I remember when I first made the clear connection between what I wore and how I felt.
It was the dawn of middle school, which in our district was seventh grade. Back in the dark ages of the 1980s when I rode my very own dinosaur to school, we called it junior high.
We also called it terrifyingly awkward.
Nervous beyond measure about the brave new world of “big school,” I clearly remember donning my first double layer of polo shirts with the popped collar. (Read: Collar standing straight up so it tickled our ears. This required endless fussing and adjusting throughout the day and caused more than one teacher to threaten, exasperated, to snip the collars clean off with scissors if we didn’t stop fidgeting and take a note on the hydrologic cycle already!)
In style. I paired this fetching double layer of short sleeve chic with deep indigo Gloria Vanderbilt jeans so stiff it was difficult to bend my knees to sit, and a pair of the all-powerful Nike tennis shoes with the burgundy swoosh.
While clothes shouldn’t matter, they did. And they do. They really, really do.
I practically floated into the school, blissfully confident that I would stand out chiefly by fitting in.
Many years hence, and now a stay-at-home-mom who can work in her bathrobe if need be, I don’t actually remember the last time I donned an outfit designed to increase my strut through the grocery store.
Not that I don’t have clothes in my closet that make me feel like a million bucks, I do. It’s just that a classic A-line linen number with coordinating kitten heels just isn’t quite right for the PTO.
Thus, I get up each day and wear something respectable, practical and probably half a decade old.
Accordingly, I now live vicariously through my daughter.
Found. Miss Thing, at 7, has finally found her fashion sense. After six-and-three-quarters years of not giving a fig what she wears (up to and including her brother’s hand-me-down overalls), she has been hit – and hard – with the knowledge that a great outfit can make a great day.
Channeling her inner girlie-girl, my athletic, bug-catching, tomboy has discovered the giddy allure of pretty dresses, twirly skirts, and the all-mighty power of the curling iron.
She favors frilly dresses clearly designed for Easter Sundays and bridal parties. These are to be paired with “clicky” shoes (otherwise known as patent leather shoes that make that distinctly delicious tapping noise when walking on hard surface flooring).
She will forego these only on physical education days, and then, only grudgingly. Even then you are likely to find her pounding out the kick balls in full crinoline and sneakers.
Diva. Accordingly, getting dressed each morning has morphed from an easy shrug into a cute little T-shirt and jeans into a full-blown production featuring tights, accessories and hair product.
Of course I enjoyed dressing her to the nines as an infant, but as affirmed country dwellers, I really did revel in having a child who would willingly – and quite cheerfully – don a sofa slipcover if I’d asked her to. Now, my little fashion maven is dropping ominous hints about shopping and uttering four-letter-words such as “mall.”
As I drip-dry all these party dresses (lest they all melt in a puddle of petrol-based shiny fabric and netting in my dryer), I ponder the importance of appearance and confidence and the messages – both pro and con – that this might send to a modern girl.
It has been said that clothes make the man, but does it send a wrong, and very shallow message, if they make the woman?
Style. Dropping her off, I watched her walk in to the school. She’s a little thing, nearly staggering under the weight of her pink kitty book bag. Yet, somehow, she looks taller, her shoulders are squared and it’s a wonder those clicky shoes are any use at all as she fairly floats, rather than walks, into the building.
In short, she looks exactly as only someone who feels really good about themselves can. If I was a betting woman, I’d say she’s probably going to feel great all day long and probably won’t change out of those clothes till bedtime.
That’s OK, because as I saw her disappear behind the doors, I too was immediately back in school, wearing my corduroy skirt, Holly Hobby T-shirt, and walking tall in my wedge-heel Hush Puppy shoes.
I probably looked like a train wreck, but I felt like a million bucks.
The lesson. I’ve decided that learning to feel good in your own skin – and the clothes your skin is in – is admirable. Fashions may come and fashions may go, but the feeling you get from feeling good about yourself never really goes out of style.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt favors kitten heels, old jeans, and T-shirts. She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org; http://kymberlyfosterseabolt.com; or P.O. Box 38, Salem, Ohio 44460.)
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