Monday, November 30, 2015

Women and clothes: Lydia Goossens

I've met Lydia Goossens only once. And in that afternoon she immediately struck me with her aura: sweet, kind, quirky, very creative, with a hint of the deliciously mischievous.

Isn't it fascinating how much you can gather from a stranger in just one mental snapshot -- whether in conversation to the way she carries herself to how she dresses? I had lunch with Lydia last summer (with a mutual friend) and I remember appreciating her distinct style. The multi-colored, stylishly jagged haircut. Ruby red lips. Black t-shirt, black skinny jeans, black cardigan, black nail polish. I think she even wore little black fairy wings (or was that my imagination?). 

Since our lunch date in LA, I've learned Lydia is just as passionate and authentic as I guessed her to be. She advocates for people with disabilities and serves as program director for an adult day services facility in Los Angeles. 

"Hopefully I can be an encouragement to people who cross paths with mine," says the Ohio/Pennsylvania native. "I want people to feel loved and to be free to be who they were meant to be."


Jennifer Cho Salaff (JCS): Does fashion matter? Why or why not?
Lydia Goossens (LG): Fashion matters more to some people than to others. It depends on where they live, what is going on in their lives at the moment, where their priorities need to be at the time. I think that fashion is a way to express one's creativity and taste. It is a form of art. It generates inspiration and ideas.

However, what is currently "in fashion" should not dictate what one wears. Who cares what's "in" in fashion? Wear what makes your heart smile because that will be something that you can pull off. 

Fashion and style can be community building, too. I like to go in to certain boutiques and shops here in LA where there's a personal connection with the owners or workers. There is a store I like to go to in Burbank called Iconic Vintage. The owner, Jess, is amazing. Simply being in her shop and striking up conversations with other women -- a community is built. I love Jess's heart. She wants women to feel beautiful and awesome and to encourage that community. She's encouraging to every person who sets foot in her store. 

JCS: Is there a difference between fashion and style?
LG: Hmmm. Good question. Yes. Something may be in fashion but it may not be someone's style. We all have our different styles that may or may not be dictated by what's currently considered to be "fashionable." Style is one's own personal fashion. Fashion can be the building block to inspire one's own look. I personally like things from every era so I don't subscribe to one "look."

JCS: I love this look (above)! It's like you stepped out of a time machine from the 1920s. Tell me about it. Where were you and what inspired the outfit?
LG: Thanks! I was at a friend's wedding. I found the dress, liked how it looked, and thought that I'd pull together that 20s look with pieces I had at home. I thought it would look classic and charming for the wedding. How many people dress up like they did in the 20s-50s? People dressed UP, even when going into town to run errands! They wore hats, gloves, etc. We're a bunch of slacker now. Haha.

JCS: Your fashion muse?
LG: [The late Italian heiress] Luisa Casati and [fashion icon] Iris Apfel. I really like that these women just did and do as they please regarding their styles. They didn't and don't care what other people think and just do what inspires them. Luisa was and Iris is a living work of art. Very innovative and interesting and creative. 

JCS: Worst fashion crime? (Current or past)
LG: Perpetrated by myself? Haha! Some people are going to hate me, but early 90s JCrew/LL Bean looks. I went through a period in college where I tried. It didn't work. Also, the 80s JAMS and random wild splashes of colors on white cotton. Skidz pants. No.

JCS: Ha! In lived for those J.Crew catalogs in high school! What about favorite fashion trend (current or past)?
LG: Hmmm... That's a tough one. I don't know that I follow trends. I just wear what I like, and I like things from so many periods. Sometimes I dress specifically in pieces from a certain period. I like big 70s sunglasses, platform shoes (YES!), high-waisted pants (pin-up or 70s), Victorian/Gothic, 20s-40s, 50s pin-up. I really dig how David Bowie dressed! You could say I have a BB (Bowie Boner). 

JCS: Can you remember the first time you were conscious of a thing called "fashion?"
LG: As a little girl there were influences all around me: TV, magazines, and seeing women all dressed up for church or going out... I loved the dress my mom had me wear for my kindergarten picture. It was red and had little tomatoes on it that were winking and it said in tiny script randomly around the dress, "Hot Tomato!" My mom had put a white cardigan on me and told me to take it off for the photo so you could see my dress. Well, I forgot to and when the school pictures came back she was like, "Oh Lydia! You didn't take your sweater off!" She wasn't mean or anything, just a little disappointed. So there I was in the picture with my pixie hair cut, shy lopsided grin, and a white cardigan with that red tomato dress peeking out a little.  

JCS: What is one item of clothing or accessory you carry with you or wear every day?
LG: I cannot say that I wear the same thing every day. Except for my sunglasses. Sunglasses are a great accessory. I wear different ones depending on the outfit. I also like to wear my black flats to work a lot.

JCS: What sorts of things do you do -- clothing or hair or makeup wise -- to feel sexy or alluring?
LG: I feel sexiest when I'm simply being who God made me to be and rocking it. Some examples of this are doing cool things with my hair and dressing how I feel (which I've heard is more "edgy"). But I feel like it's just normal so I really don't feel like I'm being "edgy." I feel sexy dressing up in vintage dresses or Victorian outfits and fun shoes. I feel sexy with dark eyeliner and red or hot pink eyeshadow and blood-red lips. 

JCS: What outfit makes you most happy?
LG: I have a couple that do. My slightly oversized Beatles t-shirt with black skinny jeans and boots. My classic horror monsters t-shirt and full gray tulle skirt with small gray and white polka dots, a cluster of fake pearls and sometimes bone hair clips. And my 4-inch platforms with straps and buckles. Those shoes are sexy! 

JCS: With whom do you talk about clothes?
LG: My friends Shiho, Candy and a new friend Kristin. They are interesting and get it.

JCS: How has your background (where you grew up, cultural heritage, etc) affected how you dress?
LG: I grew up in very conservative, small towns. We had no Kevin Bacon of the fashion world to come tell us it was OK to dance. I have always liked quirky and darker artistic things. 

JCS: What it is about "darker artistic things" that draws you in?
LG: Darker artistic things tend to be creative and more innovative to me. It speaks to me. There is an elegance in the mystery. I can explore. I can play. I can dance. I can hide. I can watch and take it all in. Contemplate. There can sometimes be a type of camaraderie with people who truly appreciate darker artistic things, as well. 

JCS: Describe your figure.
LG: What is there to describe? Haha. My figure is slender. I've heard it described as svelte.

JCS: Can you say a bit about how your mother's body and style have been passed on to you or not? 
LG: My mother has excellent taste and has a quirky side to her, too. I think that she used to be more creative in how she dressed when she was young and single. She purchased some amazing clothes which she gave to me when I got older. She is creative in general and passed that on to me. I believe that she also passed down her body type to me, except for the boobs. 

JCS: Would you say you "know what you like" in the area of fashion and clothing? Is it pretty instinctual?
LG: Yes. I like to just take things in and explore. If something strikes a chord with me in some area it's good to see if I can incorporate it.

JCS: Where do you find inspiration? For instance, when was the last time something struck a chord? How did you incorporate it into your style?
LG: I just see things that I think are cool and put them together. I'm no label 'ho. I'll wear stuff I find at the 99-cent store if it looks cool. Like I said before, if it makes your heart smile, you can find a way to pull it off! I find inspiration in people who do the same. Let's see... I found these talon rings (in the photo below). I wear them whenever I feel like adding a little edge. I recently went to a picnic at Echo Park Lake dressed in full skirt, corset, hat and parasol. That struck a chord in me.   

JCS: What do you admire about how other women present themselves?
LG: I admire creativity and quirkiness with an edge. I like when women are put together regardless of the style. It's interesting to me. I like how some people may not seem like it, but they are a freak inside.

JCS: Can you expand on what you mean by "freak?" This is so intriguing!
LG: I love when someone may appear to be plain or conservative on the outside, then you see the smile and the spark in their eyes and you hear them make some totally random statement or start conversation that is original or thought-provoking. It may even be considered inappropriate. Or you see someone dress up or perform their art and it's totally unconventional and original. Then you get to know them and find that they are truly a fun freak inside and the freaks in you both play together. "Star Child... We have connected!" (said by -- I think -- Paul Stanley in "KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park").

Photos courtesy of Lydia Goossens and Shiho Johnson.
Photo of Luisa Casati by Adolph de Meyer.