Ann Crews Melton
A model wears a creation by British fashion designer Alexander McQueen as part of his fall-winter 2009-2010 ready-to-wear collection. (Associated Press)

Alexander McQueen poses with Sarah Jessica Parker at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala in New York on May 1, 2006. (Associated Press)

Miss Indian Nations candidates at the United Tribes International Powwow in 2002. (Tribune file photo)

It's fall. The slant of the sun brings many changes, including significant makeovers for North Dakota closets -- boots, fuzzy accessories and layers of muted colors. The way humans dress has long been a combination of function (keeping warm) and fashion (looking cool while keeping warm). Learning how to express yourself with a personal style is the fun part, even if our climate dictates clothes skewing toward the functional more often than not.

Before arriving on the prairie, I worked as an editor at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. The name Manhattan is of Native American (specifically Lenape) origin, and it's curious to reflect upon how much fashion and dress has changed in the last few centuries on the island, which is now the epicenter of the fashion industry. My desk sat across the hall from Lincoln Center's Fashion Week employees, and the juxtaposition of fluffy fur vests and six-inch heels teetering next to the classical music staff in our Banana Republic neutrals and sensible shoes, was always a bit comical. Twice a year, while walking from the subway to my office, I had to dodge Fashion Week photographers and posing fashionistas, always secretly hoping I'd be photographed by accident for my effortless style. Well, that never happened, and in spite of my teenage subscription to "Vogue" I came to accept that my personality and "fashion" might never align.

Still, I can appreciate certain artists within the garment industry, and my favorite is the late Alexander McQueen. McQueen constructed dark and dramatic designs, sometimes using a blood-red tartan in a nod to his own Scottish heritage. My family, now good East Texas Presbyterians, also traces our lineage to Scotland, and while we've maintained religious ties to John Knox and the Scottish Calvinists, we haven't so much kept up with the family tartan (of Clan Mackay).

The relationship of clothing to culture has been on my mind a lot lately, especially following another significant September event: the United Tribes International Powwow, held annually in Bismarck. This year, rather than trudging across Lincoln Center's iconic plaza, I found myself traipsing across the grass at United Tribes Technical College to witness a powwow for the first time. Having never before lived in an area with a significant Native American population, I was blown away by the participating tribes' traditional dress. I am only beginning to learn about the symbolism of certain animal-derived materials, colors and patterns, but all hint at a history and heritage much deeper than surface-level style.

In thinking about style for this issue of Be, I encourage you to dig a little deeper into what makes you "you," whether that be celebrating a cultural heritage, staying abreast of the latest trends, or just rocking a rad pair of jeans you came across at Clothes Mentor. I'm not sure I'll be seen in a kilt any time soon, but long skirts and weather-beaten jeans may be enough of a functional, and fashionable, prairie style to fit me for the moment.

Be stylish -- be yourself.

Ann Crews Melton is a writer and editor who lives in Bismarck. She is a direct descendant of Pocahontas, Clan Mackay of Scotland and a bunch of debtors and scalawags who came through Georgia to Texas.