Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum know more than most about the feel-good power of an amazing #OOTD. The New York-based mother-daughter duo are the creative forces behind StyleLikeU, a multi-platform movement focuses on blasting open the concept of personal style and empowering others to find self-acceptance via self-expression. With 77k followers on Instagram and a YouTube channel boasting legit viral videos of The What’s Underneath Project series, the two are on their way to a legacy that “awakens as many people to the idea that they’re beautiful as they are, and that they don’t have to spend their lives wishing to be someone else or hating themselves,” says Mandelbaum.
A stunning new book helps ring the alarm. True Style is What’s Underneath: The Self-Acceptance Revolution, A StyleLikeU Manifesto (Rizzoli), delivers pages of personal style eye candy but also nourishes the soul with inspiring tales from a diverse community of people who are confident (and find confidence) in doing their own thing, sartorially speaking.
Gaining a New Perspective
Leading such a movement wasn’t the goal when Goodkind and Mandelbaum first started out, collaborating on a video project in 2009. “I wasn’t actively trying to become empowered in my body. I wasn’t even conscious that I had a not great attitude about it, I was still very focused on what I was eating and the idea of being thinner,” says Mandelbaum. Meanwhile, Goodkind, a former fashion stylist, was experiencing her own frustrations with the growing conformity of fashion and media. “We just knew that we felt left out of the society and the culture more and more, but for different reasons. And that pushed us to the idea of interviewing and getting into the stories of people who we admired, and who had this incredible style as opposed to the façade of a person with their perfect head to toe outfit,” she says.
What they discovered has had a profound impact on their own lives, and closets. “It’s been liberating to interview women who have body types more similar to mine, to see how comfortable they are. How beautiful I find them has been a mirror to how beautiful I can feel about myself,” Mandelbaum says, “What creates a person to have empowering, authentic and inspiring style is their comfort in their skin no matter their body type, age, race, whatever it might be; it was through the exploration of style that we became liberated.” Now favouring crop tops and “high-waisted everything,” she has pushed herself over the years to wear more form-fitting pieces to celebrate her curves rather than hide them under baggy clothes.
Spreading the movement
Currently on a North American tour, Goodkind and Mandelbaum touch down in Toronto for a book talk at Indigo CF Sherway Gardens Friday, May 12. They’ll also be appearing at the WIPP 3 Summit that same weekend, because the StyleLikeU revolution cannot rest. Especially now. “In the fashion industry everything is just nostalgia, repeating the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s over and over again, instead of wild, unique, innovative culture where you’re seeing things that you’ve never seen before and your mind is being opened,” says Goodkind, whose visual rebel yell is an impressive flair for wearing skirts over pants. “I think we’re almost at a saturation point of not owning our brains in terms of the control the monolithic marketing machine has over everybody. Self-acceptance is so critical. If people are coming from that place then what’s produced in the world would completely change. We would be free to be our fullest selves and to really do very big, important things like save the planet, or help each other. There’s so many other things than wishing to be someone else, wishing to be younger, skinnier, rich, famous.”
OK, so obvs you’re ready to experience your most stylish and self-loving you to date…but where to start? That’s where True Style is What’s Underneath: The Self-Acceptance Revolution, A StyleLikeU Manifesto comes in real handy, breaking down the journey into seven steps. The first, learning to disentangle fashion from style, encourages readers to carefully consider what they’re buying and buying into. It’s a freewheeling realm that casts aside an exclusionary lens, and puts zero interest or weight in what’s touted as the latest lewk. Trends? Schmends. What’s in is only what you love to wear and what’s out is everything that doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. The images you look at on the daily can help, too.
“Another step is re-programming what you’re looking at. Be intentional about who you follow on social media, what magazines you’re consuming, what advertisements you’re letting orbit your world. Look at things that actually reflect who you are, your values, and empower you to accept yourself as you are,” says Mandelbaum, “If I was only following people on Instagram who didn’t have the body type as mine I would probably still be struggling more.” You just have to look in the right place, and dare to be different. As Goodkind notes: “What is unrepeatable in you is the gift, is what makes you special, unique, singular, extraordinary.” A.K.A. do you.