The Sol Compass

by Caitlin Hummer

My Fashion Journey

It started one day in third grade when my mother refused to allow me to wear pajamas to pajama day to school.  She told me that pajamas were not real clothes and that I wasn’t allowed to wear them out in public.  Rationally, she explained to a pouty eight year old the lack of respect I would show towards my teachers, my classmates, and myself if I wore pajamas to school.  My mom has always set a wonderful example of looking polished and put together for even the most mundane every day tasks.  That night, after I put up quite the fight, she took me shopping for ‘real clothes’ and showed me the excitement and pride in putting together your best outfit.  After I started to realize how much deeper the pride of appearance runs than mere superficiality, I fell in love with the masterpieces of clothing.  The result of architecture and design, inspiration and dedication, individual vision and collaborative effort; the fabrics that determined our daily directions and told the stories of our personalities.  I fell in love with fashion.

In eighth grade, after an unfortunate awkward phase, I re-immersed myself into fashion.  Most of this style reincarnation happened thanks to Ralph Lauren.  Summers in Nantucket and proximity to Cape Cod had exposed me to the prep lifestyle, but I was instantly captivated by the way Ralph had made it truly his own.  His clothes were more than just a pastel colored polo; they had a penchant for adventure in every glossy page and just the right amount of edge in the teenage targeted Rugby line.  I devoured his catalogs and used them as inspiration to write and curate my own magazines after school.  I scoured the internet and top fashion magazines, cut out pictures and wrote my own articles; stared at my creations proudly and dreamed of the day the life I had created would be mine.

My dream started to come true after I graduated high school and began interning at a corporate office, with professional appearances to maintain and the confines of high school norms behind me.  I reveled in the opportunity to dress polished as I had craved for so long, and it was even better than I imagined.  I loved Ann Taylor and White House Black Market for their beautiful work wardrobes, but had even more fun styling those pieces to reflect my age and personality from my little cubicle.  I loved how seriously people started to take me when I dressed like I took myself seriously.  A first impression may sound like a tired cliché, but judgments are an inevitable part of humanity and I always want those judgments to be on my side.  To quote Miss Congeniality, “people care about people who care about themselves.”  I find this quote rings true and trickles down through so many different parts of life, but the first way people will see it is through your appearance.  As an 18 year old intern, I was way over my head in black pencil skirts and button down blouses while my friends were lounging in yoga pants and t-shirts, but I loved every second of it.  I was reminded then of the lesson my mom had taught me years ago of respect for other people in how we dress, and the lesson stuck even harder from this professional experience.

I would be remiss to leave my dad out of my fashion journey, as he is one of the greatest examples of living a stylish lifestyle I could ever hope to follow.  You cannot help but notice my dad when he walks into a room.  He’s 6’2″, and has the greatest posture of anyone I have ever met.  He and my grandmother (5’10”) are constantly telling me to stand up tall when they catch me slouching, and for good reason.  Their height and posture make it impossible not to be noticed.  His tendency to go on 100 mile bike rides during the middle of summer and organic, pescatarian diet probably aid in his remarkable fitness for his age.  You will never catch my dad wearing the thing that everyone else is wearing.  He’ll be the guy in the brightly patterned Robert Graham shirt at graduation, fending off questions about where he found such a shirt.  Or you’ll find him hosting a business gala for a few thousand people in a custom tailored suit from Milan, because fashion ultimately comes down to how well something fits you and your body type.  No one knows how to stand out from a crowd quite like my dad does.  Both of my parents are a great example of how style shouldn’t stop at your clothes.  They’ve taught me that putting your best foot forward starts at taking care of your appearance- whether that’s with the best natural skin care products, or regular hair and nail upkeep (their company recently acquired an old fashioned barber shop) and both of them will always look groomed and polished, whether they’re tearing up the dance floor at a wedding or out buying groceries together.

As with most aspects of life, my views on fashion really began to change in college.  I was instantly bored with the pastel polo, Nantucket red shorts, black Ray-Bans uniform of my fellow business school students.  I got a job at Lucky Brand over vacation, and it really opened my eyes to the bohemian style I had never given a second glance (I also discovered my all time favorite jeans, and now I hardly wear anything other than Lucky jeans).  I loved the prints and the silhouettes, the bold bracelets and the exciting earrings; and I began to integrate them into my heavily prep-influenced style instantly.  I was fortunate enough to do a great deal of traveling from 18-22, and much of my style is thanks to those experiences.  I fell in love with Los Angeles and instantly adapted the laidback California surfer culture and the way it meshed with the bohemian Lucky vibes, while finding a way to dress for an active lifestyle while still looking camera-ready.  A life-changing trip to Amsterdam inspired me to mix the modern (Van Gogh Museum, Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam– both of which I could have easily spent all day in) with the classics (breathtaking Dutch architecture on a journey through bicycles and canals).  The attention to detail in Paris architecture made me think critically about my accessorizing choices, and is where I developed my love for dainty necklaces that graze the collarbone, and exciting earrings that draw attention to my eyes and smile.  European train travel reminded me that you should always travel stylishly (again, never in pajamas!) and Europeans’ way with understated chic inspired me to remember that sometimes less is more.  Hamilton, Bermuda made me reconsider my views on pastel shorts and reminded me of my love for all things bright and colorful.

People far smarter than myself have claimed we always find our way back home.  New England will always be an enormously inseparable part of the person I am and have become- style included.  Despite these amazing experiences and travels and the fashions I’ve picked up along the way, I always find my way back to that nerdy intellectual Bostonian who favors librarian-esque sweaters and collegiate blazers and talks of progressive politics over iced coffee (even when it’s below freezing outside).  Nautical color combinations will always have a soft spot in my heart, I will gladly wear red, white, and navy year round, and nothing will ever be able to replace my boat shoes or Boston made Converse.

My favorite part of fashion it is constantly changing.  While my style may retain these core values, there will always be changes in the fashion world and in my lifestyle that will help grow and change my style.  I hope you all follow along with me as I travel along this stylish adventure!