I am no fashionista, but I love clothes, shoes, purses, jewelry and all the accoutrements of being a girl. I probably have 50 pairs of shoes, 20 purses and enough clothes that I have to switch out my closets every season because I don’t have adequate space to display all of them at once. Thank God for plastic storage bins.
These days, I wear clothes that are both comfortable and complement my body. I like to look nice on occasion, but gone are the days of misery for the sake of fashion. If an article of clothing is too tight, itchy, bulky or constricting — or if I have to iron it — I won’t wear it.
All but two of my business suits have been retired, and I only wear them at media events. Nice jeans and a cute top work for nearly any outing in the current manifestation of my life, work or otherwise.
As with most women, my style has evolved dramatically over the years. This past week, I was reminded just how MUCH it has changed.
I was a nerdy kid growing up in the 1980s, and I never completely got with the fashion program. I tried to conform with the preppies because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do, but I ended up looking more like Molly Ringwald in “Pretty in Pink” — cute, but quirky. My family was middle class but not affluent, so we couldn’t afford the Davies purses, boat shoes, Keds and Guess jeans that were all the rage.
Preppy ultimately wasn’t a good fit for me, so at some point during my junior year of high school, I gave up on it.
Enter death poetry and teen angst. I dyed my hair black to match my wardrobe and started wearing enormous silver crosses, black nailpolish and heavy perfume. There are still people I run into from high school who only remember me as “that little girl who wore black all the time.”
In college, the angst abated and the flower of my young adulthood started to bloom. I lightened up, and so did my wardrobe. I started wearing vintage prints, flowing skirts, and I even bought a pair of Birkenstocks. Hippie chic.
In my 20s, my style progressed along with my self-confidence. I finally began to see myself as an attractive and desirable woman, so I started to dress like one. I never went full-on slutty, but I chose form-fitting clothes that would get me noticed in a club by the opposite sex.
When I became a mom, I devolved into frump briefly, but then I rallied into business professional once I finally finished college and started a career.
Since then, I’ve tried to stick with the current trends without being outright trendy. There are some pieces that never go out of style, so as long as they still fit, I plan to wear ’em til they fall apart. I went blonde in 2000 and never looked back.
I also have four tattoos I enjoy showing off when appropriate. And sometimes even when not totally appropriate. The older I get, the less I care what people think. I am no longer trying to fit in.
And I have to be honest, when I am working from home with no one but my dogs to judge me, my look is pure I-don't-give-a-shit yoga pants. Because I can.
On Throwback Thursday last week, a former classmate posted a photo of me and my frequent partner in crime, Aimee, from our dramatic interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s “Beware the Jabberwock” in senior English class. It brought back some fond memories.
That photo is also a perfect representation of our collective goth period. Aimee has naturally black hair, but mine came from a bottle. We both wore black dresses in the photo, and I seem to recall I used baby powder to make my face as pale as possibly. We topped off the look with dark red lipstick.
That remains one of my favorite high school moments. I can still recite most of that damn nonsensical poem, too:
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe
All mimsy were the borogoves
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Then on Saturday night, I went out with my lovely and talented musician friend, Heidi Howe. We ended up at a venue where a Grateful Dead cover band was playing and ran into some other people we knew there. One of the young girls reminded me so much of myself 20 years ago that I had to grin.
Twirly dancing to “Brown-Eyed Girl,” I would swear she had on the exact same outfit I wore the last time I heard that song performed live, by the Dead themselves in 1993. Abby’s fresh face and free spirit stirred some pretty powerful nostalgia in me. It was clear she was feeling the same joy I did back in the day, and it warmed the cockles of this old lady’s heart.
It occurred to me after seeing these two incarnations of my past selves that, while I adopted the look inherent to the goth and hippie movements, I never adopted the lifestyles. Despite my morose poetry, I was not a depressed, angry or destructive person. As a hippie chick, I still shaved my legs, bathed, enjoyed modern conveniences, ate meat and politely ignored liberal politics.
The only thing from either faction I embraced beyond clothes was the music. As a pseudo-goth, I listened to The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, My Life with Thrill Kill Kult and Front 242. As a granola girl, I jammed to The Dead, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and the Allman Brothers. All are still on my playlists today.
So yeah, I’ve had more than a few identities in my lifetime, and while none of the more extreme facades are evident in my closet today, there is no denying that each helped shaped who I am. I am truly grateful for all the phases of Amy over the years.
The little girl who wore black and the twirly dancer in Birkenstocks aren’t dead and buried, just dormant. I’m thinking it might be fun to revive them once in a while, just for old times’ sake.
And hell, I may even finally buy myself a Davies purse ... I just saw a cute one on eBay.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.