I’ve been thinking a lot about clothing and style lately. Your clothes are the way you deliver a message to the world around you. “This is who I am.” So many times I see clothes on women I love and think: YES. THAT OUTFIT IS EXACTLY HER. I could shop for these women. I see stuff out and about and think: Colleen would rock that dress. Or Chelsea would LURVE those earrings Or Lisa would totally buy that top! Clothing is like your moment to quickly introduce yourself to the world and I just find it SO FASCINATING when it’s done well, when a person’s clothing really reflects themselves. It’s an amazing thing and I love that so many of the women in my life have such unique styles that are beautiful and personal to them.
I only think I’m successful in dressing myself in that way once in a blue moon.
I spent 12 years going to a school that had a uniform. During that time I was also raised by a man who had
A) No interest in clothing or style beyond function AND
B) No understanding of why other people would care about such things.
This meant that a few times a year we hit up this weird Goody’s Warehouse store (Goody’s originated in Knoxville where I grew up, I don’t think those stores were anywhere else) for outfits for specific purposes and events. We always needed a few church outfits because we went to church and because on the rare days we were allowed out of uniform at school, it had to be church clothes. I had a crapton of hand-me-downs but they rarely fit right because I was short and my friends and family were all tall. And I think we hit up Kmart for the summer clothes that we needed every year since our summer day care did not have a uniform.
(Sidenote: We did have field trip t-shirts we had to wear. One year they had big neon green frogs on them that said “Jesus Makes Me Hoppy”. I was 12 and plenty old enough to understand that hitting up the water park in that thing was not going to win me any cool points.)
My point? From birth to age 15 or 16 I had no concept of shopping or clothing or personal style. By the time I was 15 or 16 I would at least start asking for specific articles of clothing for birthdays and Christmas. I got a “LIMITED” sweatshirt one year. And a “rugby” shirt one year. I also begged…BEGGED…for this ruffle white shirt (ruffles on sleeves and color) for a dance. I basically saw things my friends wore to school, asked them where they got them, and gave my Dad specific instructions in how to buy that thing for me for a birthday or Christmas.
It was never EXACTLY right. The rugby shirt was not a “Coca-Cola” one like I wanted. The Vuarnet t-shirt was from the girls section so it wasn’t the cool one like all the other kids had. I didn’t know the difference enough to have been specific to tell Dad “boys section” when I told him what store to go to. But he tried.
My senior year I started making my own money working at a catering company and started buying my own clothes. But I still didn’t really know HOW to shop or find clothes I liked. I never quit hit the mark, usually just floundered around “grunge” or “goth” but still always looked a little bit awkward in all of it. I would see this cool girl at school wearing combat boots so I shopped around at the mall until I thought I found them but they were not quite right because I didn’t know the brand “Doc Martens” yet. I didn’t understand brands at all probably until my 20s.
I tell you all of this because, if you grew up with parents who took you shopping periodically, like at the change of seasons or something – you don’t realize how much that gave you in terms of understanding clothing and fashion and style. Nikki and Wes both have their own sense of style. We give them $100 at the change of season for clothes (Nikki is going to need an increase as she’s moving to the “Juniors” section now) and they go to Target or Old Navy and pick out what they want. They walk around, try stuff on etc. There’s something about that process that helps you understand fit and style that I didn’t develop probably until my 30s.
When I was in college I spent too much time making note of what people wore. I had this distinct feeling that everyone had a “style” and that they never strayed from that. I didn’t have such a thing and felt like my wardrobe was a hodgepodge of weird phases from the last few years. I had polyester dresses from the “Thrift Store” phase which I would wear with fishenets and Doc Martens. I had long flowing skirts from the Hippie phase which I would wear with my Birkenstocks. I wore baggy jeans with my Addidas skater shoes. I wore concert t-shirts. I had North Face hiking pants from my Camping/Hiking phase – which was probably a constant thread through all of my life. I just never felt like I had a specific style which meant I always felt like I was walking around in someone else’s clothing and that every day I looked like a completely different person.
I remember REALLY struggling after college putting together outfits for work. I hit up the Goody’s in Huntsville (Old habits die hard) and tried my best to find work clothes that matched my personality, but I still was so freakin’ clueless about how to shop and piece together outfits and…well…it was a challenge.
Hell – even now I struggle. I needed an outfit recently because I don’t fit into a lot of my old stuff. So, I pieced together something at Target that was a little more “trendy” than I usually go. I usually buy pieces that I can still wear in a few years. I adored the outfit and Nikki FREAKED OUT about it. She loved it! And I felt good in it. And I thought, Oh yeah. You can buy clothes that are interesting and stylish too sometimes. I get so worried about longevity in clothing I forget that sometimes the trendier items can be fun and more personal and therefore make you feel better about yourself.
I think clothing is amazing. No matter what your body type, there’s an outfit out there that will make you feel FLAWLESS. And I find that walking out the door feeling like you look AMAZING can do wonders to your attitude and mood throughout the day. I’m just still not good at figuring out how to find that clothing when I want to buy it. I basically buy 85% of my stuff at Target.
So, if you periodically give your kids a budget to let them shop for their own clothes…know that you’re teaching them valuable life lessons that this 41-year old women still has yet to learn. I still feel awkward in my own clothes some days. And still don’t really understand how fashion works.