My Obsession

HappinessShannon Reed

I don't remember a time in my life when I wasn't mad-obsessed with clothes, shoes, or handbags. I think my first word was "Vogue" and, from the time I was 10, I desperately (and I mean d e s p e r a t e l y) wanted to be photographed by Francesco Scavullo. My mother was a Cosmo devotee and one of the highlights of my childhood was when she'd pick up the latest issue at the grocery store; those glossy pages looked delicious enough to lick.

My formative years were, in fact, defined by the fashion world and, as an only child with an active imagination - I truly was a "legend in my living room."

Oh, and did I mention that Elsa Klensch was my fairy godmother?

Alas, I was a bit of a dork. Growing up with a single mom in Des Moines in the 70s didn't exactly open the doors to this magical fashiondom I'd hoped to somehow be a part of. In fact, I was often chastised for my wardrobe. I'd go into my mother's closet and wear her clothes because she had much nicer options; I certainly was not about to abide the hideous mint green polyester jumpsuit from K-Mart she swore up and down looked "darling" on me. I'm still traumatized by polyester. {shudder}

My grandmother was a model - and gorgeous - and always put together beautifully; so, thankfully, my mother inherited her taste for detail and good clothing. However, my mother is six feet tall and I started wearing her clothes when I was in third grade. And her shoes. I also cleaned out my grandmother's costume trunk; the cherry-red satin 50s poodle skirt with acres of tulle underneath and the French Can-Can skirt were my favorites. I wore the Can-Can skirt with my mom's navy-blue, size 10 clogs on more than one occasion; total awesomeness.

So, yeah, you can imagine how well my peers responded to my appearance. My teachers actually kept pulling me aside to gently suggest I consider more "normal" clothing options so that I could perhaps spare myself the relentless teasing from my classmates. I'd also get, "Is your mother at home when you leave for school?" For the record, she was not. Thankfully.

Looking back, I'm super proud of the fact that I was my own person and did my own thing and that it was more important to be true to myself than to capitulate in order to be accepted by a bunch of stupid third graders.

When I was in 6th grade, a cool new girl took me under her wing - loaned me a pair of 501s - and, suddenly, the boys were all sorts of interested. Ahh - the sweet, sweet power of clothing.

I had a few forays with modeling agencies in my teens but, at 5'10 and 120 pounds, I was deemed "too heavy" and asked to lose 10 pounds. Fortunately, I had the mentality that if they want me badly enough, they'll take me the way I am. So I gave up on being photographed by Scavullo - whatever, there were other boys to concentrate on.

I may have given up on modeling, but I've never given up on fashion. It's in me - runs in my blood - I actually speak the language; yes, I am fluent in Fashion. At a subconscious level, I think this whole thing came about as a way to feel connected to my grandmother. It certainly took on a life of its own, but her presence in my life had the deepest and most profound impact so yeah, vive Arline!

For those folks who have only known me over the last few years, this might come as a shock. I used to "dress" every single day. Every detail had to be perfect. I built my wardrobe around my fabulous collection of shoes and everything had to be black or white (mostly black). Hair, nails, ever-changing handbags, zero scuff marks on shoes, perfectly understated accessories, everything crisp and tailored; no detail was too small - everything needed to be perfect and was subjected to the 360 Test before I walked out the door (full-length mirror - back, front, both sides - how does it fall, what does it look like from every angle, etc.).

I never did it because I felt like I had to and I sure as hell never did it for any guy - I actually enjoyed it. A lot. I was my own blank canvas each morning - what could I create? Just like third grade - only with clothes that fit. I never really lacked confidence or self-possession; again - the power of clothing. It was like my superhero costume and I was invincible.

Since opening the bookshop, however, I no longer feel compelled to look impeccable - nor do I feel the need to feel invincible. I don't get my nails done anymore, I maybe get my hair cut every 4-6 months, I'm very content in my holey boyfriend jeans, t-shirt and granny sweater, I never wear black, sometimes I wear makeup - sometimes I don't. I'm in a much more relaxed place with myself - and, I'm finding that I enjoy photographing fashion and clothing every bit as much as I did embodying it and that it brings me the same unspeakable joy.

I know - there are wars going on. And devastating natural disasters. And people are starving. And the country is swirling down the toilet. This is only one facet of who I am and what I love to do. It also ties in with my being an advocate for women - encouraging them to find and use their voices and to live their lives passionately and with authenticity. And, for god's sake, find peace with who and what you are - tune the noise and negativity out. {Yes, you can.}

I love celebrating women and making them look and feel beautiful. There's such a joy that comes with feeling good about yourself - a peace of mind that you can't know until you experience it. And it doesn't matter what it takes to get you to that place - whether you're dressed up or stripped down - it's whatever makes you feel good about you. Just by the very nature of our beings, women are beautiful - but most of us tend to beat ourselves up. I say forget that nonsense - life is too short.

So, I posted a photograph (above) of designer, Mona Lucero, and model, Emily Marchalonis - both gorgeous women. Mona is amazing - and a perfect example of someone who lives her life passionately - doing what she loves and doing it well. Her designs are fun, flirty, whimsical, lovely, beautiful, delicious; all certainly parts of Mona's personality.

Emily is young and on the verge of an amazing life. She's beautiful, yes, but she's also smart and entrepreneurial; I can't wait to see how things unfold for her.

I'm usually much better about wrapping things up. I hadn't really intended on writing about this particular subject - or at least the back story part of it. It was more supposed to be about Mona and how cool it is that she's doing what she loves doing and how Emily just getting started and exploring what she loves doing and how I'm doing what I love doing - and how we all got to do that together to do our "things" as a team.

So - I guess that's the moral of the story; just be who you are and do what you love...and set yourself free!