Editor's Letter: Our Closets, Ourselves

Read Lesley Jane Seymour's October 2012 editor's letter here

by Lesley Jane Seymour
lesley jane seymour image
Photograph: Greg Delves

I’ve been convinced since eighth grade that you are what you wear. So much so that when I went to a luncheonette and unexpectedly ran into the boy I had a crush on in drama class, I was sure I knew why he fumbled his soda. Clearly it was because I was sporting the new mod look, which I’d cribbed from the latest issue of Seventeen magazine: purple bell bottoms and a white tie-at-the-neck blouse with, yes (cringe), sheer stripes. In my mind, I was now a suburban Helen of Troy: One glimpse of me caused boys to falter.

Fast-forward to my first job, reporting for the trade publication Women’s Wear Daily. With no formal fashion schooling, I was thrown to the wolvesof Seventh Avenue, whose New York accents I could barely decipher. One interviewee’s pronunciation left me so clueless that I wrote down his words phonetically; luckily, my brilliant editor intuited that the nonsensicalshoalcolla I’d recorded in my notebook was actually the fashionable shawl collar. But linguistics was the least of my challenges. Quickly deducing that my college clothes were not making it, I blew my first paychecks on new duds—and breathed a sigh of relief when my boss bragged to others that I’d been the right hire, “because just look at the way she dresses.” For Vogue, I chic-ed it up, biting the bullet and buying my first expensive blouse (Donna Karan; $250). At Marie Claire, I Frenched it up, flying across the Atlantic to attend designer shows in fancy Euro-label attire.

Which leaves me, I suppose, with more than the average psychological baggage about what I wear. For years I stashed away favorite pieces, hoping to pass them along to my fashion-minded daughter. But when Lake made it clear that she had other aspirations (she wouldn’t need to zip herself into my blue inside-out Chanel sheepskin dress to practice psychoanalysis!), I gave away those old pieces and today try to keep my clothing footprint neutral, removing one old item for each new purchase. I may even be ready to try deputy editor Jennifer Braunschweiger’s ingenious closet project (page 52), in which you distill your style by forcing yourself to wear each item in your work wardrobe and see how it makes you feel. But here’s the question: Am I really ready to part with that floral dress I wore to the party my staff threw for me when I left my first editor-in-chief job? Am I willing to concede that those light-blue Gucci suede pants are no longer me? Finally, am I prepared to let go of my younger self and move on? Memo to the More staff: Buckle your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Next: Editor's Letter: A Cut-the-Crap Guide to Friendship

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First published in the October 2012 issue

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