In her Vogue “73 Questions” interview, Tracee Ellis Ross is asked who her style icon is. “Me in seventeen years,” she replies. “I’m very hopeful.”
Brilliant. Right on. What is personal style if not an ever-evolving display of self-discovery and fulfillment? Every day, day after day, you are your own main event.
You are the person you wanted to be seventeen years ago, if you will.
And that person thinks you look so cool.
Here are the heavy influences, notes, quandaries, and discoveries of my personal style evolution in order of appearance(s):
Age four: Wearing pants is the worst, so I only wear mismatched-pattern Hanna Andersson dress and tight sets to preschool. My friend’s mom asks where I get such great clothes. “My grandmother,” I reply. So… I have a stylist?
Age five: I have a dream that I get a pink flouncy dress for my birthday, the exact dress that Villanelle wears sixteen years later on Killing Eve.
Age six: I wear a plain black top—slight v-neck, a little lace—and have my hairstylist (grandmother) flip my hair out like I imagine an Olsen twin would for school pictures. I do not look like an Olsen twin, but I try to smile like one. At some point, I also have my grandmother give me a perm.
Age seven: Now that my ears are pierced, the most important identifier in my life is my birthstone. I don’t like mine (alexandrite), so I take on February’s (amethyst). The Aquarius in me begins to come out.
Age eight: I want double-piercings, but am turned down. My grandmother gives me highlights and I decide she is the most stylish person I know—elegant with a touch of kitsch and fully herself. When I wear her clip on earrings it is like I have double piercings.
Age nine: My birthday party is “red carpet slumber party” themed. We wear pajamas and walk the red carpet—an idea I will always hold onto, comfort-wise.
Ages ten and eleven: Everything is embarrassing. Probably trying to blend in, I do not remember any signature looks from this time.
Age twelve: My best friend and I decide we will dress up like ‘80s girls at school. I wear an off-the-shoulder pink sweater, a white chunky beaded necklace, my grandmother’s clip on earrings. It is fun to get attention.
Age thirteen: A conundrum presents itself: Can one be both Marilyn and Audrey? Once again forgetting that we do not have to pit style icons against each other, I choose Audrey.
Age fourteen: At my first homecoming dance my best friend and I take a picture together showing off our jewelry as it relates to our personal aesthetics. I wear my most prized possession—my Tiffany charm bracelet. She wears a rubber Blink 182 bracelet. We go to the dance, toeing the line between feeling ourselves and painful self-consciousness.
Age fifteen: I buy sparkly tights and pair them with a blue skater skirt; when it twirls I hope it looks a little Marilyn. I get bangs for Zooey Deschanel, then Alexa Chung. Also: red lipstick.
Age sixteen: To feel the most me means to wear bright colors and mixed textures and costume jewelry. It feels good.
Age seventeen: I have a big crush on my close friend, and together we lean into The Talented Mr. Ripley which is maybe more his choice than mine. I buy a Tommy Hilfiger dress because I know he will like it and wear it for senior pictures at a place I know he loves. The look I’m going for, the one I know he’ll love? “Yacht shopping.”
Age seventeen and three-quarters: “Yacht shopping” is the farthest thing from my personal style I could ever think of. My prom dress is black and white with the high neckline I love on my broad shoulders. It is perfect and I know I will still love it in twenty years, unlike my outdated senior photos.
Ages eighteen and nineteen: The coolest and most stylish people to exist are my college roommate and Jane Birkin. My roommate and I wear the same size in everything; my closet has doubled and I often feel more Marley than Sophie. I am not at all upset about this.
Age twenty: Studying abroad, I get into Scandinavian minimalism and bright orange. I buy a pink velvet jumpsuit, deciding it will be my signature piece.
Age twenty-one: Chunky sweaters and wide-legged pants. Is it as easy as that?
Age twenty-two: It’s easier. A pair of Eileen Fisher linen overalls, then two pairs. I still have not worn the pink velvet jumpsuit, but it is my signature piece.
Age thirty-nine: I pair the pink velvet jumpsuit with a pair of yellow sandals. I am my own muse.
Sophie Vilensky (@sophiavilensky on Instagram and Twitter or if you met her in second grade) is a Real Housewives scholar and naturopath’s daughter. At this point in time these things are very important to her.