Campus Couture, and Life Begins at Thirty

Last Friday, one of my MySpace friends, the fabulous Abbi Klausner, invited me to be a judge at her school’s yearly student fashion show, “Campus Couture” at CalState Long Beach. I was so flattered and tickled by this invitation–a little Project Runway action of my own! My husband and my parents accompanied me for my big Nina Garcia debut.

I am 34 years old, and yet my parents still come to all my events–just like when I was eight years old. How funny is that? Again, I think I’m just really lucky. I had the kind of parents who came to every talent show and school participation activity. (I didn’t play any sports but if I did, I’m sure they would be there since we were there for ALL of my brother’s games when he was kid.) Sometimes, my mom was the only mom there because all the other moms were at work. But my mom worked too–so I don’t know how she did it, maybe she just had more time off?

Anyway, I can’t imagine what life would be like without the support of my parents. They truly have always been there for me–at every reading, every book party. One of my friends said she cannot imagine life without her doting parents, because she still very much feels like a kid–taken care of, financially and emotionally, by them (even though she is married). I’m the same way. My husband says that my parents baby all of us kids (there are three of us) and he’s right. But we wouldn’t have it any other way…

The show was really fun–they made a runway right on the stage, and the judges were in the front row. The other judges were designers from Coach and Rock and Republic, and Michelle K. from Michelle K. shoes. We had to judge “computer designed pattern” and “flat pattern” and “experimental.” At first, I got really flustered because it was hard to keep track of which outfits I really liked, but I soon got the hang of it.

I realized the thing I was looking for most was some kind of flair, some kind of originality, and a really good eye for color. There was some great stuff on show, the kids really outdid themselves, there were a couple of outfits that looked like they could go head-to-head with the best of Chloe. And I was so happy when my favorite designer, Stephen Cateron won “Best in Show”. He made these gorgeous black chiffon dresses that were just exquisite. They really stood out, and I predict a great future in fashion for him.

My mom said she really enjoyed the show too, because she is a dressmaker. When I was in college, she sewed all of my cool black velvet shift dresses. I wore those dresses TO DEATH. We didn’t have much money, so mom would fill out my wardrobe by copying the dresses that I wanted to buy and making them herself.

Sometimes I feel like my childhood came out of the 19th century. It was very “Little Woman”, and I was Meg at Vanity Fair with my home-made dress. At the time, I hid the fact that my mom made my clothes from everyone, even my close friends.

One of the things I’ve noticed about going to an expensive Ivy League college, is that the kids either come from extremely wealthy parents who can afford the 45k a year (now I hear it’s more like 60k a year) tuition without batting an eyelash, versus kids like me who were on huge financial aid scholarships. There were very few middle-class kids. It always seemed it was either we’re-all-jetting-to-St-Barth’s-this-weekend crowd or I’m-on-workstudy. There was no middle ground.

When you’re a teen, it’s really hard to feel secure about yourself when so many things that you have no control over–like how much money your family has–matters so much to your peers. So I always said that I’d bought my dresses just like everyone else. And those clothes got me into Au Bar (this totally snooty private club in NY) and all the best places… But now I’m so proud of them, and of my mom for making such beautiful clothes all by herself on her sewing machine…

I guess that’s the best thing about growing up–you start to make your own money, you don’t have to hang out with people you don’t like, your life is your own, no one else can tell you what to do. As I’ve grown up, I have become really PROUD of my background, and how my family dealt with it… I wouldn’t exchange it for anything else. And I look back now, on the despearately-wanting-to-be-glamorous-and-popular girl I was, and I forgive her too… she had no idea that one day all of her dreams would come true, and more!

Anyway, it’s really hard to accept yourself at thirteen, fifteen, nineteen…but here’s the secret to life: thirty is really really awesome. Just like that Jennifer Garner movie. I promise.