When finding the right fit is hard, I turn to my friends – something you can also do on Linkqlo with your community of friends and followers. Friends tell it like it is – at least, the good ones do – especially when something doesn’t fit right. And this woman is the best shopping buddy. Honest, kind, and contagiously confident.
I had the privilege of meeting Melinda Olsen-Simons, friend, MFT intern, and fellow fashion-muse, for coffee in downtown Mountain View, California, to talk fashion in all of its different forms throughout her life. We ended up talking about identity and place and idealized beauty. Who knew fashion could spark such deep, thought-provoking conversation?
I started with the hard part: What are your issues around sizing and fit?
Mel didn’t miss a beat, “Because of my pear body-type, it’s difficult to find jeans that fit. That cute high-waisted trend gets lost on me.”
She went on to describe how things that may fit on top, may not fit on the bottom and vice versa. Another challenge is dressing for a non-casual work environment, especially when pieces like pant suits are sold together, which doesn’t account for different sizes on the top and the bottom. Mel noted that brands such as Boden are known for great work dresses, but that they are a straighter cut – made for women with more of an hourglass figure.
Because I’ve known Mel for quite some time, it came as no surprise that her favorite closet staple is dark, flared jeans. “I wear them daily,” she asserted.
Mel likes the way that flares fit her shape, “I think the curve of the flair at the bottom balances out the top part.” Additionally, she noted that flares harken back to slacks, something I had never quite realized, but which is completely true! Mind. Blown.
When asked how she would describe her day-to-day look, Mel used words like “simple” and “organic.” She listed a neutral color palette: blacks, browns, greys, blues, and whites and said that she gravitated toward natural, earthy colors.
But Mel’s fashion hasn’t always looked like this – it has evolved over time, reflecting and being influenced by different ages, stages, and places in her life. Mel grew up in Newberg, Oregon, just outside of Portland, Oregon. High School Mel might have channeled The Matrix or the stereotypical dramatic New York Sophisticate, wearing all-black ensembles complete with trench coat and heels. Back then, fashion was a form of trying to figure out who she was.
Mel, who is one-quarter black, reflected that back then it was more about covering up her body. “My body type is more stereotypical of a black body type – it wasn’t really embraced in white communities.”
In contrast, Mel’s current outlook about her body has changed since then. “Now, it’s not about covering everything up, but about dressing my body in a way that I know looks good. When I know I look good, I feel confident.”
Mel isn’t someone who’s going to blindly follow the current trend. For example, even though flares are all the rage right now, there was a considerable period of time when they were not “in” and all you could find were skinny jeans. “I felt like [skinny jeans were] a trend made for thin women. And so, I felt like I had to dress differently than everyone around me, and in something that was no longer considered trendy – it didn’t feel authentic to me.” Now that flares are back, Mel admitted to stocking up on them before they go out of style!
Having grown up in Oregon and gone to college in Southern California before moving to the Bay Area, I was curious to know how these different parts of the West Coast influenced Mel’s style.
In describing the SoCal culture, Mel said, “If anything embodies the Abercrombie “SoCal Cool” – the thin, white ideal – it’s SoCal. That’s where all the actors go that star in movies that then perpetuate this standard of beauty. It’s like the mecca. I feel like it was a battlefield, to be completely honest!”
That said, it was in SoCal that Mel developed a taste for the finer handbags (and jeans and sunglasses) in life. “I used to say that I would never purchase a purse that was $300, and now I have three. For good or ill, it influenced my love for well-made, more expensive name brand pieces.” Sunny SoCal also introduced the occasional splash of color into what was a more somber Portland-esque wardrobe. Funnily enough, it was at this point that she stopped mid-sentence to admire a stranger’s Chloe handbag.
Since moving to the Bay Area, Mel has had to introduce coats and boots because it’s colder than SoCal. In terms of fashion, the Bay Area is more casual, but not in a “Beachy, SoCal way.” When describing the style of the Valley, Mel used words like “unique,” “accepting,” and “eclectic.” This stands in contrast to her description of SoCal where, she notes, people start to look alike.
Mel’s fashion-related pet-peeves include the very notion of “plus-size” clothing and is disappointed with the idea that designers can’t seem or even refuse to conceive of a body type that is different than what they think looks good. “The perception of what you need to be in order to look good is very narrow.”
After my conversation with Mel, it was clear to me that what we wear is indicative of so much more than meets the eye. It communicates how you feel about your body and how you take in and react to the world around you – whether or not you are even conscious of it.
Photos: Anna Medina
Mel is pictured wearing: