In high school, my friend and I once made a “dress crazy” pact, which is pretty much what it sounds like. Instead of flares and sweatshirts, we were going to go for tu-tus and pink hair and vintage dresses and weird tights and freak everyone out.

Which is a good illustration of how I thought of clothing.

At the time, I never really thought much about my body. I was lucky enough to have a mom who never made comments about how I looked and who told me to never own a scale (still some of the greatest advice I’ve ever received.)

Today, when I get dressed or go shopping, I look for certain cuts and shapes that look good on me. But when I was 16, this never occurred to me. I didn’t really know what my body looked like, and when I’d try on things like Dickies or slip dresses I would think “Why does this look so bad?” and get kind of depressed at Limited 2 or whatever without really knowing why.

When I look back at the photos of me as a teenager, it’s that distance stands out the most.

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At a high school costume party. The “lei” was not mine, but the hot pink fishnet top? I lived for that thing. Also: baby bangs, those tiny little hair clips that were popular in the early 2000s, and a baby tee that said, like “Cosmic Girls” or something on it.

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This is at academic summer camp (cool!)

I got this faux-Adidas jacket at now-gone American Rag Vintage on Van Ness in SF, and it was a big favorite of mine. (Adidas was really, really popular. Everyone wore the swish-swish pants and the shower sandals, and also the shell-top sneakers my god they were popular.) More baby tees and rhinestone hair clips!

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My hair was many different colors.

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This was supposed to be a kind of mod-meets-Ghost World look. I wore this black mini skirt, despite its truly shapeless 2000s cut, constantly. Notice my badass flame messenger bag and sagging red fishnets.

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In this post high-school pic, I’m trying to pose like a carefree mod model from the 60’s next to this cute little car. I’ve accessorized with some random bag from my childhood with a teddy bear on it. Fishnets = pink.

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By this time, I’ve sort of evolved into my more current look in a wacky 1960’s mini dress (another fave) with a giant collar and ruffle down the front. And fishnets! I really, really loved fishnets, I wanted to look like Chloe Webb in Sid & Nancy.

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As you can see, my love for hot pink and tackiness remains, but this is like a grownup version, a version you could wear to work as a adult without looking like you’ve agreed to some sort of dressing crazy pact.

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I love this heather gray dress because it’s comfortable and stretchy and a great canvas for accessories, like this vintage orange chain necklace and neon belt. Leopard print is a neutral, and my love for it is kind of like a love for fishnets, because the two go hand-in-Peg Bundy’s-hand.

Ultimately, I’m grateful for the distance I had from my body. It wasn’t that I was totally satisfied with how I looked, and didn’t wish I conformed more to a conventional ideal, but those things didn’t drag me down. At that age, when there is so much to figure out, I was lucky to be able to use clothing for fun, or art, or wackiness, or inspiration, and not get bogged down with how attractive I looked. It’s something we could all probably use a little more of.

 

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