Rachel and I recently made mood boards to try to jump-start our style - we both feel like we've gotten stuck in a jeans/t-shirt/hoodie/cleavage out/hide the belly rut, which means a lot of empire waists and jersey knit. And I've been slowly trying to clean out my closet, getting rid of ugly Christmas sweaters and hedging my bets on aspirational pants that I bought a size too small with the idea that I would lose enough weight to fit into them....one day.
ANYWAY, we got upscale fashion magazines and cut out pictures of outfits we liked, because we are teenagers. Eventually, I got bored with just the outfits and figuring out what a post-apocalyptic farm girl might wear, and started working on where she might actually wear it. Enter the cacti, and the vintage sci-fi book covers, and the skull masks and the hair cages. Enter the vinyl crop tops and the galaxy leggings, the cotton sundresses and the protective scarfs. Enter braids - so many braids! - and sky-blue hair and teenaged boys ganged together under powerlines as an unlit city rises behind them. Enter roving packs of cyclists. Enter juicy peaches plucked directly from the trees, campfires, and eyes squinted against the dust.
Are you into it? I know I am.
FACE: I love a good smoky eye as much as the next girl - maybe more! - but one perk of wearing red eyeliner is that you look like you've been crying, or are high, which can make you look mysterious and brave when it's really just repurposing your lipliner in unorthodox ways. Also, gold eyeliner is the very best if you have blue eyes. After the apocalypse, you'll definitely want to invest in a good sunscreen and moisturizer, especially if now you have to grow your own food in the hot, non-indoor sun.
CLOTHES: Durability is key. Skip Forever 21 and H&M because their clothes are landfills waiting to happen (the only exceptions are the tank tops: so flimsy that you'll feel like you're topless, which is great in the heat). Invest in some good indie designers, who often oversee most production steps and wear their own clothes. I've been obsessed with two designers lately: Pipsqueak Chapeau for their cotten/linen flowy stuff, and Plastik Wrap for their amazing goth-ish clubwear. I realize that these clothes don't go together, but in the apocalypse, you are the new Anna Wintour!
I adore hakama pants, tight tanks, cross-body bags, apron dresses, leggings, hoods (...just hoods), small jackets, boatneck shirts, miniskirts, legwarmers, handknits, flat boots and lots of black. You may find that you like a different style - maybe you're going to go with "eccentric water collector," "fierce shotgun-totin' mama" (usually accessorized with a dirty baby or two), or "dazed Bay-streeter" for your look. I like clothes you could hike in, or attend a hostile corporate takeover board meeting in, preferably in the same day. I like clothes that stand up to a bit of wearing, not needing to be replaced every season. And, in the post-apocalyptic mall raids, all the good stuff will go first. Stock up now.
ACCESSORIES: Start with the basics: sunhats, sunglasses, light scarves to block the sun in the summer months; wool socks, thick scarves, gloves, and legwarmers for the brisker seasons. And while you might have to get used to pooling resources, a good bag for you to keep your own personal stuff is always a smart idea. Stuff it with your favourite book, irreplaceable family photos, and your sanity-totem (mine is a baby blanket!) to help adjust to our horrible new world. Wear it constantly. Fill it with snacks. Sleep with it as your pillow.
TRANSPORT: I've done a lot of thinking about the post-apocalyptic world - probably more than is strictly necessary, but reading and re-reading The Stand and Y: The Last Man a dozen times will do that to a person. I totally believe that bicycles will become the cars of the apocalypse: they're quiet, easy to repair or replace, don't require fuel, and can be kitted out to haul all your stuff. Plus, biking keeps you fit! Start now, and you won't be complaining as your convoy has to hump itself over the Niagara Escarpment - you'll have the thighs of a champion!
SKILLS: It would seem like fashion-related skills would be the first to get chucked in the apocalypse, but I beg to differ. Makers and fixers will be in high demand in a time of upheaval. Folks who can knit, sew, repair leather, make soap, make sunscreen, and have other skin-care and clothing knowledge bases won't go unnoticed. Bike mechanics and farmers will also be in demand; if you're not careful, you'll end up tethered to those annoying anarcho-freegan bike punks who hang out your favourite dive bar. Don't let that happen. Learn to DIY.
While I don't quite believe that the apocalypse is coming in our lifetime, or any time soon, thought exercises like these can be useful in defining a sense of style. If you found yourself recoiling from the idea of calloused hands and sunburned shoulders, perhaps your fashion template is more in line with "1970s psychelia groupies/hazy drug-den" or maybe "1980s NYC lesbian punk rocker." Don't let piddly details like gender or era stand in your way - if you loved the look of the just-joshing frat boys that the Beastie Boys embodied in 1987, get on it! Take cues from images you love - cacti on a windowsill, a sweaty moshpit, the Australian outback - and incorporate their colour and mood into your outfits. Let yourself fail. And play - I mean, it's only clothes, right? See you at the end of the world!