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Thursday, October 15, 2009

What NOT To Wear

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UPDATED: I can NOT believe I forgot to post this picture! Yes, my pal Debi & I are goofing off, but we actually dressed like this for a trip to the mall. I wish I was kidding.

Awhile back a friend of mine posted a letter to her 16-year-old self. I have debated since then what I would write in a letter to my teenage self. Once I get past the advice on 'there's more to life than boys' and 'put a little more effort in at school', all that is left is fashion advice. And OH MY LANDS did I need it at times.

Dearest Teenage Gerb,

Hey there. It's me, 37 year-old Gerb, and I've got something to say, so I'm just going to say it. Some of your clothing choices scare me a little. Don't get me wrong, I still admire your love for finding unique thrift store items and wearing them proudly. But honestly, Gerb, some of your match-ups are frightening. I think it may have started with what you wore your first day of high school. We both know that was not your fault, that you were simply following the advice of someone you trusted, but those Levis should have been washed at least 20 times before you actually wore them in public... and that white t-shirt with the huge, puffy, green Gumby on it? It still makes me shudder.

I'm fairly certain that that was the day you decided not to care what anyone else thought about your clothes. It was easier to pretend you didn't care than to be visibly hurt by the pointing fingers and barely stifled giggles of the girls who enjoyed hurting others to somehow elevate their own self-esteem. This is when you were struck with the fact that you didn't seem to fit in anywhere. And so you came back with a vengeance, deciding to mock the cookie-cutter girls with your outlandishly unique looks.

As much as I admire you for dressing in one-of-a-kind styles, there are a few things that I would advise against ever wearing again. For example, long underwear knee-length cut-offs beneath short skirts just look kind of trashy. And cut-off shorts with thigh-high lace nylons are definitely not the right look for you. They portray the wrong message... and that message is not "I am unique".

Eventually you will tone down some and take your fashion in another direction. I'm not sure what to call the days when you would wear the clothes that the boys you were interested in were wearing, but again I need to say that this is really not you. Besides that - they are boy's clothes and you are a girl. Wearing the same brands as the surfer boys won't make them notice you. Being yourself will. Don't be afraid to be feminine. Remember that sort of psychadelic 60's dress you found at Goodwill, the one you pictured yourself wearing with lime green tights and your white suede slouch boots? The one you didn't buy because it wasn't baggy enough to hide your lack of shape? You are going to remember that dress for the rest of your life because you didn't buy it. That dress was unique, tasteful and feminine. It was a perfect expression of YOU.

I also remember a dress that you did buy, another that you will always remember. It's a hideous, white, sleeveless thing, all covered in frilly lace. You will buy it because of peer pressure and at FULL price. I know, you can't believe such a thing, but it's true. You will buy it because it is just the dress that the friend you will be shopping with would want and she will convince you that it's perfect for you so that she can later borrow it. And you'll look at pictures of yourself in that dress for years to come and wonder what possessed you to ever buy such a silly thing. At full price. Don't wear things that you know in your gut do not portray who you are or what you like.

The good news is that eventually you will come to a point where you embrace your uniqueness and, at the same time, not be afraid to conform to what others like when it is something that you are also fond of. You will learn to find balance. You will become comfortable with who you are and what you wear.

And don't worry, we'll have a talk about boys later.

With love and admiration,

Your 37-year-old Self

21 comments:

Mom not Mum said...

I love it! I think if I were to write something like this it might be about hair styles and lipstick. Do you remember that "mood changing" lipstick? When it turns bright purple it isn't really attractive.

Anonymous said...

LOL i remember the white dress.... :) i wish i could warn myself about showing up to my first day at a new school in 7th grade dressed entirely in RETURN OF THE JEDI stuff, from belt buckle down to shoelaces....*sighs heavily* :) rory

Camille said...

This is a good one. I think we all had those days. My error was in wearing the same 3 shirts over and over and over. It seems like all of my high school pictures were taken on the same day although they were taken throughout a 3 year time frame. Yikes.

Teachinfourth said...

Gerb, once-again I admire your candid honesty in this heartfelt letter to self. If only we could all face our worst moments of 'pastness' in such a way instead of burying them.

Richard & Natalie said...

Oh, if this were only possible... the humiliation it would have prevented. But then again, what would we look back on and laugh at?

Amber said...

I like your letter. I wish past selves could take our advice...

Gina said...

Oh how I wish I could have known you then!

Mamma has spoken said...

Nice to know that I wasn't the only one who wore outfits to school that still causes embaressment several years later...

Infertility Goddess said...

Maybe we all should have a past self post. We can post photos of ourselves in what we thought was "cool" and decide who the "coolest" was. I have one frilly fluorescent Mexican restaurant waitress looking thing with hair four inches above my head that I was SO proud of.

Second thought, never mind, “live in the now man” seems like a pretty good motto.

I love you for this post, if only I had known you I wouldn't have felt so alone.

Jen Witt

Rebecca said...

Question: Do you still own any of your high school clothes?

I do. I wore them well into my late twenties, if not past 30. I think I've finally donated most of it now, except for a pair of argyle knee-high socks (a bit think in the heels now)that I still wear.

Socks. You should appreciate that.

Rebecca said...

Thin in the heels, not "think" in the heels.

Gerb said...

MNM- I was not a big wearer of lipstick, but I did have a mood ring... does that count?

Rory- Wow... I think that's awesome, personally. But I can see how it maybe wasn't so awesome back then.

Camille- If I didn't have friends who I was constantly swapping clothes with my senior year I would have been in the same predicament!

T5- Thanks. It was actually a bit difficult to write, but therapeutic. I'm just glad I'm not that same girl anymore.

Natalie- I couldn't agree more! And what stories would I have to tell my kids?!

Amber- Me, too. I can't tell you how much I would have loved to have known who I was going to marry someday! Of course, it would have become my life's mission to find him and that may not have been so productive.

Gina- Me, too. I bet you were a hoot in high school!

MamaHS- I have a funny feeling that you were in VERY good company. I bet just about everyone could name an outfit or two that they regret wearing!

Jen- I almost did post pictures of the frilly dress and the cut-off long underwear but decided it would be counter-productive. I'd love to see your little Mexican waitress number. And bangs-to-the-sky? I probably had everyone beat. I even wrote a song about it.

Bec- Um... did you read this post? There is no way I would wear most of the things I wore in high school. I left a lot of that behind when I went to college. I used to own blue, green and orange Converse and I DO wish I had kept those. I am amazed that a pair of socks could last you so long! My funky feet usually put holes in the heels before a year is up.

PMC said...

too bad my 16 year old self wouldn't have taken my 35 year old self very seriously even if i was able to write that letter! loved this post!

Gerb said...

PMC- My teenage self would have carried around that letter in her back pocket until the creases were so worn that the letter would fall apart upon opening. Now, whether or not she would have followed my advice is another story...

Kara said...

I guess I'm a little more like Rebecca in my high school clothing choices for I still own some of them. My question is if there is anything you got rid of but wished you had kept? Mine is my old leg warmers. They would have come in handy when my kids have wanted to dress-up in 80's clothing for parties/dances. We just improvised and cut up old colored socks.

Gerb said...

Kara- I dressed anything but normal. It's a good thing I don't have my old clothes anymore! I did put on an old sweatshirt this morning and realized I've had it since my junior year of HS - something someone sent me from Australia. And yes, I wish I kept my Converse shoe collection and my little plastic contraptions that I could pull the right/front of my shirt through. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Farscaper said...

I was so boring that I often times have felt regrets over the years for those things I wish I had done but didn't. Probably linked to my anxiety - don't know. My letter would tell me to chill out and have more fun.

I do remember one conversation that altered my choice of jeans forever. When my older brother (2 yrs older) was picking his Levi 501 Jeans for his Sophmore year of HS the "in" style was the button down with the buttons showing kind. My mom discouraged the purchase on the logic of "What if you have to go to the bathroom really bad. Could you get them unbuttoned fast enough? I don't think so."

Now I wear slopy big clothes "just in case". LOL!!!

Corine said...

Great letter! :D I too, had my own way of dressing, -partly due to lack of money, and partly because I just wore what I liked and didn't give a hoot if it was in style or not! I'll never forget some really great learning experiences and wonderful self discoveries that came as a result of it. Perhaps I will blog about a few of my favorites... now that you have sparked my memory. :D T

hanks, Gerb... You're awesome! :D

Gerb said...

I'd love to read a post about your clothing choices. My outrageous styles had to do with lack of money as well... that was when I discovered Goodwill and all of the crazy items available there! It's nice to hear I wasn't the only one who learned some lessons because of it.

Kathy V said...

Note to teenage self: You are NOT fat. Just wait.

Gerb said...

Kathy- I guess my version of that would be: You are NOT a crazy freak. Just wait until you have kids...

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