How a teenager from Trophy Club became an “It Girl.”
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“I have too many clothes,” says seventeen-year-old Jane Aldridge as she examines a black Comme des Garçons dress that looks like a spacesuit for a bombshell from an old sci-fi movie (think broad shoulders and narrow waist covered in lustrous, slightly puffy hexagons). That’s quite an admission for a teenager. Especially one that has a closet full of vintage designer clothes, describes one outfit as “too boring to wear even to driver’s ed,” and claims Karl Lagerfeld as her father. But Jane isn’t your average adolescent. “So I’m trying to stick to shoes,” she explains as we browse the racks at Forty Five Ten, an upscale boutique on trendy McKinney Avenue, in Dallas. She picks up a pair of bright maroon patent leather cutout booties by the elusive Belgian designer Martin Margiela (imagine a sort of high-heeled ankle boot with most of one side missing and an open toe). Jane’s passion is shoes—basket-weave Givenchys, chrome-wedge Marni peep-toe booties, Martin Margiela sandal boots, Prada spat heels. These are just a few of the more than fifty pairs of shoes in Jane’s closet. Her blog, Sea of Shoes (seaofshoes.com), which details her love of footwear alongside photos of her outfits and fashion inspirations, is widely successful. In fact, Jane has been featured twice in Teen Vogue. She recently designed a line of shoes, Sea of Shoes by Jane, for Urban Outfitters; three pairs are set to debut in July and three in December. So why the fascination with shoes? “Shoes are one of those things that can say everything at once,” she tells me. “They are like mini-sculptures.”
The store’s cafe was closed due to the inclement weather, so we headed down the street to lunch at La Duni, a lively South American spot. With a sweetly open face and long, honey-blond hair, Jane has the air of an ingenue. She orders congri con maduros with confidence as she settles in. Wearing a vintage silk kimono scarf picked up by her mom in Tokyo in the eighties, an inky-black shearling-and-suede jacket by Richard Chai, and Levi’s jeans, she speaks in an adorably bewildered way about a recent blind date. Naturally, Jane has on her trademark triple-lace burgundy Anne Demeulemeester boots, whose high-high heels make walking on the icy sidewalks a challenge. Her only jewelry is her favorite Antonio Palladino silver octopus ring, with jointed head and tentacles. It’s a toned-down outfit for Jane, who might wear Miu Miu platforms and a fur coat to get sushi or a gold sequined tube top and ruffled bolero to watch a movie at a friend’s. The occasion never factors in to what she wears. “I don’t dress for anyone but myself. If I did, I wouldn’t be so dressed up all the time because I don’t really do anything,” she laughs. “I try to make my life more exciting by dressing.”
Such is the existence of a teenager trapped in the suburbs. Jane lives in Trophy Club (a planned community of about seven thousand northwest of Dallas), where she attends a small, academically rigorous charter school with a dress code requiring uniforms. She lives for the two “free dress” days a month. “But no heels,” she laments. Her friends don’t get the whole fashion thing, she says, citing a recent outing to Barnes & Noble, when, upon spotting a cute acquaintance, they urged her to say hi but advised, “Take off that jacket.”
Sea of Shoes started as a joint project with her mom, Judy, a designer and former model who is Jane’s sole “real-life fashion friend,” to showcase their vast collections and chat about contemporary designers. It soon became an outlet for Jane to share her fashion passion with a huge audience—with 25,000 page loads a day and fifty to eighty comments on an average post, she can communicate with fellow fashion-junkies worldwide. (Her mother now has her own blog.) This keeps Jane busy, as does her one-day-a-week internship at V.O.D., a hip boutique in Victory Park (a failed attempt to pass her driver’s test means that she must rely on her parents to make the 45-minute drive into Dallas). Jane recently started another blog, They Don’t Call Them Lovers in High School, Leeland (a quote from Twin Peaks, although the character’s name is spelled Leland), to showcase the vast store of digital images she has collected over the years. Eventually, she would like to be a shoe designer, perhaps move to New York, go to Parsons and study product design. For now, her remoteness from the country’s fashion mecca doesn’t seem to bother her. “Isolation can be a good thing,” she explains. “You are forced to be more creative, to use the resources you have, to innovate.” And her favorite outfits do challenge both wearer and viewer. “I don’t find many things too weird to wear,” she admits. Martin Margiela’s wig coats, with flowing capes of human hair, presented one recent test. “It looked really good, but it was kind of creepy and repulsive. I had to think long and hard, but I decided I would wear it.”