“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!
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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