Adult ISH co-hosts Nyge Turner and Dominique French discover why fashion draws some in and pushes others out. Featuring conversations with “Articles of Interest” podcast host Avery Trufelman and fashion blogger Justina Sharp.
Dom would also like to shout out the most fabulous lady she’s ever known, Charlotte C. Wheeler (the original owner of the giant, M&M red, wool coat), without whom she might never have appreciated fashion.
Adult ISH is produced by YR Media and brought to you by PRX’s Radiotopia. Be sure to follow all our socials @yrAdultISH!
Dom: Welcome to Adult ISH, produced by Y-R Media and brought to you by Radiotopia from PRX. I’m Dominique French. This week we’re delving into all things fashion. More specifically: clothing. The building blocks of the fits.
Clothing and the industry around it can feel like home for some people and feel totally exclusionary for some others. We all have different relationships to it and I personally feel my fashion days are behind me because I’m no longer going to be uncomfortable for like 2 hours in a pair of heels or a corset or anything like that. I also feel completely edged out because I’m now a size 22, whereas 10 years ago I was a 2. But that doesn’t mean I don’t remember how incredible fashion used to make me feel — used to make me feel powerful and like I could do anything. Fashion and clothing can mean so many different things to so many different people. And what’s in, what’s not can all feel like it’s decided by some invisible force. But there’s a huge lineage behind it. As Meryl Streep famously said as Miranda Priestly in the seminal 2006 feature film “The Devil Wears Prada.”
Meryl (from film): This stuff. Oh, okay. I see you think this has nothing to do with you? You go to your closet and you select, I don’t know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean. You’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002 to Oscar de la…
Dom: Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then it was Yves Saint Laurent, wasn’t it, who showed military jackets and something? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers in the … (Dom’s voice fast forwards)
Meryl: You’re wearing a sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. This room. From a pile of stuff. (Applause)
Dom: Since we don’t have a Miranda Priestly of our own on staff, Nyge and I wanted some help understanding fashion history. And that’s why we sat down with fellow Radiotopia podcaster Avery Trufelman, whose show “Articles of Interest” is all about clothing. She schooled us on the origins of everything from suits to streetwear.
Avery: Yeah. It’s funny because I’ve never identified as like a “fashion person.” I don’t go to, like, Fashion Week. Not to say I’m not interested in fashion, I think fashion is fascinating, but there is a difference between fashion and clothing. And I think the show that I make and the thing that I’m more interested in exploring is more about clothing and about the concepts behind fashion.
Nyge: Nah, I think it’s scary. (laughs) I think it’s scary to identify yourself as a fashion person because then it’s just like everybody’s like, “Oh, like then you obviously know about this designer from the fifties,” and you’re like, “Nah!”
Avery: Exactly, like, exactly, exactly.
Nyge: I know. Like, “You didn’t even study them in college?” Nah!
Avery: [00:03:45] Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Like, “Oh, did you see the recent collection from so-and-so?” It’s like, hmmm….
Nyge: I’ll pretty much probably describe myself, like, the same way. Like, I love fashion. But yeah, would I say I’m a fashion person? I don’t know, I’m maybe … wanna be … one day. (Avery laughs) Dom, what did you — what would you think? What would you describe yourself as?
Dom: Oh, my goodness, I think I, like in college, I was a fashion person. (Laughs) Like — (Avery: Really??) I would have called myself that without even fear of jinxing myself or like thinking I was setting myself up for failure. (Laughs) And now I look back on that and I’m like, “Oh, the hubris!” (Laughs)
Avery: Wait, like in a studied way, were you like looking at magazines? Like, what is? What do you mean?
Dom: I, like, had my finger on the pulse of, like, what was happening in, like, the fashion world, but I was also, like, doing my own thing by thrifting and like going to consignment and vintage and like, making it my own. And I really thought I was that girl. And now I’m like, my Croc collection is so wide and so hefty, and I just feel happy in like baggy trousers. (Laughs)
Avery: Wait – so what changed? Did you lose interest?
Dom: Um, no, I didn’t lose interest. My body changed. I had a very large weight gain over a very short period of time after I graduated from college. And that shrunk my options of what I could wear and like from what stores, especially since I was so into thrifting and vintage and secondhand. So that completely just like altered my approach to fashion and approach to comfort as it relates to fashion.
Avery: Clothing is so personal, right? Like it has to do with the ways that we change and the ways that we age. Our taste is impacted not only by what we’re like watching other people wear, but what we are like physically going through in our bodies in this, like, really intimate way.
Nyge: It’s so like wild how like fashion can be such a — such an area where you can have so much like expression and be truly yourself and one of a kind, but like in certain areas of it, like it can be so exclusionary.
Avery: Well, tat’s the interesting thing. Trends are a byproduct of the tension between wanting to fit in and wanting to stand out. Because if everyone wanted to fit in, we’d all just dress completely identically in like little uniforms and like, that would be that. And if everyone wanted to stand out, we’d all just be wearing, you know, whatever, like, weird, strange, bizarre, outlandish things. (Dom: Yeah.) But we don’t. And it comes from these cycles of, like, wanting to fit in and wanting to stand out, wanting to show that we’re part of a group and wanting to assert our own identities.
Nyge: I think we should get into why we thought you would be such a great interview for this show. And that’s because you are working on a show about fashion right now. Can you tell us a little bit about the show that you’re working on?
Avery: Sure. So the show I make is called “Articles of Interest.” And in the past episodes have unpacked like where Hawaiian shirts come from, which is actually a fascinating story. And like why jeans are made of plastic and why, you know, whether or not using plaid is appropriation from Scotland — which like, it’s actually more complicated than you think. But this season, this most recent season, I was going to make one story about preppy clothes. So I was like, hmm, this is a style of clothing with a lot of baggage and really walks this interesting boundary between exclusionary and inclusionary in the ways we’ve been talking about. And I was like, “Oh, I’ll just do one episode on it.” And right away I was like, “Oh my God, this is the most fascinating story I have ever heard,” because — or we can get into the why. I just warn you, if you get me started talking about this, I won’t stop. I’m like fully in it. I’m like, obsessed with preppy clothes right now.
Dom: I think we want to get, you started! (Laughs)
Avery: Sign me up!
Nyge: Yeah, now I’m curious.
Avery: Right. Right. Okay. So the thing that’s important to note about preppy fashion is that now they have been more or less reincarnated as like “basics” or “classics.” Like what was once a really unique style. Like, loafers are just shoes and like chinos are just pants and like a button up shirt is just a shirt. And like, a polo shirt is like — these are all just things everybody wears when they want to look like, nice and presentable. If you have a job interview, if you are going on like date night, if you’re going to visit like grandma for Easter, this is what is considered like “appropriate clothing.” And it is such a uniquely American style of clothes that has since been exported all over the world. It’s like so ubiquitous that I didn’t even realize it was a style of clothing. And it’s really sort of the godfather of all these different styles. It helped pave the way for punk. It paved the way for streetwear. Like, you can make an argument that most American fashion came from preppy clothes,
Dom: That reminds me of — I was talking to Nyge yesterday, uh, and as I am running out of clean clothes. (Laughs) (Avery: Ah, classic dilemma! I know it well.) I was describing the very few things hanging up on my rack and how they were not going to work for the rest of the week. And one of the items I was like, “Oh, this is only appropriate for like if you’re going to a new love interest’s parents nice barbecue and they have money.” I was like, and I’ve never been in that situation, so I’ve never worn it. And like now that I’m thinking about it, like it’s a very preppy look. It’s like a kelly green dress with like kind of a boat neck and, like, kind of flares out, like kind of knee length. (Avery: Yes!) And it’s like one of those things where it’s like I keep it because I’m like, “Oh, well, one day I’m going to have a significant other whose parents throw a barbecue and they have money.”
Avery: It’s all sort of like generally applicable. And in a weird way, it’s like sort of utilitarian, right? Like when we think about clothing as a costume and a social language, this is like the code, you know? It’s like what you put on when you’re like, “Hi, trust me! You know, like I’m…
Dom: I’m normal. I swear.
Avery: I’m normal, I’m friendly. Like, date me, hire me, trust me. Whatever.
Nyge: So… In one of your episodes, you talk to a designer I really love Dapper Dan, and he spoke about fashion having an equalizing effect, especially when growing up, you know, where he did, and especially if you were able to out dress the white kids there. In that same vein, like how does fashion influence how people feel about themselves?
Avery: Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness. I know. And wow. I mean, where to start with Dapper Dan, too, right? I mean, he started his career making knockoffs of designer clothes and like doing it better than the designers. And he said this beautiful thing. Where it was like these logos, like the Gucci interlocking Gs or the Louis Vuitton LVs. He was like, these are so important as like signs of luxury and well-being that they don’t even belong to the companies anymore. Like they are a symbol, like the ankh, or the evil eye, or the cross, or the star of David. They just mean something greater than like this company. Dapper Dan was basically like, “Everyone should have a right to this.” It’s like, “Yeah, right on!” So yeah, fashion is a super powerful tool to make people feel good about themselves and understood. I mean, especially if we’re speaking about fashion as like a language. Basically every day when you decide to get dressed, you’re like, “Okay, what am I doing today? What part am I dressing for?” Like, “What’s the weather like? What is my body like today? How old am I?” You’re deciding the costume that you want to wear.
Avery: And I mean, I’m thinking specifically about like the history of preppy clothes. Historically, it was so important to allow lots of different groups of people all over the world to feel smart and professional and relaxed and comfortable. And, you know, the person who originally started working at Brooks Brothers and then made this style fashionable and sexy and widespread and available all over the world, was a Jewish guy from the Bronx who didn’t go to college, who dropped out of college named Ralph Lauren. Like that is a huge example. And then another really prominent example, Jason Jules, the author of this book called “Black Ivy: A Revolt in Style,” talks about how students at Spelman and Morehouse started wearing these preppy clothes. And then they sort of like changed the style in this really interesting way because a lot of like the Freedom Riders would go down and do like voter registration campaigns in the South and they would integrate like denim overalls with a preppy collared shirt. They would sort of mix worlds and mix styles, and that would allow them to sort of bridge these two versions of their identity. And then most notably, you know, in this book, Jason Jules talks about how black jazz musicians were the ones to really spread this look all over the world and especially all over Europe when they went on tour. They were like wearing Brooks Brothers looking so cool. And it wasn’t because they were like copying white Ivy League students. He said it was in the same way that John Coltrane took the song “My Favorite Things” and did his own version of it. Like that’s what it was all about. Having all of the ease and luxury that this look affords and then just like adding something new. And that happened later in the eighties with streetwear. Just like generation after generation has taken this look and like twisted it and manipulated it and to think that all of those styles of clothing are all in conversation with each other as part of this continuum is like, beautiful.
Dom: Your passion about clothing is so beautiful and so wonderful to listen to. And I’m wondering, when you started to feel this way about clothing, like, were you a little kid, like, touching things in your parents’ closet and, like, feeling the textures? Or was it something that came to you later in life?
Avery: Oh, Dom, it’s really funny that you ask that, because I never in a million years thought I would be excited about specifically preppy clothes. I was a little like you — I don’t know, not as intense as you were, it sounds like Dom. But like, I learned how to thrift and to find other clothes just because I, like, hated preppy clothes so much. And I didn’t know how rich and nuanced the history of preppy clothes were. I was like, “Why is everyone trying to look like a rich white person? I don’t understand. I’m just going to wear like blah, whatever I want!” And it was really interesting because I didn’t realize until later that these clothes were actually really alienating. I would wear like cowboy boots with a flapper dress with like, you know, giant pearls. Just weird stuff that I found from everywhere all at once. And the only message I was sending out is, like, “I’m not like you. Like, I’m so different.” And I dressed that way for a really long time until I basically — when I went to college, we had this awful, like, anonymous confession board where people could write about anyone. And I was seeing — No, I’m actually really grateful. It was awful, but I was really grateful for it.
Avery: Like, who does Avery think she is? She’s walking around with, like, a gold lamé dress and a fur stole. Like, it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t fit. I was like, “Oh, right. I thought I was dressing in a nonsensical way to, like, opt out, but it’s just, it’s not doing me any favors. It’s not making me any friends. I’m not really communicating with my clothes.” And so it wasn’t until now like learning about preppy clothes and like, man, like dressing in this lineage, dressing in this style, dressing in a way, but like tweaking it, personalizing it, you know, like deftly and elegantly working within the language of clothing that already exists. It’s such a difficult, interesting, beautiful, complicated art form that, like, I’m still learning about and we’re all still learning about every day. Because again, like we age and our body changes and style changes. And you can never master it, which is the beautiful thing. It’s like a Zen art, like you will never master it. You just have to keep like observing and trying. But yeah, so actually it’s kind of only recently that I’m like this amped about such a boring style of clothing! (Laughter)
Dom: If you want to hear more from Avery Trufelman, check out her podcast “Articles of Interest” wherever you get your podcasts.
Dom: Now that Nyge and I knew some fashion history, we wanted to sit down with real life fashion blogger Justina Sharp, whose style, point of view and influence spans the globe.
Justina: So growing up, my first exposure to the fashion industry was “America’s Next Top Model” because all roads lead back to Tyra Banks and her problematic activities. (Dom: That is so true! So true!) Tthat was really my first exposure to the fashion industry. And I remember being like in the third grade dressing up as Tyra for Career Day and I was like, ”I want to be Tyra.” And like also I was already surrounded at that time by very creative women who were very expressive with the way that they dressed. I just didn’t quite connect those dots because I was 9. And so, as I got older, and as I became more exposed to fashion through media, I just was like, “Wow, what an incredible space to be able to express yourself with the things that you wear and to be able to change that on any given day, depending on how you feel or the person that you want to be.” And so, when I was 13, I started my fashion blog “A Bent Piece of Wire,” and that really came out of me wanting to pursue this interest in fashion and also me being like, “Wow, other people are blowing up right now.” It was the moment of the fashion blogger. We didn’t have influencers yet. I was like, “I could do that!” Completely overconfident. I will say I was misguided in that moment, but long term it did pan out for me and it gave me the launching pad that I needed to really explore what fashion was going to mean to me. And what ended up coming out of that was just a deep and profound affinity for clothing. I love clothing, I love vintage clothing. I hoard a lot of it. And — even if it’s for me, it’s about the craftsmanship, it’s about the expression, and it’s about the journey that a piece of clothing goes through to get to you. And then where you take that piece of clothing. So, you know, all of this is to say that it did start with Tyra and it has now, it has now ended with a walk in closet I can’t walk into anymore.
Nyge: Were you always, like, able to kind of, like, dress yourself? Like, you know, like your parents are, like, dressing you and picking out all your clothes for a certain time period or whatever. But like, did they always let you be creative with the way that you dressed, growing up?
Justina: Yes and no. So I was homeschooled, so we’ll just start with that, which means that my mom was so far in my business all the time that even if I were to tell you right now that I dress myself, that would be a lie. Because, like, you know, she bought everything for me and like, chose everything. What I will say is that my mother is an extremely colorful, creative person. So her idea of what a child should dress like is probably not the norm that you think of when you’re like, “Oh, my mom dressed me.”
So I definitely, as a child, was encouraged to like — I wore princess outfits to the grocery store and I wore my ballet costumes to maybe inappropriate venues for ballet costumes. And my parents were completely on board with that. I actually think with my parents in particular, it manifested in that I wasn’t allowed to wear like brands on my body as a child. I didn’t wear anything that had — like I didn’t have any like graphic tees, like, like the kind of clothes we kind of associate with children I did not have. I wore a lot of natural fibers. I wore a lot of like play dresses. My mom’s from Europe, so she’s really into like functional clothing for children. So I could run and get scraped up and all those kind of things and, and play and exist. But I was very colorful. Like every photo of me as a child is like stripes and patterns and ladybug wings in Trader Joe’s, because we can do that. And I think that that — you still see that coming through now as an adult. I do trend towards super colorful, very bright, functional clothing and natural fibers. Polyester and I have beef.
Dom: I love that. I love that. I think everybody should have a little bit of beef with polyester because it makes you sweaty. And I think anything that makes you sweaty should make you have beef with it.
Justina: Yeah. You should not wear things that don’t make you happy. And polyester makes me happy almost never.
Dom: Here, here!
Nyge: How do you feel like your, like, style of fashion or like style of dressing or whatever has changed since you were younger, Dom?
Dom: Oh, my gosh. I feel like when I was like, a little, little kid, I, like, have some resonance with what you’re saying, Justina. Like, we didn’t have a lot of money, so it’s very like secondhand, very like whatever we had around, which equals colorful, equals mismatched, equals a lot of things. And I always got to choose what I was wearing, except for the short amount of time that I went to an elementary school where I had to wear a uniform, which I wonder how much that influenced me later in life that I even got, like, wilder and wilder with my outfits.
But now I, I, I just love a solid, bright color. Like, right now I’m wearing a giant wool, like, M&M red jacket. And, like, that’s why it’s like, like they used to say about the queen that they would, like, dress her in, like, one bright color so they could always, like, find her in a crowd. I feel like that’s me. Like, you will be able to, like, find me in a crowd. And, like, that’s the way I’m still loud with clothing. That’s the way that feels like self-expression for me now. What about you, Nyge? You have, uh, a very long and twisted and beautiful history with fashion and clothing. How do you feel like it’s transformed for you in the everyday, especially now that we’re like home most of the time.
Nyge: Man. Um, I feel like, well, you described it like it was a lot more interesting than it actually is. Um, but let’s go, let’s go with that. But I feel like I dress very similar to how I dressed as like a kid or how my parents dressed me as like a young child. Maybe it’s just my parents have, like, really good taste, or, like, that’s just, like, kind of like what I went back to. But I feel like I grew up wearing like a bunch of, like Oshkosh or whatever. And like, you know, like a jean jacket with like a mock neck and stuff like that or whatever. And that’s like how my parents would kind of like, just dress me. And then when I got older, I was like, “Oh no.” Like, you know, this is when, like, jerking was like a big thing. And I was like, “Yeah, I got to get like the SpongeBob backpack,” and I got to get, like, purple skinny jeans and like, flannels and all of that. It was a rough time. It was a rough time.
And then (laughs) then I was like — then once that, like, kind of went out, I was like, “Yeah, I don’t want to wear, like, any colors anymore.” Then I was more like, all black all the time. And then I feel like now I’ve been back, like, just kind of dressing how I dress when I was, when I was younger. And then being home like, yeah, I don’t, I don’t get dressed when I’m at home. Like, I don’t, I don’t like, I don’t put any effort into my fit when I’m at home. Like I just grab a shirt out of my drawer, I grab some type of shorts out of my drawer and that’s like, that’s the extent of it. But when I like go out, I feel like now, it’s like I’m always dressed when I’m out, So every time I go out, the house, you know, even if I’m going to like Sprouts or something like that, going into the grocery store. I got to like put a fit on or something like that. But yeah.
Dom: What about you, Justina? How has the pandemic affected your approach to style and fashion? Because I’m sure you’re home more than you used to be, or at least you had a long stint where you were. (Justina: Yeah.) So I’m sure it changed things.
Justina: Um, I think it definitely did. I’m not someone who’s necessarily inclined towards a lot of athleisure in general because I do like to get dressed. But with that said, I refer to a lot of my clothes as play clothes. Like I am an adult who wears play clothes. Like I’m really into overalls and jumpsuits. And so there are things that I think are easy for me to get dressed in and tell myself that I got dressed every day. But it was really the act of like taking off a hoodie and putting on a pair of overalls, like that, that was the extent of my style. With that said, I do live in Los Angeles, so I cannot go outside and not be properly dressed because I run the risk of seeing someone who is just so much exponentially hotter than me and also better dressed than me. And it’s not good for your self-esteem, so you have to get dressed if you’re going to go outside.
So I relate to this idea of like, “Oh yeah, we’re going to go to Sprouts.” Because like, you can’t go anywhere in the city. It’s not safe. You’re going to Walmart. You’re going to Walmart and there are girls wearing, you know, $1500 outfits just picking up cereal. And it’s not on them. It’s on me. I needed to be dressed to be in this Walmart, and I understand that. So I think that, like the pandemic did introduce more comfort into my wardrobe overall, I really do. But I also think it made it, like we’re all saying, more important that when I did go outside, that I was dressed. And I also found myself in this weird spiral of, like, matching my masks to my outfits. Like, I got really picky about the masks that I would wear for certain things, or like I had fancy ones for like, weddings. Like we went to some weddings and I had like a fancy satin mask. So I was like, “You can’t see my face, but you know it’s me because I have the fancy outfit and the fancy mask.” So I think, you know, there’s an accessory that was introduced that we did not have before.
Dom: That’s true.
Nyge: I love the way that you talk about fashion, Justina, because it’s very fun to you. And you can tell it brings you a lot of joy. I’m interested in what it was like turning something, you know, so fun and so much of like a recreational thing for you into a career. Like, what was that like and have you — how has it been dealing with that over the years?
Justina: Yeah, so that’s an interesting journey I think because really similar to you, Dom, growing up, we did not have a lot of money, so we did a lot of thrifting, a lot of secondhand. And I think when you grow up like that, that’s the only way you kind of think about clothing. Like to me, the mall was not somewhere I went to buy clothing. It was somewhere I went to like spend $5 at Starbucks with my friends. Like, it wasn’t, it wasn’t something where I was like ever actually thinking I would ever go in any of these stores and buy things because the shirts were $30 and like that was obscene. Like that was out of reach.
And so when I started my blog, it really was coming from a place of observation, not participation. Like I knew that I loved my clothing, I loved the way that I dressed. But the blog really was a place for me to talk about what other people were doing. It was a place for me to talk about the collections I was seeing on Vogue.com, for me to talk about celebrities. And you know, I was 13, so take that with a grain of salt. But that’s what I was doing. And I think as social media began to evolve and I started to participate more in that, I became a participant in it much more because I was showing myself and I was showing what I wore. And I think that that definitely did put some pressure on me to constantly be coming up with something new. And I think that’s a mistake that people fall into when you have your own personal style and you know what you like, you should be comfortable just wearing that. And I think unfortunately, especially as we ramped up in fast fashion, there’s this pressure to constantly be changing that.
Like constantly you’re like, “Oh, I got to do something new. I have to wear something new.” And then when you get into my field and you’re an influencer in the space, you’re like, “Oh, I don’t want to get caught outfit repeating!” You’re going to get called out like on Lizzie McGuire and you’re like, “I don’t want to be out there outfit repeating.” And that’s what you see these influencers doing, these like massive hauls where they’re like, “I went to Zara and I bought everything they just put out on the floor this week, and I’m going to wear all of it right now.” And that is exhausting. And not only is it exhausting, it’s exhausting financially, it’s exhausting physically and it’s exhausting mentally and it’s exhausting creatively because you start to forget what it is that you like. And I think I have definitely fallen into that trap at various points throughout my career where I’m like, “Oh my God, everyone else is wearing beige. I need to be wearing beige. I need to find a way to make beige work for me.” Beige doesn’t work for me. I’m brown. It does not work for me.
Justina: And that’s okay. But I think it’s hard because you get all this feedback and especially when you’re in a position where you’ve made this your career like I have. You are getting a lot of feedback, you’re getting a lot of opinions. I’ll get people crawling in my comments being like, “Well, I don’t like those overalls.” Well, I do. That’s why I wore them. But that’s definitely like an easier attitude to like, say, in hindsight than it is to have in the moment. So I think that I’ve definitely had waves where because I made this my job, I’ve fallen out of love with it. And then there has to be something that brings me back in.
And the thing that consistently brings me back in is that I love clothes. It’s not even just about fashion for me. It really is about clothing. Like I will get on Ebay and find a 1960s beaded party dress. And I’ll just be like, “I have to have it. Whether it fits me or not is not the problem. I just need to have it.” And then I get it and it’s just like they’re to me, they’re like art pieces. Like this is something that I get such joy out of and then I’ll be like, “Okay, obviously I’m not gonna wear this out in public because it’s like older than my parents. But the colors inspired me, the fit inspired me. Let’s go back to the drawing board. Let’s do a new outfit. Let’s do a pose, let’s do a video.” And I just kind of pull myself back on that rope constantly. But it is definitely a complicated relationship to have, which I’m sure any influencer would tell you about whatever it is that they specialize in.
Nyge: What are ways that you wish people’s perception of fashion and fashion culture would change?
Justina: Oh. I have a couple. I think the first thing that I think about is, it’s not even something necessarily that I think people need to change. But I do wish that people would give themselves the latitude to experiment. There are days that I choose to go out dressed like, you know, a Scandinavian woman in my, in my thick knits and my straight leg jeans and my Birkenstocks. And that’s who I am today. And there are days that I go out in my super over-the-top, like floral patterned matching sets, and that’s who I am that day. And sometimes it sticks and sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes I put on an outfit, I’m like, “Let’s never wear that again. That’s okay.” But the point is, that’s okay. Like I did that experiment. It didn’t work out well. We’re moving on. And I think that, you know, a part of that is acknowledging that, like, not every trend is for you. Kind of going back to the thing I said about wearing beige, that’s a huge moment. I live in Los Angeles. Like neutrals rule in Los Angeles. And some of those work for me and some of them don’t. And I’m perfectly okay with that. And like, I just have to be very honest with myself that sometimes it’s going to stick and sometimes it’s not. So I think that that’s kind of like a personal one is just like, give yourself the latitude to experiment, give yourself the space to be a different person every day. And it’s okay if you aren’t matching people’s expectations of you.
And then on a big big level, I feel like even now — this was something that was a problem when I started in fashion 10 years ago and is still a problem — is that people don’t take fashion and clothing seriously as an interest, and I think that’s so unfortunate. Fashion represents so much more than just like a final product. It represents people, it represents jobs, it represents culture. And it’s something that is so valuable and so worthy of our sort of dedication and preservation. So, you know, I make jokes about my hoard of vintage clothing, but for me, it really is a preservation thing. I have these beautiful hand beaded gowns from the sixties. That technique is lost. There is no one alive today who makes dresses like that anymore. And so for me, I’m like, I am the curator and the caretaker of this piece of history and this piece of art, because one day we maybe won’t have hand beaded clothing at all. And this will be our only reference point.
And, you know, for some people, they’re like, “Oh, that’s silly. It’s just clothes.” It’s not. It’s an entire, you know, culture and system. And so I just — I hope that we can get there. I’m optimistic that we can get there. But it’s so frustrating and sad to me to see anyone’s love or interest in clothing be boiled down to like, “Oh, you just like clothes or like you just like haul videos on YouTube,” which I do love. I like to watch them. So that’s also part of it. But it’s not silly, it’s not vapid. And, you know, that just all translates into like a larger conversation on like misogyny and racism and all those other fun things. But like at its core, you can care about fashion and have it be a serious thing for you. And I actually hope you do, because we need more people like that.
Dom: Oh, amazing answer! (Laughs) You can follow Justina on TikTok @justina.sharp and on Instagram @abentpieceofwire.
Dom: After having these conversations, I’m realizing that everything has a past in fashion, even if it’s a brand new piece of clothing, you’re partaking in a tradition passed down from generation to generation. And that can be a lot of pressure, but it can also be so empowering. Knowing that this is how my people dressed on a college campus to feel smart and a part of something, or to rebel or to feel sexy. With clothing, you’re really putting on a little piece of a lot of people’s history.
And as a plus size person that once loved thrifting, loved clothing, I thought that feeling had been taken away from me. But these conversations that Nyge and I have had this week gave me a newfound sense of excitement about fashion. And that feels like it’s all my own.
Dom: Adult ISH is produced by YR Media, a national network of young journalists and artists creating content for this generation. Our show is produced by Georgia Wright, Nyge Turner, and by me, Dominique French. Our Engineer is James Riley.
Our executive producer is Rebecca Martin. Our director of podcasting is Ray Archie.
Our Interns are Laly Vasques and Ichtaca Lira.
Original music for this episode created by these young musicians at YR: Christian Romo, Anders Knutstad, and Jacob Armenta. Music direction by Oliver “Kuya” Rodriguez and Maya Drexler.
Art for this episode created by Ariam Michael. Art direction by Marjerrie Masicat and Brigido Bautista. Creative direction by Pedro Vega, Jr. Special thanks to Eli Arbreton.
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