Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bikini Season

Ok, so I'm going to level with you here. An honest moment. One that I'll pretend I feel good about posting, but will secretly wonder for the next few days who actually reads this and whether or not I should be embarrassed about it. 

There are two things I've hated my entire life: math and the beach. 

Both of them I view as complete time sucks, and both of them I look at as something that can be avoided 99% of the time. But! When that 1% rolls around, there is absolutely no getting out of it. 

My disdain for the beach, is not one of those situations of unreasonable and unfounded cynicism. Coming from Southern California, this abnormality in personality is something that I have, on numerous occasions, had to defend and explain and I do, in fact, have in my back pocket a short list of topical complaints to spout off when the dreaded words "beach day" are suggested as an option of time spent. 

1. It's so hot. 
2. Sand is so hot. 
3. Laying out in the sun is boring. 
4. Laying out in the sun is unhealthy. 
5. Parking. What a nightmare, am I right? 

And if these very logical and hardly arguable reasons don't do the trick in convincing whatever second or third party that a day spent doing practically anything else is a better option, there's always the hard, cold, avoidance tactic of plainly refusing to go. My friends love that. 

What I rarely ever admit, though I'm sure is glaringly obvious to most, is the real reason that I've hated the beach since I can remember: Bathing Suits. 

I have a very distinct memory as first grader, going to the beach with a friend my same age, and her telling me that I looked fat in my bathing suit. Looking back now, to think that the word "fat" was in the vocabulary of two girls that young when referring to body shapes and self image makes me sick and says much more about my little friend than it did me, but nevertheless, as ridiculous as it sounds,  I just don't think I was ever really able to shake that label: Fat in a Bathing Suit. 

At every stage of my youth, the insecurities with my body remained and despite small steps and chapters of acceptance and understanding of my shape and it's place next to the word beautiful, I've never been able to face down the bikini. It's just there. All skimpy and tight. Squeezing the tops of my thighs into submission and being a totally lame and unsupportive friend to my bits and bobs that are typically on maj lockdown (translation: boobs errywherr). And I don't like it. And it ruins my time at the beach. And I sit there, probably burning, wondering what my friends think, or what our complete stranger beach neighbors think, or heavens to Betsy-- what if I run into someone, probably a boy I like, at the beach who isn't quite my friend, but I know well enough to say hi, but they're like, shocked at my shape-- what will that hypothetical half friend/ half acquaintance/ probably a boy person think?! 

I've been able to get off scot free for years now. I think the last time was at the beach was maybe freshman year of college and I haven't missed it at all. Come to think of it, I can't even begin to count how many events I've passed up throughout my entire life to avoid being in a bathing suit. But last Friday, like a snake in a bush, I heard those words: 

"We should all go to the beach." 

There it was. Hanging. Like a noose. And this time there was no getting out. This Friday had already been reserved for days as "the last real weekend of college"-- the one we'd agreed to all block off and spend together. So, I agreed to go. Begrudgingly. I figured, why not, Julia-- this can be your one punch on the timecard for the next five years. But, I've spent the last week nervous and dreading today. Until something kind of funny happened. This past week, I've happened to read two separate and totally random pieces that are challenging me to truly, once and for all, rid myself of this body guilt and hiding and comparison and self-criticism that isn't worth all of the effort. The first was an excerpt from Anne Lammott: 

There's a whole chapter on perfectionism in Bird by Bird, because it is the great enemy of the writer, and of life, our sweet messy beautiful screwed up human lives. It is the voice of the oppressor. It will keep you very scared and restless your entire life if you do not awaken, and fight back, and if you're an artist, it will destroy you....

...Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you're 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn't go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It's going to break your heart. Don't let this happen. Repent just means to change direction—and NOT to be said by someone who is waggling their forefinger at you. Repentance is a blessing. Pick a new direction, one you wouldn't mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon.

The whole excerpt is gorgeous to me, but when I read that one line about the pools and jiggly tummy's, I had to read it four more times before I truly let myself believe that she was right. About bathing suits, but also about a million other things that are so worth doing, but require a potential of imperfectionism at some point. 

The second was a short and sweet, but funny little article on Hello Giggles called "The Best Advice Ever for Surviving Bikini Season." And do you want to know what that best advice ever for surviving bikini season is?
"How to get a bikini body: Put your body in a bikini"
Ah-hah!  Now there's a trick! So simple, it's almost like I could've been doing it the whole time. Oh wait-- I could've been doing it the whole time! When I read that put in such simplistic and wonderfully obvious terms, I felt almost guilty for wasting so much time and energy on such a no brainer. Wear the freaking bathing suit. Just put it on your body. And then stop thinking about it!

For some reason, the combination of both of those articles just really stuck with me for the last few days. Unlike a lot of other advice on this topic this time of year, both of these added no pressure or a need to meet halfway with a justification for why I am the way I am or how I should just "accept my quirky body, but still find a way to look past it and enjoy my life." 

All this to say that this year, I'm taking myself, my new, adorable J. Crew bikini (purchased on Tuesday at 11:00 at night and overnight shipped to get here by beach day), my two obnoxious boobs, love handles and white-out colored upper thighs and I'm going to the beach with my friends, dammit! And I'm not promising that I'm going to love it. I standby all of my previous complaints with conviction and and certitude. (Because the beach still kind of sucks...) But I will promise to do my best to embrace what I got. Like a freaking Dove commercial.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Where has the time gone?

I think it is hilarious and extremely appropriate that the last time I posted on the blog was right before I bought all of the fabric for my senior collection. It perfectly sums up the fact that since spring break (and even during spring break), life has been a marathon.

Let's play a little catch up.

Mom and I had the. best. time. in New York even though it was real cold and I lost my beanie. I just really like that lady and I really like that city.
While I was there, I had a kind-of-sort-of-meeting/interview/more of a meeting than an interview at Ralph Lauren HQ. That was a weird moment. But also really great. More on that later.
We bought all of the fabric I needed for my senior collection and ate just about everything I could think of. It was a death row, last meal ever, name your favorite foods kind of weekend and I'm still thinking about that duck. Oh, baby. That duck. Also, there was that moment when mom did a shot with Lindsay which was hilarious and wonderful.

Ok so then after the shot and the cold weather and the peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and the plates of cheese and the memories of the duck, I came back to Savannah in the middle of my spring break and jumped right into more work on my senior collection. Actually, instead of wasting time explaining in grueling detail the following weeks, let's just go with the fact that all of the weeks and all of the time after Spring Break have been a lot about-- no-- ALL about senior collection. And I'm trying to find a way to not make this sound like complaining because although I've been so constantly busy, it has also been some of my favorite weeks of college ever and definitely the best time I've had doing school work ever. Like ever. (Which says good things about my chosen career path, don't you think?) I know a lot of seniors who definitely do not feel that way, but I've had so much fun. Which is nice.

Alright. So that brings us to now. As much as I've wanted to post more in the last few weeks and keep everyone up on the progress of my work and my life, I found in the first two weeks of the quarter that this time was maybe best spent being completely consumed by it all. Shutting off my blogging brain, paying almost no attention to my other class (Business of Fashion) (a calculated risk), trying my best not to worry about the future or what comes after, committing to going to the fashion building every day and just living in the circus of senior collection, soaking up every minute of fun, stress, learning, laughter, and new, how-in-the-world-are-we-just-now-becoming-good-friends? kind of moments.

So I did. And it was wonderful. But now I want to re-cap the last few weeks of my life that have been so special and so honoring and so surprising that I want to honor them and cherish them before the memory of them fades.

In case you don't know, or in case I never really got around to posting a full explanation of what it was that I was actually doing for the past year (highly likely), a brief summation of my senior collection is as follows:

Julia lives in California
Julia moves to the heart of Georgia for College
Julia spends four years in Savannah, GA and discovers this wondrous part of the country
Julia learns that although wondrous, Savannah, GA could not be more different than Newport Beach, CA
There is tradition; There is history; There is heirloom
And there is something beautiful about all of that
Julia decides to dedicate her collection to the place she's called home for the last four years and to do a bridal collection inspired by the deep south and the culture of the south.
She calls it "The Farmer's Daughter is Getting Married"
And there, in a nutshell, is where Julia's mind has been for 12 months

This whole year has been laid out in a series of critiques and deadlines that, as seniors, we were expected to meet. At the beginning of the month, we had our final critique with all six of our looks in front of our professors, the fashion faculty and the Dean of the school of fashion. On this day, we also narrow down which looks we would cut if we were selected to be in the show. This was the first time I had seen all of my models in all of my clothes all at once and it was such a special moment. This day marked the end of the actual construction of the clothes.

That night, a list was released explaining who had made it to the next stage of the process, The Jury Show, a day that is broken up into two parts: Meeting with a  group of industry professionals and presenting your collection with a full set of branding materials (resume, business cards, leave behinds, labels in the clothes, hang tags etc.) and a mock fashion show later that day where in which the same set of jurors judge who will be shown at the fashion show. And I made the list!

The week in between the final critique and the jury show is quite emotionally and mentally deceptive. I'd spent the entire year on the inspiration and the construction of the clothes and seeing them on the models made me feel as though my work was done, but it was that last week of defining my collection in print materials and making sure that every stray thread was cut and every skirt was pressed that was maybe the hardest to motivate myself to do. The real relief came after the jury show when we were able to spend the evening celebrating our collections with our classmates watching our looks walk down the runway, knowing that at that point, the decision was completely out of our hands.

I've gained a bit of a reputation around the fashion department for being a bit of a grandma- always working in the early morning, never once pulling an all-nighter and barely ever going out on weekends with my classmates getting my drink on. But, after the jury show, there were celebrations. And there were drinks. And there were moments that resulted in amazing pictures like these.

After the jury show, we have to wait for TWO WHOLE DAYS to hear who had made the show. This is the part where I want to explain something super important. The list of students who get into the show and who do not get into the show is complete and utter bull. shit.
This is why:
If you completed your collection to the best of your ability, you deserve to be in the show.
If the finished product of your collection reflects your inspiration and the design you wanted to achieve, you deserve to be in the show.
If you meet with the jurors and appropriately explain and support your collection with adequate branding, you deserve to be in the show.

Unfortunately, there are always a handful of extremely talented students who's beautiful and deserved collections are not chosen to participate in the fashion show for reasons that aren't explained, but in no way are the collections that are put into the show better constructed, better designed or more deserving than the students who don't.

I have been lucky to know and get to know a handful of designers this year who inspire me, push me and are better than me and who happened to not get into the show, but I am grateful for knowing them and can't wait to see where their careers take them.

With that being said, the list was released on Monday and I was surprised and very excited to find my name on it. I am proud of my work this year with or without the Fashion Show (something that was my main goal from the very beginning) but to be chosen and acknowledged like that was a cherry on the sundae of an awesome experience.

The next week was a bit of calm before the storm, being completely finished with my garments, and for the first time in nine months, not having them in my possession. My mom, dad, sister and my Uncle Brad were able to come into town for the show, which was so so so special. A lot of my roommates' and friends' parents also came in for the show and we hosted a big BBQ in our backyard where there were a lot of long overdue introductions between people who have been hearing about each other for years now. Such a special night.

And then... there was the show!

The day of the fashion show, I was a total nervous wreck, which for me, translates to nearly no speaking and a very sensitive stomach. Super fun. Somehow, though, I was able to calm myself down while I was getting ready and by the time I made it over to the SCAD Museum, where the show was held for the very first time, I was so excited to just celebrate that moment. My mom asked me a few times how seeing my clothes walk down the runway felt- a lifelong dream and a year of hard work all culminating into a moment that you'd expect to be so emotionally overwhelming. It's hard for me to truly get excited about much. I maintain a fairly median range of emotion for just about everything. And even in a moment like that with so much behind it, I still remained relatively calm about it all. But, the fashion show was amazing, and seeing my clothes worn by beautiful women with the music playing was a moment that I'll never forget.

But truly, as cheesy as it sounds-- and believe me, we're talking a legendary amount of cheese, what has meant the most to me throughout this whole process is the encouragement that I've received from peers, friends of my family, classmates -- some who I know well and some of whom I've been grateful to get to know better, and professors. It's been the phone calls and the texts and the Facebook messages and the Instagram comments during the last year and especially the last few days since the show that have been so honoring and humbling and what has encouraged me to the point of writing this post today. Because if you are still reading this silly blog, I'm going to assume you are one of those people and I wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have taken a year and a time in my life that can, has, and will continue to be challenging and difficultly transitional and made it a memory of gratitude and shown me the specialty of community and support.

And now, I am going to do the thing that you are never supposed to do, which is call out the specific people (some of whom have no idea that this blog even exists) that have meant so much to me during this process.

Susie and Lindsay- I have walked through almost the entirety of my fashion degree with you both, I am 100% certain that I would've dropped this Fashion Major like it was hot about three years ago if it weren't for you both. You both challenge me as a designer and as a person to aim for better and see things in a way I naturally wouldn't. Our morning meetings at Foxy got me pumped for the day and have meant so much to me. I am eternally glad we are friends.

Michael and Hannah- You are both way more talented than I will ever be. An actual fact. I knew you both at the beginning of the year, but I am finishing this year with two more friends in you both. Thanks for always working in 202 and being willing to let me play my music out loud.

Baille- I don't know what kind of calendar you keep up there in Brooklyn, but you somehow perfectly mapped out the entirety of my critique schedule and your texts on those days meant more to me than you know. Your genuine excitement for my collection helped me be excited when I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Oli, Claire, Frances and Spencer- Here are just a few, fashion themed reasons why I love you all:
Pretending you didn't know what I was up to when I started to slowly take over the sun room with all of my mess of a fashion studio storage system.
Trying on my clothes after I brought them home and telling me they were cool.
Letting me monopolize conversation about every single detail of my collection for over a year.

Mom- Thank you for being ok with the fact that I wouldn't return your calls for weeks out of sheer exhaustion and continuing to send me money to live my life. Thank you for praying for me over the phone when I couldn't see the forest for the trees. Thank you for crying when my clothes came down the runway and then crying again when you explained the things you liked about my pieces.

Dad- Your texts and voicemails have meant so much to me this year. I know how much work they are for your technically challenged fingers to pull off, but I love every single one of them. You tell me you are proud of me and I believe it because you are a man of your word.

Kaitlin- I love being able to call you and talk about anything besides fashion. I appreciate your openness in conversation, a quality that I do not possess.

Other vital parts: Carole and Melissa, Casey, Ryan, Tracy Page, Auntie Anne, Gigi and Grandpa, Grandma Bunny, Tracy and Taryn, Doug and Carole, the Barnhardts......

Believe me. There are more. But I'll cap it at that or else we'll be here for a while.

Ok. Enough with that.

I have a business project the size of Texas that I have been avoiding for a week and a half. This sucker is the only thing that stands in the way of me and that polyester mess of a cap and gown next Saturday.

I'm going to blog more and that's a fact. This is the end of college. And that makes me sad. I have plans for the next couple of months that a lot of you probably already know and that I'll be sharing more about in the next couple of weeks, but it's important for me to process and go through this here with you all, the community and the people that have grown to mean so much to me. I've shared everything else with you for the last four years, so as hard as it is going to be for me to write about it, I'd love to share my thoughts on graduating here too.

PS-- a few awesome publications and websites have written about the myself and my senior class and our fashion show. Here are some links:

PPS-- if you weren't able to be at the show or watch it online yet, here is the whole shebang. Mine is the fourth collection. :)