Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street. Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. Coco Chanel
The last thing I want is to become one of those talking heads where everything is satiny smooth and you know what the next question is going to be. Isaac Mizrahi
I tried. I bought a sturdy square box large enough to hold the watercolor paper that I cut in various shapes. And then I splurged on an even larger sea grass basket that could fit anything that was too bulky for my sturdy square box. And I made up rules, to carve out time for creative play with the focus being fashion and the expectation being that something — a quote, a photo, a collage, a story, something, anything — would end up in that sturdy square box each and every day. And, in late January, I hoisted my creative sails and set forth on the 100 Day Project, a community-wide challenge to nourish our inner artists and relish the creative process. Although my journey is unique, my focus and rules, my own, I am not alone. Well over one hundred other people have also signed up and are in the midst of their individual 100-Day adventures. I’m not sure how the rest of my fellow sailors are faring as they navigate these creative waters. I can only report from the deck of my own creative vessel. And I can tell you that I was way off course to think that the fun that I’m having could be stuffed into a sturdy square box or a larger sea grass basket.
Sure, I’ve complied by my rules. As of today, when I peek into the 100-Day box, I see the stack of sixty-five sheets of watercolor paper, each one adorned with a daily dose of creativity. There are quotes on some, collages cut out of catalogues on others, photos I’ve taken as near to home as Joy Center in my own back yard and as far away as Paris. There are packing list-mini-sketches that I’ve drawn for each of the trips that I’ve journeyed on in the last sixty-five days, and there is an article torn from the pages of the New Yorker that inspires me to see the whole world as fashion. And therein lies the challenge. I do see the whole world as fashion. And how can you press that into a page and stuff it into a box with a lid? My project has turned out to be so much more than my daily snippets can possibly illustrate.
A trip to a boutique, either my favorite hometown outdoor shop or a store I discover while venturing forth on a trip faraway opens up a whole ocean of possibilities far too big to express on a piece of watercolor paper. As soon as I climb into my rental car after landing in Portland, Maine, I steer myself down to the waterfront, find a parking spot, and walk up the narrow cobbled street to Bliss, one of my favorite boutiques in the world. I do this every time I travel east to visit family and friends, and I did this in late January just days after starting the 100-day project. When I enter the space and see the way the clothes, gorgeous clothes in natural fibers, are displayed, I am in bliss. I can hardly contain myself. Boutiques are like treasure chests for me. I don’t know what I’m going to find, but I anticipate that it will be wonderful and I know that the journey is going to be fun. There is the perusing and the choosing and the trying on. There is the connection with the people that I meet and I always seem to meet the most fabulous of fashion playmates. On that wintery trip east, I not only played at Bliss, but at a boutique a few days later in my birth town of Bath. It was my maiden voyage to this particular store and the treasure was bountiful, in the displays of sweaters and skirts and dresses in soft wintery wools and gem-like hues, and in the interchange with the store’s owner. We bubbled as we spoke, and that bubbly good feeling, it’s a breath of fresh air on a salty sea and how do you paste that onto a page and put it in your box of fashion clippings?
Some things do make it into the box. There are the photos — the ones that I’ve been snapping with my trusty cell phone’s camera. Many of them have found their way into my project. But what about the energy and the stories behind these photos? How do you bottle that up? I photographed my Writing Sister, Holly, at our five-women retreat in Healdsburg, California, just days after the trip to Maine. Her hair swept back in a carefree ponytail, she is smiling into the camera and looking fit in her brightly-colored boldly-patterned Desigual-designed long-sleeve T-shirt, the T-shirt that she bought at the airport in Barcelona. It is a photo of a strong empowered woman. However, her story, the one of walking, one step in front of the other, all the way across Spain last September, one challenge, one joy, one hardship, one moment and then the next, for 800 kilometers on the El Camino pilgrimage route, the story that she shared in her own snapshots and poems and vignettes just moments before she posed for my photo, that’s what set my sails flying, that’s what made me feel alive. And that’s just one example, one photo. I’ve taken dozens.
One day back in February, I found myself watching a Ted Talk over and over. I do that sometimes, watch something in repetition until it soaks into the very fiber of my being. I call it my artistic/autistic mode. I couldn’t get enough of of this particular talk. As I puttered in the kitchen, I immersed myself in this presentation by the fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi. And what I was so intently drawn into with my single-focus was his multiple-focus. He was all over the board, scattered like a sea breeze above a choppy sea. It was alive, this talk, and his life seemed alive too — funny and poignant and full of creative movement. The talk wasn’t boring and his life wasn’t boring. He wasn’t just designing clothes. He was creating talk shows and cabaret acts. He was dabbling and dashing and splashing color into his moments. His life and his projects, they certainly didn’t fit into a box.
And my life and my projects, they don’t fit into a box either. There is just no way to make this 100-Day Project neat and tidy. It is as windy-day scattered as Isaac’s Ted Talk, and it certainly isn’t boring. There’s the quest for the dress. I’ve searched the teeny boutiques in Paris’ Marais District and the local winter farmer’s market for the perfect-feeling mother-of-the-groom dress for my son’s May wedding and I have found two contenders, one Paris loose and flow-y, one Upper Peninsula wool and silken and handmade stunning. I’ve rolled down my car window on wintery snowy days and hollered out to people walking by that they are looking great. I’ve even walked the red carpet. That’s right. The red carpet. In Moscow, Idaho, in early March, with a stuffy nose and very little make-up and the clothes that I’d worn on a hiking trip just hours earlier, I, along with my daughter-in-law, seized the opportunity of a lifetime as we stepped out of the car and into a Hollywood moment. We gave it all that we had. And then we, along with college professors and cowboys and students, made our way over that red carpet and into the local downtown theater where we watched, on the big screen, all the glitter and the glamor of Hollywood at the Academy Awards. And there is just no way to stuff any of that back into a box.