Growing up, I spent summers poring over Seventeen magazine plotting how I would re-invent myself for the start of the new school year. Different hair? More make-up? New clothes?
Inevitably though, come September I was the same old me, lacking the cojones to put myself out there. For some reason, even though I thought most of my classmates were morons, I wanted to impress them.
In my late teens I discovered new wave, punk and otherwise "alternative" music and I began to relish being different. (Being different by being part of a group of people being different...follow?)
I also discovered the thrill of thrift store shopping and started to dress more "alternatively."
Back then, I was not all that picky. If it was cool, or had the potential to be cool, I snapped it up, regardless of the fit or how it might work in my wardrobe (such as it was). I dressed a little funky, and on special occasions I could put it together, but I'm not sure I ever really developed a true, personal sense of style.
At the same time I was very shy and afraid of looking foolish. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but I think any funkiness I indulged in was within certain parameters of established funkiness. I gravitated toward solid-colored tops. Nothing form-fitting. Nothing button-down. Few accessories. Kind of a boring, take-no-chances funky.
(Man, I'm loving this hair. The eighties were awesome.)
In my early twenties I started nannying and my daily wardrobe went a bit downhill. I got lazy. There was no point in dressing up, since no one really saw me but the kids and their parents. I saved skirts, dresses, tights and cool shoes for the nights I went out to see bands. Clothing I was hesitant to wear for fear it would make me stand out or look silly went even deeper underground, becoming something "special" I rarely wore.
Then I had Henry. For the first six months, during his infant spitting-up phase, I wore fleece pullovers from L.L.Bean (helpful new mama hint: liquid wipes right off fleece, saving multiple changes of clothes a day). Not pretty, but warm and practical. My hair was in a funky (in a bad way) growing-out stage and make-up became even more non-existent than before.
Lately, I've been trying a little harder. Now that Henry's older and I have more time and space for myself, I realize that I want to be stylish. I want to be more daring. I want to know that everything in my closet is flattering and nicely constructed and goes with other things I own. I want to look put-together. I want to be a bit funky and cool, even though I'm thirty-seven and I have no idea if the kids are using those words these days.
So. I have a plan. Beginning in March, I will go through every item of clothing I own. I'm starting with sweaters and pants, since it's still damn cold here in Wisconsin and skirts may be more do-able in April. Maybe.
I plan on evaluating each piece to make sure it really fits and is in decent condition, de-pilling and sending off for alterations when necessary. I'll be a bit more daring, putting pieces together even if I'm not totally sure they work, taking photos of each outfit for more objective judgment. When I'm done I hope to feel good about my clothes and to have come up with actual outfits and not just disparate pieces I throw together at the last minute.
My hair is a more difficult case. I've been cursed with baby-fine, thin hair, and although it's finally at a length I'm happy with, I'm not sure what to do with it. It's too cold for me to wear up, though I like how it looks that way. I'm thinking of getting highlights and side-swept bangs so it at least looks like I'm trying.
And then, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I want to get my nose pierced.
I've been thinking about getting a tiny diamond stud for a long, long time. Yeah, sure, I'm in my late thirties. But when I'm fifty, won't thirty-seven seem a perfectly reasonable age for getting one's nose pierced?
In the scheme of things, figuring out my wardrobe and how I look in general may seem shallow. Petty. Superficial. Irrelevant.
But even at my age I feel the labels and judgments placed upon me in childhood pulling me back, keeping me from being who I really want to be and doing what I truly want to do. Deciding to deal with this one area of my life, no matter how small it may be, seems like a step in the right direction.