The most special things are the things that don't really belong anywhere but here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


 I have the urge to dress like an 80-year-old woman. I feel no shame admitting this, just a sense of curiosity, because what’s that about? I like things with collars, especially if they have ruffles. I feel an odd sense of longing when I walk by a store that features sensible navy slacks and textured sweaters, especially if they have some type of woven pattern on them. These clothes make me think of solitude, of Fall time, of drinking hot beverages. After coming across my first grade school picture, I realized that I dressed like an 80-year-old woman when I was six. And then everything made sense.

Of course I want to dress like an 80-year-old/ six-year-old, because those two groups of people are usually not doing much. I long for a life of leisure where others do all the work and I just chill. I must remember though, that dressing horribly will not give me this life: it will just keep me single, forever. So I fight it.

When was the time you think you dressed the worst? My style has changed throughout the years, but for me, the dark ages was definitely from the period of 1995-1997. During this time, I shopped almost exclusively at Northern Reflections: a store for grandmas. Surprise, surprise.

Almost all of my shirts and sweaters had prints on them that resembled the oil paintings you would see hanging in your grandmother’s house. There was the deer in the woods, the puppies by the log, and the kittens in the flower basket. Oh, also, they were humongous. I loved these shirts because I thought the animals were so cute. So did my mom.

For the amount of time I spent living in these clothes, it’s hard to find evidence. This is the best I can do:
Very detailed bunnies in a field

Very detailed deer in the woods
Very detailed puppies on a log. My big sister's face says it all.
Grand finale: very detailed kittens in a basket. And a sandwich.

I have this memory in sixth grade of one of my guy friends asking me out for another boy. I was mortified—I still played with dolls!—so I rejected the poor child and stomped away. But I DRESSED LIKE THIS. What a narcissist I must have been. I could have at least THANKED the kid and asked him WHY ON EARTH and then offered him some peanut butter brittle and a cup of tea.

For a long time, most of how I dressed reflected what my mother liked. I remember back in 2007 when Elizabeth Berg, one of my favorite authors, came to talk at the old High School. Almost everyone there was a forty-year-old woman and wore sweaters similar to the one in my first grade school photo. My mom observed how frumpy they were, and I agreed: it was gross. But looking at those women, I realized that in their circle, dressing this way was normal. It was as if for the first time, I realized there were other ways to dress besides what my mother (or sisters, friends, whoever) liked. I didn’t wish to be frumpy, but if I WANTED to wear a turtle neck and a Christmas sweater, someone SOMEWHERE would smile and nod in approval. So why not just wear what I liked?

That Fall, I got a teaching assistantship and had a little bit of money to spend. I remember I got such a high from buying clothes with collars-- which my mother always discouraged--that I got a rash. This wasn’t so much about rebelling against Mom (who is almost always right) as much as creating my own style. I spent $137 dollars at New York and Company that day. I had such a sense of freedom.

Since then, I feel like I’ve done an okay job of making the grandma urges work, for the most part. If you can steer them to the “unique, classy”  side, then they can appear kind of hip. The trick is making sure the fit is good. I am very proud of this sweater, for example, which I found in the old lady section and decided I had to have.

Not the greatest shot, but you get the idea. Like my Indian statue?

Note: this sweater is the exception, not the rule. Usually Young Old Lady Hip is a hard thing to pull off. You may not even like this sweater. If that’s true, then shut up, I don’t want to talk to you.

If I could really dress however I wanted, really, really, it wouldn’t JUST be old lady. I would also wear lots of bright colors, tutus, and crowns. I would wear a crown every day. Really elaborate ones.

What about you? How do you feel about modern fashion? Who have you dressed for? What types of risks do you take, if any? Do you secretly want to wear my oil painting shirts? Discuss.


  1. How about the series of loud, brightly sloshed with color, silk shirts that Nick and I used to wear to weddings (including your sister's) with a black clip-on tie? (approx. ages: 6-10)

    I think we only wore them to three weddings in all, but that's enough to mar one's fashion oeuvre for life.

  2. Yes, Joey, those were AMAZING! You and Nick should really try to bring them back. You could start a movement.

  3. They have some nice colors and designs, but I know there's nothing that will make my biking outfits fashionable. Especially now that I'm older and with a little more weight.

  4. I think my worst fashion choices happened freshman & sophomore years of college. Plaid grandpa pants, ugly retro patterned shirts -- too much unflattering, ill-fitting thrift store stuff.

  5. Anne, let's not forget the blue hair? At least you were taking risks! Woo hoo!

  6. I think I may have also had that deer in the woods t-shirt. I had one with wolves, too. And a sweatshirt from one of those shirt airbrushing places in the mall that had an orca outlined in glitter. Actually, I had a lot of whale shirts (my favorite being one I got at this meeting to save the right whales) and for some reason, I got rid of them in high school and have recently begun to regret that. I'm currently rocking an oversized Atlanta Braves t-shirt, though, so I guess my style hasn't improved much.

  7. P.s. There is nothing wrong with ruffles. I just bought two ruffly shirts (same style, one in solid, one in a pattern--blah--why am I so boring?) at Loft that I LOVE. I would wear ruffles with you any day.

  8. Thank you, Beth! We can be ruffle friends forever.