Jilara (jilara) wrote,

Personal style

This morning, as I was carefully matching the vintage scarf to my Indian patchwork skirt and vest (with swashbuckler shirt), I reflected that there is no way my wardrobe is ever going to be mainstream. There seem to be three themes going, currently: ethnic, swashbuckler, and modern-adapted 1820's. And then I started reflecting back, to when I started dressing myself, rather than letting my mother (who tended toward wanting me in pink and ruffles---brrrr) chose my clothes.

My first looks were bobby soxer. I happily raided a ton of vintage clothes in old trunks, and padded my 7th and 8th grade wardrobe with them. Mother rolled her eyes, but let me do it. It's probably why she started letting me buy "mod" clothes by 9th grade. I tended toward favoring lots of leather, chains, and swashbuckler looks, with dripping lace jabots and billowy sleeves. Then the most wonderful thing happened. Mother moved back to Los Angeles to be with my father, and I was left in the house in Cambria, free to write, study, read, and wear/shop for clothes without parental interferance.

(We won't get into the dynamic of leaving a 15-year old on her own, but let's just say that having a relationship with my ex-model Mom that was right out of Absolutely Fabulous made for a surreal dynamic. Without her, I no longer had to come home to a cloud of marijuana smoke to be aired out, put up with her wandering the house in dark glasses because she was hung over, or have her constantly on my case about how I needed to start dating Boys and go to more social events. Life without Mother was so liberating.)

I entered my goth phase, if they'd had a term for that, back then. I piled a ton of clothes and old bedspreads into the washing machine with black rit dye, and had a great dye-in. I made black cloaks, black corsets. I also quickly learned that I couldn't shop in my small town, as the owner of one of the local dress shops reported to my mother that I'd bought a black mini-dress with leopard trim. (Fortunately, it met parental approval by being fairly glamourous.) So I got my "other mother" Helen May to drive me to San Luis Obispo, the county seat, where I found my personal style. I bought swashbuckler blouses dripping with lace, minidresses laced with chains, hot pants to wear with fishnet stockings and boots and satin blouses. I shopped mail order for other items. And then I discovered grannie dresses. Not just any, but ones that reflected an 1820's sensibility, which I wore with huge 1930's picture hats dripping with flowers and trailing scarves. I cut up old sheets and made a full set of period underwear, from chemises and petticoats to pantaloons. I was quite a sensation. And when the folks were around, I affected blouses and jeans (bell-bottom, of course), and projected a totally different image. Somehow, I got away with it all.

And ever since, I've had a certain distinctive style. It might be a vintage pith helmet and safari outfit (for my mad botanist ventures) or an outfit to make Errol Flynn proud. Or all black leather (Aeryn Sund had nothing on me!). Or a strange and flamboyant period-ish look. Never subtle, that's me. I doubt old age will tone down my wardrobe.

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