Free to Be You and Me
My friend and coworker Frances Miller has a fantastic beauty blog called "Freely Beautiful". She talks about all things beautiful and how beauty works in our lives, from many angles. This month she interviewed me about my style evolution and how it might translate to my life and art. Below is the interview, but visit her blog for more fashion and beauty talk!
Diane Rios lives in Po rtland, OR with her husband and daughter. Her work is currently being displayed in the Basil Hallw ard Gallery located within Powell's bookstore. In 2005 her work appeared in the book "You Can't Get There From Here", written by Gayle Foreman. Diane's illustrations utilize printmaking and drawing and she also works full time at a very well known independent bookstore. For more about Diane's art please visit her at dianerios.com and she blogs at Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite!
Freely Beautiful: Diane, can you talk about your journey toward your own personal style?
Diane: My sense of style and need to dressin a specific way started around 6 or 7 years old. I remember the outfits my grandmother bought for me in 1970's Santa Monica, Ca lifornia. Cute little shorts outfits and a fake white fur coat for Sunday school. I really loved those clothes and have strong memories of them. But it was Laura Ingalls Wilder that was my main style influence once my mother took me away from LA and we became hippies on the road.
I lived in hippie communes and in a hippie house truck for 3 years. I read all the Little House books and worshiped Laura. I tried to imitate her by wearing severe-necked dresses and combing my hair straight, parted down the mid dle. I loved collared shirts and patchwork skirts. ( I still do!!!) My mother wore loose, blousey things and had curly hair and didn't understand my need to keep everything straight and close-fitting.
FB: When you were into the Laura Ingalls look, what was it about that person or era that made you want to dress that way?
Diane: Women in the 1800's wore severe, close-fitting-yet-voluminous dresses in all kinds of weather, doing hard work. Som ething about that contrast really appealed to me...I don't think I thought about it that much at eight years old, but I liked the feeling of being somewhat elegantly, "properly" put together. Of plain and somewhat prim clothing. The vision was also stimulated because of the parallels in my and
FB: Do you feel your style is still evolving?
Diane: Though I've always had strong opinions about style, I struggled for decades with it, not understanding until recently how important proportion and fit is...I worked in vintage stores for years, and learned an enormous amount about each decades' fashion, fabrics and attitudes. I tried to wear things that didn't work for me because I loved them so much. For example, 50's cotton house dresses. They are made in the sweetest, most comfortable, most WHIMSICAL fabric in the world, but it with my hips and bust they make me look dumpy. I wore them anyway for ten years or so, and cringe whenever I see pictures. What Not to Wear!
I also tried to work my boyish punk looks, to varying success. Once in a while I'd look like I wanted to...Chryssie Hynde meets a Bangle, but most of the time I looked sloppy and oversized. It hurt because I knew the look I wanted, I had a head full of wardrobes that dazzled, but I couldn't pull it off. Let's face it, being tall is good but it's nearly impossible to look stylish if you're overweight and only shop in 1990's thrift stor es. At least for me it was. Keep in mind this was years before there was an industry built around "sexy menswear for ladies". Nowadays you can get trousers, vests, collared shirts, even army pants cut for girls! Back then you shopped at the army surplus store and if you had hips like mine, you looked like a bus driver in the pants. Rachel Woods was hot, Flashdance was hot, I was not.
I kept on struggling in my style, trying everything, loving the clothes even if I couldn't wear them. Then I went from a vintage store to a totally upscale boutique. I didn't eve n know places like that existed in hippy Eugene. "Melange" carried clothes from New York, LA, Paris, San Francisco. Designers like Trina Turke, Nanette Lepore, Theory, Eileen Fisher, Isda, Burning Torch, etc etc....I got another education in fas hion, fit and fabric. I saw how vintage style was informing new designers and things could look cool and fit well! I spent way too much money in this shop without a lot to show for it in the end...even though I had by this time taken up exersize and lost weight, their sizes were very small so I had to "piece-meal" my wardrobe out of things that just didn't work perfectly.
Around this time I hurt my back. I was laid-up for 3 months and then it took about 3 1/2 years to heal to the state it's in today. During that time I couldn't work out, I couldn't even walk very fast. I became inactive and felt very unstylish. Last year at New Years I decided to do something about it and changed my diet.
FB: Has family life, specifically motherhood affected in any way your style? If so, how?
Diane: motherhood has influenced me in two ways. A. it made me grow up and try a more elegant approach while trying to maintain my individuality and B. it gave me CORA (Diane's daughter) who is probably the most stylish person I've ever known. She has an eye for proportion and fit and fabric ALREADY and looks fantastic every day. She also likes to sew, so watch out PROJECT RUNWAY!
FB: As you've grown older have you felt more free to express yourself style wise?
Diane: I'm vegan now, for the most par t, and my back allows me to bike to work and walk a lot. I have lost 22 pounds and am in a size 10 for the first time since I was 15. I can wear clothes I couldn't before. Most importantly, however, I moved to Portland. Getting out of Eugene's small, self-concious world of birkenstocks and fleece-wear has inspired me no end. My soul has been craving an urban environment, full of art and music, and style! I feel free to wear what I want to. Ali McGraw-style silk scarf around my head? Do it! Pencil skirts and pearl bracelets? Why not? Tweed and Denim with a patent-leather clutch? Totally rad.
So, I'm really enjoying dressing right now. Working at Powell's is great because of the no-dresscode policy. And I'm inspi red by other's style, co-workers and customers!
FB: Because you've had times when you had health issues or were overweight, were there other mechanisms besides clothing that you utilized to express your beauty at those moments?
Diane: When I didn't feel beautiful physically, I would concentrate on accessories to make me feel cool. Simple clothes and interesting accessories. Hats, scarves, jewelry, shoes, bags. Coats! I'm crazy for coats.Believe it or not, accessories are what helped me stop smoking, too. Every time I had a craving I would run in to my room and find a "new look" with an accessory or two and makeup. This would distract me, and I would feel "fun" or "cool" with blue eyeshadow and a kerchief, rather than a cigarette. I would make myself into "The Fun No Smoking Girl"
FB: As an artist, why do you think appreciation of beauty and creativity is important?
Diane: Beauty is something I value in every aspect of my life. I sound like a snob, but I hate the dirty, vulgar aspects of our american culture. I try my hardest to ignore the sordid details and focus on what I find beautiful. Nature. Design. Architecture. Lighting. My house is very organized, I'm always trying to simplify and yet make more elegant. I can't seem to relax and enjoy myself unless I feel that things are clean and sweet.
FB: What makes you feel beautiful? Can you describe a moment recently where you simply felt beautiful?
Diane: I feel "beautiful" when I feel my clothes f it me well and I practice good posture. If nothing is scratching me or riding up, too short or too loose....then I feel great and stand up tall. That makes me feel beautiful.
The last time we were in Santa Monica visiting my grandmother, I was walking down a hotel hallway and the ocean breeze came in through the door to the deck, and it was warm, and I felt beautiful walking in it. No shivering, no sweaters, just a light sundress, sandals and a warm ocean breeze.
FB: Do you have any favorite designers?
Diane: My favorite designers are:
FB: If the Diane at your current age could tell the Diane at age 16 anything on the topic of beauty/personal expression, what would it be?
Diane: If I could tell 16 year-old Diane something it would be this:"Honey, you already are who you want to be. Look at what you love an d what makes you different and USE it! You could be the coolest chick on earth if you just accept yourself. Also...LEARN TO SEW!"