That year, Madonna released Desperately Seeking Susan and her Like a Virgin album was everywhere you looked. I told my mom I wanted to be Madonna for Halloween. And while she may have cringed inside, she took me to the store to see if we could find something that would work.
At TG&Y, I found a short-sleeved, boat neck black sweatshirt with a white mesh tank overlay that hung off one shoulder. I already owned a short, light blue, full-pleated Esprit miniskirt and white keds.
I teased my permed, sun-in bleached orange hair and tied on a bandana. A few rubber bracelets later and I was out the door. I don’t remember anything remarkable about that day, but I am sure it was fun.
A few weeks later, I decided to wear the sweatshirt to school – most likely because I didn’t do any laundry.
What happened next defined my personal style for life.
On the playground at lunch, a group of kids were staring and whispering at my group of friends as only kids in the fourth grade can do. A boy approached my circle and said,
“Halloween is over.”
“Halloween is over. You are wearing your Halloween costume today.”
I remember pausing, considering the thought. True, Halloween was over, but this sweatshirt was awesome and I loved it. I remember responding,
“So? Why are you wearing your costume to school?”
“Because it’s cool. And I can.”
He eventually gave up and walked away. And I kept wearing that great shirt.
Keep in mind, this was in 1986 – before the internet, streetstyle, fast fashion, and all the other craziness that has happened in the last 30 years. And I grew up in a Oklahoma college town of about 40K people – football, not fashion, reigned supreme.
But, my mom had a subscription to W magazine (when it was newspaper size and not a tabloid) and every month, I would plaster my walls with images from Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Esprit, and Guess ad campaigns. I would scour the society pages and see the dresses from Bill Blass and Armani on women attending the opening gala of the Ballet.
From reading those pages, I knew that fashion was changing. Uniform dressing was out the window and people were starting to express their personal style especially at the extremes of the spectrum – those ladies with checkbooks that could support a personal designer vs. those kids who didn’t have a dime but a lot of imagination.
As the business changed and licensing deals grew those exclusive brands became more accessible in the heartland. And as media changed, we were all able to watch hours of artists on MTV even if those hours consisted of the same videos over and over again.
And that exposure has increased exponentially since then…which makes me wonder why anyone would want to be a sexy nurse for the holiday, but that is a different post.
Maybe I don’t dig Halloween because I dress like an ‘icon’ everyday. I don’t mean I try to dress outlandish every time I leave the house circa Lady Gaga 2010, but I do stand in my closet and think,
“how are you feeling today? who do you want to be today? what do you want to accomplish?”
Some days, I reach for chambray, denim, riding boots, and all my silver jewelry to channel a member of the Ralph Lauren clan. When I reach for the striped shirt and tight capris, I think of Audrey Hepburn and if I add a some major black eyeliner, I become Bridget Bardot.
All black with chunky accessories? art gallery owner. White tank, torn jeans, slouchy sweater? Off duty model/agent. Logo tee, comfy jeans, top-knot hairdo? Blogger and unemployed writer living in Brooklyn – which is the uniform of entire neighborhood. You get the picture.
And while I don’t love Halloween, my style is so diverse that I never shop for a costume (although one year I did make Constance plaid skirts and a Chuck Bass scarf to go as the Gossip Girls cast. I do make exceptions for group costumes that are cool and I absolutely require the costumes to be accurate).
And on Halloween, like every other day, I stand in my closet and think, “who do you want to be this evening?”
Depending on how I am feeling, that is how I dress for the holiday.
2003 meant Carrie Bradshaw – I added a flower to a leopard coat and done.
Two years ago, with the help of a red wig, I wore my favorite fringe dress and fur to portray Gretchen Mol’s character on Boardwalk Empire.
Last year, I wore my satin tux pants and gold sequin mary janes with a blonde wig and top hat to pull of Marlene Dietrich.
I guess I don’t really hate Halloween – after all, the holiday is an excellent excuse to dust off some of my favorite pieces that don’t usually get to see the light of day – but I do know that I love the lesson I learned on the playground in fourth grade.
If you look good, feel good, and love it, you should wear it anytime you damn well please. I know Madonna would agree with me.