My friend Kari has an amazing personal style. She’s quite lovely to begin with, but it’s the way she presents herself that is so memorable. She loves bold jewelry and bright colors, gorgeous shawls and scarves, flowing tops, florals and geometric prints. And she wears it all with panache. If she were a sentence, she would end with an exclamation mark. She exudes confidence in herself and she’s the kind of woman who enters a room carrying her own positive energy with her.
I adore her. I admire her. I want to be like her.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m going to run out and buy a new wardrobe of orange and pink caftan tops or exchange my tiny earrings for bold, beaded hoops. It’s her unique style, not mine. But, I have been thinking lately about my own style. And you know…I can’t define it. So, I decided that if I have a hard time figuring it out, then probably no one else can either.
I am reminded of a birthday card I received from another friend, who also happens to be named Kari. It says, “For a girl who bases her fashion on what doesn’t itch…you look pretty good.” Now, in all fairness Kari understands my sensory sensitivities pretty well. She knows that I have to wear clothing that is soft and comfortable. No tags, thank you very much. (I’d just like to meet the ding dong who decided to sew tags into the side seam so it digs into that sensitive area of skin just above your waist.) But, I have to admit that ‘comfortable’ is not exactly a style category. And you know, I think over the years I’ve gravitated toward things that, although they may be pretty or in style, don’t make me stand out from the crowd. I’ve not been especially comfortable when I see someone staring at me. I always think the worst. I start looking for the toilet paper attached to my shoe or I wonder if they’re thinking, “My God, who would pair that skirt with that blouse?” I’ve always been my own biggest critic. But then, I think I’m not alone in that.
I will say that I’ve always loved clothes from the past. I am my most confident when wearing my vintage dress from the 40’s or dressing up in Victorian clothing complete with hat and gloves. I wore my mother’s pink wedding suit from the 50’s as my ‘going away’ dress at my own wedding. I don’t think most brides even have going away dresses anymore, but they were all the rage in the past. I have a large collection of retro patterns ready to be made into car coats (another term that is passé), sheaths, house dresses, aprons and ball gowns. I own flamboyant hats, retro ski pants, velvet capes and pastel gloves from the 60’s. And it’s all in boxes or hanging in my closet waiting for the next invitation to a garden party, afternoon tea or Cinderella ball. You know, I don’t get very many of those invitations nowadays.
So, when Noel and I bought tickets to attend a dinner and dance for the DREAM project (a very worthy organization that helps people with disabilities access the outdoors) I decided, “What the heck, I’m gonna do it up right!” So, I pulled out one of my ball gown patterns from 1952, unrolled yards of drapery fabric that I bought at an outlet in Boise a couple of years ago and I made myself a proper gown. And although my mother has been gone for a couple of years now, she helped me adapt the pattern to my fabric. Honest….every time I get stuck I ask her how to do it right. I’ve always done this, but I used to have to pick up the telephone. Now, I often feel her presence near me as I sew, so she’s actually a bit handier.
For once, my hair cooperated and was coaxed into soft curls and waves. And the dress turned out. No one could tell that it was made of three-dollar-a-yard fabric that paired quite nicely with my nine-dollar Wal-Mart shoes.
I was the most dressed up person at that dance. And I was stared at all night long. Several women came up to ask about my dress and for once, I didn’t care if anyone thought I was overdressed. I felt great and graceful and confident. I remembered Kari and tried to bring my own positive energy with me. It all worked and felt so good.
Noel always says that I was born in the wrong era.
Well, I think I’m just going to bring the past forward and dress according to how it makes me feel. I’ll wear my hats if I want to, I’ll sew up those patterns and get those retro clothes out of the boxes. If not now, then when? I don’t think that afternoon teas are going to suddenly become the rage in 2011. Wait for this all to come back into fashion? I don’t think so. And if people stare, so be it, because I love feeling graceful and confident and comfortable in my body.
Hey! Maybe ‘comfortable’ is a style category…
that we should all seek.