A gift from the vintage gods
I was in seventh grade. It was 1990 and in our front hall coat closet, I had just found a treasure trove of odds and ends.
I don’t know how these things ended up in the front hall coat closet, what vintage clothing gods lefts them there for me to find, but I found a crew neck lace blouse that buttoned up the back, an army green men’s suit jacket with gold buttons and a long brown leather ladies coat with metal frog closures.
I snuck them into my room, not caring who they belonged to, although I was certain they weren’t my mother’s, could be almost 100% positive they weren’t my sister’s, and had a pretty good idea that they weren’t my father’s. We had always had an active costume box in our house, so I was tempted to think maybe these things had been, at some point, collected for that purpose and then forgotten about.
In any case. I have always been a fan of lace. As a child I would make my mother sew lace onto the neckline and leg holes of my swimming suits. Lace was a critical factor, and much like my want a flounce? Here! Have a flounce! obsession, it was necessary for a look to be complete. So imagine my delight at finding an entire blouse made of the stuff!
I remember putting it on and thinking I had gone to heaven. It fit me just right. I felt so ethereal and beautiful.
For fun, I put on the green suit jacket and rolled up the waaay too long sleeves. I was wearing my roomy stovepipe jeans.
I felt, no joke, like a supermodel. I felt edgy. I felt unique. I felt beautiful. There was an almost scary sense of power in feeling so strikingly put-together, a power I couldn’t believe I was capable of wielding.
It was months before I got up the nerve to wear that outfit out of the house. I still remember walking into my biology class and someone whispering something unflattering about my outfit, and my honest to goodness thought was, “They’re only saying that because they are jealous.”
That is the power of an outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks.
Inability to blend in
I got made fun of quite a bit as a kid. I had a growth spurt very early (like pathologically early) and was way taller and more developed than my classmates until sixth grade, when everyone caught up and overtook me. From then on, I was average-ish.
In fourth grade, though, I was huge compared to everyone else. I had a kelly green winter coat and the kids I walked to school with would sing “Hohoho, green giant” after me on the way to school, all winter. It’s stupid, but it stuck with me. It didn’t offend me, though. I loved kelly green (still do!) and thought they were childish to not appreciate it for its full joy-bringing potential.
Our mother made many of our dresses when we were little, as many moms in the 80s still did. (Mine always with a double dose of lace, thank you very much). My sister, in case there is any question if fashion sense is genetic, had a dress she called the “boy dress”, I believe because it was gray. Gray was not a fun girly color. So this dress was a dress for boys. (My sister is still a fashion plate and can mix prints like a rock star, a talent which blows me away.)
Being more developed (like, bra in third grade developed) could have been the reason I got made fun of at school, but it wasn’t. Mostly I got made fun of in school because I could not dress like everyone else. It wasn’t a resources thing. It was a style thing. I knew what I liked and I could not, under any circumstances, be boring. I could not wear shapeless t-shirts and khakis, although I would have liked, sometimes, not bear the burden of being so minutely obsessed with what I wore.
I feel like a million trillion bucks
Over the years I have found precious few items that gave me that “I feel like a million bucks” glow of what I found in the hall closet in seventh grade. Not for want of trying, naturally.
My orangish red blazer is one of those things. It, like my white Adidas, denim shirt (seen below, spotted in the wild Clark Kent Jr.) or my salt and pepper braided headband (also seen below), is a bonafide frumpbuster. I can put them on with anything and feel like a million bucks.
The “It-Factor” might require some elbow grease.
Here is one thing I am learning through my buy-nothing challenge: we never buy something expecting it to be relegated to the back of the closet. It just kinda ends up there because it doesn’t have the “It-Factor.”
Not everything has to be a frumpbuster. Not everything has to have the “It-Factor.” But as long as we (I) kept adding items to my wardrobe, we (I) would reduce the amount of playtime the things in my closet were going to get. I wasn’t giving them a shot to rise to the top; I was making it all too easy for less than stellar items to disappear to the back of the closet, ne’er to be seen again.
Taking an item in hand and asking myself “why don’t I wear this?” requires patience and lucidity (darn those virtues, popping up everywhere!) But it is so worth it.
Being fearless with needle, thread and my pinking shears; giving myself permission to alter and edit what is in my closet means that I am giving things a chance to state their case for being a frumpbuster or a go-to.
Maybe I can fix the problem. Maybe not. But I am learning something along the way. Case isnt point: the lining of my my fabulous red-orange blazer started splitting. With ingenuity and determination I opened the back seam, made it a little roomier and closed up the wound with a contrasting gold ribbon. Is it perfect? No. Is it wearable? Yes. And the sweat equity makes it even more precious to me.
Not people people
I had trouble doing my mise en place last night for an outlandishly wonderful reason: there were so many different outfits I wanted to try.
The percolating feeling that I don’t know what I want to wear because I am so excited about everything is a VERY different feeling from the I have nothing to wear mantra I recited two short months ago.
Just to wrap this up: I remember reading somewhere that Jennifer Aniston looks amazing in everything she wears because she even has something as simple as a white t-shirt tailored for her. I remember thinking “but why?”
But then…have I ever looked amazing in an off-the-rack (out of the Fruit of the Loom pack) t-shirt? Certainly never as amazing as Jennifer Aniston does.
If I am not going to wear these things anyway in their current state, why not learn to tailor a little? Learn to thread a needle and baste and pin? At best, I might end up feeling like a million bucks. At worst, I have a shirt to wear when I paint with the boys. But at least I will have tried.