Jenna Lyons recalls life-changing skirt
J.Crew's President Jenna Lyons' teenage years were transformed by a watermelon-patterned skirt.
Learning to sew when she was a teen gave Jenna a newfound sense of confidence and helped her survive high school. While she was growing up Jenna was diagnosed with incontinentia pigmenti, a rare disease that causes cone-shaped teeth, loss of hair, and scarred skin, and experienced bullying, "humiliation, fear, and self-loathing" as a result. The star revealed her experiences in a piece titled 'The Watermelon Skirt', which was penned for Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter - an email newsletter aiming to empower women.
"Seventh grade was an odd turning point," Jenna writes. "I took a home economics class. Profound life changes can happen in home ec. Believe me, that statement sounds just as ridiculous to me as it does to you. What happened was I learned to sew.
"I got to go to Florence Fabrics, pick out a Butterick pattern and three yards of fabric, and make something that actually fit me - my measurements, my length, my custom-made watermelon skirt.
"It marked the beginning of my own private, self-initiated makeover. But it also marked the beginning of my understanding transformation. I realised for the first time that people's memories are short and their opinions are malleable."
Before learning to sew, Jenna used to try and hide away from the crowd and cover up her condition. She was the last one to be chosen for team sports, and often ridiculed by the pretty, popular girls for her appearance.
"I was officially gross," she explained. "I started wearing long sleeves and pants every day in the hot California sun. I stopped smiling. And when I couldn't help myself, I covered my mouth in shame."
Jenna, who is also Executive Creative Director of J. Crew, has now carved out a successful career in fashion and is often lauded as one of the most stylish women in the industry. She is proud of how far she has come and still can't believe how her life has changed, and is eager to offer advice to other people battling self-esteem issues.
"To my absolute shock, surprise, and deepest appreciation, I am often talked about favorably for how I look," she added. "Beautiful, excited, and nervous young girls and even boys actually ask to take photos with me. They apologise for interrupting me.
"People. Don't apologise for asking. It's the MOST flattering request in the world. It makes me feel special. The opposite of gross. So, thank you."