Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fashion Victim Seeks Muse

There was a brief moment in time when I thought I was particularly fashionable, and I think that my hormone-induced hallucination ended sometime around my senior year in high school. Of course, perception is everything. I, most likely, was not all that fashionable at that time, either. Now, I have arrived at what I think might be the low point of my coolness or classiness: the point when you are so un-concerned with your looks that fashion becomes a burden and a seemingly annoying expense.

When I was very little, somewhere between seven and nine years old, I remember an emerging sense that what I wore mattered. In fact, I can pinpoint an exact moment when color and style occurred to me as something to consider when getting dressed. It happened at our family cabin, when my friend Jill and I were getting dressed in the morning. I was putting my hair in a ponytail, and I think I asked her opinion on how it looked. Her comment was that my hair band did not match my outfit. Match my outfit? Wha? Huh? That thought had truly never crossed my young mind. I think I was forever changed. Never again would I just slap on a hair pony without thinking.

At that time of my life, my sister was a teenager. Strangely, although I know she had typical teen-fashion freak-outs (her shiny red Wisconsin jacket, her white laceless Keds sneakers, her Molly Ringwald sweaters), it didn’t affect me. I remember more clearly what my mom wore (things that didn’t match, no makeup, anything handed down from anywhere, often things that had way passed their prime). And it’s likely my mom’s sensibilities about fashion have informed my own. I think that what I wear should be comfortable. Ironing is a pain. Makeup is expensive and takes too much time to put on. Heels are painful to wear. Not to say that my mother looked bad, she just didn’t really give a damn. I have to respect her for that.

Into my own teen years, I had very clear ideas about fashion. Early on, I remember my friend Sonya creating a "How We Look Book" and we dreamed about being fashion designers. I have vivid memories of getting dressed in my powder-blue pre-teen bedroom, which I was slowly converting to my "goth den" complete with subway-sized Robert Smith poster. I would open my copy of Sassy magazine on the bed and carefully pull items out of my closet to emulate what I saw on the page.

There was the era when I had my hair in corn rows. There were years of baggy "raver" pants. I cut my hair like Winona Ryder and dyed it a stream of colors. Sonya dyed hers with Kool-Aid. I shaved my hair except for a tail. I wore fishnets. I had cut off overalls just like a farmer. We all wore flight jackets. We all wore those Chinese slipper Mary Jane shoes, and Doc Martens. They were fun times. I loved thinking about fashion, fooling around with it, and sometimes being noticed for it, in good and bad ways.

Right now, I find it frustrating to go shopping. For the most part, I get dressed and go to work. Business casual. What does that mean, anyway? Jeans are out. Sweatshirts are out. I’m pretty sure pajamas are out. So what’s a girl to wear? Especially during these long winter months when sometimes it’s below zero when I walk to the bus, or there’s a half foot of snow to be tromped through?

I often wish that I could type in my measurements to a computer program, and add a few things about styles and colors I like, and a wardrobe would arrive at my house. There would be nice, black pants that don’t need to be dry-cleaned. I wouldn’t have to have them hemmed up. Maybe a few sweaters, not too hot, not too itchy, not to turtlenecky. Shoes…what kind of shoes would arrive? I love my Dansko's, my Birkenstock boots, but when I see the other "fashionable" adults walking around downtown where I work, they all have these cute pointy heels. Nothing would ever need ironing, and my husband couldn’t possibly shrink any of it by putting it through the dryer on high. The stuff would last forever, never fade, wrinkle, shrink, rip or stain. Does anyone know if such a service exists? Please tell me it does, and it only costs $10.

I guess what I’m saying is that I just lost the magic somewhere along the way. I lost the time and energy to care. Money, too, has become different to me, now that there are home repairs and craft supplies, gifts, and baby stuff to pay for. Call me stingy, and you’d probably be right. But more often I feel like I’m blowing wads of cash on stuff. Is there a way I can stack myself up against other women, to see how I’m doing with my fashion budget?

So I guess this is my call to the world and myself. Help. Me. How can I get back on track? What are the recovering fashion slob steps? Are there ways to merge a work wardrobe with a casual, sittin’ around with a six-month-old wardrobe? How is it done? How is it paid for? What does it look like?


Granny said...

Remember those clothes I wore way back then??? Still wearing them!


Anonymous said...


You were much more fashionable than the average teen. Of that I'm certain.

Oh man!! I have like a billion photos of us in your basement doing fashion shows in fancy tights and our tight stretchy dresses with blazers over them! Too bad they're all in Wisconsin! Arg!

I have no memory of this "How We Look Book" It sounds hilarious.

I feel very frustrated with fashion most of the time too. It's a bit overwhelming, and then they just change the rules on you all the time so you're suppose to go out and re-buy your entire wardrobe.
I think you must never go *shopping* just to shop for cloths. My strategy is to just notice things when I'm out and about, and if I see something I love along the way, then I get it, and just slowly build what I wear based on things that have no expiration date for me. At home I just wear whatever, and when I leave the house, even to just go to the store, I just throw on one of those items I love mixed with some other things, and I always feel I've made a bit of effort, and then I don't feel too slug-like.

I think the fabric you were talking about may be polyester??

jensmith98 said...


You are no victim - you look great! I loved all of your outfits when I visited you in Dec and even admired your closet on the 2nd floor.

I've sunk so low in my fashion sensibilities that I wear my yoga clothes everywhere. There was once a What Not to Wear episode devoted to a yoga teacher who did the same thing. Yikes!

And I have another confession - I love the maternity clothes you gave me. The jeans are actually more stylish than the jeans I already own. How sad is that? All of my friends with children over the age of 10 are so jealous because they could only wear overalls and giant tent dresses back in the day.


Granny said...

Sonya, I have some of those photos AND video. I am saving it for blackmail purposes someday!

Pumpkin Girl's mom

Anonymous said...

Yes! I want to see them! ha!