The Little Black Dress

Virtually every American woman owns a Little Black Dress.

As a young girl, I would sneak into my mother’s closet to try on her Little Black Dresses, which were not so little on my four-foot frame. As I continued to grow in both size and sophistication, my love for the Little Black Dress evolved into fashion at large. At age seventeen, I am now known as “Loud Pants Lizzey,” the girl who dons printed pants whenever the spirit moves her and wears wedges on school Dress Attire Days.

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My rather flamboyant style is a manifestation of the feminist thriving inside of me. During my days of uniform-wearing all-girls school, I immersed myself in a laundry list of activities, determined to prove that this chick could do it all. I entered high school with my exit biography already written: “Elizabeth J., far less bland than her name may suggest! Star of the musicals and Executive Producer of the charity arts show, Editor-in-Chief of the yearbook, fashionable Francophile who documents apparel and anecdotes in her blog “The Franco Files”, and for the ganache atop her cake, boasts an unblemished grade point average…duh.

So when I found myself—in all my president, producer, editor, musical star ‘glory’—sitting in therapy my sophomore year, I realized that my polished presence was merely a facade, masking the emptiness inside of me. I yearned to rediscover my passion. I needed to give my mindset a makeover.

I sought a new challenge, one that came in the form of an entirely new environment. I left my friends, my trials and triumphs, and my uniform behind to start at a new school during the infamous junior year. But I could now be challenged to redefine myself. I didn’t want my passions to only come alive on paper anymore; instead, I wanted to find them within me.

This year, I am merging my love of fashion, feminism, and French through an honors independent study. I am exploring how Coco Chanel transcended the barriers of the misogyny that surrounded her. I started my study thinking I’d uncover Chanel’s tricks of the trade; I certainly never expected to find an answer to what I was missing in my life through my research. My mother’s Little Black Dresses that I so loved trace back to the woman I so admire. Chanel’s simple sketch of a little black dress revolutionized how females were perceived. While women were used to dressing to an even standard, the Little Black Dress could be designed to each lady’s liking, which sparked individuality in a sea of homogeneity. It removed all boundaries of class, allowing women of every standing to access a style that fostered female solidarity. The Little Black Dress became a uniform that defied uniformity.

I realized that I have spent my life trying to be the Little Black Dress. I have strived to stand out, which I thought I could achieve by being well-dressed and well-rounded. But Coco Chanel has taught me that I need not to check the box, but to step out of it. Chanel didn’t design the Little Black Dress with the intention of leaving a legacy. Instead, the Little Black Dress was a consequence of her conviction. By giving my motives a makeover, pursuing passion rather than position, and striving to live deliberately, I am on my way to creating my own Little Black Dress.

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