[Image of Kate Lanphear via Citizen Couture]

I was thoroughly surprised by the successfully sunny-smiley photoshoot for the Lauren Moffatt SS/10 collection that Kate Lanphear styled, which my friend Z featured here. Primarily because it is so startlingly different from the way she kits herself.

It’s hard to keep to your individuality all the time, without being told you’re being strange or bending the rules a tad too much. The fashion editors are expected to dress a certain way, people into the scene in another, and university students in Singapore in the most identical cookie-cutter way. My own mother still tells me I have weird clothing preferences, you know.

But here’s an interview Kate did for ELLE.com way back in September last year. You know, if a pair of cut-off-your-circulation acid-wash jeans says YOU more than anything else, put the damned thing on.

[As told to Rachel Rosenblit]

I come from a conservative Irish-Catholic family. My parents are judges, and I have a sister who’s a lawyer. She’s an all-American girl: Abercrombie jeans, Old Navy hoodies, Nikes. My Aunt Bunny and godmother, Auntie Esther, are two of the most put-together women of all time. Esther’s impeccable bag was always coordinated with the most polished shoes, both offering subtle contrast to her perfectly tailored skirt suits.

My closet, however, is filled with studs, chains, rock ’n’ roll T-shirts, and black skinny jeans. The clothes that feel most like my own skin are the ones that are a little aggressive, a bit punked out: Balenciaga shoes and YSL blazers—I could blow my life’s savings on Givenchy and Alaïa.

If you asked me who my style icons were, I’d say I began with old-school heavy metal. I love the androgyny and the glam. In high school I covered my bedroom walls with Axl Rose posters. Appetite for Destruction was out, and I trailed Guns N’ Roses’ tour bus in my Honda Civic (its plates read AXL LVR). I had these amazing, skinny, tight-enough-to- cut-off-your-circulation acid-wash jeans with an inky blue plastic zipper that ran up the seam, purchased at Spencer’s Gifts at the mall. I had begged my mom for them. They were part of a look: slouchy suede boots, oversize suede jacket, outrageous jeans. Breaking the suburbatopian mold by wearing metalhead garb definitely wasn’t something one did to fit in with the cool kids in Fairfax, Virginia.

My getup was an even bigger faux pas with the family. For awhile I gave their Hyannisport compound ideal a shot. I wore glen plaid trousers from the Limited to Aunt Bunny’s for Christmas. “Oh my God, you look amazing!” she said. Meanwhile, I felt like an imposter.

The awkwardness and inner conflict got worse when I started out as an assistant at a fashion magazine. There was so much pressure to dress the part. I decided I had to fake it to make it. Carolyn Bessette was the girl du jour, so I did my best mimicry, wearing LBDs at an appropriate but unflattering length, with pointy ladylike slingbacks. Then one day in a vintage shop I found…a pair of skinny acid-wash jeans. It was like, Ahhh!—a halo was shining around them. I wore them every day. When I got my first big break, I thought, “Screw it, I’m wearing the jeans to the interview with the editor in chief.” I wanted to see what would happen if I was real. I remember telling her, “I’m not your typical fashion editor. I work hard and I know my stuff, but you should know, I’ll be the one wearing acid-wash jeans.” I got the job.

Once those skinny jeans came into my life, everything that wasn’t authentic—the whole WASPy facade—dropped away. That’s the thing about fashion: You can use it to hide, but it’s only magic when you use it to express who you really are.