Thursday, November 30, 2006

I've come a long way baby.

What a strange power there is in clothing.
~Isaac Bashevis Singer

I wasn't like this in high school. Back then I really didn't care how I looked. My wardrobe at that time was strictly limited to tennis, jeans, t-shirts and glittery tops. (Hey, they were stylish in those days. And I could have worn worse.)

Fashionably coordinated? What does that mean? In high school, I wasn't even physically or emotionally coordinated. But everything goes with jeans, right?

Although I wasn't alone in my apparel choices, I really didn't fit in there. In high school. Fashionably speaking. Or otherwise for that matter.

Most of the students were izod collar flipping, khaki wearing, clog shuffling preppies. But well, it was an uptown New Orleans, garden district school. They belonged. I was the outsider. You could see it at a glance.

Fashion is what you adopt when you don't know who you are.
~Quentin Crisp

I supposed I could have bought similar clothes. Adapted to the styles. But I just wasn't into following the crowd. Not me. Not then. Not now. But for a while there... in between... well, read on.

And I was naive. Really naive. I didn't believe that some people were so superficial they would judge you on not just your general appearance but down to the brands you wore. Hah. Was I ever wrong.

So they didn't give me a chance. I didn't fit in from the very beginning. Was never accepted. Was practically shunned. Even if I had wanted to change my look, it was too late. I was already labeled irregular.

All sales final. No exchanges or returns.

But I learned. Four years of lessons. So, I used college to start over - changing my style to attempt to belong, right from the beginning. If only on the outside. No one there knew the old me or my old sense of fashionable stylishness. Or should I say stylish-LESS.

Fashion can be bought. Style one must possess.
~Edna Woolman Chase

I got the look. The small private college look. Head to toe prep. Buttoned down oxford-cloth and polos. Top-siders and penny loafers. Ray-bans and pearls. Yes, I wore pearls to class. Can you friggin' believe it?

I stopped wearing jeans completely. I had matching purse covers to coordinate with my wool skirts. I shunned backpacks for tapestry totebags in which to haul my books. I owned, and even worse, actually wore, Duck Shoes.

Despite my efforts to try to fit in, this backfired. I had a new label to deal with. Now by all appearances, and because I was shy, I was looked upon as a snobby preppy. Bitch even. (remember this post? ) I had to work even harder to overcome my new image. Change who I was from the inside out.

Distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes.
~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Moving on to grad school, I loosened up. Different atmosphere at a large university. At least at this one. Less prep, more au-courant. Hard to fit in when you've attended small exclusive schools for most of your educational career. And I don't just mean fashionably. It was all in the attitude.

But this time, I really didn't care. I suppose that was my attitude as I came into my own style. Did my own thing. Oh sure, I appreciated the lessons of the past. But now I felt free to choose from what worked the best for me.

I still valued and wore the traditional looks. But now I threw in an odd detail. An unique feature. Or two. Sometimes three. Something that defined ME.

Wild earrings. Cool pins. Bright splashes of color. Mixed in with the classic styles I had come to love. Sometimes one step ahead of the trends. For years, bordering on Bohemian. Making them all my own. My outside was now reflecting my inside.

Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.

I like to look nice. Pulled together. Always coordinated. Down to my socks. Even on a tight budget.

A jacket worn over a t-shirt or tank cranks it up a notch. Classic pieces become worthy investments. Fads are reflected in the expendable accessories. It is all in the details.

I've become more comfortable in skirts than pants. In fact, years later, when I was working and the company adopted the casual Friday concept, I had to go buy jeans to wear.

I prefer to wear Birkenstocks. I don't even own sneakers. Not one pair.

I embrace natural fibers. Silks, cottons, linen. I'm glitter free. Well, except for the occasional sparkly lips.

I've come a long way from high school and disco shirts, although I still stand out. Fashion-wise and other-wise. But in a good way, no?

The truly fashionable are beyond fashion.
~Cecil Beaton


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