She may hide behind dark glasses, but she is hardly invisible. Meet Lyn Slater, the Accidental Icon.
In only a year, this NYC professor who lectures on social justice has exploded onto the fashion blogging scene, gaining international attention with her dramatic photos and rebellious, avant-garde style. Lyn breaks the barriers of what it means to be 62 and looks fabulous doing it! Her followers applauded her for her refusal to be shaped by stereotypes like age and gender.
I recently got a chance to chat with Lyn about her unique fashion sense. Here’s my interview with this Fabulous After 40 Styleblazer.
Deb: Lyn, Could you tell us about your background and how you became the Accidental Icon?
Lyn: As you may know I am a full-time academic. I started Accidental Icon because I could not find a fashion blog that offered a modern, urban aesthetic and take on fashion for non-celebrity women who live what I call “ordinary but interesting lives”. I also wanted to find a creative outlet for my research and writing that would not have me conform to the strict requirements of academic writing.
As life responsibilities were decreasing, I was also able to indulge my passion and interest in fashion. I started to experiment with different, edgy looks and began getting compliments about my style, mainly from younger people. They kept saying I should start a blog. I am the kind of person who always needs structure when I take on a new project. After researching vehicles, I decided a blog where I could write about fashion would be the ideal structure to help with what is essential for me in a new research project, this time on the subject of fashion.
Deb: How would you describe your style?
Lyn: I would describe it as romantic, artistic, dark, light, androgynous, comfortable, clerical, provocative, nonchalant, and intellectual.
Deb: Your blog is much more than a collection of outfit photos, it’s also a diary of deep thoughts detailing how the clothes you wear affect you. How much influence do you think clothes have on the wearer and others? Do you think most people underestimate this power?
Lyn: I have always believed that life is performed. We can write original stories, or we can accept the scripts that others have written for us. I believe that clothing and fashion are important tools in this endeavor. Because fashion has always, until recently, been thought of as a “trivial” topic for academic study, the enormous power it has in both oppressive and productive ways has been grossly underestimated.
You have hit upon the central theme of my blog with this question. Fashion and clothing are central to human life and identity. Fashion and stereotypes of beauty can lead to oppression and exclusion, and thus fashion has great power. There are studies that show what you wear impacts your brain and certainly, most women know it impacts your mood. People make judgments about us based on clothes. When people want to control us, they take away our clothes or make everybody wear the same thing. That is the message I stress in my blog if you think about what you wear and select very purposively you can use fashion’s power for good.
Deb: What is the thought process behind the way you put your outfits together. Also, what message or feeling are you hoping to convey through your style?
Lyn: As I said above I guess this somewhat depends upon my audience and intention. What I wear most usually depends on the day, my mood, the weather, and what I am doing. Most of my clothes are black, white and grey with an occasional pop of the color red. I usually buy pieces that can be worn in many different ways and that I can dress up or down. So if I am going to teach a class I might put together a look that is professional but has a little bit of fun in it and is engaging, if I have an art exhibit to go to I might dress more out of the box and provocative and if I am playing with my granddaughter I will wear comfortable knits.
Deb: Japanese Designers appear to be a favorite of yours. Why?
Lyn: Because Japanese designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo offer me as a woman a completely new and paradoxical way to think about performing seduction, sensuality, and sexuality. This quote from Yohji Yamamoto is a favorite of mine. “For me, a woman who is absorbed in her work, who does not care about gaining one’s favor, strong yet subtle at the same time, is essentially more seductive. The more she hides and abandons her femininity, the more it emerges from the very heart of her existence. A pair of brilliantly cut cotton trousers can be more beautiful than a gorgeous silk gown.”
Deb: Besides a small blue scarf that I noticed in one of your photos, I don’t see you wearing color. Have you ever worn brighter colors? Why did you decide to commit to a monochrome palette?
Lyn: I always for the most part have worn a muted palette. The transition to black began about 25 years ago partly because I moved to New York City and partly because I became part of the art scene there. I have always loved uniforms and nun’s habits and those have been an influence. More recently as my hair has turned white I love the contrast between that and the monochrome. Quite frankly, bright colors do not aptly convey who I am.
Deb: Your bio says “she walks a fine line between rebellion and convention because she has to.” Can you explain?
Lyn: Well when you move into a world where you still have professional obligations, and you must persuade, convince, engage and influence there is a line. The best way to describe it is that it means you walk into a meeting or a conference, and people notice you immediately. They say, “she looks different than anybody else here”. But they cannot say, even if they really want to, “she looks so inappropriate”. I love being right there.
Deb: Do you find yourself becoming more rebellious with age, and how does this translate into your fashion choices?
Lyn: No, I was always rebellious, sometimes to my detriment. I always used clothing in one way or another to convey this element of my personality.
Deb: How does being around students all the time influence your style?
Lyn: I love young people and today sometimes it is hard to really listen and hear them honestly because we have not done such a great job for them in terms of the world we are leaving them. I admire greatly their response to this condition which is to be creative, independent, entrepreneurial, and socially innovative. They reject our way of doing things, and I find this immensely refreshing and inspiring. I feel they are yearning for a return to authenticity.
Deb: You are very fashion-forward. What is the secret to successfully translating runway looks to real life without looking like you are wearing a costume?
Lyn: I do not think that there is a secret to be shared, I think this is what is loosely called “having a sense of style”. Not everyone has it, and it is hard to teach because it is something I believe is like artistic ability. It has to be felt from within. It involves a great degree of self-acceptance, risk-taking, and a rebellious attitude which I think sadly many women struggle with allowing themselves to have. I am not one to beat people over the head with an idea, so I try to convey my thoughts in a way that people are more likely to accept them, so my standard is the line I describe above in your earlier question.
Deb: What is your favorite outfit and why?
Lyn: Any beautifully draped and tailored black pants and/or long skirt with an interesting white shirt, jacket, and boots. The why? It is my uniform, and most expresses my sense of self. I am most authentically me.
Deb: You are an inspiration to so many. Who inspires you?
Lyn: My students, the women I have worked with in my career, my daughter, right now very profoundly my mother.
Deb: When it comes to fashion, what annoys you? What delights you?
Lyn: The delight is the “dressing up” nature of it and the importance of street style, the annoyance is the celebrity takeover of designers.
Deb: Your hair is gorgeous. Did you ever struggle with whether to let it go grey? Advice for women who want to go that route?
Lyn: The women in my family start to go grey very early in life and then our hair turns white shortly thereafter. During my 30s I did dye my hair because it was very long and the grey was not emerging in an interesting way. I decided to go all grey when my daughter went to college and by then my hair was more the way it is now. I really did not struggle with the decision because I had gone through a process of accepting the inevitability of aging and decided to go with the flow. I think the bigger piece of advice is to love your aging self and try to be as authentic as you can be during that process. Then base all your decisions around that.
Deb: Words of wisdom for women trying to develop their own unique style?
Lyn: Do not be afraid to take a risk. Take small comfortable ones at first but always keep pushing.
Deb: Anything else you would like to add?
Lyn: Just thank you so much for inviting me to share my thinking with your readers. I appreciate your graciousness and generosity.
Deb: Thanks, Lyn, for sharing your dramatic and creative style. You are Fabulous!! Ladies, be sure to visit Lyn at her blog Accidental Icon.