Alex Panic, longtime Armoire member, writes candidly about her experience giving up on spending time on herself due to parenting — then rediscovering her style and confidence through Armoire.
In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.
These words of the great Coco Chanel, although firmly rooted in my mind since my teenage years, got somehow misplaced a few years ago when the long, rainy, and repetitive days of a mama writer working from home made me forget how much I’ve always cared about fashion. I’ve never looked at fashion as an urgency to wear what is popular, but as a mean of self-impression. Owning my style and dressing accordingly has always given me the confidence to dare to dream and learn and grow toward becoming a woman I wanted to be. Owning a style and being able to express it in public equaled owning a voice. And what would a writer be without her voice?
However, motherhood brought me the unavoidable and the most dramatic change in clothing. And even though, in the beginning, I did try to chase a toddler in high heels, to wear white pants and silk tops, hoping that no sticky, chocolate-covered hands would reach for me without approval, or mini dresses that if my daughter required to be picked up promptly, threatened to reveal my underwear, over time, I gave up on looking good.
The situation became even worse when, with a three-year-old at home and pregnant, I enrolled in a graduate program. When the new baby was born, my days grew even longer, the nights ultimately sleepless, and my daily schedule that now required joggling parenting and getting the master’s degree in creative writing turned into a complete chaos inside which I didn’t need to wear beautiful and fancy, only comfortable, stretchy, and machine washable. Since all other moms in my neighborhood walked in their Lulu lemon’s and North Face apparel, I fit in my surrounding perfectly. But “fitting in” or “looking alike” has never been a style option I would choose. Being different has always been my imperative.
I realized that I had a severe fashion problem when, in February 2017, I had to prepare an outfit for my graduation day. For two and a half years, with two small kids at home, I worked hard toward getting my master’s degree, and my graduation day was immeasurably important. I wanted a dress and shoes that will represent the writer and a woman I have become. I purchased and returned at least a dozen of dresses until, by chance, before walking into a movie theater (to see La La Land) I spotted the perfect little navy feathered dress in Club Monaco’s window. Even though I was exuberant at the moment, later I thought, “why did this process have to be so difficult?”
Shortly after my graduation, I received devastating news about my father’s terminal illness. The following months of coping with the loss and sorrow made me withdraw to myself and my thoughts and reflect on what I wished for, what I needed, and what I wanted to do next.
This was also the period of rejection letters as I was reaching out to literary magazines and agents and publishers. The rejections piled one after another, the latest always hurt more than the previous. In these gloomy days, if I didn’t have to chaperone my children, I wouldn’t have left the house.
Sometime in the late November 2017, I realized that my husband and I stopped going out and that my graduation dress was the last beautiful garment he saw me wearing. I haven’t taken off my yoga pants in months, I broke my rule of always being different. After a long period of selflessness and sadness, I wanted to feel joy and passion, and I wanted to like myself again.
I opened my wardrobe and pulled out and onto the bed all the comfy, kid-friendly, ugly clothes that inhabited my closet. Then, I looked inside the closet again. There was nothing left. I was terrified, and I felt lost. Where was the European woman that owned her voice and her style, that walked strong on her heels, that used to be noticed in town? Where the hell was that woman?
A few days after the shocking revelation, I went to the Evergrey’s first birthday celebration at the Riveter where I met Armoire’s lovely stylists. After two glasses of wine, it was really easy to say yes to the trial membership, and since December was around the corner, opening with my birthday, and rolling on with all its festivities, I figured that this membership could be the perfect birthday present.
It took only a couple of the case exchanges for my husband to fall in love with the Armoire concept. The equation was simple: a new dress called for a night out. Suddenly, after a few years of hanging in the house after our kids were finally in bed, binging Netflix, we started dating again. Every new dress had to be shown off. Every new dress teased for a new experiment.
Marriage is a challenging union, and it needs continual attention. Even when a couple feels infinitely in love, they should never look at the marriage as a pair of comfy yoga pants. Eastern philosophers taught us a long time ago that impermanence is our only constant. The only constant in life is change, yet we easily fall into periods where we refuse changes. We fear changes as we fear aging and the transience of life. To fight these fears, a woman wants to feel wanted at all time, and she needs to know that she is irreplaceable. And “to be irreplaceable,” as Coco Chanel explained, “one must always be different.” Armoire made it all possible.
After years of being a stay-at-home parent who writes in her spare time, insecure in her own talents and possibilities, with Armoire by my side, I was able to rediscover and redefine myself and return to be a confident and daring woman who owns her style and her voice.
And when I embraced this concept of a perpetual change, I was able to offer a new level of excitement to my husband. He has always loved to surprise me with grand gestures and to plan our dates, overnight getaways, or exotics vacations. But, nowadays, because he never knows what I will pull out from my Armoire case, he’s even more thrilled about our kids-free adventures. When a woman knows that she is wanted and adored, she is confident. And a confident woman can do anything.