That's not to say I don't like to play dress up. Quite the opposite. Have you seen my shoe collection? I pretty much need to rent the T.A.R.D.I.S. just to find room for all of them.
Anyway, I think I first became interested in fashion through the influence of my Aunt Marianne. To my ten-year-old self, she seemed intensely fashionable. She always smelled pleasantly of exotic perfumes, wore expertly applied make-up that flattered her skin tone, and dressed in the funky fashions of the 80s and early 90s. She seemed the exact opposite of my Chic jeans-sporting madre. Mom wore the same Cover Girl foundation and thin coat of mascara that she'd worn for years. You know the kind of girl - Blistex instead of lipstick. And even then, only when necessary. In fact, this past February, after she'd passed away and I had the chance to look through Mom's belongings, guess what I found? Yeah. So, naturally, Aunt Marianne fascinated me. Someday, I wanted to be the Glamorous Aunt. Even if I never had nieces or nephews of my own!
In high school, I desperately wanted to have a body type different than my short, stocky frame. At that time (the mid 1990's), "curvy" had not yet been recognized as a marketable body type by fashion designers, and the concept of "juniors' sizing" was still long off, so I was stuck in mens' shirts and jeans. In college I tried in every way humanly possible to look like a member of the crowd. I wore clogs and flare-leg jeans, blow-dried my wavy hair, made my make-up as natural-looking as possible.
Thing was, as a plus-sized petite girl, it wasn't easy to have a "style" all your own. You were - and, in some ways, still are - assigned one. Apparently, if you reach a certain size, designers must assume that you have (1) given up on your appearance or (2) never cared about it to begin with. You're given minimal choices in regards to the pattern and cut of your clothes. and undergarments, for the record.
A few years ago, I started to fight back. I didn't realize I was doing it, of course. In fact, I was fighting myself as much as I was fighting the "fashion system". Yeah, it's an institution, same as the government or education. I'd even go so far as to say there's a level of indoctrination happening, considering how closely that fashion and media are linked. I mean, they're in bed together. Each feeds the other in a vicious cycle that usually involved making women of all races, shapes and ages feel somehow "less than" the others.
I weighed around 158 pounds after my first miscarriage (only 10 pounds less than my heaviest weight). Trust me, I felt ugly in every way possible at that point in my life. I guess maybe it was a boost in one area, though. Maybe I was looking for some way to express myself, but, in spite of my weight, I did something that changed my life forever.
I tried on a pair of skinny jeans. I broke my unspoken rule: no skinny, no eighties. Ever. (Except the music. And some movies. Just not the clothes. Ever.) Only God himself knows why I did it, but, shockingly...they were comfortable. They looked...okay. Not amazing, but not bad, either.
Little by little, I reached out to test the waters of current trends (mostly this revisiting the 80s thing everyone's throwing on the racks). I disregarded my body type and all the "rules" associated with it. You curvy girls out there, you feel me, right? No boxy tops, no midi-skirts, no necklaces that hit mid-bust (yes, I read that one somewhere).
And guess what I've learned?
1. I rock skinny jeans. Yes, I've lost almost 16 pounds so far this year - which feels great! - but I was rocking them before I lost the weight.
2. I don't need to embrace every trend I try - but I don't need to be afraid of any, either. (For example, this neon thing? Not really for me. In small doses, like on my fingertips, is fine, but I'm not all about this sherbet-colored maxi-dress thing.)
3. Question fashion's "rules" and the reasoning behind them. Now, listen. I'm a conservative girl. I'm a by-the-book Christian. I try to follow the rules at work. I am a stickler for the speed limit (usually). I'm all for rules. Call me old-fashioned. Call me lame, but I believe that rules exist to keep order.
That being said...how is my wearing the "right" shape of sunglasses for my round face keeping any type of "order"? Is the American gold standard going to drop again if I wear last season's shade of teal instead of this year's mint?
Always, always, always question the "rules" of fashion. Some things are certainly "classic" and there's nothing wrong with that. But just because a magazine editor suggested that your body type should avoid a certain cut of jeans, guess what? Who cares? That editor knows nothing of your personality, your activity level, your favorite color, your budget. Consider those articles a launching point - not a rule book. Honestly, if I'd paid attention to the "advice" offered in Cosmo, Seventeen, and Allure, I wouldn't have half of my wardrobe now! I'd be wearing mostly black, and all my dresses would be done in small prints, with a mock-wrap belt. Plus, I wouldn't be rocking the bangs and long layers I have cut into my hair (which I am still getting compliments on, six months later, thank you very much).
And I wouldn't have the confidence to start posting my own #ootd pictures. Because you know something? Those magazines are not designed to inspire a healthy body image in anyone. When I stopped lusting after an airbrushed body, when I stopped speaking negative things about my own body, when I started wanting to lose weight for my health and not to "look hot", things started to happen. I started to change from the inside out. I started bending the rules of fashion, then breaking them. Now I ignore them altogether.
Dangit, I might even wear white after Labor Day this year.
I am such a rebel.