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Dressing Up (and Down) With Accidental Icon Lyn Slater

A fashion blogger who doesn’t really write about clothes. A symbol of aging powerfully who doesn’t want to talk about growing older. A woman in plain blue jeans and a black coat who still seems very cutting edge. Our guest this month, Lyn Slater is a woman overflowing with complexities.

A full-time professor at New York City’s Fordham University, Slater launched Accidental Icon in 2014 as a passion project. Through the blog and her Instagram, she quickly became not only a fashion icon, but also an example of alternative aging. Her striking style and renegade attitude really resonates with young people worldwide — most of her followers are 18 to 35 — and the fashion industry has taken notice.

When The Fine Line caught up with her, Slater was just back from Madrid, Spain, where she was doing a photoshoot for Vogue Espana. It’s one of the many and varied opportunities that have come her way since she launched the blog without an endgame in mind. “I have been very open. When I first started doing this, I had no expectations. It was me being creative and getting some pleasure from writing about something and taking pictures of me wearing something that I was very passionate about. I could not have predicted the opportunities that have come up for me, because I wasn’t even aware that some of them existed. So that approach — to be open, to be in the moment, and to see what opportunities come — has really worked for me.

“Clothes have always been a very powerful tool for me,” she says. “Even as a very young child, I used clothes to express what I wanted to express.”

Today, at 64, what Slater seems to want to express are big ideas, which reflects her strong, academic mind and sets her apart from the majority of fashion bloggers. Here, we take a look at some of her outfits and hear some of her thoughts.

lyn slater accidental icon the fine line fashion essay

I am in love with these trousers for many reasons: the high waist, the color black, the beautiful drape, and the fact that they are made from recycled and sustainable textiles. Perhaps most importantly they make me feel glamorous, tall, elegant, and like the belle of the ball.

lyn slater accidental icon the fine line fashion essay

I find it odd when I try something new and someone will say, “That does not look like your style.” In my mind, I do not have “a” style. Personal style for me is an adjunct to the process of becoming. Fashion offers me the way to construct the many selves I am and I can be. It conveys the many moods I must express and are sometimes inexpressible with words. Everywhere I go, everything I see, everything I read and everyone I meet offers me new possibilities for what garments I choose to wear. When my grades are in and summer looms ahead — full of travel, vacation, and a slower pace — life feels bright, colorful, and full of movement just like the coat I am wearing in this photo. It exactly expressed my experience of moving through the world in greatly expanded ways.

I went through a period when I wore jeans almost every day. There is a functionality and transformability about jeans that makes me feel like I can be anywhere, sit anywhere without worrying about getting messed up. There is a comforting sameness and anonymity that reminds me of my old school uniforms.

lyn slater accidental icon the fine line fashion essay

The popularity of distressed jeans is evidence of a desire to return to the “old,” as is the glitzy metallics that remind one (or some) of discos, Studio 54, and rhinestones. My styling challenge was to take everyday clothes like jeans, a T-shirt, a jacket with marvelous reflective capacity like a disco ball and somehow, despite them being relics of my past, make them modern and fresh. Somehow the revisiting resurrected the fearless risk-taker I was in the ’70s.

lyn slater accidental icon the fine line fashion essay 8

Pink is not a color I wear often, and I do not have much of it in my wardrobe. The only way historically for me that pink gets to make an appearance in my wardrobe is when it is paired with black, leaning more heavily on the black.

My hair has always been my personal statement of self and society. Every time I have done something to my hair there are emotional implications related to stretching, excitement, desire, wanting, urgency, anxiety, pressure, rebellion, force, and yearning. I have often made a radical change in my hairstyle in order to mark an event, to signify a new passage, to cut off expectations, to subvert the old and make room for the new.

lyn slater accidental icon the fine line

Until I started my blog, I hated to be photographed. I am a fairly private person. There are certain spaces where I feel really safe, like my classroom or with my family, but the sunglasses reflect my ambivalence about being seen. There is one part of me that wants to be seen and one part of me that doesn’t. The sunglasses made it much easier for me to go out and let my partner, Calvin, and subsequently other photographers take photos of me, and then they became part of my signature look.

lyn slater accidental icon fashion essay

Every way that fashion has been done in the past is falling apart. It’s a wonderful time to be in fashion if you are creative and have the courage to put yourself out there. The future of fashion is uncertain, and people are really trying to figure out what it’s going to be. No one quite knows how to fill the gaping space of the unknown and we are throwing in everything we can to see what will stick or perhaps rise to the top.

For more about Lyn Slater and Accidental Icon, read our profile.

Photos: Courtesy of Lyn Slater

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