Lyn believes that clothing can influence how you THINK, FEEL and ACT. Her outfits reflect who she is and help her to avoid invisibility. She has also found a way to look polished and professional at work, while still looking different from anyone else. I just love the way Lyn approaches style and dressing so I was keen to find out more and her replies were very inspiring. Enjoy!
Hi Lyn. Thanks for taking the time out to answer a few questions for 40PlusStyle.com! Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
During the “day” I am a full-time academic and my field is social welfare. As those who read my blog know I am also a mother and new grandmother. My photographer Calvin is my partner in life and as I have started blogging, work as well.
As a point of reference which age group do you belong to or perhaps you are willing to share your age?
Gladly, I am 61 years old.
Can you tell us a bit more about your blog Accidental Icon and why you created it?
Well, there were two catalysts. The first was encountering many young people who loved my style and how I dressed. Both my students and young men and women working in the shops I frequent began to encourage me by saying “you should start a blog!” I started hearing it so frequently that I said “Okay!” I suppose the second came from my training as an academic. For me clothing is not just something you buy or wear, you inhabit it and it is both an individual and cultural expression. I am fascinated by the thinking of designers and became very involved with Japanese designers because of how they challenged conventional thoughts about “pretty” and how they relate to the historical times that shape them. What do clothes say about the state (or not) of social welfare?
A long way of saying I could not find a blog or fashion magazine that engaged with fashion this way. I wanted to appeal to women and men who wanted to think and talk about clothing in a different way than most fashion magazines and blogs were. And truthfully this kind of writing is so much more fun than academic writing!
You believe that clothing can influence how you THINK, FEEL and ACT. How do you choose your clothes each day to reflect each of these?
I am a reader, a thinker, a researcher and have always been a problem solver who is creative in how I approach challenges and life in general. When I wear the clothes I have chosen I feel that there is no separation between that person and the clothes. This makes me present as authentic, which I try to be no matter where I am going. I am actually kind of shy (which is why I wear sunglasses in all of my photos). My clothing when it conveys those parts of me gives me confidence and courage to put myself out there in the world outside of the spaces like my work and home where I am very comfortable.
I also love the quote you mention on your about page:
“For me, a woman who is absorbed in her work, who does not care about gaining one’s favor, strong yet subtle at the same time, is essentially more seductive. The more she hides and abandons her femininity, the more it emerges from the very heart of her existence. A pair of brilliantly cut cotton trousers can be more beautiful than a gorgeous silk gown.” Yohji Yamamoto
How do you translate the sentiment of this quote to your style?
I think this is talking about not allowing yourself or your identity to be shaped by stereotypes such as age and gender and that we all contain opposite elements in our personality that can be fun to play with in fashion.
So I will wear outfits that often contain opposites:
- black leather jacket/long white ruffled blouse
- loose pants/tailored jacket
- very short haircut/long glamorous earrings or
- a long skirt/converse sneakers.
I think that I can manage to make even the most completely masculine pieces look feminine. Yamamoto has another great quote about this which is also why I wear black/
“Black is both arrogant and modest at the same time”.
The quote above is also about work as an important aspect of identity and what makes a woman attractive to others. As someone who is concerned with social well being I have always been more than a little rebellious and challenging of the status quo. I believe this is what makes me attractive and maybe a little sexy, to many people and really impacts my sense of style.
How would you describe your own style?
I would describe it as monochrome, minimalist, modern, avant-garde but not eccentric.
What would you consider the most important components of your style?
My hair, my glasses, my accessories and the monochrome palette that might have an occasional surprise of color.
Where do you live and how does that influence your style?
I live in New York City and of course that completely informs my style. There is so much creative inspiration available here when it comes to style because of the constant development of art and design. Spending a great amount of time around young people both in my work as a professor and as a student when I take classes at FIT also factors in (they keep me updated on culture).
Brooklyn is very influential as there are fashion incubators and accelerators being funded right now. There are also huge amounts of unique boutiques with young, fresh designers, consignment and vintage stores and glorious wonderlands like Dover Street Market where I indulge my Japanese designer passion.
Do you feel you have a signature style?
I don’t feel like I do but if I had to I would say minimalist or monochrome.
What inspires your outfit choices the most?
Since I still move in what can sometimes be more conservative circles, I always try to go for and stay on a line that is both formal enough yet still provocative. I aim to look so interesting and well put together that no one can say that what I am wearing is not appropriate for the occasion even if I look completely different than the other professionals in the room.
Do you take things like color profiling or body type into account when you dress?
Color, in that with my grey/white hair I think black and white makes everything about me more defined. I wear grey when I am feeling softer and more feminine. I am small so I always have to be careful of not letting myself be overwhelmed by the clothes especially because I do enjoy wearing Comme des Garcons, Yamamoto and Miyake and at times the clothing is cocoon-like.
Has your style changed at all after turning 40?
Absolutely!!! Actually my style has changed even more dramatically over the last five years. I have always been able to put myself together in a way that made others notice me. As I began to age, I found myself becoming for want of a better word, invisible. People would say, “Oh your face is so young, dye your hair”, magazines directed at my demographic had constant advertising about “anti-aging” products. So I guess my rebellious nature kicked in and rather than try to stem the tide so to speak I started to take risks with clothing and sure enough, young people in particular began to “see” me and make comments about my style. This feedback would induce me to take another risk and so on until I found myself no longer being invisible.
So for me rather than surgery or other anti-aging remedies, focusing on clothing and developing a unique and different style is how I have responded to aging.
Do you believe in dressing ‘age appropriately’ and what does it mean to you?
Those words feel oppressive and confining to me because of the question who “defines” appropriate? It is usually not the ones for whom the term is applied. It makes me immediately want to rebel against it. Do I prefer to always wear sleeves? Yes, but it is my choice no one else telling me to and if I find a strapless outfit that expresses what I want to that day, I will wear it.
Would you say that at this stage of your life you are now more, or less interested in fashion, style and the way you look?
I have always been interested in fashion and style and the way I look because of my grandmother’s impeccable style and her always taking me shopping and dressing me too. At various points in my life (motherhood, dissertations etc.) I have not had the means or the time to always indulge the interest but clothing was always something I thought and cared about. One of the joys of this time of life is having the resources and the time to fully immerse myself in this passion. I am having so much pleasure from starting this blog.
Why is the way you look important to you?
Well that’s an interesting question because what is more important to me is how I feel and how I am expressing myself in the world. How I look is clearly part of that, but it’s about what I think, feel and do in the world. If how I look moves that project along (and it has) than yes.
Which of the outfits on your blog are personal favorites and why?
The first personal favorite is my white Ann Demeulemeester parachute skirt, because it was chosen for me by a lovely friend of a certain age, who is a talented stylist and vintage curator and the moment I went to her and she pulled out this skirt she had saved for me I knew this woman really “knew” me in a very profound way, that knowledge gives pleasure. The leather jacket was chosen for me by a young woman in a store I go to in Soho, who told me I was like a young Iris Apfel and that was inspiring and encouraging to me because I was thinking about starting a blog.
The second outfit is the one I wore to NY Fashion Week and on the first day of school because it exemplifies what I said before; it is provocative enough to draw attention but I could still wear it to teach class and not look out of place. This outfit was a vintage Yohji Yamamoto black linen suit, deconstructed sleeves and hem with a vintage woven Japanese shirt given to me by a lovely woman I met in Savannah Georgia. I guess you can see that most of my favorite outfits and pieces have a lovely story behind them.
Do you follow trends? And if yes, which trends excite you at the moment?
No I don’t because I have lived long enough to know that history repeats and recycles and that includes fashion and design.
Do you have any fashion and style tips for women over 40?
Know who you are and what you feel comfortable with and go with your own style. If a trend is authentic for you, then go for it, if not never force it. Some people would not feel comfortable wearing the clothes I do and if they tried, it would show. So, rather than dress like the women you see in a blog, use what they do as an inspiration to take a small risk, but always with the idea that the risk is unique to you and that little risk can become part of who you already are. Make yourself a little bit different than the pack.
What are your plans for your blog and how do you see it develop over the coming years?
Right now I am focused on developing and delivering content that is consistent with my vision and increasing my readership. I am very new at this starting only in August. One of the most delightful outcomes are the comments and emails I get from young people saying how I make them feel not “scared” of getting old, or that they want to age like me. I feel like I am confronting and changing some stereotypes and fears people have about aging and that is an unanticipated but wonderful outcome.
For people my age sometimes my writing evokes memories of when we were younger and rocking the world and that is fun too.
I think it would be fun to do collaborations with bloggers across a range of ages.
I would also like to work with brands that want to think about how to reach our target market which numerous articles have identified is ignored even though we have the most disposable income and are very interested in fashion.
Throughout my other career I have always focused on the everyday work and being the best I could be and from that came unanticipated and amazing opportunities that I could never have predicted. So I am going to take that approach with the blog too.
Anything further you would like to add?
Just thanks for this opportunity. It was really good for me to take the time to reflect and so generous of you to ask me to participate. Also thank you for all you do to make our demographic so visible through your own hard work and success!
Note from Sylvia: I’m sure you were inspired as much as I was reading through her answers. Be sure to check out her fabulous site Accidental Icon!
Which of Lyn’s outfits is your favorite?