You will live in a small town in the mountains, and your closet will be full of flannel.
If I had been told this at any point before four years ago, I would have laughed in disbelief. Alas, time makes fools of us all, and this sentence currently describes my life accurately. But that’s not even the irony here. No, the real irony is the fact that I never really paid much attention to fashion in the first place— that is, I didn’t start paying attention until I found myself about as far from the fashion universe as could be.
Growing up just below Staten Island in New Jersey, I was like most other kids in that I also had a strong connection to the Big Apple. For us, “The City” was the center of everything— our parents worked there, and when we were lucky we’d take the train in to go to some museum or experience some other form of culture. We didn’t know Broadway shows traveled around the country. Hell, I was far from being the only Jersey kid born in Manhattan.
But when it came time for so many of my friends and classmates to start pouring over Teen Vogueand dream of a fancy life in the Garment District, I felt nothing. When one of the “popular girls” turned to me in high school and said “Oh Brianna, only youwould wear sneakers with a skirt!”, I shrugged it off because I knew my sneakers were way more comfortable than her heels. When, on a school field trip to a Broadway show, a friend nodded toward two women passing by the theater in designer coats, all I could think about was what a waste of money they must have been.
For years, I shopped at thrift stores and only bought things off the discount racks even at my favorite retail locations. If it looked good, great! If not, whatever. It wasn’t that I didn’t have an eye for fashion— I really just didn’t care.
After college, things didn’t change much. I began working part-time for a local news outlet and then supplemented it by working at Macy’s. At one job, I was able to dress pretty casually. At the other, I simply wore all black. The lack of any need for highly fashionable or professional clothing didn’t bother me one bit.
Then came the spring of 2014.
After hitting a quarter-life crisis and traveling around the country for a few months looking for meaning (though that’s another story entirely), I had been convinced by my sister to join her out in Colorado. This wasn’t up-and-coming Denver, swanky Aspen or collegiate Boulder, mind you, this was high in the rocky mountains, surrounded by forest and farms Colorado. I wasn’t even a week in before I took a look at my wardrobe and realized I’d never wear half of the stuff I’d brought to this environment.
As time wore on, I found myself becoming increasingly distressed by the fact that I couldn’t wear heels anywhere, or how flannel had been slowly seizing control over my shirt selections. Going out required nothing more than casual, comfy clothing accented with sneakers or boots (practical boots with traction, that is). About a year into this foreign lifestyle, I found myself commenting— okay, complaining— about how I still had some stylish clothing in my possession but never had the opportunity to wear it anywhere.
“Huh,” I remember her saying. “I didn’t know you were such a fashion snob, Brianna.”
This stopped me dead in my tracks. A fashion snob? Moi? Since when? Still, she had a point. Whereas once I had prided myself on being untouched and unbothered by what I saw as the uppity, exclusive fashion world, I found that I missed it now that I was so far removed.
Still, I decided to stay put. Fashionless culture aside, I was actually really starting to enjoy the mountain lifestyle by that point and loved the friends I’d made. Nevertheless, I decided to compromise. I held onto the fannel shirts, but I began pairing them with more fashionable tees underneath. My daily activities (and by that point, a job in the food service industry) required me to wear my hair up every day, so I began learning different up-dos and braid styles. I got hiking boots with colors I liked, and I started wearing at least some form of jewelry every day.
Today, my regular outfits still aren’t anywhere as glamorous as those I see during my visits back East. But to be honest, that’s not what I’m going for right now. I actually wear a lot of the same clothes now when I go home and visit friends in “the City” as I do when I’m going about my everyday life here in the mountains. It’s taken me a long time to realize it, but maybe I always cared about fashion at least to some degree. I just had to come way out here to find my own personal sense of style.