individuality, personal style, self expression and the sparkly Erin Loechner

I am so incredibly intrigued by clothing.

Please note that I didn't say that I am intrigued by fashion -- the truth is that I actually couldn't care a whit about fashion. In fact, it has been years since I've even flipped through a fashion magazine. As much as I do love clothing, fashion and shopping in general often holds little interest for me.

The thing I love about clothing, you see, is how a necessity -- items which, let's face it, are really just supposed to keep the weather out -- has involved into a form of self-expression. Of course, magazines try to tell us how to use clothing (and make-up, for that matter) to "hide our flaws," but you know what I think is flawed? Approaching clothing on that premise in the first place.

How about if we simply wore the clothes, colors, make-up and hair that made us feel awesome, damn the trade rags?

How about if we chose clothing not based on "what's in fashion," or "what's best for our body type" (and who gets to decide that, by the way, anyway?), but instead based on what comfortably expresses who we are deep inside?

Now, I'm not going to lie and say that I've never followed fashion -- of course I have. But a few years ago, conversations with two friends completely changed the way I view clothing.

The first conversation I had was with a geologist friend of mine, Helen, with whom I'd worked at a very conservative, male-dominated company. I noticed that while she always looked very professional, her clothes were often full of wild colors and patterns, and her hair was, quite decidedly, purple. We became great friends (and, in fact, she was the first person I interviewed for my book), and one day, I asked her about her purple hair.

"Well, I'm not into make-up at all," she said slowly, "and I love the color purple. It makes me feel powerful and strong. So one day, I colored my hair purple, and I loved it. I've kept it purple ever since. And I'm sure the day will come when I'll want to do something else, and when that happens, I'll change. But for now, I love my purple hair."

The second conversation I had with a different friend actually had nothing to do with clothing or make-up at all -- it was about art. My friend Jo had a beautiful home -- tiny and cozy -- filled to the brim with the most amazing art. The first time I visited her, I was entranced.

"Your art is so awesome, Jo," I said. "Where do you get it?"

"Well, I travel so much for business," she said. "Instead of buying souvenirs from the places I've been, I buy art. Some of it I bought in galleries, but some of it is just local folk art or even street art."

"How do you know what to buy?" I asked. "Do you research the artists? Consult with other collectors? Study different genres of art?"

She laughed heartily. "Oh God, no," she said emphatically. Then she looked at me seriously.

"I just buy what I love. I realized that if I just bought whatever art made me happy, it would be perfect for my house and never look out of place. My house would become an expression of me, and therefore, it would all just naturally work."

Between these two friends, I decided to start looking at the way I dress myself the way Helen views color and Josette views art -- as a form of self-expression, rather than an attempt to follow fashion "rules." And while I would never call myself "fashionable," I've had people comment that I have a very signature style. Whatever -- in the end, it really doesn't matter: I definitely am much more comfortable and confident dressing in clothes that make me happy, and that's what's most important to me, you know?

As it happens, I had the opportunity recently to sit and talk about this very topic with the amazing Erin Loechner of Design for Mankind -- a woman who, for me, epitomizes letting what you love express who you are. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

sn't she lovely? And so for this month, I challenge you to pick a day -- it can even be a day where you're not planning on going out -- and wear whatever makes you feel awesome. It can be based on a color or how it fits, but definitely it should be based on how it makes you feel. Play with accessories, hairstyles, make-up -- or just keep it to clothing and forget about everything else. And of course, I'd love if you'd share how it made you feel afterward in the comments. It's my hope that you'll find that you've discovered the best way for you to express yourself through clothing -- and realize it has nothing to do with what the magazines say about you.

This was cross-posted at BlogHer's Own Your Beauty.