4 Ways Georgia O’Keeffe Inspires Me

During my last visit home to Cleveland, I got the chance to attend the Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern exhibit. It was the last weekend of the show, unfortunately. Before seeing it, I never knew much about her other than she lived in the southwest and was famous for her big flower paintings. I’m embarrassed to admit, it wasn’t a must-see show for me. As a Cleveland expat, my home visits are planned down to the hour, making sure I spend time with everyone. I have to choose my extracurricular activities wisely. But after seeing a clip of it on the news featuring some of her handmade dresses and repurposed clothing, I changed my tune. The show went into much more detail than just her famous flower paintings. It showed how her approach to life and art were very much the same. The minimalist aesthetic you see in her paintings is a reflection of her everyday sensibilities, from the way she dressed to the way she designed her home. Her modern approach to life still seems relevant today and left me feeling inspired and ready to follow her cue.

Here were just a few of my favorite takeaways:

1.    If you can’t find the clothes you want, alter what’s available, or better yet, make them yourself.

This really spoke to me. I’ve had the desire to make my own clothing for a long time. It’s only because of lack of time and skill that I haven’t. I have altered or repurposed clothing I found at the thrift store, dying something to make it a more pleasing color or having something hemmed for a better fit. Either option is much more sustainable than our current state of fast fashion.

Silk dresses she made herself.

A button down shirt that she altered to have a straight collar.

2.    If that doesn’t work, borrow from the boys.

This is something every style blogger and fashionista can relate to. We’ve been borrowing from the boys for a long time: boyfriend jeans, oversized button downs, hats, shoes, etc. But, O’Keeffe seemed to be one of the first. The difference, of course, is she was doing it during a time when it wasn’t in vogue. Such a boss!

3.    Find what works for you and stick with it.

In a time of capsule wardrobes and uniform dressing, this is another area where she was ahead of her time. Toward the end of her career, she had two outfits she wore when being photographed: wrap dresses and pant suits. When putting together my capsule wardrobe for spring, the guide I was using said, “Identify some of your uniforms.” Because there is efficiency in knowing what looks good on you. You don’t have to waste time or money obsessing over what doesn’t, giving you more time to do everything else. O’Keeffe clearly reveled in this.

4.    Nature is a great source for inspiration and materials, especially home décor.

This is probably my favorite photo from the exhibit. During her time in the southwest, O’Keeffe let its nature and landscape inspire more than just her art. Animal skeletons were used as subjects, but also as home décor. I feel like faux skulls have become really popular recently. Finding the real ones in the wild seems like a much cooler story and a lot cheaper.

Black Swan is Fashion’s movie of the year

Black Swan is the story of a young ballet dancer who is cast to play both the white swan and black swan in Swan Lake. As a coddled, 20-something girl who still lives with her mother, Natalie Portman’s character assumes the role of the white swan easily, but her obsessive perfectionist personality makes it harder to find her dark side for the role as the black swan.

Here are my reasons for naming this movie as Fashion’s movie of the year:

1. Ballet is elitist. Unless you happen to have been exposed to ballet you may not even be familiar with the story of Swan Lake let alone the name of the composer of the ballet. Like so many of the mispronounced names of foreign designers, you have to know the lingo. If you don’t belong, your lack of bearing will out you. In the world of Black Swan the pretension is palpable, but the need for perfection becomes a carnal desire as Natalie Portman’s character transforms. You will love to see this perfect little world unravel.

2. Rodarte. The famous sister design team made all of the costumes. The feathery, ethereal costumes almost look like something you would expect to walk down the runway of the sisters’ line Rodarte. They are perfect for both the dreamy and nightmarish qualities of the movie. I hope there is some ballet influence in their next collection.

3. Sexual undertones. Throughout the entire movie, Vincent Cassel’s character tries to push Natalie Portman’s character to the edge. It is not enough that she is technically perfect. She needs to become both roles she is playing. To do that she must find her dark side. This is often translated into her being sexually explorative. Admittedly, no one is more embracing of homosexuality than the fashion industry. Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis’ scenes together could be a snap shot for an ad in Vogue.

4. Body image. Natalie Portman’s character suffers from OCD. She has an obsessive need to be perfect and that not only applies to her dancing technique. She must look the part. She is seen picking at hang nails and a growing blemish on her back.

Although elitism, overt sexuality, and poor body image are reasons why some might persecute fashion, they make for a very artistic and dramatic movie. Besides, isn’t fashion just one long and beautifully dramatic movie anyways?

Fashion: Keep it in the family

Because yesterday was the 38-year anniversary since the Godfather premiered in theaters, I am going to discuss something very relevant to this blog to celebrate, Diane Keaton. Diane looks great in every movie she does, and she is probably most famous for her fashion in Annie Hall, but I think people have overlooked her outfits in the Godfather because it’s such a violent movie. While some people are trying to figure out who to trust, I am busy admiring Kay Adams’s polka dot dress and fur coat. There are countless other looks, especially when you get into Part 3, but those images are hard to find seeing that most people are interested in what’s going with Michael. You should pour yourself a glass of wine and make a big bowl of pasta and see for yourself. But don’t eat any suspect cannolis.

Fashion story

I love when a magazine editorial can take me to another place. These images I found a little while ago tell a story. The story is up to the viewer. Kind of like when you look at a piece of art in a museum, fashion is sometimes left up to interpretation.The ideas in fashion aren’t always as abstract and complex as fine art, but the feeling of being transported to a different place or time is similar. I guess the message this ad is trying to portray is luxury and intrigue. If the clothes you wear actually made you feel that way, then I would say you must have some pretty nice clothes or that the company who is making them is doing their job.

And besides the feeling this ad campaign or editorial gives me, I am also smitten with the clothes in the image. Which obviously is the whole point.

Blazer from Urban Outfitters, $78

Cashmere sweater from Neiman Marcus, $100

Skirt from TopShop, $65

Leg warmers from American Apparel, $16

(Magazine images from le fashion)


The Globe had a very interesting Q&A with Scott Schuman, a street-style blogger, better known as the Sartorialist. He brings to the table a fresh perspective on fashion. The idea behind the blog is that people are inspired by what other people are wearing day-to-day, not by fashion labels. I couldn’t agree more. I have my fair share of fashion icons and I love to look at the pretty dresses and outfits every season, but it is hard to be inspired by an expensive outfit that I will never be able to buy. I am much more inspired by everyday people who achieve a flawless look, but then you find out they are wearing a hand-me-down or something they found at a thrift store. That is much more interesting. 

The media and our new first lady

There are an endless number of photos of Michelle Obama in the news and online. A newly found source is New York Magazine’s Michelle Obama lookbook. It contains photos of what she wears almost every day. I just found a new way to procrastinate at work. But, it makes me think, is this too much? Or are we just feeling the effects of the digital age applied to a truly beloved first lady? What do you think?