When I wake up in the morning, I know that I shall have a good day if I dress like London. No, not dress for London–though with my penchant for tweeds and classic tailoring, I wouldn’t mind that at all–but like London. Like its architectural aesthetic.

A.A. Gill, a British writer and critic, once compared wandering through London’s streets to opening a drawer in an old house , “where so much was put away for safekeeping and then forgotten.” Gill’s metaphor is spot on to me, capturing both the city’s structural persona and why it influences me so.

London is always changing: it is a sleek, modern place full of the international, the brilliant, and the rich. But, that sleek modernism also comes with a heavy accent of sentimentalism. Even as it changes, London keeps old bits of itself around: Roman roads, the Georgian columns of Saint Paul, the pock-marked buildings of the blitz, the British Museum’s dusty and priceless spoils of Empire. London wears its history, and the triumph and pain that accompanies it, in an elegantly eclectic mess. A mess only London can make.

London gets its soul and its cohesion from the way it wears its personal history. No other city could perfectly imitate that–it wouldn’t have the same stories to draw inspiration from.

And every morning, as I open my closet, I think of London. In a haze of sleepiness and artistic fervor, I put on a wool skirt that was once my mother’s, a leather corset belt I bought after months of waiting for it to go on sale, a silver tank top I purchased as a graduate student, an argyle sweater with tiny, punk rock holes, created by an unfortunate infestation of moths, and a pinstripe blazer with bright yellow elbow patches, sold to me by two rocker chicks as they swigged white wine and giggled about Mick Jagger’s sex life. Each piece that I put on my body is a memento of my life experiences. Reminding me of where I’ve been and accompanying me as I try to become something new.