Why I Traded Extravagance for Experience

Objects from my wardrobe assembled for an article in Indianapolis Monthly magazine which included my closet as one of the 10 most interesting places to visit in the city

Gucci stilettos, Versace evening gowns, and Chanel cocktail dresses are a few of the several hundred designer items that I packed up and shipped off to be sold recently at Vintage Martini, a luxury consignment store in Dallas, Texas. 

Each one of the sky-high pumps, black-tie gowns, and ultra-chic frocks used to be lovingly displayed in my closet, and every single one was hard-earned, carefully chosen and meant something genuinely special to me. 

Symbols of feminine beauty and power, my clothing was in part how I expressed myself throughout my childhood playing dress up, to my young adulthood searching for my role in the world. Rather than fashion models, I aspired to embody female superheroes and found inspiration in emulating mythological goddesses. 

Inspired by Aphrodite and Persian goddess of water Ahurani in this Alberta Ferretti gown for the New Whitney Opening

The many outfits I put together were in large part due to my former lifestyle that involved attending high society events, sometimes several times a week. I enjoyed the inventiveness that crafting my looks involved like I did any other artistic endeavor I’ve taken on like acting, painting or designing. However, I think on some level, even in my early twenties, I was aware that I didn’t really fit into the world I found myself in so often. 

I didn’t try to look like anyone else at the party either, and my bold style choices eventually became stories in W magazine, Women’s Wear Daily and the New York Times. During this chapter in my life, I could be seen in the society pages wearing the unique fashion combinations I concocted, pairing couture from the Paris runway with fetish wear from St. Marks Place to donning a diamond choker on loan from a Fifth Avenue jeweler with a bullet belt found at an army supply store in the Bowery. I had fun being my own canvas, but more importantly, what I wore was my prerogative when other parts of my life felt more prescribed. 

Those days now in my rearview mirror, I am filled with gratitude for my past, the wealth of knowledge I gained, and the wisdom I can pass on. Yet, there were moments when I feared my life was adding up to more passive results rather than active choices. Attending the social functions was my obligation as my former husband’s wife, with my presence expected more so than not. While I feel privileged and extremely fortunate to have been a part of the countless benefits supporting the arts, there were nights when I wanted to stay home to be with my kids or focus on rebuilding the career I had left behind. 

That said, I have no regrets, and am proud of the decades I spent by my former husband’s side supporting his career, but I didn’t relish the moments when they came at the cost of masking my true self, squelching my opinions or silently nodding in agreement. I did not care for the superficial role of social sidekick presiding over my true identity of dedicated mother and powerful woman.

Consciously or not, when I look back, my outfits filled the crucial need for me to connect with what is most significant to my soul. I chose attire that personified my reverence for the divine feminine, my veneration for the female form and my fierce belief in upholding woman as goddess of sacred sexuality and creator of life. What I wore clearly depicted my values, when my words could not.

They also stood for self-reliance, having earned them through hard work, just as I did in high school buying my first designer purse with babysitting funds, homecoming dress with lawn mowing money, and pageant gown from sponsorships I accrued. They continued to be symbols of freedom. 

Having chosen the lifestyle I am currently living, one that is a result of my active choices, I didn’t need the symbols anymore. It is not the dress that stands for my independence, it is the way I am living my life. It is not the gown that defines my feminine power, it reverberates through my body. It is not the bag that symbolizes my success, it is in the present moment I am choosing, and the future I am manifesting. 

When I doubt myself into thinking I made a mistake, I remember that my clothing does not define me, and no longer speaks for me. 

A few days ago, I saw a gorgeous young woman get out of a taxi in front of the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore wearing towering gold pumps and a tight red dress. She was stunning and I admired her beauty in a way that honored her, as well as the woman I used be. In that moment, my feet solidly on the ground in my flat shoes, I noticed that I liked person I was being, and deeply respected the wise woman I am becoming. Clearing out my closet helped me shed a skin that served as an alternative to speaking my truth. I had to let go to be the brave, outspoken, opinionated woman I am. 

My love affair with fashion will never end, but I don’t need the stilettos to feel sexy, the overpriced purse to feel important, or the logo to fit in. No longer expected to be the accommodating hostess or well-behaved lady about town, I am solely in charge of where I go, what I do, and yes, what I wear. 

Now in Bali, Indonesia with my 10 year old daughter, I am wearing a white hotel robe as I write this, watching her do acrobatics into the pool. This year we have embarked on a global school adventure, and are traveling around the world together as I try and find the time to write while teaching her a self-designed curriculum. I’ve lightened the load quite a bit, traversing Southeast Asia for the past six weeks with a backpack and a carry-on.

My daughter Devon taking a break from her global school work in Bali

No longer in my possession, there are certain dresses permanently bonded to fond memories, and I miss them, but my soft cotton t-shirts, fast-drying yoga pants and supportive hiking boots are the things I appreciate more because they afford me the experiences that have become my extravagances. 

My son Chase capturing a spectacular sunset on a hike we took over Christmas at Sea Ranch

Doing yoga on a beach, watching the sun set, flying anywhere in a helicopter, crafting with my daughter and taking photos with my son are a few of my favorite ways to spend time, and none of them have a dress code or any wardrobe restrictions for that matter.

As for my current fashion program, I call it Rugged Luxe. It is adaptable, mobile and much like my life, it’s purpose is to feel at home anywhere in the world.

Bungee jumping from the Karawarau Bridge in New Zealand

When I shop now, it is with a different goal. I’m not seeking extravagant trophies to hang in my closet. I’m searching for clothes that are aligned with the experiences filling my heart.

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Written by Brittany Myles


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