Isabelle Orr graduated from VIU this spring with a degree in English and Creative Writing. I would also like to award her a degree in cultivating a look that perfectly reflects her identity as one the funniest young writers I have ever encountered. Her work is smart and poignant, which makes the humour that much sweeter. I used to love listening in on Isabelle dissecting her own fashion choices with great verve and insight before class. (Yes, I eavesdrop. These are writing classes. It’s practically part of the curriculum.) A couple of years ago I spotted Isabelle and her equally talented friend, Emily, walking around Westwood Lake. The trail is about 6.5 k.m. long. Most people dress for the walk as though they are sponsored athletes departing for an ultramarathon or as though there’s a strong possibility they will discover another continent. Not those two. Isabelle wore a miniskirt, high socks, a turtleneck and shoes not often found on dirt paths. If memory serves, Emily’s outfit was also a thumb in the eye of the athleisurewear industrial complex. The sight of those two forging their own stylish way makes me happy every time I remember it. Thanks, Isabelle, for writing about a thing that you love.
In high school, I felt I was at the peak of my fashion game. Mint green crocs with hand-appliqued gemstones were complimented by my wide, chocolate brown gaucho trousers. T-shirts with catchy slogans like “Miss Attitude” were colour coordinated with wide Claire’s headbands that left shallow indentations behind my ears. I stomped down the hallways of my high school with the sass and confidence of a pint-sized Tyra.
Because of this, it was unbelievable to me that my own flesh-and-blood mother would pick me up each day wearing what she called her “Old Man Jacket.” Thrifted from the men’s section of a second-hand shop, the heavy canvas jacket was the bane of my existence. Other moms wore sleek, belted trench coats that were new from the store; my mom looked like a Cadet Kelly reject. I begged her to buy a new coat.
“Don’t wear what everybody else wears, Belle,” she lectured. “Be unique.”
As my personal style evolved through the hip-hop influenced 2010, the menswear-inspired 2011, and finally into the blazer-fuelled revolution of 2012, I started taking my mother’s advice. I began shopping at thrift and consignment stores, spending hours looking through dusty racks for forgotten treasures. I found Hervé Léger wrap dresses, velvet-lined Hush Puppies, and Burberry scarves. I experimented with fabrics, patterns, and silhouettes. Besides the obvious ethical standpoint, I realized that thrifting meant I could mix vintage and current fashion for a style all my own.
Two years ago I stopped by my parent’s house and saw the Old Man Jacket hanging in the closet. On a whim, I slipped it on. It fit perfectly—the neutral tone, subtle texture, and boxy cut perfectly aligned with 2017 fashion trends. The same jacket that embarrassed me through my high school career was back en vogue.
“Mom,” I asked. “Can I borrow this jacket?”
“Wouldn’t you prefer something more flattering?” she asked. “Maybe something with a nicer shape? How about a nice trench coat?”
I still wear the Old Man Jacket, loving the worn interior lining and oversized pockets. I often throw it on before poking through thrift shops, hunting for that one special piece. Recently, the wide-legged gaucho pants that I rocked in high school have been popping up on the runway. Maybe I’ll pick up a pair of bedazzled green crocs again, too—after all, fashion is cyclical.