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“You are the only reason you need to get dressed up.”
And with that flash of genius, this month’s #fashiontruth spotlight Abby had us hooked. Because who doesn’t look in the mirror sometimes and think, “Would [insert external influence here] like this?” instead of thinking, “Do I like it?” Abby is full of insights like these. Check out our Q & A below for more awesome Abby-isms, and if you’re as inspired by her on-point pattern mixing as we are, shop her special collection here, including the All About Abby Dress!
Photo by Kirsten Calverley
Hi Abby! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m the youngest of four very headstrong girls. I grew up in Portland, Oregon until I was eleven, at which time I moved to Moscow for my dad’s work. I moved again a little more than four years later to Munich for almost three years to finish out high school and the IB program. I loved living abroad, but am now back in Portland again.
I’ve never been a particularly healthy kid, but going on two years ago — at the start of my senior year of high school — I started to become really ill and doctors diagnosed me with a severe neurological-autoimmune condition. All the details still aren’t known. I managed to graduate from high school with the work I had done before things became particularly bad, but have had to defer my acceptance to university until a time that I may be able to function as a college student. I’m essentially home and wheelchair bound — I rely on my mom for just about everything. My symptoms include extreme fatigue and cognitive dysfunction. I’m not exactly eloquent as of late, and am prone to word vomit. My command of words is galaxies worse in person though, without the time to work out the sentences from the mess.
I collect children’s books. People say I should have been born British. I have a penchant for bright colors, poppies, Harry Potter, naming everything, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson. My cognitive issues have been especially difficult for me, as I’ve always been known as the most academic and perfectionistic of my sisters, as well as being a biology geek (I love the intricate puzzle of it all) and book worm (my favorites include A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Complete Winnie the Pooh Collection, and Frankenstein). I do listen to audio books now that I can’t physically read novels, but with my issues, I’ve also been embracing some of my more artsy interests. I’m passionate about music — for instance, I have a private collaborative playlist on Spotify with each of my sisters and my best friend Jess in London (who will be visiting this summer). I also do puzzles, knit, and am hoping to be able to start oil painting soon.
Your #fashiontruth — “You are the only reason you need to get dressed up” — is especially poignant given your struggles with your health. How do those things intersect?
I’m still trying to learn this one — sometimes it feels so futile. I have about no external justification to get dressed at all, as someone mostly homebound who rarely sees a soul other than my parents and nurses. But I love and find comfort in clothes. They make me feel more confident and more like myself. I think a lot of people who are seriously ill have a hard time holding onto that sense of self, and if getting into a skirt makes me feel the tiniest bit more like maybe I am still Abby… well, it’s worth it.
My style has always been a big deal for me. When I was younger I had a growth disorder, I was deficient of a particular hormone and had to do twice-daily injections of the stuff. Which basically mean that when I was 14/15 my bones said I was 11. I definitely didn’t look like the rest of my peers, which was an utter disaster to an extremely socially anxious introvert in a foreign country who already felt isolated. The last thing I wanted was to stand out. In exposure therapy, you repeatedly do things that you fear, until you reach the point at which they cause less anxiety. My clothes became a kind of exposure for me. I remember wearing these cropped pinstripe pants and patterned knee-highs. It was incredibly stressful, but liberating choosing not to fit in for once. And so I learned to not let fear trap me in a style comfort zone. I learned that taking risks, whether they failed miserably or succeeded fabulously, ultimately helped me feel better in my clothes and in my own skin. My clothes became a part of my identity, they expressed a little of who I was without talking.
Describe your style now! What’s your ideal outfit, and do you have any style icons that inspire you?
My style is bright and quirkily feminine. I love the contrast of taking a more girly, formal outfit and adding a sporty element, like Converse, a sweatshirt, or a baseball/graphic tee. The more colors the better. And I love myself some texture/pattern mixing and 40s/50s influences. For my ideal outfit, I think a brightly colored, delightfully swishy, pleated midi skirt, a slightly off-beat graphic tee, pointed shoes, and the necklace I made from a button from a British WWI soldier’s uniform that I got in Ypres, Belgium.
My fashion icon is probably Petra Flannery. She’s the styling goddess behind Emma Stone and Zoe Saldana, and she collaborates with Gwen Stefani on her look as well. I especially adore her work with Emma Stone. But I also love Anna, Roberta K, Marlen, and Jesi from the Style Gallery. I feel like the street style of ordinary women is where it’s at.
You mentioned you collect children’s books. What about them appeals to you? If you could live in any children’s book, which would you choose?
There’s this gorgeous spirit and inexplicable clarity in children’s books. They can be unabashedly tender and whimsical, free from the filters that often plague us as adults. So much of what happens when we get older is we become burdened by pragmatism — we set limits on our belief. Children’s books are an expansive world of possibility — you can be carried off on a kite to strange planets and swallow constellations. And you have a singular relationship with books you read as a child. Revisiting them, you feel something extraordinary — bewilderingly fresh yet familiar.
If there was a world from children’s literature I would like to live in, it would probably be that of the A Wrinkle in Time series. In it, there is a terrible evil, yes, but also ecstatic beauty and transcendent, intrinsic goodness. It’s an inextricably interconnected universe that believes in the power of the little things and of the individual. It is endlessly gigantic, and yet every human is a galaxy you can never fully comprehend. It’s all about sacrifice, loving imperfect people, overcoming the fear of others’ otherness, and fighting against the temptations of nothingness. It’s just so ridiculously creative and poetically powerful.
Ridiculously creative? Poetically powerful? That sounds just like Abby to us.
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Huge fan of Petra! Looking great Abby 😀
This was BEAUTIFUL. I can’t think of a more deserving or stunning candidate. Xxx
Although Abby mentioned a struggle with eloquence as of late, I thought her responses were very thoughtful and creatively written. This was an enjoyable read, and I agree with her outlook that one should dress for themselves
Although Abby mentioned she has been having a struggle with eloquence as of late, I thought her responses were thoughtful and creatively written. A very enjoyable read!
Abby, you’re beautiful!!! Reading about you inspires me. 🙂
Wow, such a beautiful an inspiring woman!
Abby is extroidinary! I hope you will feature her again.
Abby, you are remarkable and brilliant. What gifts you have with words, ideas, not to mention your unique and lovely style prowess. I am praying for your continued recovery and especially for an adjustment to your new “norm.” Thanks for sharing your self.
Abby rocks! What an inspiration – she is accepting the challenge of some struggles in her life and making the most of it! Wow! And she looks dang adorable while doing it!! =)
I’ve met Abby and find her just as interesting in person as she is here. Very proud of and inspired by her for following her passion despite the obstacles she faces. Nicely done, Abby!
I really enjoyed Abby’s article. Such an inspiring young woman with so much strength. And I love her style!
Thank you Abby for giving hope to those home bound and totally dependent on others (like myself).
Your determination and creativity are inspirations to me.
Now after reading your interview I think I’m going to start dressing better at home :-).. Pajamas 24/7 were getting a bit drab for me, I must admit.
Take care and blessings to you
What an amazing young woman! I’m impressed by her bold approach to life, and fashion – I envy her ability to mix prints/patterns. Here’s wishing Abby good health and long life!
You are so insightful and wise, not to mention beautiful. Love your writing, have you ever considered writing a book? I would read it 🙂 I’m currently writing a book myself – my journey with my diagnosis and Ayurveda.
A beautiful spirit in a beautiful young woman. With your style and grace, you are an inspiration to those who also face challenges in life. Life looks different for each of us and continues whether we stay at home or venture into the community. Most of life’s most precious moments happen at home with out family, not in a crowd. Life is full of changes, yet you will always be you:) .
I agree, Abby is an inspiration! She seems like an awesome person!
She’s amazing! 🙂
What a beauty — inside and out! So inspiring
Thank you, Abby, for sharing your style and thank you for not being afraid to be true to your style!
Thank you, Abby. I needed to hear this today. <3
Abby you are such an inspiration! What a lovely soul.
I loved Abby’s outlook and her style. I need that swan skirt ASAP!
What a lovely young woman! I too went through the IB program, so I know how tough it is without health conditions making the situation worse. Recently, I have decided to embrace loud colors and quirky clothing, so seeing this gives me a face to which I can attribute my fashion inspiration! I especially love Abby’s last pictured outfit–all hail the glow cloud.
Today I was rewarded beyond my dreams by scrolling down Modcloth’s main page to find the link to this article. Abby, I find you have a exquisite talent in expressing yourself vocally as well as through your personal style. What a lovely young woman! I would love to be in your presence! Thank you for the gifts of grace you bestow from afar. You are truly unforgettable.
Correction: “…you have an exquisite talent” 🙂
What a special lady! Thanks ModCloth for featuring such an elegant and intelligent young woman. I’m very impressed.
I was so inspired and uplifted by this article! Thanks so much, Modcloth, for featuring this lovely young woman! Best wishes to you, Abby! I am moved by your courage and optimistic spirit. Keep on keepin’ on!!!
Thank you, modcloth, and Abby for sharing all of this. I do hope this is only the beginning, and that Abby will share her thoughts on fashion and life in general on a blog or modcloth/blog from here on out! truly this made loyal fan of modcloth out of me, and a fan of Abby. please know ladies across the US (and maybe the world!) would like to hear more from you. Not out of pity either. Out of adoration. 🙂
Thank you, Abby, for one of the most eloquently written interviews I’ve read in recent memory. Your command of all the wonderful words in the English language was delightful and your story is inspiring. You brought quite a bit of cheer to my stressful Monday morning, so thank you! And your style is on point – well done.
Love your whimsical style, gutsy mix of patterns, and elegant writing! Your description of “A Wrinkle In Time” was sublime. I recommend a monthly “Dear Abby” column on ModCloth.
All hail the glow cloud! Love the nightvale shirt/long skirt combo in the second picture.
I’ve never been on modcloth, though my Wellesley “sibs” rave about it – imagine my surprise to finally check it out and see this month’s spotlight on a young lady who moved to Moscow at 11: Hi Abby! Did you go to AAS – Moscow? I was class of 2001 – the first class out of the new school! I hope you loved it as much as I did although I’m sure it has changed a LOT. I went back in 2005 for a visit and couldn’t believe how crowded the building was compared to when it was brand new…. Love your style and wish I could use this website more but I now live in New Zealand and the whole international ordering thing doesn’t work so hot since I usually have to send stuff back until I find the right size… but best of luck to a (possible?) fellow Fighting Penguin!
Yes, Abby is a fighting penguin (never thought I’d use “fighting” as a modifier for “penguin.) Her two older sisters are AAS, Class of 2007 grads. Great city, amazing experience 🙂 The few, the proud, the AAS alumni!
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