Now a Free Woman, Chelsea Manning Is Redefining Her Style on Her Own Terms
"A few weeks later, Chelsea Manning came to the Chelsea Hotel for the first of two fittings with Nile Cmylo, the designer and alterations guru who works there in a studio with a leopard-print floor, deep purple walls, lashings of glitter, and Barbies galore. Manning was polite, direct, and most interested in talking about the history of fashion and the societal context of, say, the New Look; Cmylo commented later that she had clearly studied up for the fitting, that she showed an interest in fashion and a respect that was rare in a celebrity. Manning wasn’t especially interested in designer versus non-designer garb, and was quick to make clear that she was very happy to shop at Target (and indeed had just found an excellent swimsuit there). When I asked her what she would choose to wear daily at that time, she said khakis and a nice shirt or jacket, something appropriate and to blend in, but that she didn’t want to look like a Fed or a job applicant. I pointed out that on West 23rd Street in New York City in the year 2017 that look would be regarded as deeply subversive. Some combination of D.C. provincialism and the Rip Van Winkle effect of seven years behind bars would have to be overcome. We fitted her with tailored pieces and knit frocks by Gabriela Hearst, shirt dresses from Joseph Altuzarra, couture-ish pencil skirts from Jonathan Cohen, cool suiting from Rag & Bone, knits from Alabama Chanin, polar fleece from Dosa. Marc Jacobs (who Manning admires and once caught a glimpse of years ago in Provincetown) sent over purses, tees, and a little black tent dress that Manning cinched with her own black tactical belt. What I recall most from these mornings was the element of surprise, delight even, that can occur when you try on that thing you swore you’d never wear. Manning had professed a wariness of prints and volumes, yet she literally jumped for joy in a floral corset laced sundress with a tiered skirt by Rodarte because she’s a video gamer at heart and it touched her inner Daenerys. She felt powerful. Getting dressed is an uncanny business."