Friday, August 31, 2018

Living With Style

Do You Have Style?

Do you have style? Don’t answer too quickly and please don’t try to feign indifference. Style is more than what you think, and much more than the advertisers have indicated. Style is not about the labels you wear; it’s about the only brand you should promote.

Your style should be "brand you." Style is about authenticity and your ability to express who you are by what you wear and how you rock it. 

Like it or not, we all have a style. So maybe the better question is this; is the style you’re wearing your own? Are your expressing what you intend to express? Have you cultivated a style, or fallen in with the masses? Fashion is that amazing medium with which we express our individuality and conformity at the same time.

I recently met a woman who exuded style. She lit up the room and brought joy to everyone in it, and she barely spoke a word.

Aloo Greer walked into the trunk show that I’d been invited to participate in. The space was filled with the creativity of its owners, Steph and Ty. Their colorful, unique hats have been worn by everyone who calls themselves a star and by anyone who emulates them. The space had other artists, including yours truly and it was filled with thoughtful fashionable and joyful folks. They were all  beautiful, artistic, eclectic, intelligent and spiritual. The gathering laughed loudly, looked deeply into one another’s souls and shared easily with their like-minded counterparts.

Everyone was beautiful, but when Allo entered we all stopped.

“Girl give me those shoes.” Someone called. “I want her bag.” Said another. “I need her to give me that hat and while she’s at it, she can slit those pants open, so I can get in them.” We laughed as we jokingly divided Allo’s garments. Each item was unique; nothing went together nor was it brought as a set. Each piece came from a different place and they all told a story. 

              Allo just smiled shyly and allowed her clothes to do the talking. I introduced myself and asked her to try on a garment. I told her that I’d like to see what it looked like on her. Allo bowed her head in reverence, took the garment and disappeared. When she came back, the gathering of the beautiful applauded. They stood around Allo and snapped pictures an made videos of her perfect poses. That same dress had been on my rack all along and no one had tried it, but when Allo put it on, everyone wanted it, or said that they had before.

              The next day, Allo came back and just before packing up to leave, I asked this quiet, yet joyful woman if she’d try on a few others. She did and again, the room was stilled.

As I pondered Allo’s ability to “wear the phone book well,” I realized that when it comes to style, Allo possessed the qualities we all desire.

  • She liked what she liked and gave more credence to her own style than to the style others.
  •  She walked with confidence and enjoyed the objects she'd carefully purchased.
  • Aloo combined pieces more like an art and less like a uniform.
  • She didn’t ascribe to someone else’s idea of what “season” she was, and what colors she should wear, nor did she think about where she could wear something.
  • He quiet presence and bold wardrobe choices make her a woman of style. 

Your style should be as unique as you are. You don’t have to wear what someone else demands, nor should you. Try on colors that you’ve been told to avoid. Add elements that speak to who you are and what you love. Be confident in whatever you wear and spend less money on trying to impress others and more time with impressing and loving yourself.

Be You, be Bold, be Joy.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Can't Change Your Mind? Move to Your Heart

The 18-Inch Trip That Can Change Your Life

Several years back, I suffered a rather debilitating head injury. I’m fine now, but don’t ask my children. Anyway, in the process of what felt like a never-ending cycle of pain, confusion and misery, I learned several rather important things.

My mother told me, and I was thought it was true, but now I know for sure that thinking is hard work. New thoughts and ideas take more work than anything else.

It turns out that changing your mind takes more energy than heavy lifting. 
But, I’ve also learned something else; once you are open to changing your mind, it is much easier to do so the next time.

 Moreover, once you learn the first thing, the next thing comes much more readily. In other words, learning is not only fundamental, it is exponential; it becomes more and more rapid.

One of the most helpful tools I had during that period of recovery was a book called HeartMath. Researchers at the HeartMath Institute point out that the heart also has a brain and it is often much more intelligent than the one in our head. During that time of confusion and pain, I made a deliberate decision to move my reasoning to my heart.

As I did, a new world opened to me. My thinking was more compassionate and caring, but it was much more. I was open to new ideas and found it almost natural to try things that had previously caused confusion.

In less than a year, I learned to design and make clothes. I take long road trips, and when I do I travel the back roads and talk to locals about local things. Each new encounter is responded with love and compassion.

I still get flustered when my sewing machine “shows off,” and I am known to flip out when I am lost. But when I do, I take a short 18-inch trip from my head to my heart and I can see so much more clearly.
Be you, be well, be traveling.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Fashion: Where Individuality Meets Conformity

Fashion and Why We Care

Zoom in, I'm wearing the first women in electrical engineering.

Apparently, it’s cool to act like you don’t care about fashion. Privately, we all know that we know better.

 Even Steve Jobs, the Apple CEO who wore that black tee shirt and jeans and looked like he could care less, cared deeply. By the by, that iconic black turtleneck tee was made by my favorite designer, Issey Miyake. (Jobs was a huge fan of Japanese culture.)

We care, and I’m going to tell you why.

Fashion is our way of expressing our individuality and our conformity—at the same time.

Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to express yourself, be yourself, be who you really are, because “Mom, everybody is wearing it.”

It’s why the guy with the boring suit and boring tie has the world’s best sock drawer. We use what we wear to express who we are and yet, we don’t know how to do it because someone else already did it first.

As a sociologist, I love fashion. It speaks louder than body language. I love to watch the smallest detail that screams, “This is me, take it or leave it.”

I marvel at what I call the airport uniforms of blue jeans, shorts, khakis and even pajamas. For a color fix, I sometimes venture to the airport’s international terminal where people from around the globe still dress their best to travel to parts unknown.

Even the folks who rebel against fashion set fashion trends and then become enslaved to the “brand” they co-created.

Like it or not, our fashion says who we are and what we reject. It speaks to who you’ve been told to be and how you rebel against it. Like nothing else, fashion speaks to the fact that the self is social; that we are a product of the world around us.

I love seeing a peak of beaded bracelets on the wrist of a buttoned-up businessman. It may be saying, “I’ve got this job and I do it well, but when the door is closed, I’m meditating.

I adore that octogenarian woman who wears the “loud” (her words not mine,) colorful jacket when she goes to pick up her prescription and the way my mechanic creases her jeans.

Every year, Americans spend $300 billion on fashion, and that’s only what we admit and report. The world spends $3 trillion on fashion and much of that is on the fast kind.

Whether we like it or not, admit it or don’t, fashion speaks, and it tells a story. The big question here is, who is really controlling the narrative?

Is your fashion telling your story?

Are you truly expressing yourself or is your fashion a rebellion of the self you aren’t even aware of?

Do you even know where your clothes came from and what they truly cost?

Admit it, you care about fashion, but make sure your fashion cares and reflects you.

Be you, be well, be yourself.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Throwing Good Money After Bad

Throwing Good Money After Bad 

You can’t get away from fashion, and it seems you can’t get away from the fashion critics either.
I was minding my own business and listening to the business news. The next thing I know, this political something or other, Roger Stone, is discussing the expensive wardrobe and taste level of Paul Manafort. Now, Paul Manafort is the former lobbyist for Ukraine (but really Russia,) turned head of the presidential campaign for then candidate, Donald Trump.
Stay with me.

Manafort is on trial for tax evasion with more trials to come. But let’s get to the fashion, shall we? 
It turns out that your boy Paul really likes expensive suits. He also has a penchant for the Avant-garde. (The prosecution showed his love of ostrich jackets and snake skin coats.)

Anyway, even though no one asked him to, Roger Stone decided to turn fashion critic saying,“It’s what an aluminum siding salesman from Ohio would wear if he became a millionaire,” Stone said.

Daaaaang, but Roger wasn’t done, he went on to say that Manafort’s, Italian suits, (a million bucks worth from just one tailor) never fit Manafort properly because his thick body didn’t fit the svelte design. And he still wasn’t done. Paul added that “Manafort had the view that if something was expensive, that meant it was good.”

Well, you can’t blame your boy for trying.

The fact that I was sitting in my sewing room, listening to the financial news hearing a political something or other critiquing the wardrobe of an American/Ukrainian (Russia) operative who is on trial for some of everything, discussing an overpriced, ill-fitting wardrobe is like one of Manafort’s jackets—priceless.

Here’s the thing; most of us can say that we have bought something that we believed to have been wonderful, just because it was expensive. Later, we found it to be ill-fitting, the wrong color and just plain too much money.

Manafort is on trial, if guilty, (she said laughing) his crimes will be exposed. But one look into that closet exposed my own past habits of buying something that was supposed to be good just because it was expensive.

I don’t care much for Stone or Manafort, but both have shed light on something we should all think about.

Being a good person and trying to look like an important person are two very different things. Ask any hard-working Ohioan and they will tell you that throwing good money after bad crap still won’t make that crap good.

                                                 Be you, be well be a good person.
                                                           Bertice Berry, PhD.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

My Unrequited Love Affair with Fashion

My Unrequited Love Affair with Fashion 

I have a confession: I love fashion. I love design and color and before I die, I want to lie down in a field of fine fabrics. But as much as I love fashion, I must also confess that I detest the fashion industry.

Too often, it turns children into slaves and pollutes the planet like nothing else. In our so-called developed nation, people kill and die for fashion. We become enslaved to it and demean others for their lack of fashion.
Fashion can be a dirty word, but try as you might, you’ll never be free of it. I know, because I really did try.

 After years of buying the best of the best, l began to see that the industry I loved didn’t really love me back. It never celebrated my curves, my height or my color. The fashion I loved did not embrace the aging women who had paved its way. It was not only horrible to the makers, it didn’t care much for the wearers.

So, like a dejected lover who finally realizes that she’s been having an affair with a narcissist, I walked away. I put fashion on no contact and even when fashion called, sent messages and filled my email inbox, I would not return fashion’s calls.

I wore only what I had and then I bought second hand. I gave away all the things I rarely or had never worn and I found multiple ways to accessorize the same hand full of items, only to find that I was becoming an accessory addict. I repeatedly redesigned my old garments until one day, something amazing happened.

Seemingly out of nowhere, I heard a voice. It told me to make a dress. I laughed at the voice and the fact that I was now hearing things. Then I laughed harder because I had never made anything in my life. I could not sew. Still, the voice was rather convincing. I told that voice that I would need a pattern and the same small voice said, “Make one,” and so, I did.

I now know that the voice was my own consciousness, informing me that I had always been capable of more than I believed. That day, I made a dress. Unable to use a machine or even thread one, I stitched the dress by hand. The dress was made of a beautiful silk that I’d purchased for someone else while in Singapore. I wore it the very next day and got more compliments than I had on anything I  ever owned.

Now, I design and make something almost every day. After I filled my own closet, I began to make clothes for others. Then I began to design and make my own fabrics and now, I am launching a clothing line. It’s called NDND Designs, because if you’re not dead, you’re not done.

Fashion speaks, it informs, but it should not define us. I have moved on from an unrequited love into a relationship that is balanced, real and true. I love the fashion I create, and this fashion loves me right back.

Fashion is powerful; it speaks even when you are not listening. It tells a story, but it should be your story. Don’t let fashion control you, don’t let it take you for a ride and then leave you on the side of the road. More importantly, be aware of where your fashion comes from and know if it destroyed something or someone before it got to you. Choose a label that celebrates who you are. Since you must go to work to pay for your fashion, you should be able to wear that fashion at work. Find what’s right for you and take care of it.

It’s okay to love, love, love fashion, but make sure it loves, loves, loves you back.

                                                                 Bertice Berry, PhD.

Living With Style

Do You Have Style? Do you have style? Don’t answer too quickly and please don’t try to feign indifference. Style is more than wh...