BigLittleWolf asked "What's your style?"
Her question got me thinking: Do I even have a style? Am I a style nihilist? And, either way, what does that say about me?
The elements of my style were established early on. I went to Catholic school from kindergarten through eighth grade - a Catholic school with typical Catholic school uniforms. For nine years, I donned the same ensemble: an unpleasantly retro brown and yellow plaid jumper; a white cotton button-down blouse with, naturally, a Peter Pan collar; brown knee socks; Mary Janes; and the signature polyester crisscross tie shared by schoolgirls and Girl Scouts the world over. It was ugly. It labeled me as a "critter," the public school kids' epithet for us Catholic school lads and lasses. But you know what? I loved it. I loved the ease of it. The waking up in the morning and having that decision made for me.
When I went to prep school in ninth grade, my options increased in every way. My circle of friends and my intellectual horizons expanded - but so did my style decisions. No jeans allowed, but no more uniform as a protective shell. Lots more anxiety. And boy did I stumble. Teal green and black striped overalls. Multi-floral print faux silk blouses. Culottes. Believe it. Yes, those were the years of Betsey Johnson and over-sized flannel everything, but still. It wasn't pretty. I wasn't pretty.
Then I discovered a magical thing called the J.Crew catalog. Tall, thin, perpetually tanned women in effortlessly casual paraphernalia. Genius, I thought. My mom? Not so much. $98 corduroy pants did not compute in her thrifty, coupon-clipping mind. (The sadist!) So I was left to recreate these outfits at JC Penney with an occasional supplement from the Gap. And, with an infusion of babysitting money, a J.Crew Outlet gem or two. Thrown together outfits, never quite cute. Never quite adding up. Never quite a style.
And my style - or lack thereof - evolved from there. Through college, through work. One eye on preppy icons, one in my closet, and the equation never balancing.
And now here I am. A suburban mother of two. A mismatched wardrobe with the wash-and-wear items given prime closet real estate. Yoga pants, 7 jeans, Puma sneakers, and Boden tops. Hair in a ponytail. Every day. Maybe a smudge of make-up every now and then.
No, I don't wear pajamas in public. I don't wear "mom jeans." Even though I now shop in the catalogs and stores I once admired, those items still don't quite belong to me. Lots of pieces, still no style.
So how do I find a new uniform that conveys in a blink of the eye everything that I want to say about myself? That although I may be pushing a shopping cart with a plastic racecar affixed to its front, I still have some sense of the power of designer jeans and a high heel shoe. That although I may spend my days rolling on the floor with two tiny lads, I still have professional ambition. That although I may have spit-up in a splatter pattern across my shoulder, I am still a woman.
How do I find a style that conveys substance?
What message does your uniform send to the world? Who are you trying to be?
Image: DN-ST-85-08492 by PH2 Jeffrey A. Salter at Wikimedia Commons. Image is in the public domain.