Forbes | Stacy London On How To Wear Life Well

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For me, there is this sense of fashion being about privilege, and that privilege has to do with wealth, youth, and thinness….Those are the qualifications that you need in order to participate in fashion. I’ve spent my life sort of arguing against those things.

So says Stacy London, longtime fashion guru, on-air consultant for television programs as diverse as Today and Rachael Ray, bestselling author (The Truth about Style), and host of reality shows What Not to Wear and, more recently, Love, Lust or Run.

I recently interviewed London for the Disrupt Yourself Podcast and was struck by how her career journey through the fashion industry is an archetype for the rapidly changing, ephemeral nature of technology, education, work and life choices many of us face and are challenged by, again and again. Phrases like “seasonal fashion trend” and “fad” can feel like labels applied to us and our daily lives. We all know that “what’s trending now” is different than what will be trending tomorrow—even if it’s us. Relevance can yield to irrelevance faster than the styles of springtime are replaced on the rack by those intended for fall.

So I found London and her insights on aging in her industry to have universal application. All of us are aging and all of us are dealing with disruptive forces that unsettle. London’s hopeful message is that though sometimes painful, the transition from what we have been and presently are to what we will be can be accomplished with wisdom acquired and fresh relevance in the future.

 “I didn’t realize that I was not going to feel 47 when I turned 47, and the reality jolt, the shock, of being this age and feeling like, ‘Oh, I’m not in the game anymore the same way. And I don’t want to try; I want to find my self-worth in where I am right now. Not in who I used to be, or who I used to want to be. I want to play my own game.

“When people talk about women being older, you know, ‘She was in her forties….’  And I’m like, “That’s…what? You’re talking about me. I’m sitting right here. What do you mean, ‘older?’ I’m shocked by it.”

“I want to define my worth, my value, not by youth or my body type or my wealth. Or define it by having children or being a wife. I want to play my own game, and I want to define those terms …in a way that’s at least understandable to other women and allows them, gives them permission, to find their own set of terms.”

I want to play my own game, and I want to define those terms.–@stacylondon

London acknowledges that the work she did in television fashion no longer resonates broadly. “What I do, and what I did, in terms of makeover? That kind of process is no longer attention-getting. It takes too long. Makeovers now are really about digital because you can do it in five minutes. You can see a before and you can see an after. You don’t need to wait a week to see another makeover; you can go online and see 5000 of them in an hour.”

“I had a very specific kind of role in terms of fashion and maybe being my age doesn’t suit that medium.” In fact, change in the fashion industry is not just too quick for television, where a season of episodes is filmed months before it airs; it is so rapid that we have coined a name for it: Fast Fashion. From the runway to the rack is a short, rapid journey. The goal is to have the very latest trends be readily, widely and cheaply available in the shortest amount of time possible. The actual price tag for this constant turnover is quite high.

London is more of a fashion classic, like a great pencil skirt that is always in.

But trying to figure out how to wear that piece in fresh ways is an ongoing challenge—and reward. “Even now when I do stuff for Rachael Ray or I do stuff for Access Hollywood and people are like, ‘Oh, I know, you’re that girl from that show. Oh, I used to love you. What have you been doing; where have you been?’ It’s almost like I can’t outrun the What Not to Wear reputation. And in some ways that’s a little bit hard for me. It’s like a ‘Whatever happened to?’ or ‘Where is she now?’ When I feel like the years since What Not to Wear have been some of the most productive for me.”

She sees this act of self-renewal and self-creation as being foreshadowed by the transformations she has facilitated for other women in the past, while hosting What Not to Wear, for example.


[yourself differently] is being able to feel something different and if you can feel something different you can think something different. If you can think something different then that’s when neuro-plasticity comes into play and you can actually believe something different. Change the circumstances, change what is actually visual to you and you start to see your perspective, literal and figurative perspective, change.

“There are so many stories where women literally changed their circumstances based on being able to see themselves differently. Getting better jobs, leaving bad marriages, having a different kind of relationship with their children. That was the end game for What Not to Wear.”

I often ask women for a quote that inspires them to keep moving. Not surprisingly, London fixes on one that resonates in her period of transition. “I have been thinking about a Zadie Smith quote that I read recently about not allowing your mind to put limits on you that don’t exist.

“I don’t want my mind to stop me from all the possibility that there is in the world. I’m happy for the first time. I’m usually like ‘Who cares it’s another year? Who cares about time?’ It’s just a random demarcation of days.

“I am now going to take steps to reclaim the spirit and the energy that I want in my life. Not that I want to reclaim who I was; I want to reclaim who I am and who I’m going to be.”

If you can see it, you can be it.

This post originally published at Forbes

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