I learned recently that my eleven year old niece is into fashion, both in terms of her own personal style and in terms of designing clothes, and I think that’s fantastic.

My thirteen year old self, however, would not have approved. Back then, I thought that fashion was girly and frivolous and vain. Fashion was, for me, very much tied to being female in all the worst ways. It was the mid-90s and I lived in Seattle, and wearing baggy jeans and flannel shirts, loose not fitted, was all the rage and this suited me very well. Capital “F” fashion though was totally gross—it involved paying too much for clothes and wearing heels and being egotistical, and thinking about stuff that didn’t matter, and I was too smart for that. The idea of designing clothing wasn’t really any better, I thought it was just something people did to feed the consumer machine, not an actual art form itself.

There was a feminist side to it, certainly. I was a teenage feminist (now an adult feminist!) and I had some reasonable misgivings about how fashion vaulted the ideal of the stick figure body, and often favored the uncomfortable over the easily wearable. However, there was also some pretty deep misogyny in the mix. Fashion was girly, and a lot of the boys I knew thought it was stupid, so it probably was stupid. Being not girly was a point of pride, and also made life easier in the nerd-y circles in which I traveled.

Now I binge watch Project Runway, and watch with fascination as the designers come up with new designs to meet the often slightly wacky challenges. I feel like I understand more what fashion can be, and how important it can be to feel control over how you present yourself to the world. Do I wear interesting clothing myself? Mostly no, but I appreciate it. And I hope that my niece can enjoy it as the art form it can be, without ever feeling embarrassed about being “girly” or vain.

Writing: Not going fast. Still figuring stuff out. I’ve been at least spending more time on it though, which will hopefully pay eventually.

Reading: I’m currently reading My Favorite Thing is Monsters, which is an incredible graphic novel that makes me want to go back to school and figure out the whole crosshatching thing which I never really managed to get. It’s just a gorgeous book, and I heard the author, Emil Ferris, be interviewed the other day and she’s pretty fascinating as well.

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