Dior, Diamonds & Inspiration
So I was sitting on my deck enjoying my day.
I noticed a bird who landed on my railing and I was watching her spread her wings and I began to think about design and how I could incorporate that beautiful graceful movement into my designs….
No. That’s wrong. That never happened.
I certainly have moments where I wish that my designs were inspired by such artful moments like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis but alas, my inspiration is more driven by 7 a.m. bus stops, three kids, launching a business, and STILL looking put together.
You know, real life.
As I was reading “Miss Dior” by Justine Picardie ( as highlighted in my last newsletter), I was awestruck at Catherine Dior’s (Christian Dior’s younger sister) story of being captured and sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp for her part in the French resistance during WWII.
I think we all tend to think that fashion designers lead altogether different lives. It is always a good reminder of our shared humanity to remember that no one escapes the experience of life, both the ups and downs, even a world famous fashion designer.
Even fame and fortune cannot provide a barrier from the real world.
And as history proves, even this world famous person was touched in a close and personal way through the imprisonment and torture of his sister.
While WWII understandably disillusioned and caused irreparable harm to many, it also struck me that his sister’s imprisonment/torture in a concentration camp did not disillusion or cast a shadow over the beauty that Christian Dior continued to see in the world.
Dior’s comments regarding his inspiration were thought provoking for me.
For instance he said “For fashion comes from a dream and the dream is an escape from reality.”
I understand that designs come from ideas, probably referenced here as dreams.
What I had to wrap my head around is the idea that fashion, as a dream, is not rooted in reality.
These statements provoked thoughts of my own inspiration and its origins in my mind.
I spent a couple of days letting those statements roll around in my head trying to fit them into the puzzle of my mind and how I see fashion.
I'll admit, I am jealous when I read statements like those made by Dior; comments that tell a fairy tale about the clothes they create.
As previously stated, I’ve always thought my inspiration absolutely comes from real-life.
The clothes I design don’t have a single end point in mind.
By that I mean that I don’t sit down and think “ I am going to design a Sunday brunch outfit.”
No, my thoughts are along the lines of “What would look good and be appropriate for 90% of what I do every day?”
Much like everything else I do, I create clothes that multi-task.
Now there's a phrase that has come under fire recently.
I understand the logic that multi-tasking actually decreases your effectiveness but I can’t turn it off.
I just can’t.
So I have embraced it.
I’m making Renaissance (Wo-) Men cool again.
I’d love nothing more than to design all day and do nothing else.
But when launching a business, there is a blog, social media, accounting, sourcing, computer issues (oh the computer issues..) that must be tended.
So off I go, down a dozen different paths each and every day.
But much like the war and its aftermath did not overshadow Dior’s ability to recognize the beauty of everyday things, my designs also celebrate the beauty of the everyday rather than being overcome by the routine of a daily schedule .
It’s just a different “everyday” that I celebrate.
The sleepy look on my childrens’ faces as I wake them for school; the effervescence of their sparkling eyes when they can’t wait to tell me about their day; building a brand and business that I absolutely love and makes a postive impact; a long overdue dinner with a girlfriend; a quiet night at home with wine and a good book ( or Masterpiece theater); or a weekend away with Guy.
My designs celebrate and reflect all of these because, as a society, we have become alarmingly casual for my taste.
Rather than acquiesce to this trend, I instead decided to uphold my standards.
I don’t have to choose between functional clothes and beautiful clothes.
Which is why I use the phrase "At the corner of Style & Substance."
Elizabeth Reagan offers both.
I have been wishing for clothes that blocked sweat stains since I can’t remember when.
Growing up in the heat and humidity of the south, I have always found that I would sweat just enough to prevent me from wearing what I wanted.
And don’t get me started on linen.
Linen is a nasty creature who hates me for reasons unbeknownst to me.
So the inspiration for clothes that don’t show sweat stains that aren’t simply baggy or black has been a constant companion for the better part of 20 years.
This same sentiment is echoed when I engage people out in the real world.
One man I was speaking with told me that he knew EXACTLY what I meant.
He’d lived in Tampa previously, and his girlfriend at the time had a closet full of Lilly Pulitzer that she was afraid to wear because she didn’t want to sweat in these clothes and stain them.
This person is easily fifteen years my junior so I know this affects all ages.
I have also had several 20-something women echo this sentiment as well as women in their 50’s and 60’s.
Truly, this isn’t relegated to one age group.
And before I had children, (anyone else break their lives into BC-Before Children and AD-After Daycare age?? I digress…) I had time to seek out clothes that met all my expectations.
But then I had a baby.
And my first business.
Then the second baby, then the third.
And looking good just kind of fell off the radar.
Probably due to exhaustion.
I couldn’t really see anyway.
My vision was blurry from lack of sleep so maybe I thought I looked good.
But back to fashion that is inspired and woman-friendly, this concept was actually Coco Chanel’s big issue with Dior.
Here she had come along and created designs that were so liberating for women.
Designs that didn’t require corsets, were comfortable AND flattering.
Then 30 years later, Dior creates a super-feminine and super-chic look that was also super-constrictive.
I’ve read accounts that said even the super-skinny models were required to suck their tummies in and hold their breath in order to be able to fit into the designs.
Which brings me to my next thought….
Maybe fashion that is inspired by flowers, butterflies, and visions of sugar plums that dance in your head make for great press, create a sense of mystery and awe are incredibly hard to wear precisely because they are inspired by flowers, butterflies and sugar plums.
All things that aren’t women who are busy being wives, moms, sisters, friends, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, I think designs created by fantastical inspiration are beautiful.
And I certainly think they have their appropriate place.
But my day-to-day life just isn’t that place, but then again, true haute couture isn’t suitable for anyone’s everyday life.
I want to look great while moving throughout my day so I got busy creating the clothes that had filled my head for more than 20 years.
As I consider my inspiration, I can't help but think of what an honor it is to create a quality product that showcases American workmanship and American style.
I am so happy to be able to offer fashion with a soul.
Fashion that considers its impact on the world around us.
Fashion that lets women make the world a better place through the free market.
Fashion that helps to revive manufacturing in the US and create a vibrant fashion industry in the States.
After all, America is one of the, if not the most, consumer driven economies in the world.
Shouldn’t we benefit from our own consumers?
My mind goes back to the qualities of my designs; elegant in their simplicity, timeless appeal, clothes that shine on their own and bring a sparkle to whomever is wearing them, but are tough enough to stand up to heat, humidity, and the rigors of everyday life.
I ponder things that can go anywhere, do anything and still look great.
A smile slowly breaks across my face.
How did I miss it?
So in the end, maybe I do take my inspiration from nature after all.
Maybe its diamonds that are the inspiration here at Elizabeth Reagan.
And if inspiration is directly linked to the functionality as well as the beauty of a design, we are in good shape.
Because I don’t know of any woman, ever, who had a hard time wearing diamonds.