Sartorial Cognitive Dissonance and the Kentucky Derby

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

derby style
photo: Joshua Franzos

Have you ever felt like a fractured version of your self? Like there were so many pieces of past, present and future glittering on the ground like a broken mirror shining in the sun?  No? Okay maybe that's just me and the puppy induced lack of sleep then.

Guys, I think I'm currently in a state of sartorial cognitive dissonance.

I'm a people pleaser, an ADD artist, a writer, a wife, a nose-in-a-booker, a non-profit employee, a dog mom, a friend, an athlete, a cook, a partyer, a get my hands dirtyer, a woman, a tomboy, a capitalist, a socialist, a consumer, a feminist, a wannabe fashion stylist, and a perfection seeker. So all THAT and my all over the place personal style that goes along with each. of. those. compartmentalized. versions. of. myself. needs to cease and become one.

Some how.

It started with my parents moving me in and out of new school systems when I was growing up (I think at least 9 different school systems before junior high). I got used to inserting myself into new social structures and quickly recognized how shallow and visual people truly are. At about 9 years old, I knew that you are firstly judged by what you look like. #sad The shaping of my "style" merely became a defense mechanism, a mask that had next to nothing to do with me personally and really only reflected what I knew would impress my peers.

photo: Joshua Franzos

I'm naturally an introvert, but through necessity, became a Meyers-Briggs borderline extrovert/introvert. I tested smack in the center, but only because I was smart enough to recognize the tangible benefits of acting like an well-dressed extrovert when entering the Roman lion-fighting arena of a new school. The goal is survival, but social stability is definitely on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. So if you ask me, fashion is merely shorthand for extroversion. If you wear something bold or cool enough, someone will usually break the ice for you.

Rachel Zoe says "Style is the way to say who you are without having to speak." That's only true if you're being honest.

Do we use style to tell people who we are or who we want to be?

(Or who we want them to think we are?)  I manipulated many a school social system through my clothing choices and lost my self in the process. And to date, I don't think anyone, save for maybe my husband, has a clue who I really am.
photo: Joshua Franzos
photo: Joshua Franzos

photo: Joshua Franzos

I'm thirty-seven years old and my closet looks like I'm a spy that specializes in masterful disguises. I can probably transform into whoever you need me to be. Ditch digger? got it. MadMen night? done. Night at the Opera? Got that. Mousy secretary? squeak. Mr. Rogers? yep. Chanel suit wearing lady who lunches? got that too. Rockstar? uh huh.  I've always dressed for the situation and have a closet full of clothes for all those situations. But what if I didn't? What if I only owned and wore the clothes that were me? 

Sounds scary. And like freedom.

striped dress
photo: Joshua Franzos
red flower hat
photo: Joshua Franzos

Chanel sunglasses
photo: Joshua Franzos

It's weird to try and evaluate personal style through the lens of fashion blogging. There is a lot of style copying and style homogenization throughout the blogosphere. There is a lot of posturing and hopeful selling of goods and services (and "Lifestyle") through the seemingly grassroots blog. So how meta is the personal style of a blogger? Is it in fact personal? Or is it funneled through what one knows will sell? After three years, I have not made a cent and I will probably forever be a hobby blogger.This realization made me feel like a failure. I then allowed fashion blogging and my low number of social media followers to make me crazy for a period, so I took a blog break to reassess its importance in my life. It wasn't important at all I decided. And for awhile I was sure I'd give it up.Then I remembered the writing. It used to be about the writing and self discovery, and being creative with my husband. And so for as long as this blog continues to persist, that's what it should be about.

Furla clutch
photo: Joshua Franzos

christian louboutin
photo: Joshua Franzos

sporting jewelry
photo: Joshua Franzos
I've been thinking a lot about my personal style and about my desire to let go of the many masks I don. It took writing and this blog, I think, for a voice and a genuine sense of self to bob to the surface amongst the flotsam and jetsam of my disguises. I got caught up in the bizarre horse race of blogging and started to feed the fashion machine, instead of letting it nourish me creatively. In a virtual world that shows you the highlight reel of beautiful people's carefully curated lives, I'm telling you not to believe everything you see. Even right now.The photos before you are lies. It's so easy to fake stuff (I would know, I've been doing it my entire life). But back to the photos of this blog post. This is not me, this is me styled through the glowy lens of fashion blogging that taps into a singular and persistent female fantasy. It's a fantasy that's nice for a fleeting afternoon and that's about it. You think I'm going to be cleaning up puppy accidents with perfect hair and lipstick and high heels? HA! 
I'm done trying to appeal to the masses. I'm going to do me now, and the personal style path I'm heading down will not be as sweet as this dress and these pictures. I don't know how or entirely what yet, but I know that I've already started. In the meantime, I'm going to document some articles that have me all hung up, but don't speak to who I currently am-or will be. This post is one of those instances of document and release where I'm saying goodbye to things and former selves that won't follow me into the future peacefully. 

kentucky derby style
photo: Joshua Franzos

So, the first thing I'm saying goodbye to is this hat and the first self I'm saying goodbye to is the Spendthrift Stylist-who likes to "rescue" high end fashion from auctions or thrift stores even though they aren't her style. She is wowed by beautiful things, big designer names, and she likes to hoard. She likes to make pictures perfect without a care to the future and as a result, sometimes things get worn only once. That is incredibly wasteful. Case in point, the spendthrift stylist bought this hat seven years ago for a "My Fair Lady type photo shoot some day"... Who DOES that?? It doesn't even fit on my head! So in a final Derby-time-of-year-look/heave-ho/last hurrah, I let her buy this $49.95 dress from ASOS (that I will never wear again) simply to make this photo POP. And pop it does, but boy is that Spendthrift Stylist self a manic bitch....Let's call her Felicia. 

BYYYyyyyyeeee Felicia, move your bloomin' arse!


 What I Wore:
Hat: Vintage, Miss Alice.
Clutch: Vintage Furla
Heels: Christian Louboutin, similar HERE.
Chunky plastic Bracelet: vintage.
Bracelet: Early 20th Century reverse painted intaglio sporting bracelet 
Sunnies: old season Chanel.
Lip: Dior 999 

Have you come to terms with your own personal style? How'd it go? Were there selves that were hard to kill off? Did they stay dead? Let me know in the comments.

Your Bosom Friend in Pittsburgh, 


  1. This is perfect. I was just talking to a friend about fashion blogging 1.0 and the difference between the goals then and now. It used to be about participating in a community. Commenting on and spending time with each other's posts. We found each other because of clothes. We became friends because we really got to know each other by reading and writing openly.

    Anyway, just thank you for sharing. You being you is right on.

  2. I really liked this post. While not a fashion blogger ( go figure lol) I understand the love for the creative outlet. Many years ago I wrote a blog on a regular basis about the city and the movers and shaker of the city. Somewhere along the way it became something else. Not me. Over time, it fizzled. I moved on to what seemed like bigger and better things. Those things were/are apart of who I am also, but I always missed the blog. Fast forward a few years. I too have bid farewell to aspects of myself that no longer serve me. I don't wish to present anything to the world accept my truest self. In doing so, I created another blog. One that IS totally me. I'd like to share it with you. So while the other parts of myself drag ass to come into alignment, THIS part of me thrives and is happy. Blogging as an outlet. Blogging because I love it.

  3. Meryl this is a great post!  I definitely struggle with what is 'me' and what isn't and have shelved some selves who I still miss. I like a mix of styles and swing between them depending on my mood, location, or the occasion. Some looks feel more me than others...but I like them all.

    You mentioned style copying and style homogenization and Al and I were talking about this just the other night...we were saying how amazing it is to have inspiration from all over the world, available at our fingertips, but while you'd think that would create wider diversity, instead, it seems to be creating a gang of people all desperate to look the same, to 'fit in'. I don't know - maybe I follow the wrong people? But I do struggle to find people doing something different to the masses. If you have any recommendations, please share!

    And yes, I know I'm not making any waves in the world of personal style, my style isn't anything new, but I do try be as 'me' as possible, and will often check myself and ask why I'm drawn to something - is it because I truly like it or is because I've seen it so many times that I've been brainwashed into liking it?

    I enjoy blogging, well I enjoy that it gives me an excuse to play around with clothes and style, but it has made me more aware of my own personal style than ever before and I don't know how I feel about that.

  4. Meryl, this was a truly fantastic post, and I also thoroughly enjoyed reading the comments from others that I admire--both for their styles and their minds.

    I question, as Niki did, whether I like certain styles because I've been brainwashed into thinking I should or because I actually like them. I've struggled so much with wanting the authenticity of dressing for myself, and dressing in a way that would capture a following. It can be a constant battle, getting caught up in the numbers.

    I've debated the idea of blogging as more than a hobby and, while it does seem glamorous in some ways, it also feels superficial in others. The happiest that I am in blogging, is when I'm creating for myself--never for the numbers.

    And also, like Terra said, I feel like there was a time when blogging was about the community, but now it feels like every social media platform is constantly advertising to me, which is just plain exhausting. Knowing that I'm part of that can contribute to my internal struggle.

    What happened to writing to HELP people, not to SELL to people?

    I'm really looking forward to your journey. I can't wait to see where it leads. I've always thought you were one of the most stunning, kind, and brilliant bloggers that I've had the pleasure of meeting. I'm sure I'll only admire you more as you hone your style.


  5. LOVE LOVE LOVE! And whole-heartedly agree with all of my other favorite bloggers' comments. I have been struggling with what to do with my blog. I hate to give it up - but it all has just become really fake and really creatively stunting rather than the other way around. It's not fun anymore because instead of feeling excited to share something - I feel more like a failure when my numbers don't add up and no one is buying what I'm "selling." I agree with Niki - there is SO much to draw inspiration from and fashion is supposed to be partly about creativity - but everyone I follow is just trying to "fit-in" and sell what the masses have deemed popular. If I see one more pineapple, mermaid, or unicorn reference I might lose my mind. LOL. I understand it's what you have to do to some extent to make a buck - but maybe that world is just not for me. Either way, I love all you ladies that keep it really and TRULY inspire me. I hope your blogs stick around for a long time.


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