I’ll be honest with you, I’m still learning about the vast history of fashion. I figure that’s something we can do together. I don’t know everything there is to know about Valentino; I’m not familiar with every collection, I don’t know the full history of Valentino Garavani’s life. Someday we can talk about the history of the fashion house and of the man who created it, but for now I’m just going to tell you about my history with Valentino.
My history with fashion isn’t long and well-documented. I grew up as a child of the nineties and early aughts with a severe bob haircut and a distressing taste for pairing fuchsia sweaters with slightly-different-fuchsia spandex pants. It was a look, but it definitely wasn’t a good one. Fuchsia progressed to ultra flare jeans and paisley peasant tops (popular amongst all of my friends at the time, unfortunately) which gave way to a phase dominated exclusively by camisoles and zip-up hoodies in various color combinations.
In high school, I discovered my love for ugly clothing and embarked on a tireless campaign to find and wear the ugliest things I could find at the mall. This is actually still a strange part of my personal style. I don’t really wear a ton of purposely-ugly clothing anymore, but I do still have an intense fondness for it. It’s one of the ways that I have fun with fashion.
With university came the development of a personal style that I wouldn’t call “fashion-forward”, but was definitely not embarrassing; it did the job. To be clear, I’ve always felt very strongly about the clothes that I wore and the outfits I created, even when I was very young. It’s just that my concern didn’t consistently translate to anything resembling stylishness.
At one point in college, I dated a guy who was very interested in menswear. He followed menswear blogs, taught me how men’s clothing is supposed to fit, and spent a lot of time lusting after things on the J. Crew website that he couldn’t afford. We were broke college students, so this was no time for a wardrobe overhaul, but as I watched him begin to conscientiously build his wardrobe piece by careful piece, I found myself doing the same. My choices during this time were definitely inspired more by men’s fashion than women’s; that was what I had been exposed to, and that was what I was interested in.
The guy and I parted ways, but the interest in menswear stuck. I still follow menswear blogs — some of which I started following back then — and I still show a preference for a feminine menswear look when I get dressed every day.
I started working a part-time retail job in the summer of 2014 to make a little bit of money while I worked an unpaid internship, and it was there that I started to develop a better understanding of women’s fashion. I mean, I’ve always been a woman who wears clothes, so by then I knew enough about women’s fashion to get by, but it was working in that environment that gave me the opportunity to talk about clothes with women my age who wanted to make a career out of them, and it also gave me the space to start experimenting with different looks without the dreaded “what are you all dressed up for?” inquiries that are often made when you make new fashion choices around people who know you very well. Plus, it gave me a 60% employee discount and access to the new clothes in the back room before they even hit the sales floor. My interest in fashion (and my collection of jackets) grew.
But it wasn’t until early 2015 that I started following the world of high fashion with anything more than a passing interest. This is where Valentino comes in. The pre-fall 2015 ready to wear collection debuted in January, and my eyes were both hungry and sated.
Those of you who know me well know that I have a thing about the stars. The interest isn’t scientific — it’s fantastical. They’ve always been a source of magic for me. So imagine my intense psychic pleasure when images of the gowns from the pre-fall collection started circulating online:
I couldn’t stop staring at them. I reblogged photoset after photoset on my Tumblr. Sometimes I would just Google the collection so that I could glimpse them again for a second while I was waiting for an elevator or boiling pasta. They make me feel inspired. I imagine that if you put one on, you would imbibe a little bit of the stars’ magic, feel a little bit otherworldly.
This collection — including the pieces that don’t have the galaxy woven through their seams — and pretty much everything else made by Valentino gives me the same feeling that the Impressionists do. It’s expressive and emotional. It’s romantic and delicate, but it’s also bold and strong.
It was this Valentino collection that opened my eyes more alertly first to Valentino and then, cautiously, to the rest of high fashion. I loved buying and wearing clothes, making outfits, and admiring and critiquing the outfits that other people made, both in person and online. But I never really paid much attention to designer fashion until then. I followed enough blogs and flipped through enough Vogue to know the names of the most famous fashion houses and know a little about the handful of brands that I liked, but Valentino made me fully understand, for the first time, just how transcendent fashion could be.
P.S. I’ll dig up a photo of the fuchsia-on-fuchsia nightmare and Instagram it. If you have patience, you will be rewarded.
I haven’t been able to find a good photo of that particular outfit, but I did Instagram a substitute bad outfit to try to make up for it. Also, here’s a grainy, Yeti-esque photo of the fuschia to prove it existed: