styling the “artist”

I had a dream the other night, something about how you’re not a true artist, you’re not fully realized in your creative passion, until you’ve completely let go.

As in, (quite literally, according to this dream) once you’re comfortable living in baggy sweatpants and holey t-shirts, you’ve made it. As a Creative, at least. Everyone trying to “be something” in perfectly curated images that all tend to mimic one another…is not real. They are the wannabes. They are the ones who do not have true success. They are the ones who are merely on a journey, who may never actually “make it”.

Weird, huh?

I think these thoughts may have developed from a growing attachment I’ve found to those who just don’t (outwardly) give a damn. We were watching Love Actually the other night, and I once again found myself incredibly drawn towards Emma Thompson’s character: the loving mother and friend, plain but beautiful, completely self-sacrificing, wanting nothing but to be loved and appreciated; and then finding a triumvirate of sadness, solidarity, and power in the realization that her husband was cheating on her. The woman is gorgeous. She is strong. She is emotional. And she is an artist. She is a FORCE. She made a frickin’ papier-mache lobster head! And yet she clothes herself in enormously oversized sweaters, cardigans, and long skirts. 

But she doesn’t look like a bag lady. She looks like home. She looks like someone you could just curl up into and tell all your secrets to while she brushed through the hair on your head and told you everything would be alright. One might interpret her attire to mean that she’s hiding; but to me, it appears that she’s completely comfortable in being herself. She has no one to impress. Love her the way she is…or leave her alone.

It might be that my impression of her character in this film is inescapably tied to her famous scene, crying along to Joni Mitchell‘s “Both Sides Now” before wiping her face, putting on her best smile, and moving along. She’s realized, in this moment, that she might not know what true love is, because it’s fooled her – it’s left her wronged. But she is enlightened by this truth. As we later find out in the film, it gives her even more strength.

Mitchell, herself, is another one of these feisty ladies – a true artist, one who doesn’t care much for pomp and circumstance, but clings hard to her creations and believes in them wholeheartedly, even if her appearance might leave some wondering what all the fuss is about. She is beautiful in her plainness. It is what makes her real. It is what makes her trustworthy.

Envision Diane Keaton hiding her face inside a large turtleneck in, well, almost of her movies. Picture Kate Winslet’s depiction of the love-forlorn Iris in The Holiday, bundled in layers of clothing inside a small cottage in the English countryside, desperately seeking her escape from reality. Envy the wild abandon with which Rachel McAdams’ Amy layers random t-shirts over long skirts and sweaters when she arrives home in a complete and utter mess in The Family Stone. Even Barbara Stanwyck, glamorous as her character in Christmas in Connecticut is wont to be, represents a certain toughness in her attitude. While she can’t cook or milk a cow, she holds her own in her feigned depiction of a farm wife. Heeled snowboots and massive fur coat in tow, natch.

These women all possess a hidden capability, a surging desire to be more than who they are, yet they do it in unexpected ways. They “hide” their natural beauty to present something more obscure, more unexpected. And they make it look right. They make it look intentional.

Even Zooey Deschanel eating ramen in Elf. #Goals

Of course, much of this is probably derived from creative wardrobe consultants – people who are paid and sought after to create these customized and enviable looks. And maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe we’re supposed to wish these women paid more attention to their appearance, or at least didn’t cover up their natural beauty with layers upon layers of knit clothing and accessories.

And alas, much of this unattainable je ne sais quoi might be more easily attributed to the fact that these characters are in fact being portrayed by world-famous actresses with long and storied careers and a sort of confidence that is necessary to pursue their dreams. They have the “it” factor. And “it” factors are notorious for breaking through any disguise. Gumption, as Iris discovers.

But me? I want to be like them – the artful slobs. Usually I just end up looking like a teenage boy in sweatpants or feeling like a lump with no figure or desirable qualities whatsoever. Even in a plush faux fur vest, I feel out of sorts with myself; self-conscious, really. Maybe what I crave is the insatiable quality of confidence that all these women possess, no matter what they’re wearing or what their personal circumstances are. Maybe that is the “artistic freedom” worth having.

Suffice it to say, these women are hygge to me. As I already anticipate the post-Christmas drearies, I need to find more in winter to look towards. And “being” these women – being a fierce, passionate, artistic individual who isn’t phased by her worries of the outside world – that is something to strive for. That is something to get excited about. Sitting bundled up in my giant men’s size M knit sweater, wildly typing on the keys of this computer next to a blazing fire and a large glass of wine, with the sounds of Dhaka Braka playing in the background to fill my void of Bing Crosby’s Christmas Hits – that’s a vision to pursue. 

So who are your fierce females? What does it mean or look like to be an artist? Does creativity have to be apparent in our daily appearance – or is that just a cultural misrepresentation of the artist’s persona?

Now if you’ll please excuse me, these are the creative, cozy, and inspired pieces I MUST live in now:

H & M, $39.99
Old Navy, $79.99
Free People, $148
This reminds me of the boots women wear in 1940s’ Christmas movies. Perfect with a skirt.
Target, $37.99
This epicly soft zip-up reindeer sweater – a gift from my brother that he got at Epcot last year. The perfect cuddle-up-at-home accessory.