As I've mentioned in my previous few posts, I was visiting my family down in Jersey last week, and while I was there I went through several boxes of old photographs. As I looked through this collection of moments in my life, one thing became abundantly clear: I am, and always have been, woefully unfashionable.
These days, I tend to stick to what I've come to think of as my SAHM "uniform" - sweaters and jeans or cords with wool socks and clogs or boots in the winter, long-sleeved t-shirts and jeans or pants with clogs or boots in the spring and fall, short-sleeved t-shirts and capris or shorts with Birks or flip-flops in the summer. I wear appropriate clothing to church (skirts, dresses, sometimes even heels) and if the occasion demands it (social functions for Hubby's work, etc). I know I'm not trendy or hip, and I don't particularly care, since I'm not really trying to be "in" these days. I dress in what is comfortable and practical for my lifestyle, and it works for me.
Earlier in my life, however, I did care more about fashion. I tried very hard to be hip and trendy, to look hot and therefore be cool. Tried, and failed, it seems, for decades upon decades. Looking through the evidence of my lifetime of fashion don'ts, my overwhelming unpopularity among the cooler crowd is suddenly making sense.
Shall we have a photo retrospective to illustrate my point?
This is my third grade class picture. We had just moved to our new home in NJ and I started third grade a few weeks into the start of the year. I was a year younger than my classmates, from a small, upstate NY town that was light years behind the much "faster" and more mature culture of the tri-state area, and I was smart. Really smart, and bookish and talkative and without meaning to be, an instant teacher's favorite. I also was wearing glasses (though not all the time yet, just for distance things like reading the blackboard), and I lived on a working sheep farm in the middle of an increasingly developed, suburban community. Only one other kid in my grade lived on a farm, and he wasn't exactly the epitome of coolness either. My parents tended to fall on the conservative end of the spectrum, and furthermore didn't believe in the "importance" of having all the latest and greatest things. While I did have some teeth in my mouth again (the previous year, I'd had twelve pulled during an overnight stay in the hospital, including all my top and bottom front teeth. The hanging-down threads of the stitches were the only things protruding from my gums for a couple months there that year), the teeth I had were wonky and screaming out for orthodontic intervention, which they soon received in the form of every appliance known to modern dentistry as well as six years of braces. When you add all the above factors up and then look at my fashion choices, it is no wonder that I spent the next three years in abject, mostly friendless misery, followed by a junior high and senior high experience that definitely did not find me running with the "in" crowd or sitting at the "cool kids" table in the cafeteria.
You think I kid? Check out the following year:
This was my most favorite dress, ever as a child. I thought of it as my Laura Ingalls dress. I adored it and would wear it to school whenever my mother would let me. With knee socks and Mary Janes. This is the late 70s now, mind you, when tight designer jeans and long, feathered hair were in vogue. Not whatever I had going on on top of my head and the Little House on the Prairie look. This was the last year I only was a part-time Four Eyes, and I'm fairly certain I was holding my retainers in my other hand.
Speaking of the farm, here I am in a casual moment, sometime around 1980 or '81. While I'd like to give myself points for having a shirt with my name on it (if memory serves, my mom ironed the fuzzy letters on herself), I'm fairly certain the rainbow sneakers kill any chance of coolness the outfit might've had. Also, those were either Lee or Wranglers jeans, not Jordache or Sergio Valente.
Let's skip ahead into the formative teenage years now, shall we?
Here I am in high school. Freshman year, I think. This was taken at Christmas (at my aunt and uncle's house - my parents never had that color shag carpeting on the farm), and my outfit of choice? A red, polyester blouse with a red and black bowtie, black sweater vest with a white argyle-esque print, a white skirt (with pockets! that I used!) and oddly orange-toned pantyhose. (I believe those were my favored "suntan" color hose by No Nonsense, which was a sad case of me believing the marketing. I really should've stuck with the "nude" color.) Tell me, what 13 year old dresses like this voluntarily? I remember, once again, thinking I looked good.
It really was downhill throughout the 80s.
This is me on vacation with my family at Disney World, spring break of my sophomore year. I don't know where to begin here. The dark indigo Lee jeans poorly pegged at the ankle, the purple t-shirt under the pastel, striped, short-sleeved jacket, the hair, the earrings, the sunglasses, oh dear Lord, the sunglasses.
The only good thing that can be said for this period was that I hadn't yet begun the Big Perm phase of my later teenage years (which was the sequel to my Big Perm tween years). That came the following year...........
This was a publicity shot for one of the shows I was in during high school. (What? Of course I was a theater geek, to go with the music geek and literary magazine geek and co-president of the Spanish Club......) My hair was too big to fit into the frame, y'all. (Also, that is a zit, not a Cindy Crawford wanna-be "beauty mark" there by my mouth, beautiful.) I remember being disappointed that I didn't have some of my larger earrings in that day, as we were all just grabbed when possible by the teacher who made up the cast board with the photos. What you're mercifully missing in this picture due to its lack of color is my eye makeup and lipstick, which were both always loud (remember that dayglo blue mascara? Owned it, wore it, LOVED it. Also dayglo green. With even louder, neon-er eye shadow and liner to match), and also my hair, which by that point I'd lightened to a strange sort of orangey-red by using chamomile soap. (Color photos of that color and further enlightenment as to my lifetime of being a fashion don't can be found here.) At least I was out of braces by then, so my teeth were no longer a wonky nightmare. The frosted, ice-pink lipstick I preferred in high school set them off so well...
Here's another one from high school. This appears to have been taken at my sister's Confirmation, which means she was in 8th grade and I was therefore a junior in high school. (Side note: the older gentleman to the right of the frame is my late grandfather, who lived with us following my grandmother's death until his own death a few years later. *sniff*) Please ignore the face I'm making as I'm about to inhale a piece of post-church service refreshments, and just let me point out the white pants with black pinstripes. I loved those pants. Loved them. Here's the thing: I wore those year-round because hey, they're white but they had black in them, too! Seriously - look:
See me there? That was taken in January. Yep, the same white, light cotton pants with a black turtleneck, white stockings and black shoes and I was good to go. At least when I was wearing them in church that day the previous summer, they were seasonally appropriate, even if the black belt didn't tie the outfit together quite as much as I thought, nor did it go with the white purse or heels. I had a particular fondness for that sweater, as it was one of only two Benetton clothing items I owned. I cringe to admit that I wore that sweater well into the 90s, too. Oh, if you look closely at the first photo, you'll see some of my favored collection of silver rings. I wore rings on every finger, including my thumbs. If you look really closely, you'll see the "spoon handle" ring on my one finger - it was made of two welded-together spoon handles and it was huge. It would pinch my hand when I played piano and leave me with some nasty blood blisters, as would a few of my (many) silver bracelets. (No, I would not take them off just to spare myself the wounds. You have to be willing to suffer for fashion, right?)
I could go on - sadly, there are hundreds more photo examples of why Tim Gunn will never, ever be my BFF - but I'll leave you with one, last picture to prove that I've always been fashionably hopeless: