Thursday, May 10, 2012

Re-evaluating Style

I have always been into clothes.  As a kid, I would be thrilled to receive them as a present, even when my cousins and friends were upset to find clothes in a package in lieu of toys.  I remember events based on what I was wearing at the time, and shop for vacations with the frenzy and total devotion of a Pentecostal at an all-day camp meeting.  I like to shop, I like to think about clothes, I just like it all.

However, as I've gotten older, it has become harder and harder to dress this body of mine, and I don't always have the time to do it with the care that I should.  For one thing, I feel like sometimes that my body changes by the hour.  I get dressed in the morning and think my hips have been minimized, my breasts supported, my height lengthened.  I get to work and catch a glimpse of myself in the office window and find that maybe only half of that has effectively happened or that a belly that I wasn't aware of has appeared.  I buy something that I find extremely flattering in the store, and then bring it home and suddenly, it doesn't look that good.  How did this happen?  And I can't blame it all on the clothes--every morning when I stand naked in front of my bathroom mirror and take stock of things (yup--MASOCHIST), I see something different .

I blame most of this on Alice.  Yes, cute little Alice, the child who lightens up my life with her infectious wit, satiny curls and kissable cheeks.  She fucked me up.  For some reason, the third pregnancy and the breastfeeding and all of the rest of it made my body change in amazing ways.  It is much easier for me to gain (and lose) weight since Alice was born.  I have a more rounded tummy versus larger hips.  My hands have slimmed out and do not retain as much water as they used to.  All weird stuff.  And most importantly, styles that looked really nice on me at some point in my life no longer fit and flatter the way they used to.

The most egregious example of this is the wrap dress.  When I lived in California, I was a complete sucker for denim trousers and wrap dresses.  If there was a style of either of these items that I could try and find, 9 times out of 10, it looked good on me.  It was amazing.  I could buy things totally sight unseen, have it arrive in the mail, and it fit and looked like it was tailored just for me.  Plus, these two types of items totally fit into my post-college career lifestyle.  Now I look at my wardrobe and I have one pair of denim trousers and one wrap dress that I'm not even sure that I like.  Why?  Well, pants fit me weird now--I'm much more of a skirt/dress person--and seem to only make me look bigger.  And wrap dresses seem to make my boobs look larger and if they are not cut exactly right, emphasize the lower tummy bulge that has become the thing of my nightmares.

The really bad thing about all this is that while I've figured out the wrap dress thing, I still pick up items thinking they will look amazing on me and find out that after a few wears, they don't.  At no time was this made more clear to me than this past weekend.  And this time, instead of blaming my sweet two year old daughter, I'm going to blame my mother and 13 year old daughter.  Monsters, the both of them.

I got packed for my trip to Memphis in a real hurry since the school event I thought was going to end at 7:30 the night before our departure actually ended at 10:00 (don't get me started on this...if you were following me on Twitter that night, you know what I'm talking about).  I just kind of threw things in the suitcase and hoped that if things didn't match, I would be able to get to the mall and purchase items that would.  When it came down to the actual graduation, I took along a convertible style maxi dress that I originally purchased to wear in Jamaica and my J.Crew Jardin skirt that I hoped to pick up a t-shirt to match (the skirt is a gorgeous shade of royal purple, however, I suck at colorblocking and have yet to put anything with it that is not black or chambray).

After we arrived, I changed clothes to go to dinner and put on a little black dress with a crocheted top that I purchased for $10.48 off the Target clearance rack.  The reason I put it on was because a) Memphis is hot and b) it was comfortable after sitting in a car all day, listening as my darling Alice watched Strawberry Shortcake dvd's for 8 hours.  I felt comfortable in the dress at the restaurant--I felt slightly on trend even.  The next day, we were getting ready, and I showed my mom and daughter the maxi dress I had brought to wear to the graduation.  I was thinking of turning it into a halter style which I thought would be nice in the heat and wearing it with nude platform wedges.  But as soon as I tried it on, I started getting the side eye from both mom and Gabby.  And Mom, never a shrinking violet, goes, "I think you should wear the dress you wore last night."  And she goes and picks up the dress I had worn the night before out of my suitcase and starts to iron it.

This is when my mother and Gabby begin a conversation wherein they criticize almost every piece of clothing that I have in the suitcase, except for the black Target clearance dress.  Gabby says, "Mom, we get it.  You don't like your legs.  It's, like, obvious.  But hiding them just makes it worse."  And then my mom starts in on "Why don't you like your legs?  THEY ARE SO SHAPELY."  (I would now like to have the ELEVENTY MILLION DOLLARS I am owed because I have asked for a quarter for every time my mother has said that to me in my life.)  According to my mother and daughter, I should wear nothing but straight dresses and skirts, SHORT ones at that.  And I should never curl my hair and I should straighten it everyday.

Um....thanks, guys?

So I wore the black dress.  Because I was made to--they said if I tried to wear a maxi dress, they would not take me to Rendezvous, and MY GOD PEOPLE RIBS WERE HANGING IN THE BALANCE.  And I hate to say this, because it would mean that I need to say that someone else is right, but I looked damn cute that day.  I wore the same platforms and looked longer and leaner and younger and fresher.  Some guy even tried to hand me a free drink as I walked across Beale Street (and yes, I was pushing a stroller) and then tried to convince me to come party with him (presumably after chucking the stroller like a good mom does before she parties with total strangers).  When we got back to the car, my mom goes, "He wouldn't have said that if you were wearing that long dress."  Good to know, Mom.  Good to know.

So now I'm reconsidering my own personal style and what kind of looks I want to be a part of it.  As I approach the big 3-0, I want to look as young and happy as I feel, which is, well, pretty damn young and happy.  Straight dresses and skirts are the things that look the best on me at this point in my life.  So I am going to embrace that.  That doesn't mean that I got rid of my beloved black Gap maxi dress--I just will be saving it for times on the beach and backyard BBQ's and the like.  To be honest, it is kind of fun to think about it again and not to reach to the basics that I just "thought" did it for me.  I like to think.

I really don't have a choice in the matter.  My mom has sent me a text message the last two mornings with the words "Seen any short dresses you like lately?"  She's not letting this down.  And Gabby yesterday morning, when I put on that Jardin skirt, a black tee and a funky black belt goes, "Well, that skirt is not as horrible as I thought it was."  Thanks?  Ladies, this is what happens when you surround yourself with strong women.  Sigh.

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