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.