Women in Clothes

I am savoring this book, doling out a little at a time for myself. However much I like the book, though, it is nothing in comparison to how much I LOVE hearing people I know talk about this stuff. So I now want everyone I know to respond to the survey. Thank you, D, for being the first.

Like D, I have only answered the questions that I find interesting:
2. Do you notice women on the street?
Absolutely. I notice and admire many of the women I see, but I am also incredibly judgmental. However, I have found that the older I get, the more I am likely to find things to like about other women’s clothes than to dislike.

4. Was there a moment in your life when something “clicked” for you about fashion or dressing or make-up or hair?
There was a moment maybe five or six years ago when I realized that I had a vision of myself as this very cool rock and roll dressing girl, but this vision of myself had no basis in reality. Like, in high school and college, I made sure that you could look at me and know, “oh, she’s obsessed with Minor Threat.” And I held on to that vision of my reputation in spite of the fact that I was gradually starting to dress in a way that no longer announced my taste for subcultural music. It’s taken me years, but I think that I’ve finally been able to make peace with the fact that nobody would ever be able to look at me and know what music I like. The fact that it took so long for me to stop wanting constant validation for my taste in music is really embarrassing.

8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, etc.?
I WISH! The only thing that unifies my life is my constant search for a unified approach, which I naively believe will be the solution to all of my problems.

11. Is there any fashion trend that you’ve refused to participate in?
All of them. For most of my teenage and adult life, I’ve been very contrarian when it comes to fashion (see #4). I feel bad about this, like I’ve wasted a bunch of time that I could have been using to develop a good eye/taste.

14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?
When I got pregnant with my first son, I was really disappointed with the maternity options available to me. I couldn’t afford any of the really nice maternity stuff that Cup of Jo blogs about, and I got too big to just take the “wear slightly bigger versions of your wardrobe approach.” So I ended up wearing a whole lot of basic-ass clothes I never would have been caught dead in before. But to me, it was okay because it was such a short amount of time. What I didn’t realize is that (in my case) after giving birth, I was a) still huge for quite some time and b) nursing constantly and thus in need of tops that could be easily lifted/stretched/etc. I hadn’t yet weaned my first son when I got pregnant with my second, so I’m still trucking along in a bunch of clothes I don’t really like. I haven’t worn my favorite dress in three years, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to wear it again.

12. How has your mother’s body and style been passed down to you?
I have my mother’s exact body. I can tell that I am going to have her precise shape when I am her age. I am kind of okay with this. I think I might have her myopia when it comes to knowing what clothes suit my body. I am not okay with this.

50. Do you ever wish you were a man or could dress like a man or had a man’s body? Was there ever a time in the past?
When I was a teenager, I used to be jealous of the way that men could look so cool so easily. My best friend and I used to lament that it took so much time and effort for us to dress ourselves, but that men could basically wear the same great outfit day in and day out. All of that was very tied to my misogyny, and my belief that only a select few women could ever be as cool as guys. Super embarrassed that I ever felt this way.

80. How does money fit into all this?
For me, money has always colored every single choice I make about clothing. Because I grew up lower-middle class, new clothes were considered a treat, not a necessity. I remember being humiliated in the fourth grade when a boy made fun of me for wearing the same Guess t-shirt every other day for the whole school year. Until that boy said anything about it, I always felt really rich when I wore that shirt, because it was the only name-brand thing I’d ever been allowed to get. And though my parents never discussed it with me, I knew that even these occasional purchases were made with money we really didn’t have. From about age 8-15, I hated malls because they always made me feel ashamed, guilty and insecure. Even as an adult who controls the purse strings, I feel and have felt guilty every single time I spend money on clothes. This semester, I am teaching at a small liberal arts school where a vast majority of the students are very, very wealthy. Most of my students dress so much better than I do, and they seem to have this ease about their clothes that I am very jealous of. Money anxieties bleed into every time I have to get dressed to teach, because it takes me a million years to find a new combination for the same few pieces of shitty clothing. I am convinced that if my entire wardrobe weren’t from Target*, I’d be able to just throw anything on and it would look great. I have never been able to not worry about money when it comes to clothes. This makes me feel sorry for myself, but that’s dumb because in comparison to most of the world, and really, most of America, I am very privileged when it comes to clothes-buying.

*Minus a very nice top from Zara, thanks to D.


3 thoughts on “Women in Clothes

  1. I want to hear everyone’s response to these questions too! Your point about the money stuff is heart wrenching and huge. I feel like the majority of culture around fashion acts like money is not even a part of how people dress and then when magazines or blogs have a “Dress for Less” section it is even more depressing because it is all H&M. I’m curious how your anxieties about dressing/money have changed in different settings. Is it more stressful to not have money to spend on clothes in a big city or a small town? New York is ambivalent for me. The stores stress me out because I feel longing for what I can’t have and at the same time I am constantly surrounded by really inventive poor people who are doing all kinds of amazing things with no money. Much more so than when I lived in less dense cities.

  2. You know, you’re right–there’s a lot less pressure living in a small town, regardless of the rich college students. Actually, I feel a lot less pressure outside of graduate school, too, because I’m no longer surrounded by the poor, but insanely creative dressers that have apparently all moved to your neighborhood.

    Not that you need to, but do you ever feel like you could copy the thrifty ones? Because I feel like those people lack money but have the privilege of being magically able to make a Micky Mouse sweater from Goodwill look super-fashiony.

  3. Pingback: 2014 Gift Guide | ladies of habit

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