Thank You, Tom Ford.

There was a period of time while I was growing up when I hated the fact that I am a girl.

I didn’t grow up in the same circumstances as a lot of you so, as a child, I was branded “different” for a variety of reasons.

  • My parents weren’t born in the U.S., so English wasn’t my first/only language growing up.   That seemed weird to kids my age.
  • While my friends were eating processed foods and getting treated to meals at McDonald’s and Burger King, my parents were going to farms and buying FRESH meat and growing produce in our backyard.  And our backyard was in the middle of the city for awhile.
  • I have a clear memory of a goat – an actual live goat – invading my bedroom while I was trying to sleep and munching on my favorite blanket.  If that doesn’t traumatize you as a child, NOTHING will.
  • Your lunch sandwich = turkey or BLT.  My lunch sandwich = prosciutto and/or various Italian salamis.
  • Your parents garage = a place to park their car.  My parents garage = a place to keep 120-gallon barrels of fermenting wine and/or cabbage.

Anyway – you get the picture.  My life was just a bit different than that of my friends, so I tried to blend in with them as much as I could.  As a result, my personal style was nothing out of the ordinary – I wore the same types of clothing as everyone else and did everything I could to not stand out from the crowd.

Then, one day, it happened.  I hit puberty and all of a sudden, as if by magic, these two huge lumps appeared on my chest!  I swear it seemed like overnight I went from completely flat to a large C Cup.  No in between.  They just BallOOned.  And I was completely mortified!

I think most girls get excited at the prospect of wearing their first bra (please correct me if I am wrong, ladies).  Not me – I was having none of it.  I already felt so “different” as a child that this sudden change was just another thing setting me apart from everyone else.   While other girls were begging their mothers to take them shopping for training bras, I was begging mine not to make me wear one.  I didn’t want to grow up.  I didn’t want to be different – I wanted to shrink into the background and hide from everyone.

So what did I do?  I refused to wear a bra and instead started wearing baggy clothing.  Yeah.  In my mind, baggy clothing hid the “problem” – even while the girls bounced around freely during gym class!  (I was insane, OK?) In hindsight, I know that all I ended up doing was driving more attention to myself, but I thought I was doing the opposite.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that was when it started.  That was when I first became ashamed of my body.

Eventually I came to my senses and began wearing that much-needed bra, but I never stopped feeling uncomfortable in my own skin.  The girls grew larger (I was a D/DD in high school) and I still dressed to hide them.  I would never wear something that drew attention to my curves and instead turned into a bit of a tomboy.  This even remained true throughout high school and part of college.

It wasn’t until 1996 that I experienced a series of moments that finally allowed me to snap out of that self-loathing and not only accept, but embrace my curves.

It began with a single comment.  John, my best friend and long-time crush, had known me since we were freshman in college and knew exactly what my style was.  One day we were walking to class and he stopped, looked me up and down, and said “what’s up with the bodysuit?”

I don’t really remember how I ended up with said bodysuit in my wardrobe – I think it had something to do with the fact that it was teal (my favorite color) and velvet (perfect material for the Fall weather).  It didn’t register to me at the time that it completely showed off my curves, but it certainly registered with him!  All of a sudden it was like he finally realized I was a woman.  And so did I.

That moment was a turning point for me, with the final realization to come a few weeks later.

I was sitting in the library and studying for a chemistry exam.  Seeing that I absolutely despised that class, it wasn’t long before I needed a break.   I wandered over to the periodicals, and was surprised to find some fashion magazines in the stack.  I grabbed a Vogue and (I think) Harper’s Bazaar and started to go through them.

Now, you have to understand – I never looked at fashion magazines.  I couldn’t have cared less about what the latest styles were or who was wearing what.  It didn’t hold the slightest interest for me.  Until that day.

As I flipped through the pages of Vogue, I came across these images and my world was turned upside down.

Georgina Grenville for GUCCI A/W 1996, photographer: Mario Testino

Many times a photo really does speak louder than words, and in this case, these images spoke to me.  They were sexy.  Alluring.  Confident. Sophisticated. They were everything that I was not.

And while staring at that gorgeous dress, I suddenly realized that they were everything I wanted to be.  That was where the bodysuit had come from – I had grown tired of hiding who I was but didn’t realize it.  All it took to open my eyes was one comment – and one dress.

I went home and completely gutted my closet, got rid of the baggiest of the clothing, and started working on finding my real style.  I started working on finding me.

I think each of us has had those moments – whether it was an image we loved, a moment with a friend of relative, a celebrity whose style we gushed over, or a random stranger we passed on the street – each of us has had a moment (or two) that inspired our love for fashion and design.  These were mine.

And that, my friends, is how my love for Tom Ford and his designs began.

Today, many years later, I am still just as enthralled by the images above as I was on that fateful day in the library.  So in honor of Mr. Ford, and his part in making me the fashion-lover I am today, I hope you’ll take a trip down memory lane with me and see why the Tom Ford Era at the House of GUCCI will, forever, be the era of my dreams.

1995

 

Amber Valletta for GUCCI A/W 1995, photographer: Mario Testino

1996

 

GUCCI Ad Campaign S/S 1996, Photographer: Mario Testino

GUCCI Ad Campaign S/S 1996, Photographer: Mario Testino

Georgina Grenville for GUCCI A/W 1996, photographer: Mario Testino

Georgina Grenville for GUCCI A/W 1996, photographer: Mario Testino

Georgina Grenville for GUCCI A/W 1996, photographer: Mario Testino

Georgina Grenville for GUCCI A/W 1996, photographer: Mario Testino

1997

 

GUCCI Ad Campaign, S/S 1997, Photographer: Mario Testino

GUCCI Ad Campaign, A/W 1997, Photographer: Mario Testino

1998

 

Erin Cummings for GUCCI S/S 1998, Photographer: Louis Sanchis

Erin Cummings for GUCCI S/S 1998, Photographer: Louis Sanchis

Bridget Hall for GUCCI A/W 1998, Photographer: Steven Klein (image via Style Registry)

1999

 

GUCCI Ad Campaign, S/S 1999, Photographer: Mario Testino

GUCCI Ad Campaign, A/W 1999, Photographer: Mario Testino

2000

 

GUCCI Ad Campaign, S/S 2000, Photographer: Mario Testino

GUCCI Ad Campaign, S/S 2000, Photographer: Mario Testino

GUCCI Ad Campaign, F/W 2000, Photographer: Alexei Hay (Image via Style Registry)

GUCCI Ad Campaign, F/W 2000, Photographer: Alexei Hay (image via Style Registry)

GUCCI Ad Campaign, F/W 2000, Photographer: Alexei Hay (Image via Style Registry)

2001

 

Kate Moss for GUCCI S/S 2001, Photographer: Inez Van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin (Image via Style Registry)

Kate Moss for GUCCI S/S 2001, Photographer: Inez Van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin (Image via Style Registry)

GUCCI Ad Campaign, F/W 2001, Photographer: Terry Richardson (Image via Style Registry)

2002

 

Rie Rasmussen for GUCCI S/S 2002, Photographer: Terry Richardson (Image via Style Registry)

GUCCI Ad Campaign, A/W 2002, Photographer: Mario Testino

GUCCI Ad Campaign, A/W 2002, Photographer: Mario Testino

2003

 

GUCCI Ad Campaign, S/S 2003, Photographer: Mario Testino

GUCCI Ad Campaign, S/S 2003, Photographer: Mario Testino

GUCCI Ad Campaign, S/S 2003, Photographer: Mario Testino

GUCCI Ad Campaign, S/S 2003, Photographer: Mario Testino

GUCCI Ad Campaign, A/W 2003, Photographer: Mario Testino

GUCCI Ad Campaign, A/W 2003, Photographer: Mario Testino

2004

 

Although I have a special place in my heart for GUCCI A/W 1996, I will always, always, ALWAYS say that 2004 was my favorite year of the House of GUCCI.  These designs are just breathtaking.  Sleek.  Sexy. Modern. Romantic.  Tom Ford doesn’t just design for women – he celebrates them.  No where is that more evident than in these, his final, GUCCI collections.

 

Hana Soukupova for GUCCI S/S 2004, Photographer: Mario Testino

Hana Soukupova for GUCCI S/S 2004, Photographer: Mario Testino

Daria Werbowy for GUCCI A/W 2004, Photographer: Mario Testino

Daria Werbowy for GUCCI A/W 2004, Photographer: Mario Testino

Daria Werbowy for GUCCI A/W 2004, Photographer: Mario Testino

Daria Werbowy for GUCCI A/W 2004, Photographer: Mario Testino

…and just for fun…

 

 

 

 

Seriously – what is their NOT to love?! Pure genius.

Thank you, Mr. Ford. I owe it all mostly to you.

On a related note: You MUST check out grit and glamour tomorrow, February 23rd, for some seriously sexy coverage (livestream and not 1 but 2 tweetstreams!) of GUCCI’s A/W 2011 Fashion Show! It’ll be THE place to be tomorrow!

Image Credit: Mario Testino, Luis Sanchis or The Style Registry

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  • Paola July 21, 2013, 5:18 AM

    These images are so shocking beautiful! What a seductive and at the same time gentle Tom Ford’ past colection are! And Testino is also a so great photographer…

    Reply
  • lisi March 9, 2011, 10:21 PM

    So well done!!! There are SO many photos I want to keep in my blog file to enjoy forever! I can’t believe how much amazing stuff Mr. Ford has done. It’s mind blowing!

    Reply
  • WendyB March 6, 2011, 6:23 PM

    The 1995 Gucci ad brings back memories. That year I got satin shirts in blue, red and black from Ann Taylor and wore them all the time, feeling very Gucci!

    Reply
  • Carolann March 1, 2011, 1:17 PM

    After long deliberation, I have decided that SS 1999 and SS 2002 are my favorite spreads … you know, just in case you couldn’t live without knowing that. Lol.

    Thanks for sharing this story, it was touching.

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible March 1, 2011, 1:49 PM

    Thank you! I am glad you enjoyed reading it and I love your favorite spreads, of course! 🙂

    Reply
  • Dusk March 1, 2011, 10:17 AM

    Tom Ford certainly has a way with women… I LOVE how women describe how he is with them! All sexy objective touchy-feely and ripe with adoration. Its so sexy! You know he would make you feel beautiful

    I have always found it strange that womens fashion is predominantly decided by gay men who aren’t typical of a gay man’s adoration of a woman’s body. Gay men LOVE a woman’s body. A curvy woman’s body. I know this for a fact. I have many gay friends, some ‘straight’ and some flamboyant but they all go gaga over breasts and hips!
    …but… gay men designers insist on using females who look like boys…

    Even though Ford used models like Amber Valetta who had quite a boyish figure, he loved Sophie Dahl and other voluptuous women. Actually, as you say, he celebrates all women, regardless of shape and size and he so perfectly reminded us all about that with his recent collection and showing.

    That ’96 lace dress and the blue satin shirt and velvet hipsters from ’95… I LOVED them! Also had a few other items. I loved that collection…

    I love this post. For all the reasons mentioned by others and because, Tom Ford made you celebrate yourself.

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible March 1, 2011, 11:59 AM

    Thank you so much Dusk! Many of the things you state above are exactly why I still adore Tom Ford to this day.

    As you said, he does tend to objectify women, but I have never found it to be in a degrading way as some do. He celebrates the female form in a way that few designers do nowadays – he did that at GUCCI, he did that a YSL, and now he is doing that again in his own line. His designs are sexy and provocative without being trashy. They are just beautiful.

    I regularly stalk ebay for some of his GUCCI designs (mostly shoes) but so far everything is either not my size (alas, I will never fit into his designs which just aren’t available for size 12/14 women like me and is a problem with so many designers!) or out of my price range. One day I WILL own those corset shoes though – in all colors! 🙂

    Reply
  • kristy February 26, 2011, 7:25 PM

    this is such an amazing post B! big thank you to steph of the loudmouth for sharing it with me. it’s my #blogreadingfestivalday!! =P

    you and i were not so different growing up. we were both very different, from every one else. we would have totally gotten along in grade school too!! =P (when all the other girls had wonderbread sandwhiches, btw, i had split pea soup. they used to call it slime. sigh…) =P

    it’s lovely knowing how your love of fashion was born. and i love how connected to tom ford it is. no wonder you adore him so much. it’s perfect. he’s wonderful. and you are an inspiration, as always.

    Kristy Eléna – Full Time Fabulous
    Vogue Gone Rogue
    Twitter: @kristyelena

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible March 1, 2011, 12:02 PM

    Thank you so much Kristy! I have no doubt that we would have gotten along wonderfully as children – your slime would have been the perfect accompaniment to my strange prosciutto! hehehe

    It means a lot that people connect to my story, in whatever small way, and I am glad that now everyone has a better idea WHY I adore Tom Ford the way that I do. It goes much, much deeper than just the beautiful clothing!

    Thanks again for nominating this for Link Love, that really meant a lot!

    Reply
  • Katherine: Unemployed February 26, 2011, 6:39 PM

    Your writing is amazing and I love your take on the world. Beautifully insightful!

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible March 1, 2011, 12:02 PM

    Thank you very much, that is really sweet of you!

    Reply
  • THE-LOUDMOUTH February 26, 2011, 3:53 AM

    First off, your childhood sounds FREAKIN’ AWESOME!!! If I somehow knew you when we were both children, I’d wanna be your best friend. Organic farming? Italian lunches? Goats in the house? Yes, please!!! You are so lucky that you didn’t grow up with boring ol’ American parents who stuffed your face with French fries and carbonated beverages (mine weren’t like that either, thank God).

    ANYWAY. Back to the topic at hand. Tom Ford is almost freakin’ perfect isn’t he!? I love these spreads — thank you for putting them all together with details to boot! I hate when I see an article about Tom Ford being this horrible chauvinist human being who oversexualizes women. You described it perfectly when you said he CELEBRATES the feminine form. And when you look at most of these photos, the woman is in control! It’s empowering.

    I didn’t wear a bra until the 8th grade when I woke up and had C’s. By the end of high school I was a DD (I lost weight since then and got down to D). I didn’t like it either! I also hated that most bras that fit me looked like ones my mom would wear. Not that there’s anything wrong with moms’ bras normally, but MY mom isn’t the sexiest of women. (No offense, mama.)

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible March 1, 2011, 12:07 PM

    You are too cute. You know, it is one of those situations where looking back on it, I see how wonderful my childhood really was. While in the thick of it, however, all I wanted was to be a “regular” girl. I’d love to hear more about YOUR childhood one day, though! At least where our “girls” development is concerned we have similar stories!

    Tom Ford seems to be one of those “love him” or “hate him” designers. My stance on that is obviously clear, and I have never found him to be chauvinistic. In your face? Yes. Sexual? Ohhh yes. Definitely. But I don’t think he has ever said or done anything with the intent to degrade women. Quite the opposite, and I love that about him.

    Thanks again for such a wonderful comment 🙂

    Reply
  • Casee Marie February 23, 2011, 6:07 PM

    B, you’ve rendered me quite speechless with this post. Yes, speechless. Me. You did it. Didn’t think it could ever be done, did you? I had my doubts as well. Don’t worry, though, I’m sure I can still crank out a lengthy comment.

    Firstly, I can fully relate to your story and appreciate that you took the step to publish it. Around the time I was sixteen I was into horseback riding and whenever my trainer, who had all the curves of a yardstick, would critique my equitation (the rider’s form) she would include “Knockers up!” among the list of directions she’d shout to me. Across the arena. In front of boys, the barn owner, my parents or heaven forbid at a show where people from barns all around the Midwest would get to hear it. It wasn’t a very delicate experience of acceptance, but I did learn to own my look and eventually I was walking around there with a short/spiky hairstyle and a whole bunch of make-up. One summer my aunt even got me acrylic nails; the people at that barn really didn’t know what to do with me.

    Anyway. I really didn’t follow high fashion until just these last few years so I missed Tom Ford’s Gucci heyday. It was such a cool experience to see all the years of his work there, so thank you for that. I can really see his style in each of the designs, and yet they don’t feel redundant in any way. The mark of a true artistic genius!

    P.S. Where can we send this post so Mr. Ford can read it? I’ll say it again, Full Time Ford, you’re all over it!

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible March 1, 2011, 12:12 PM

    I would have been MORTIFIED had someone used the phrase “Knockers Up!” when I was that age. Bless you for having the self-control to not punch her out. Props to you for learning how to accept yourself and for owning your body, though. Its unfortunate that we have to go through experience like our own before we get there, though.

    I am glad this post resonated with you on a personal level, but am also thrilled it introduced you to some of Tom Ford’s earlier work. Genius. That is the only way to describe him. Artistic genius, as you said!

    Reply
  • MJ February 23, 2011, 1:38 PM

    Girl you are not alone!! I was a straight Tonboy because I developed really, really early (like elementary school!). My girls were much bigger than most, I had crazy hips and thighs. I thought I was just too fat (only to realize that I WISH I could be the 150lbs me that I was back then!). So I wore the baggy clothes to hide everything. I really didn’t get girly until maybe a year or so after college when I started gaining the confidence to dress more like a woman and embrace being a woman. I didn’t realize the change until I went back to NYC after being gone for years and my childhood friends had such a hard time recognizing me! Crazy process isn’t it?

    These images are gorgeous and thank you for sharing the story behind your love for Tom Ford! 🙂

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible March 1, 2011, 12:15 PM

    MJ our childhoods sound a LOT alike (and I am right there with you on the wishing I could weigh today what I did back then! LOL If we only knew, right?)

    Thank you for sharing your story with me! It’s nice to know that other people went through similar experiences as well, especially when it is someone who turned out to be such a FIERCE Woman! 🙂

    Reply
  • Fashnlvr February 23, 2011, 1:27 PM

    Wow! This is a great post! Thanks for sharing your background info – I was always the odd man out myself. I love the Gucci pants in the 1999 ad – but they are also so sexy how does one choose a favorite! The fashion blogging world would be a little less interesting without you so I am so glad you found “yourself” and your love of fashion too!!
    http://www.fashnlvr.blogspot.com

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible March 1, 2011, 12:16 PM

    This is such a lovely comment, thank you so much!

    I agree about those pants – but that 1996 dress will always hold a special place in my heart 🙂

    Reply
  • Eboni Ife' February 23, 2011, 11:53 AM

    Thank you so much for sharing this post with us. I totally know how it feels to have a “different” upbringing. My parents were full time ministers when I was growing up. I couldn’t watch TV, listen to secular music, or celebrate Halloween. I also LIVED at church, practically. It was interesting to say the least. Lol!

    Anyway, if Tom Ford couldn’t awaken your inner fashionista, then no one could have. It is no surprise that Ford’s Gucci played a part in your epiphany.. His work is just beautiful and sexy! It screams “I am woman, hear me roar!”

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible March 1, 2011, 12:23 PM

    Your childhood definitely sounds “different” as well, and I am sure, like mine, helped shape you into the woman you are today.

    The comments to this post have been really interesting to read because so many of us appear to have been “the outsiders” and couldn’t have cared less about fashion until a later age. I wonder how often that is the case for fashion bloggers?

    I am thankful to Tom Ford for awakening the fashionista in me 🙂

    Reply
  • YvonnaLivianna February 23, 2011, 8:56 AM

    Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing your story with us all. I find myself judging myself or trying to hide my natural beauties, but it is a self process, we all have insecurities and it takes strong women like US to over come them in a healthy way! By the way, love tom ford!!

    XX!
    YvonnaLivianna
    YvonnaLivianna.blogspot.com

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible March 1, 2011, 12:25 PM

    Thank you Yvonna!

    I also think self-acceptance is a never-ending process… we continually evolve and change, and our self-acceptance has to grow with us, you know?

    Reply
  • Fabienne Jach February 23, 2011, 12:26 AM

    I can soooo relate to your story! In elementary school, I always had the weird lunch with a thermos of plain yogurt to drink. I wore my cousins’ really flashy hand-me-downs three years too late and ready for a high-tide. I’ll never forget those tie-dye pink elephant bells… even if they were never long enough for me.

    Thank you for both the personal history and celebrating Tom Ford. Glad you’re back!

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible March 1, 2011, 12:30 PM

    Thank you for sharing some of your past history, Fabienne. It’s always nice to hear when others can relate. We probably would have gotten along beautifully as children! 🙂

    It’s nice to be back finally!

    Reply
  • Tanvi February 22, 2011, 11:57 PM

    WOW!!! I hope Tom Ford reads this. What an awesome tribute. You are amazing, B! 🙂

    Also, I hated the thought of wearing a bra when I hit puberty. I too didn’t wear it in the beginning till my Mom forced me to. Well, I didn’t have a moment o revelation but eventually I think I accepted it!

    Great Post!!!

    Also, thanks for the Birthday wishes!!! 🙂

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible March 1, 2011, 1:36 PM

    Thanks Tanvi, that is really sweet of you to say!

    Glad to have you back on this side of the world 🙂

    Reply
  • Cameron February 22, 2011, 8:03 PM

    This was a wonderful story madame. For the vilification fashion sometimes suffers, it is awesome to hear how fashion can allow someone–such as yourself–to embrace who they are with confidence. Big hugs to ya!

    And I wish I had a winery in my garage… or a garage for that matter. 😉

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible March 1, 2011, 1:41 PM

    Thank you Cameron! I know I am not the only one out there who was impacted by fashion in such a way, but you are right – too often we here about the negative side of the industry so sometimes it is nice to focus on the positive!

    Garages are good for many, many things 🙂

    Reply
  • Terri February 22, 2011, 8:02 PM

    Hmm. I think 2001 is my favorite. I remember too that feeling of my body being a stranger to me during puberty.

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible March 1, 2011, 1:43 PM

    I think most girls go through that period when they hit puberty – my problem was that it lasted into my adulthood because I refused to accept – or even acknowledge – those changes!

    Reply
  • GRIT & GLAMOUR February 22, 2011, 7:30 PM

    God bless Tom Ford and God bless you for this fantastic, virtually orgasmic retrospective of Mr. Ford’s greatest hits! And thanks for the mention, too…can’t wait for the stream tomorrow! I do think Frida had some devastatingly large shoes to to fill, and she has done so beautifully.

    Glad you’re embracing your womanly curves. Be so grateful you have them, B!

    ••V••
    http://www.gritandglamour.com
    @gritandglamour

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible March 1, 2011, 1:45 PM

    Finally catching up on comments and just wanted to say thank you for this. I know you share my adoration of Tom Ford, and now you have some idea of where mine comes from. 🙂

    Thanks for the comment lovely!

    Reply
  • Mrs Bossa February 22, 2011, 6:34 PM

    Agreed – it was seriously hot with him at the helm. He’s an incredible man.

    Also: it’s been lovely to read about you overcoming your self-consciousness and developing your love of fashion – it’s make me quite emotional thinking of my own story (for me it was Prada, 1999, the revelation of kitten heels after years of skater trainers). You should get yourself in Link Love, lady! 😉

    Reply
  • Beautifully Invisible March 1, 2011, 1:48 PM

    Thank you for your kind comment!

    I’d love to hear more about your Prada-related revelation one day! I love hearing stories like this – I think it is really interesting to see HOW our love of fashion was brought to life in each of us!

    Reply