Journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon Explains Why Fashion Is Like Armor
Filed in: Your Closet
For journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, fashion has always been a tool for fostering confidence—even when she was feeling anything but. Here, she breaks down the power of a great outfit.
I’ve always loved fashion. For me, it was a form of social mobility. Even when I was working 18-hour days in the political unit at ABC News, I remember just shopping my face off afterwards. That was a tough time in my life—my grandmother had just passed away—and I thought, If I dress better than I feel, eventually the rest of me will catch up.
I had no idea how to dress for work when I first started. I interned on Capitol Hill and wore a skirt that was on sale at The Limited that my dad bought me for $8.99. We had a meeting with a congressman, and my boss was gesturing to me the whole time and I couldn’t figure out why.
Finally, after the meeting, she came over and said, “I was trying to tell you that your skirt has a slit that runs all the way up to your hip bone, and everybody noticed but you.” It was embarrassing, but I knew I didn’t want it to happen again.
When it comes to dressing myself nowadays, I enjoy every year of life more than the last, because I think I’ve come into my own and make fewer sartorial mistakes as a result. I’m more aware of what works for me.
I had a woman come up to me once after an event in Los Angeles where I had worn a dress with very high heels, and she said, “You are so much smarter than you look.” I said, “I think there’s a compliment in there somewhere, but I’m going to have to dig for it.” My feeling on that is that I am no less committed to telling stories about women in Afghanistan because I’m in 3.5-inch heels than I would be if I was wearing flats.
Sometimes, I’ll be working on a story that’s genuinely heartbreaking, and I’ll think, “Is fashion frivolous?” But there is something so life-affirming about it. No matter how bad things are, you put on your armor and you go out in the world, and you become the person you want to be in that outfit.