I love me a good story. I like a good solid hero with endearing character flaws and a redemptive story arc. I love a nicely crafted villain for whom we can almost have compassion. I love an ending that makes me cry bittersweet tears: not too sweet, just bitter enough.
I love a good story. It is no surprise, then, that I love my clothes to have a story too.
There has always been an enduring mystery in my closet: why is it that most of the items I buy for myself get relegated to the “unloved” and “unwanted” pile of my closet, even if when I bought them I really thought I loved them?
Why, on the other hand, when it is a hand-me-down from someone I know, even someone I know tangentially, I can become immediately attached to it and love it until it is worn out?
Case in point:
Here is Genevieve again, my non-people people friend. This blouse I am wearing in the photo is one she gave me in 2005. I loved it as much on that day, when it was new to me, as I do today when I wear it. It looks good with everything. Because it is a wrap blouse, it can be adjusted to flatter no matter what size my body has decided to be on any given day.
On the other hand, I can honestly say that I would not have picked it out were I to have seen it at the shop.
Here is the cold, hard truth about me and fashion, which I believe also is at the heart of my coveting issues: I do not trust myself.
At my very core, I do no trust my own sense of style. I mean, I can unintentionally dress like Peter Pan’s bag lady grandma if left to my own devices. Sure, I can have moments of genius, like when I was in seventh grade and discovered the life-altering power of a great outfit. But even there, I didn’t pick those clothes. They appeared from beyond in our hall coat closet, origin unknown.
I spent the year after I had my second baby on Pinterest, collecting ideas for what I thought I wanted my “look” to be once my body would find its new normal. I had been wearing maternity clothes for nearly three years straight by then. I knew that my body would never fit into many of my pre-baby clothes. I didn’t have hips until I was 38 years-old, but when I got them, there was no sending them back where they came from. Bones shifted after two pregnancies and suddenly I had hips that would never get wrangled into my jeans again.
What I thought I liked was a crisp, clean marine-inspired, sophisticated look. I saved up a nice sum of money from my birthday and Christmas and when I felt confident my body was stabilizing, I started shopping.
Hah. Oh, I bought things. But the look was not me. I looked like I was trying to cosplay a French girl. I have since passed on to others most of the things I bought during that time.
What I like and what I will wear are clearly two different things.
I listen to a lot of podcasts and hear lots of ads for the companies that offer personalized shopping services. Sometimes, podcasters will record an ad and it feels like they are just blahblahblahing their way through it. On the other hand, there is one podcast I love where the three hosts have endless examples of how their stylist at that shopping service gets them, how they always get compliments for what is selected. And: FYI, the hosts are three men, and they literally fangirl over their stylists.
There is something to letting someone else (bonus points when the “someone else” in question has fantastic taste) make the hard choices. For who struggles with self-loathing the way I do, it is very very hard to trust myself. Self-doubt is a constant, nagging voice.
By wearing what someone else chose, I am also being with that person when I can’t be with that person. It is a way to bring the joy of our friendship into the everyday details of my day. If I get a compliment on the item, it is an occasion to talk about my friend and the friendship that brings me joy. Whether a tulle petticoat from my music friend, a Monet-inspire cardigan from my sister, red and white jacket from Iza or a Jell-O skirt from Genevieve, when I wear the things they picked out, I am evoking the thought of the person.
And people are what matters in the end, not the clothes.