Transformation, Two Perspectives: Why You Need a Visual Touchstone by Merin

At some point, someone said that ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover.’ And then our collective mothers and second grade teachers adopted the phrase. The thing is, evolution has taught us otherwise. We’re afraid of wolves and bears because they look big and scary. Thousands of years have taught us that the best way to make a snap judgment of something – someone – is by how they look. Don’t believe me? Try dressing like this

and go to your local coffee shop. Make note of your treatment. Then dress like this

and note the difference. Those are extremes, but hey – can you honestly tell me that you haven’t bought a bottle of wine because it had a cute label? I thought so.

Even science backs me up: a recent study cited in yesterday’s New York Times found that people perceive women wearing make-up to be more competent, likeable and trustworthy than bare-faced ladies. This is bad news for people like me, who wear make-up about six times a month. And good news for the Kardashians.

(This will seem like a digression, but I promise it’s not). Life is a constant progression of small changes. Changes that add up one by one, rendering you a constantly evolving being. Part that process is reactive, but another part is intentional. You make decisions about what sort of future you want for yourself. You know, setting goals. That’s the easy part. Then there’s the little matter of achieving those goals. The stuff that happens in between is the process by which one transforms oneself from what they are to what they aspire to be. Transformation. The grinding ascent to the pinnacle of your goals can take years, not to mention blood, sweat, tears and, of course, money. So basically, it’s really hard. Which is why we have role models. Role models help us see – literally – where we want to go and envision ourselves in that place. Role models are to transformation as sleeping pills were once to certain members of my family: they help you get to your happy place.

Here’s the part where we get to embrace the intersection of evolutionary instinct and judging (yay!): use it to your advantage. If people are going to make assumptions based on what you look like, then dress the part – any part… whatever part you want to play. To make this easy, here is the thesis on this essay:

you are who you present yourself to be -> so present yourself as what you want to become -> become that person

This is one way of making transformation a little easier. And it’s why both Em and I have chosen visual touchstones. Will Emma actually become a fabulously wealthy and eccentric heiress noted for her crazy/impeccable taste and awesomely weird hair? And will I become a poster child for 70’s beauty who later marries Steve McQueen and stars in Lifetime movies? Alas… no. But they both embody visual qualities that reflect where we want to take our lives this fall and beyond.

So, to paraphrase the knight in that Indiana Jones film (if you have brothers, you know what I’m talking about), choose wisely. What sort of qualities are you striving for and how do they manifest visually? For Emma, Daphne Guinness is the perfect visual cue for creativity, risk-taking and individuality. See how neat that trick is? Daphne Guinness is serving as inspiration for Emma’s own personal transformation.

Nota Bene: make it your own. Like Em notes in her recent post, you don’t want to actually steal that person’s identify head to toe. That would be weird. But if you’re really good at it, you can integrate just enough of that person’s style into your own, and become famous for that transformation. Et Voila!

early, tragic Alexa Chung


Marianne Faithfull, early 60s


Alexa Chung, fashion mogul and trendsetter


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