I've been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between one's own family, one's own sense of self and sense of style. As some of you may know from previous posts, I decided that 2012 would be a Buy-Nothing-New year for me. I've been scouring thrift shops and consignment shops the last few months, which is quite the challenge as you are limited to choices and you have to think "outside the box". Don't get me wrong, I've always been a "thrifter". I've been thrifting for years so that is not the new part...I have always loved a good thrifting adventure or wandering around an antique mall (heaven!), but I always skipped the clothes (eww...I mistakenly thought) and went straight for the housewares. I could make anything new again with a little elbow grease and a lot of paint. For me, it is the thrill of the transformation, taking something well loved with a history, making it yours and giving it a new life (the irony...).
Which got me to thinking, why couldn't I do the same with my fashion sense (or lack thereof)? This "nothing new" challenge has been a huge eye-opener for me in so many ways and has forced me to get very creative. It forces me to try on things I wouldn't normally try on. It reminds me that fashion is supposed to be fun. Showing your inner self outwardly. Love the process, love your self.
At some point in my life, fashion became my enemy. I've never had major body issues growing up, I liked my size and my frame...I never really thought about it...now mind you, models in magazine were still at a healthy weight with curves compared to nowadays. I'm not tiny and not huge...I had a curvy figure and at some point, the fashion industry just up and decided that curvy was out and stick thin was in and the world followed...so did my train of thought. As a young adoptee, all I wanted to do was quietly fit in...I didn't want to stand out (for fear....), and certainly not outwardly by wearing anything other than what everyone else was wearing. I had always felt like an oddball for being adopted and I just wanted to be like everybody else...to blend. Everyone kept telling me how lucky I was to be adopted....which made no sense to me...lucky? I felt far from "lucky"...rather unlucky was closer to the truth. I became a master chameleon. I could morph myself and fit into almost any group, but always on the periphery, one foot in so many camps. As I got older, all I wanted to do was to hide in my clothes, looking back it was pure metaphor for where I was emotionally as an adoptee struggling to make sense of it all and having no outlet or the knowledge to even realize what exactly I was going through. I was struggling to figure out who I was and in turn, who family was and what family was and how I related to all of it.
So, after years of reading fashion magazines and not having that familial knowledge, it seeped into my mentality...that somehow I thought I wasn't good enough or pretty enough. I sensed I was different but not in a good way, curvy with the added perk of no real sense of self, no familial mirrors to study...to help validate who I was. It quietly, slowly became an issue...not a major one, but an issue none the less. I began to dread the mirror, the reflection I did not understand...who's eyes are these...whose hands are these...who, what, where, when, how and why? I couldn't answer any of those questions. There was so much wonder and ambiguity in the mirror, it just became easier not to look and act as though I didn't care. I began to dread shopping...hated the numbers, hated the clothes, hated the prices...hated. I began to dislike myself and somewhere along the way I stopped loving myself...in a very simple but harsh I-don't-care-what-I-look-like kind of way...I woke up one day and realized, I had quietly given up on myself. My self.
Fast forward to now as an adult and all that has completely changed...I have done a lot of work on getting to know myself underneath all of the muck (a total gut and work in progress), started loving myself full stop, repurposing and reimagining myself from the floorboards (and roots) up, sought answers to all the questions. I am still on that rollercoaster and it's rough at times, but I started to laugh again, enjoy life and be comfortable in my own skin. It's been a long time coming and I think it is finally having that awareness of family (the good and bad), coming full circle, that has helped me break out of my shell. Knowledge of my roots has given me such a strong sense of self that before I had always found to be so elusive. I now know who I am and where I came from and ultimately, where I want to go and who I want to be.That knowledge has afforded me freedom...to no longer care what others think and to validate myself. To just be me and if I want to wear a crazy fun thrifted outfit that cost $4.99 and a trip (or two!) through the washing machine...that makes me smile and laugh, then so be it.
To that I say...Hello Self...it's so nice to finally meet you!
Dandelion art dress by the amazingly talented and creative Robin Barcus, to see more of her incredible work, please visit www.robinbarcus.com
Black dandelion dress by Miu Miu