This blog was written by Girls Write Now mentee Ilana Drake who learned so much from speakers Julia Baylis and Sarah Dohrmann during the Fashion and Memoir workshop in April.
During the April Girls Write Now Writing and Mentoring Program workshop, all eyes were focused on the two speakers, Julia Baylis and Sarah Dohrmann, each of whom is an expert in half of this month’s topic: fashion and memoirs.
The workshop started with fashion and how it connects to our lives today. Each table was filled with a photo of a different “iconic fashion moment.” My table had Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake in 2001 at the AMA awards. Unfortunately, none of the mentees at my table had heard of this event because we were not born yet! We started talking about fashion trends, and how we had styled our outfits that day and why we had picked what we were wearing. It was really cool to see the reasons behind each person’s different design choices!
Ms. Baylis grew up in Toronto, Canada and loved fashion as a teenager. She spoke about going to thrift stores with her friends and developing her own style during high school. She attended Parsons School of Design, where she had a mission that not many other students were focused on. While her professors wanted her to make clothes for designer clothing brands for wealthier people to wear, she and a friend decided to make clothes that girls could wear anytime. During the workshop, Ms. Baylis actually wore an orange sweatshirt from her own collection, It’s Me and You, with a cute beige skirt.
After the break, Ms. Dohrmann led the section on memoir writing. She told us about how she grew up in Idaho and had to cope with her mother’s suicide. When talking about memoir writing, Ms. Dohrmann focused on narrative storytelling. She then asked us all to think of a photo taken of us between the ages of 5 and 12 to use as a memoir writing prompt. As an example, Ms. Dohrmann showed us the music video “Let’s get Physical” by Olivia Newton-John. She told us how she had actually dressed up just like the star when she was a child and had her sister take a photo of her. The photo represented a hilarious moment in her childhood, since she did not know what the song lyrics meant! Then it was the mentees’ turn to think of our own photographs and describe them in three different tenses: past, present, and future. It was very cool to write in different tenses— it gave me a taste of what each perspective sounded like.
This workshop was definitely one of my favorites because I am really into fashion and have not had much experience with memoir writing. Ms. Baylis allowed me to rethink why I choose what I wear and how what I wear reveals about me. While memoir writing was very new for me, I learned that you can start writing about one small moment from your life, and that this moment can bring back so many other memories.