Sometimes we get a particularly fascinating story from a student. This week we share (with permission) Julia Fees own words about her journey toward becoming an Image Professional. I'll let Julia's words speak for themselves but to me her words spoke volumes. As someone who shares a passion for fashion I felt an instant bond with her; I think her story exemplifies the personal journey image consultants take toward becoming compassionate consultants. Fashion Design Essay
Written by Julia Fees
(reprinted with permission.)
On March 28, 1964, Julia was born in a suit, not in a birthday suit, but in a black and white hounds-tooth suit. Since birth, she has had an affinity for not only menswear fabrics, but for fashion. Fashion intrigues her by the way it is interwoven into all facets of her life, though few realize the significance of this.
This is the story of a little girl who loves clothes with a fierce passion and has short curly hair, named Julia. The little girl attends a private kindergarten five days a week, from 8:00 am until noon. She puts on her tailored dress, or two-piece dress, her shiny shoes (patent), and gathers her purse and gloves as she walks out the door. She feels quite confident and empowered for the day because she is appropriately dressed for the vigorous kindergarten assignments that lie ahead. As the year ends, she is awarded top honors. Was it purely based on academics at age five, or on the fact that her fashion cocooned her as she faced her days and worked in earnest?
Her parents give her the choice of a reward for her hard work in kindergarten. Where most little girls would have chosen a doll, Julia chose a long, straight-haired wig. Short curly hair was not in style at her grade school and she was always fashionable and in style. Even at age 5, she wanted to be fashionable. Curly hair was not fashionable in 1970.
Move forward a few years, and Julia is in middle school. As most adolescents grow, their body parts do not all grow in sync with one another. Luckily, Julia’s mom could sew. The heavens of the fashion world opened. There were endless supplies of patterns and materials from which to choose the perfect clothing. Julia’s clothes were custom made. No one else at school could have the unique style and fit, as well as the most fashionable clothes that Julia adorned. As Julia’s mom grew tired of sewing, Julia faced a new problem. How was she to remain the best-dressed kid in school without her tailored clothing? A compromise was reached - Julia’s mom would continue to make the pants, since ready-to-wear pants were not ’ready to wear’ for Julia, but all other pieces had to be purchased.
To maintain her beloved wardrobe, Julia was left with only two options: one, get over it or two, go to work at 16 to earn the money needed to purchase all her fashion wants. The second option won.
So, Julia’s life takes a new direction. She goes to work as a hostess (in a company-provided uniform) to earn the money needed to keep her in the accustomed wardrobe. Each week, a piece of clothing was put on lay-away and a piece came home to the closet. When most high schoolers' were hanging out with friends, Julia was working to feed her passion – fashion. A girl must wear suits and heels to high school. No one should be caught dead wearing jeans, t-shirt, and a ponytail to school when there were better options such as hounds-tooth, glen-plaid, and tweed. Some people did not have their priorities in order.
Luckily college proved uneventful and the job and clothes continued to work for Julia as she completed her degree in…accounting? Yes, her father thought that would be the best degree for a girl that spent every cent earned on clothing. If a choice was eating or shopping, peanut butter worked just fine for a month or two. There was really no choice, fashion won.
The first day at work – a Liz Claiborne two-piece suit, black with white polka-dots, black pumps, and a black and white clutch completed her ensemble. The date was January 4, 1988. Public accounting, though not Julia’s chosen path, worked out for a decade due to the fact that menswear fabrics were rampant. The beloved suit was required! And, added to the mix were pumps, purses, accessories, and anything else the mind could imagine. The work was not what kept Julia in accounting, it was the clothes. How could a person give up a career that allowed one to wear such beautiful, professional clothing?
A two-year maternity leave left Julia at home in mommy clothes. The respect she commanded when shopping on her lunch hour was no longer there when she shopped with a baby stroller and was not dressed to the nines. Funny how little respect a person gets when shopping in mommy clothes versus power clothes. Fashion is power.
Back to work after two years of maternity leave saved Julia’s sanity. She was back where she belonged, in her suits. The retail respect returned. The respect was never about money, it was about fashion. It was cheaper to stay home. But Julia chose to work to give her a reason to get dressed in the morning and a reason to shop for her professional, beloved suits. She was back!
Julia is now considered plus-size or a real woman as she would call it. She still wears her suits, menswear fabric, Chanel makeup, and dresses up for work, weekends, church, and any other event she can think of. Regardless of the event, there is a fashion to fit it.
After returning to full-time work in accounting as a plus-size, Julia went to work part-time at Lane Bryant. It was not for the minimum-wage pay, but for the chance to help other plus-size women feel better about themselves as they saw the clothes transform them in the mirror. The feeling of watching someone being internally transformed in such a positive manner is priceless. After two and a half years in part-time retail, Julia’s family asked her to return home and work only her day job to have more time to spend with them.
Now that the part-time job was over, a new avenue for her passion emerged. The administrative staff at work would periodically fall off the professional fashion wagon, and lunch-and-learns were immediately set up, along with a gift card, to help fix the problem.
Julia never had formal training in fashion. She never visited Paris in person, but she never missed a trip to a fashion capital with Elsa Klensch. She never studied history fashion, but her entire life has been shaped and wound around fashion.
Haute couture clothing, no. Hand-made tailored clothing, yes. Educated in fashion history, no. Educated and wears fashion, yes. Patternmakers, seamstresses, ready-to-wear, all these fashion terms were unknown at the time, but Julia used them in her everyday life.
Julia’s seasonal clothing changes like this: March - new spring wear, June - new summer wear, September - new fall wear (her favorite of all), and December - new winter wear. This is not quite the same as fashion week, but the crude gist of fashion week is there. A time is set to change clothing for each new season. Though fashion week might not coincide with Julia’s clothing season, the basis is the same.
Fashion was the reason she worked so hard in kindergarten to earn the wig. Her first job was to purchase her fashion. Her career had to be centered on menswear suiting. Now, her new direction in life is finally focused on her unrelenting passion – fashion.