Remember that show from the '90s, Clarissa Explains it All?
Clarissa, played by a now-boring, non-vajayjay baring Melissa Joan Hart, is blond and sassy and her parents pretty much leave her alone except to offer her sage advice when she gets stuck. She’s also got a wardrobe that exemplifies everything terrible about the early ‘90s: clashing colors, contrasting patterns, a total jumble that a first-job stylist must have put together, probably bitter that she was working for Nickelodeon and not MTV.
I’ve got my best Clarissa interpretation on today: I’ve combined a skirt and sweater I’ve never worn together before, and I’m feeling goood. I can’t remember who gave me the rough, off-the-shoulder, green and white striped sweatshirt, but it makes me feel pretty sophisticated (probably because it’s a cast-off from one of my mom’s hairdresser friends, because at 9 years old, I’m already tall enough to wear adult clothes). The skirt is my favorite, with not one, not two, but THREE ruffles of stonewashed blue denim cascading from a pale-pink, v-front panel of polka-dotted canvas.
P.E. is first, and as we walk around the track for a mile, two girls with big bangs scuff up dust with their feet as they pass me. They’re carrying on a conversation and they don’t notice me as I bend over to tie my red L.A. Gears.
“Stripes with polka dots?” one of them says to the other. “Doesn’t she know any better?” It’s not until I’m confronted with points and giggles at the lunch table that I realize the girls had been talking about me.
For some reason, this memory flashes through my head as I’m backstage at Buenos Aires Fashion Week, scoping the models’ personal style. There’s a tall, skinny girl smoking a cigarette (there’s no indoor smoking ban in Argentina...yet) by herself in the corner, and two models are giggling with their heads together in the makeup chairs. I photograph the solo model, noting her crazy scarf, Wellingtons and a leopard-print hoodie framing her runway-ready face. She looks bored, and is dressed very differently from the crop of shorts and oversized-sweater-wearing models that flock in a group from the soda machine to the ashtrays to the makeup chairs.
Pulling off contrasting patterns is a hard look to rock, but she’s doing it and I bet she could care less what the girls in with their heads together are saying. That’s her secret (and it was probably Clarissa’s secret, too)--not caring about the peanut gallery when you’re rocking your own style. The problem with my stripes-and-dots combo was that it wasn’t my own, and it was apparent.