When I first learned that I was going to be the new editor of FLARE, as my mind reverberated with the names of photographers, writers and stylists, another thought persisted: What would my corporate-creative uniform be?
The news arrived at the end of what I called My Year of Living Dangerously. The previous summer I’d left my job at ELLE in New York City after nine happy years, to be a Stay at Home Mother, or SAHM, (the pronunciation of which sounds like a sexless childcare robot). My youngest son, Eland, was one, my oldest, Woolf, six, and I’d felt keenly the American maternity leave laws that force you back to the office after three months. I wanted to make up for that wrenching separation when Eland was my chunky babe in arms, and, I’ll admit, get over a deep fear of being alone with my children.
Financially we could get by on one income; emotionally, it wasn’t so easy. So many decisions now were swagged and gagged in fear: Would I become a statistic, my earning potential slashed because I’d opted out? Would I be scorned by working mothers? Would my marriage fall apart as I seethed, stooping yet again for tiny, infuriating toys—making me a number in those other terrifying statistics about divorced women earning less?
Once I made the decision to leave my job, though, the hardest part was missing my clothes. Or, more accurately, the daily creative act of dressing. Out of necessity (there is no question that looking after children is harder than any white-collar toil), I built an insta-look: five ’70s wrap skirts from eBay, American Apparel tanks, and navy Sven clogs.
Its efficiency gave me some satisfaction, but from the closet my witchy Jil Sander heels, my pencil skirts (try lifting a giant boy baby in a pencil skirt) and my just-about-to-shred 1930s vintage dresses called, piercing me with longing.
Is this a sign of my superficiality? Perhaps. But I think it does us a disservice to not recognize the profound pleasure we get from dressing, and following fashion, and organizing our self-presentation.
All our changes are marked by fashion, from this annual shift from summer to fall, to the major life leaps, from student to employee, from girlfriend to wife. Before moving my household to Toronto—the city of my university years—I subwayed to Comme des Garçons on 22nd Street and bought three penny-collared button-ups. Those tailored, crisp shirts held me together that first week as I fought the memory of disentangling my two-year-old, sobbing in heaves that might throw up his very heart, and leaving for work again. Was the need to repetitively plan my uniform my brain’s way of placating anxiety about the dark side of my dream-come-true job? Lisa van de Geyn’s story on optimism (page 118 ) suggests that’s the case.
Now, Eland loves his two brilliant sitters, Woolf is starting at a neighbourhood school (with an organic vegetable garden!), and I have discarded strategy to revel in fall abundance. (Yes! to giant geodes, page 41. Yes! to skirts over pants, page 158.) And I hope that you will find in FLARE, as we embark together on a new era, timely wardrobe solutions and more: a place to indulge all the sublime sorrows and joys of being a woman in command of self and style as the 21st century unfolds.
Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.