In the age of handlers, PR agents and momanagers intent on horning in on their daughters’ careers (yet also sabotaging

In the age of handlers, PR agents and momanagers intent on horning in on their daughters’ careers (yet also sabotaging them by choosing, while their daughters are in a coked-out haze, films for them such as “I Know Who Killed Me,” a movie in which said daughter experiences twin stigmata), true personal style is hard to come by. Sadly, this is not an original age, and the famous women of today are merely the puppets of more fashionable anorexics, who in turn send out correctly-dressed clones to Us Magazine parties as their life work.

Thus when I reflect on the paragons of personal style in today’s world, I focus, not on women who dress well (style doesn’t necessarily have to have a positive connotation), but instead on people who we as a viewing public know are not taking advice from anyone about how they dress. They, in an age of micromanaged, pressurized women, are taking their cues from no one but their own crafty little brains. They take no prisoners and for this you must admire them.

Britney Spears

One thing admirable about Britney Spears is that she doesn’t listen to anything. It is like she is conducting a one-woman assault on decorum, and I love it. I like to think of this as a supremely intellectual decision on her part, though no one seems to agree with me. To them, I pose these questions: Who else but Britney would think to pair Ugg boots with a bed sheet that doubles as a dress? Who else but Britney would shave her head, beat a waiting photographer’s car with an umbrella, and then two weeks later claim that this was because she was researching a role for a movie? Even her new video, the concept of which is that a blonde Britney watches a brunette Britney strip, so aptly characterizes the schizophrenia of our modern epoch. Whatever the self-righteous press might say, Britney is an independent thinker who loves to apply for employment positions at bars. I am also buying her album. It comes out on my birthday. A hint for you all.

Janet Reno

After two failed nominations directed at women who hired illegal immigrants as nannies, Bill Clinton turned to Janet Reno to fill the attorney general position. How did she respond to this signal of confidence? By using unprecedented military action against cults and six year olds. She also decided to wear extremely unflattering suits made out of what seems to be long swathes of cobalt fabric. Despite a judgmental American public that seems to favor women of the Laura Bush ilk (heck, even Hillary is showing cleavage on the presidential trail while also wearing an endless string of peach linen pants suits, the likes of which I have never seen in any store), Janet Reno, the daughter of humorless Dutch immigrants, stuck to her guns and kept on wearing really long jackets with no lapels. You’ve got to admire it. It’s a style that even lascivious old Bill couldn’t change (and I am sure he tried).

Sharon Stone

Sharon Stone has a Mensa level IQ. She is also an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church, as well as a Buddhist and a Scientologist. I am not saying that being a member of three churches makes you insane, but perhaps it makes you prone to crazy pants with appliqué on them (Sharon seems to love these. I can’t even tell you how many times I open a magazine to see Sharon Stone running an errand in appliqué pants. It is insane). This is not to say that Miss Stone doesn’t look great sometimes. Sometimes she makes some fantastic choices, like the time she wore her husband’s Gap shirt with a Vera Wang skirt to the Oscars, or the time she wore a beautiful gold sheath to an AmFar benefit. This makes the crazy pants or the black dress she wore that had 3-D butterflies sewn onto it all the more shocking. Because she is just so extreme! Sometimes you think she has a deep almost transcendent understanding of fashion and then she dresses like a crafty twelve year old. But, you’ve got to hand it to her.

I hope you can see, after all of these fascinating examples, that personal style is less about dressing beautifully, and more about a certain truculence that laughs in the face of convention. As Harvard women, perhaps we can take a page out of this book. Who knows? Maybe we would be objectively uglier, but we would have some self-respect and we would never wear Harvard sweatshirts anymore, not even as a funny joke.

—Rebecca M. Harrington ’08 spends most of her time concentrating on style, actually.