Tag Archives: fashion

My Personal Style

I didn’t think I had a personal style, until I invented one for myself. I’ve never been a Victim of Fashion or a Fashionista. Maybe an Unfashionista, but that’s about it.

Ever since college, jeans have been my uniform. (Except when I worked at a Frisch’s and had to wear a real uniform, or when I worked in an office and had to dress like a Respectable Business Lady, or now that I work at home and wear nightshirts or flannel pjs all day. Come to think of it, I really only have two pairs of jeans now. But I digress. Whenever I go out, unless it’s to a funeral, I wear jeans.)

My mother sewed and she made a lot of my clothes when I was a kid. When I got to the college-jeans stage, she made me western shirts (the kind with the yokes and the pearl snaps) and patchwork vests. Sometimes she got whimsical and made me something special. I particularly loved the Robin Hood hat she made me, which I wore to Beginning Archery class. (The instructor just rolled her eyes.)

Actually, my fashion “sense” was pretty well summed up by what I considered appropriate winter outerwear. I rocked an authentic army-surplus, lined, olive drab jacket (with the snorkel hood lined with real fur). The capacious pockets held my wallet, my student ID, and my driver’s license, and sometimes a paperback book. Snowmobile boots completed the ensemble.

So what goes with jeans? T-shirts, of course! I have quite a collection, many of which I purchased at science fiction conventions. Many of them were lost in the tornado that hit our house. I still remember fondly the one with a picture of the Death Star and the caption “Ceci n’est pas une lune,” which is really hysterical if you know Star Wars, French, and art. Yes, it’s obscure, but when I saw it, I couldn’t do without it.

For a while, I went through a Banana Republic phase. (This was before they sold out to The Gap, for which I never forgave them.) Adventure clothing seemed the ultimate in cool to me. Plus, everything was khaki or olive drab, which made accessorizing easy – camo scarves, wooden beads, and amber earrings. (I fondly remember driving to Erlanger, KY, near the Cincinnati airport, where the B.R. outlet lived. The first time I got to an actual Banana Republic store, in La Jolla, I hyperventilated. If I could afford full price, which I usually couldn’t, I shopped their catalogues, or sometimes just read the awesome travel stories and daydreamed.)

When I did wear skirts, I chose the midi-length (mid-calf), unless I could only find business clothes that hit me right at the knee. I even admit that in high school, I wore granny boots with midi-dresses, which about summed up my fashion sense at the time. (I also had a red and beige gaucho outfit, about which the less said the better. It even came with a red gaucho hat.)

Then there’s my purses. They were always large enough to carry one or more paperback books. Until my back gave out, of course, and I had to switch to an e-reader. Now a regular-sized purse accommodates over 1,300 books. When I saw the slouchy pouches that women were carrying a few years ago, I fell in love. Not only would they hold books, but snacks, hats, phone, wallet (if I carried one, which I don’t, my money being tucked into my jeans pockets).

Anyway, if I should ever give up my jeans (and couldn’t wear my nightshirts and flannels), I would have to go with a mish-mosh that I invented myself. Midi-skirts, still, I think. Keep the t-shirts. Ballet flats (not Birkenstocks). Patchwork whenever possible. Camo accessories and lots of semiprecious beads. I’d keep my boring navy slacks and top for funerals, of course. (During my Business Lady phase, I owned a black Liz Claiborne dress that I bought on clearance. For a while, it was my go-to funeral dress, but I had to wear a jacket over it, as the back was a little low-cut. Awful for summertime funerals.)

I can just imagine the get-ups I could create. And I’ve even invented a name for the look. I call it Boho Hobo.

The Ultimate Fashionista – Not!

I guess you’d call be a victim of fashion. Or actually, a victim of no fashion. No fashion sense, at least.

I’ve always been this way. Being the second child, I always had hand-me-downs, which is probably why I never learned to pick out my own clothes. Also, my mother chose my clothes, which I was okay with until junior high, when I was mortified to see myself on videotape wearing saddle shoes and anklet socks. Quel faux pas!

It was at about that time that people started taking me in hand and trying to fix me up, sartorially at least. (Apparently, the other kind of fixing up was not even an option until I was properly decked out.) My first fashion consultant was a friend who told me that the main thing I should invest in was a pleated plaid skirt with a large gold safety pin. I did not, and thereby missed my chance to be stylish as well as cool.

When I did develop my own sense of style, it was based entirely around Banana Republic. Khaki and olive drab were my color palette. I lived for the day each month when the new catalog came out with all its exotic descriptions of the clothes and tidbits of travel writing.

Only once did I ever shop in an actual Banana Republic store, in La Jolla. I hyperventilated, which is something I ordinarily do only when shopping for amber jewelry. I made several purchases and used the leopard print wrapping paper as a background on my bulletin board at work. (A co-worker once brought me an empty Banana Republic bag as a gift. “Won’t she be offended?” someone asked her. “She’ll love it,” Marie replied.  And I did.)

Later I learned that Banana Republic had an outlet store about 45 miles from my house. Of course, I had to go. This was before outlet malls became a Thing. The BR outlet was in Erlanger, KY, a few miles from the Cincinnati airport (which is in Kentucky, for some reason). Keeping with either the travel theme or the airport theme, the outlet store was housed in a large, hangar-like warehouse, where I could make a proper expedition of shopping. I was crushed when BR stopped publishing their catalogs and again when they were bought out by The Gap. The outlet store was just no fun anymore.

Still, I wore my khaki and O.D., with occasional accents of camouflage. (This was also before camo became a Thing for anyone other than soldiers and hunters.) My mother, perhaps in atonement for all the hand-me-downs, sewed me spiffy camo vests and scarves. Once she even found some camo flannel and made me a floor-length granny-style camo nightgown, which I adored. (She also made me a forest green cape and Robin Hood hat, which I wore to my college archery classes. But I digress.)

Another friend took me in hand and tried to eliminate the jungle look from my wardrobe. She introduced me to colors outside the neutral spectrum and accompanied me on shopping trips where she picked out my clothes and dressed me up like a Barbie doll. Well, not like a Barbie, really. I didn’t have the figure for it and my feet aren’t permanently shaped for heels. At least I looked respectable enough for work and dressy enough for social occasions, which for some reason I hardly ever got invited to. She’s no longer able to go shopping with me but thoughtfully keeps me supplied with more hand-me-downs from her own extensive and colorful wardrobe.

Gradually, I developed enough color sense to boss my husband around. (“Hand me the teal jacket. No, the teal jacket! Not the navy blue! Lady, can you show him which is the teal jacket?” “Of course I can’t wear the knit sweater that I wore to the last business meeting. It’s long-sleeved and it’s August. Oh, and it’s not white; it’s cream. Which goes nicely with the coffee stain on it.”)

Now, of course, I’ve abandoned all attempts at fashion. I work at home in my pajamas and keep a year-round wardrobe of nightwear ranging from sleep shorts to men’s flannel pajamas. I buy them on sale out of season. This nabs me ridiculous designs (“Feline Sleepy” “Look Like a Lady, Shoot Like a Boss”) and nighties that look like hospital johnnies. But no one sees me anyway, so it hardly matters. My husband doesn’t complain. I think he’s afraid to.

And if I do have to go outside, I’ve developed my own special signature collection of clothing in my own style. I call it “Retro Boho Hobo,” and it suits me fine.


When I Say Shoes…

When I’m out and about, I often say that I need to go home and take off my shoes. And when I say “shoes” I mean “bra.”(1)

I know that bras are necessary (2) and that they have improved over the years. No longer do you need to have the torpedo tits that restrictive, pointy bras of the 40s and 50s produced.(3)

Modern bras give you lots of choices. There are sports bras (4); ones with privacy petals and others with cut-outs for your nipples; padded and push-up; plain and fancy (5); cotton and satin and nylon and leather; emphasizers and minimizers, strapless or racer-backed, front-closing or back-closing or slip-ons, maternity bras and nursing bras, underwired and torture-free.(6)

There are even training bras, which I totally don’t get the point of. They can’t be training breasts, which don’t exist yet, or if they do are hardly in need of support or restraint. Are they for training girls never to let the straps show, which would be an Occasion of Sin for young boys? Or just training girls to be uncomfortable the rest of their lives?

Because bras are simply not comfortable, not even the ones that lack threats of being impaled. Don’t tell me that if a bra fits properly, it will be comfortable and that I’m just Doing It Wrong. I measured myself in the approved manner, including that silly bent-at-the-waist position where your boobs point at your toes.(7) I rounded down to the smaller band as the manufacturer’s website recommended and the ridiculous cup size involving letters of the alphabet I never knew existed.(8)

I still ended up with something that impaired my breathing and felt like a boob straitjacket. The band was so tight that I had to ask my husband to help me get it on and properly hooked. This is not his natural skill set, given his teenage experiences with the opposite procedure.

Of course, for us busty gals, free-boobing isn’t really an option.(9) I always keep a loose jacket near the door so that if I have to greet proselytizers or run after an escaping cat I won’t present the spectacle of flapping and jouncing tits making the important message on my nightshirt (10) impossible to read.

I remember the days when I could free-boob. Back when my tits were pert and perky, even if I wasn’t. That particular ship sailed long ago, I’m afraid. While gaining weight increased my boobage, gravity was not my friend.(11)

I understand that small, cupcake-like breasts have their advantages. You don’t have to fear button-front shirt gaps. There’s a better chance that you won’t have to buy different-sized bikini tops and bottoms and don’t have to worry about your tits flopping out of your strapless cocktail dress when you enter a twist contest, creating a scandal.(12) But I also hear that it’s more painful to have a mammogram when you have less tissue to squish.

Since we’re talking about breasts, for some reason I’ll let a gay man have the last word.

Here’s a excerpt from an interview with David Sedaris, which is posted on pastemagazine.com (http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2013/07/drinks-with-david-sedaris.html). For some reason it just resonated with me.

A woman the other night—she came to the reading and she said, “You got me to put my bra back on.” And I said, “I beg your pardon?” And she said, “Someone put it on Facebook that you were gonna be here. I’d gotten home from work and I’d taken my bra off. And when I take my bra off, it’s off for the night.” She said, “But this time I put it back on so I could come out.” She said, “NO ONE does that.” So I started asking women “When your bra is off, is it off for the night?” And they were like, “Hell yeah.” And that’s just something I never knew about women. It never occurred to me that women would have a “bra policy.” That they’d be like, “Sorry. I can’t. It’s off for the night.” It’s like, “You called me. You need a sober driver to pick you up from the bar?” And they’d have to say, “My bra’s off. I can’t. You have me mistaken for someone else…”


(1) Shoes too, actually. My feet have an unfortunate tendency to swell and give me cankles.

(2) At least for me, at this stage of my life.

(3) Unless you’re Madonna or one of her wanna-bes. Another bad look for most women is “tits on a platter,” facilitated by corsets and bustiers, that you sometimes see at renfairs.

(4) Made memorable by soccer player Brandi Chastain.

(5) I understand leopard prints and zebra prints, stripes, polka dots and little hearts. What I do not understand is a bra-and-panties set embellished with Marvin the Martian. I saw this in a retail store, not a science fiction convention.

(6) To me, an underwire feels like an upside-down guillotine, ready to lop off my breasts if I move wrong.

(7) I mean, really – the point, er, purpose of a bra is to prevent your nipples from pointing at your toes.

(8) I knew the letters existed, just not the cup sizes.

(9) Except that I work at home, in my nightshirt, so really I do it practically every day. I might wear even less, but my study is on the ground floor and the blinds are up because the cats like to look out and pretend they can catch birds.

(10) “I ❤ my bed”

(11) Gravity is not our friend in so many ways as we age. Just to mention one, getting multi-packs of bottled water off the bottom shelf in the grocery.

(12) That actually happened to me. The strapless dress and the twist contest. Not the flopping out. I practiced at home.