, but downright dangerous. But who says that motherhood must be unglamorous? Why must one equate “comfort” with sweatpants, easy-to-care-for synthetic separates, and “sensible” shoes? Why must we all don generic clothing that stifles any sense of personality and creativity? Why had I spent so much money on “bargains” that made me look (and feel) so bad?
If I could create a perfect wardrobe, it would have to have the following conditions:
- easy to care for
- natural fibers
- elegant, simple lines
- well constructed
- flattering to my body shape
- colors that I like
- made in the USA
(Shamefully, the majority of the clothing in my closet did not meet this criteria.)
Armed with this list, I began to scour the internet. I knew that what I was looking for existed — it had to! (I could not be the only confident, elegant, silly, attractive, and intelligent woman in the world.) And, after months of searching, I finally found what I had been looking for:
Elegant. Fun. Beautiful. Who could ask for more?
i have always had an unusual (sometimes downright weird) unique style and taste.
eclectic. that’s a good word.
since i was a kid, i remember my clothes were important to me in defining who i was. i even went to catholic school and quit because of the uniforms they made us wear every day.
once i made a deal with the mother superior that i would clean up the staff kitchen and another room (the art room, i think) in exchange for her letting me wear my regular clothes. it was worth it just for one day out of that horrible uniform. i simply couldn’t handle it, even though my very best friends went to school there. i missed a lot of fun with them after leaving this school, but it was that important to me. not only for my self expression, but my identity. or at least how i saw myself. or maybe how i thought i wanted the world to see me.
i am that way to this day. everyone i know comments on the way i put my clothes together. now cynthia helps me do that through her personal design consultations, always making sure that what we choose together is still me. i love that about the process of working one-on-one with the designer herself. i really do. it is inspiring as well. i am celebrating my individual self, and Ivey Abitz helps me celebrate.
i have already decided that people who wear art are smart, strong, unique women & men, proud of their individuality. in adopting a handmade identity wouldn’t that by its very nature be the case?
my favorite thing that maeve from minnesota wrote is: the bad news is, identity is fluid. the good news is identity is fluid.
i love that!
i guess i should at this point id myself. i was born & raised an artist. a lot of my family are in the arts, and i grew up surrounded by art. i decided very early on that i would be a painter mostly, but painting branches out to other art forms, too.
my husband & i own a soap company called get a guru. people often ask what this means…to me it means so many things, it can mean believe in something spiritual or believe in what you do, whatever it may be or have a philosophy-any philosophy it is a personal kind of statement that can be interpreted in many ways, kind of like interpreting a work of art.
i think cynthia ivey abitz gets it. i think her entire philosophy gets it – that she loves and believes in what she is doing is reflected in her nature and in her designs – which brings me to what i love about Ivey Abitz designs, what they are to me, and why they are important in the larger scheme of things.
i had a friend who i worked with & was a clothing designer. unfortunately, he passed away at a young age – he was 36.
i guess i thought of his designs as couture – not as art to wear & not as being the same thing. Ivey Abitz designs, to me, characterize that term. art to wear it is. it allows one to appreciate art in a very basic way. it allows one to include art and to be creative in everyday life. what can be more basic than dressing for your day?
in a way, what is more important than how you present yourself to the world? this says who we are before we do. i guess i’m the type that won’t go out in sweats, etc. i have one friend who even goes out in her pajamas! this to me is really hilarious….& good for her, whatever. i just couldn’t do it.
this same friend, who is really as close to me as a sister–we grew up together like family–anyway, one time after a particularly bodacious evening out she got up to go in her nightgown, high heels & pearls! on the other hand i sometimes change 5 times while dressing for the day. i mean from top to bottom. entire outfits.
yes, i’m late to work every day. i am late to every event & my friends just expect it at this point. i have so many of cynthia’s clothes that i don’t know what to wear first! i love them all so much that i change & change again and again, deciding what to wear. so many options! they are made to work together so the possibilities are endless. i have so much fun that dressing has almost become one of my hobbies. in terms of collecting beautiful handmade designs, with gorgeous fabrics, this certainly has become a hobby. i seriously cannot get enough of them. i love them so much that i won’t wear anything else. if Ivey Abitz made underwear i would have them, too.
The Camilla Shirt is a wonder. Every woman should have one. It’s an Everywoman Shirt. As I have said before, slipping it over my head creates a change. On the outside, I look slimmer because of the long lines of the front of the shirt. My neck visually lengthens because of the tall collar. I don’t know if I am like other women, but a longer neck seems to improve my entire appearance. Next, the ties. When I tie the ties gently in back, it gives me a slightly curved shape. If I am feeling too curvy for my own good, I loosen the ties, let the material fall loosely, and I feel more comfortable. The other thing I notice is that I like the side view of myself in the Camilla. I usually do not like this view of myself at all. My posture is rounding and I always look a little fat or…just unappealing. But in this lovely shirt, it is different. I look nice! The lines are beautiful. The material poufs out a bit and then gently tucks in under the ties at the waist which gives some interest and shape to side view. At first I thought it was an optical illusion but now I know it is intentional, smart design for women.
Caution for sensitive readers: this entry mentions losing a loved one.
So, I have been wearing Ivey Abitz designs for awhile now, and I have paid attention to more than the external factors of comfort, flow, fit, fabric, etc. I have noticed something internal; that is, how I feel inside when I wear a design, when I walk in it, when I relate to the world in it. I’ve given thought to something about identity and wearable art. I’ve given thought to healing and wearable art.
I’ve learned that we gather different identities through our lives. These identities are heavily influenced by people around us, the culture we live in, and the circumstances of our lives. We sometimes get stuck in an identity when it no longer fits. The bad news is, identity is fluid. The good news is, identity is fluid.
So, what does identity have to do with wearable art? What does wearable art have to do with healing? What is my own experience with all of this?
Two experiences come to mind.
My son died by his own hand at age 23. After a tumultuous adolescence, he had appeared to “settle down” and move forward. He was doing well in college, had an apartment, and our relationship was magnificently healed. The shock of his death changed all these perceptions of well being.
As fluidity would have it, my identity also abruptly changed right after his death. I have since learned that after a significant loss or change, we have to rebuild our sense of identity. “Who am I now?” Well, I figured that out pretty quickly. At that time, I was a bad mother and a failure.
That sense of myself manifested in many ways. Mostly, I tried to overcompensate to prove to people I wasn’t a bad person. Among other things, I stopped wearing clothing that was expensive, beautiful, or attracted attention to myself. Instead of honoring my grief and expressing it with dignity through “mourning attire” as people have done throughout the ages, I instead turned into an invisible frump. If I had known Cynthia Ivey Abitz at that time, I know she would have listened to me, understood me, and helped me discover and express both the fragility and strength in my grief.
The healing in all of this is the way in which I could have reframed that identity crisis; possibly from fracture to one of transformation. I know she would have worked with me to select designs, materials, fit, and embellishments so that what I wore on the outside reflected what I felt on the inside….in a loving way rather than the punishing way that I had been choosing.
There are many healing practices. I believe that the Ivey Abitz processes of listening, understanding, validating, and finally creating wearable art for personal expression is truly one of the healing arts.
I have recently experienced a kind of healing through the personal expression of wearable art.
I am an older woman now. As fluidity would have it, my sense of self has been changing. I am once again rebuilding my identity with the circumstances of my life. I have moved to an area of the country that is breathtakingly gorgeous but rather remote. Over the past several years, I noticed that I had lost some of my dash. I had begun wearing more utilitarian clothing….pants, tops, skirts, more tops. What I’d been wearing has affected how I have been feeling and how I have been feeling has affected what I have been wearing. Follow that circle long enough, and sense of self—identity—becomes affected.
I’ve tried to find the right words for how I have felt….and I can’t quite find them, but I’ll try. It’s not bad….but as I can see now, I have just been limited…not my full or best self. I have felt strong, healthy, sometimes invisible, functional, bland, solid, competent, “sporty.”
Again, not bad, but not complete.
Then, I started wearing Ivey Abitz designs last summer. Since wearing them, I have reclaimed parts of me that had been fading away. When I slip into a piece of unique, comfortable, sophisticated wearable art, my experience of myself changes. I feel interesting again (and I am!), vital (I am), attractive (I can be), with a bit of penache (and I love that!). Something else happens as well. I feel better about presenting myself. Wearing clothing that is art itself tends to open me rather than the feeling that I often have of hiding or shutting down. I simply feel more self assured because I know it brings out the best elements in me. Maybe a little psychological osmosis occurs. Or, in a word, healing. Maybe a little healing occurs.