Is personal style armor? Or is it personal expression? Probably both, and it’s kind of a spectator sport to try to decode what someone’s style says about them.
Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum at StyleLikeU know a thing or two about personal style. Elisa has worked as a fashion stylist for years, but had gotten frustrated with the uniformity of fashion – what should be a creative expression increasingly became constrained by commercial imperatives. So with her daughter Lily, she created StyleLikeU, and since then the mother/daughter team have been exploring the closets of unique individuals for the past several years. But what happens when you peel off the layers of social disguise? The answers are revealing….
I first came to the What’s Underneath project when my friend Elisa Jimenez participated – at first the idea of taking off your clothes in front of a camera (for a style blog!) seemed gimmicky, but as the women reveal how they feel about their looks, new revelations come out.
We all have our things we feel we have to hide, for many reasons. Sometimes our suffering is inside, as Urban Bush Babes founder Cipriana Quann revealed – that growing up with a mentally ill, violent father gave her the courage to be herself:
Sometimes the struggle to find one’s place in society – with or without style – is more obvious. Jillian Mercado has had muscular dystrophy since birth, but shows that living life with gusto – and a signature style – is not only possible, it’s necessary:
The strength and beauty of the women in the series is undeniable, even as we hear about the times they didn’t feel beautiful. Or worse, when others tried to take their power from them by telling them they weren’t beautiful. It’s a powerful effect – by hearing each others’ stories we see that we all have our own beauty.
Even though we mostly think of style as what clothes we wear, it’s not really the point. And Elisa and Lily get that: