Some years ago, my then-boyfriend, now-husband and I were watching the movie version of The Last Five Years. We came to the scene where Cathy, a musical theater actor, is waiting for an audition. The camera panned out to a waiting area packed with actors similar in appearance to Cathy, and every single one was wearing a red dress nearly identical to hers. As an actor, I saw this and thought, "Yep, that's about right." My (non-actor) boyfriend said, "That actually happens?! That's your life?"
Yes, friends, welcome to my life. Or what was my life. After hours of mulling over how I could be more memorable in the audition room, I finally had an epiphany: Stop wearing the red dress, Rebecca! And thus, this experiment was born.
So, what was the experiment?
Our society (and particularly, the theatre community), is full of fashion rules, mostly geared toward women. For one year, I wore what I wanted to wear, instead of what I should have worn. I chose fashion rules, broke them, and documented the experience. I broke big rules, small rules, and rules I had, at some point, fabricated just for myself.
In the end, this experiment was liberating. I’m not perfect, or always brave, and still, on occasion, I fall back into rule-following habits. However, I know now that dressing like myself is the best. When I wear clothes that align with what I like, and am inspired by, and feel fancy and free in, my life is better and I’m better in it.
The initial experiment may have ended, but Costume Parade lives on, and I hope you join me!
Let’s keep breaking rules, whether they be fashion or otherwise. Let’s celebrate rule-breakers, and against-the-grain-goers, and glass-ceiling-shatterers. Let’s embrace fashion as art, and see where we can find new inspiration for what we cover ourselves in.
The irreplaceable Judy Garland said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” Screw the rules! Let’s be our first-rate selves.
A glossary of blog post categories:
There are three types of OG fashion-experiment posts:
In the Lab: In the Lab posts are full-on experiment time. I'm breaking a specific rule and going to a specific event. This category has the highest stakes.
Mini Lab: Mini Labs are constructed around smaller changes. A specific rule is still being broken, but there may not be a specific event involved. This category has lower stakes.
Control Group: Control Group posts are breaking no rules, but are centered around a specific event. This category has the lowest stakes.
Inspired By: I’m building an outfit around someone, something, or someplace that inspires me.
Rule Breakers: These entries celebrate real life rule breakers, both past and present.
The Seattle Series: I’ve had a rocky relationship with Seattle, and in this series I’m reacquainting myself with the city I live in.
Stitch Fix Reviews: Reviews of the 5 items I receive in my Stitch Fix each month.
In theatre, right before the throes of tech week and dress rehearsals, there is the Costume Parade.
As an actor, it’s your first date with your costume. It’s the day that, after weeks of rehearsal, this person you’ve created from some lines on a page becomes full-fledged. The transformation is complete!
(In reality, this presentation isn’t meant for actors. It’s an exercise that allows the director to see all of the costumes together on stage. As an actor, I do like to pretend it’s for me, though!)
Clothes have power. Just like costumes, they can make us look and feel different, new, strong, safe, adventurous, unhinged, like the life of the party or the recluse in the mansion. So, why not experiment? Why not wear our insides on our outsides? Break some rules?
Let’s make everyday Costume Parade Day!