It wasn’t the fuchsia hair in the 80s. That, fortunately, was entirely temporary.
It wasn’t the feather boas – sought and found. (Still have them. Still wear them.)
Might my finest fashion faux-pas consist of the platform sneakers back in college – not intended for track but when goaded to jog a mile all the same – I took the dare and “ran” with it?
Heartbreak Hill? Try Heartbreak Heels!
At least they weren’t my strappy stilettos…
Compared to the Monster Shoes we’ve seen in recent years, my Not-So-Nikes hardly merit a minor mention. Nor did they match my midis or minis, anymore than they did those horrid hot pants, a tawdry trend the “tail end” of which I caught – and thankfully in which I rarely indulged.
Our fashion fails? Our wearable wonders that are anything but? Don’t they pave the way for a more secure style even as they leave a trail of missteps – some still tagged and bagged and hanging in the closet?
Naturally, we also log the I Hate It Already Haircuts, and makeover moves that convey Geek when we’re going for Chic.
And on that note, all Erica Kane veils and plumage aside, wide-brimmed hats do nothing for WORDS – also known as Women Of Really Diminutive Stature!
When setting out to identify my (hopefully) fleeting fashion follies – as teachable moments I will add – I approached the task as a lighthearted exercise. Stumbling through style would make me smile, recalling the days with few cares and yes, dares!
Anticipating the sublime to the ridiculous, especially as my wardrobe benefited from the Spoils of a Once Corporate Life, I rummaged through snapshots that make me grin at the “stuff” I was in. Yet also in store – an emerging self – and more consistent threads than imagined.
What do I observe in revisiting this past?
I see a sense of humor.
A hankering for adventure.
I see a female chameleon as I change careers and countries, and to a lesser degree, as I refashion myself for roles in relationships, offering their lessons and exacting their tolls.
I see a flair for the dramatic especially in college – oh, those long cold nights of study, and the bold lengths to which I would go to make friends laugh!
Surely I wasn’t the only one channeling Elvira…
I see a symphony of black on black as my prevailing color scheme, and classic styles – because we think we look thinner.
I note a winner in preference for the fitted skirt and oversize jacket to tame the curves – once again bearing witness to the common compulsion of avoiding anything that makes us “look fat.”
And that is where I stop to take it all in – less a tale of taste than waste – a sorrowful, lifelong struggle with weight – unnecessarily painful – reflected in decades of fashion dos and fashion don’ts, not to mention the “won’ts” when it comes to years of No Photographs At All, because I stubbornly refused to allow them to be taken.
Women and Body Image
I see the roller coaster ride from a healthy, normal weight as a child to thirty years of dramatic fluctuations – the fat fake-out in our heads keeping us far from lovers’ beds. And while landing at a comfortable size 10 only to balloon after giving birth, I know the grueling fight back through girth to a self I could admire.
The exception to those years were periods during which I lived in France. Then, not only did my wardrobe streamline (and thus improve), but food was no longer the Mortal Enemy. Instead I ate and savored. I dressed and savored. I “lived my life” – flavored with the usual ups and downs – and for the most part, yes, I savored.
Among the Polaroids I uncovered were some of me at 92 pounds, courtesy of the ravages of the Divorce Diet. Surprise, Surprise. At the time I was convinced that I looked terrific, placed at last in a position to compete – confident, competent, and an attractive woman.
Now? I see a gaunt face, sadness in the eyes, and a body that appears in its skin and bones to have been hit by illness rather than embraced by opportunity.
Sure, the selection of clothes was great, lighter and brighter colors more evident though still the signature style choices I always preferred. And heels – pardon the expression – more than ever, at the ready. But the painted smile and Zero-Size Style barely cover a most unfashionable reality: loss, fear, and disorientation.
The years that follow reveal vulnerability in the faces of my little boys, innocence in their approach to the world, and tenderness in my own countenance. The sparkle they possessed was stripped away for awhile, but returned with play, care, and time. Loving our children may never erase our hurts, but they surely ease them in significant ways.
I will mention that I still adore hats as do my kids; we’ve availed ourselves of the joys of an ample arsenal of helmets, fedoras, berets, and sombreros. And no, I don’t display my millinery madness in all its glory. And my addiction to shoes?
That’s another story and clearly not news. With more than enough to attest to my best foot forward, must I confess to this beloved affliction?
I know myself to be more grounded – here and now. No longer do I chase the elusive promise of a body I could never possess; I do not obsess, and I try not to covet.
Instead I am comfortable in my maturing albeit loosening skin, and at a healthier, more stable, and sustainable size. Might I add that all in all it’s a peaceful arrival?
Through the numerous images I browsed, some outfits could surely hold their own and others (thankfully) were quickly retired. Yet I’m pleased to see a consistent commitment to quality: better one well-made, properly tailored item than ten that are shabbily constructed and fit poorly.
I also concede a distinct love affair with style that reflects a need for creative expression, shifting priorities, and a gradual self-discovery process that continues to unfold in the passion of living fully.
As for the rest, I know there is healing in giving to those I love. There is always healing in giving – and might I suggest – it’s always in fashion.
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This is part of a coordinated writing exercise on our fashion faux-pas as part of Generation Fabulous.