Friday Fashion/Beauty: Chasing skirts for my wardrobe

So, today’s long rambling rant isn’t me bitching about bands or whatever, it’s me bitching about me. But also society/culture, but mostly me since at the end of the day, I am responsible for what I wear.

Y’see… I haven’t been happy about what I’ve seen in the mirror the last… oh, I dunno, 5 years or so (well, the last 25 years off and on, but I’m talking the most recent continuous stretch). Granted, a lot of that has been my weight issues, but I’m down 60 lbs since late 2018 when I was pushing 300, and 40 since last year at this time.

But a lot of it hasn’t so much been what I see when I get out of the shower, but what I see when I’m going out and about: No make-up, hair in a messy bun, and dressed like a bum.

As the weight has come off, at least I’m not dressing in yoga pants and t-shirts anymore (except for my morning walks), but I kinda still feel like I dress like a bum. Or kinda boring. Or both.

My daily uniform has become some form of a Lois Griffin costume: pants (in my case not beige ones but a mix of jeans, black Pixie pants from Old Navy and the like, sometimes lighter trousers, and jeggings), a tank top, either a button down shirt or a cardi over that, and flat shoes.

Now, I have made upgrades along the way. For example, I purged out 90% of the black and grey from my wardrobe. I have about 6 silk tops, mostly vintage button-down blouses. I have soft floral tanks and lace-trimmed camisoles. I am now wearing some nicer silk blend peasant-style blouses. And much as I love my cheap little faux-Ked sneakers that I get dirt cheap at Ardene, I’m relegating them to the garden and digging into my apparently vast store of nicer ballet flats for when I leave my property to buy groceries, and I’ve started wearing my old cowboy booties as well.

To be fair, it’s a vast improvement over the last few years’ uniform of sneakers, XXL leggings, XXL tanks, and baggy t-shirts under a baggy black hoodie.

But, still I feel like I look like crap and much of that is in what I wear.

Something sorta clicked a while back when reading some of Julia Cameron’s books. In several of them she talks about purging your wardrobe of clothes that don’t fit who you want to be. Clothes that make you feel like garbage need to go in the garbage. And also she talked about brainstorming how you envision yourself looking and dressing in your ideal creative life and then starting to incorporate pieces like that.

Well… I can’t help but notice my Instagram feed has been filled by following a million boho beach style accounts as well as the more refined retro/vintage style ladies.

But that’s not what I look like and it’s certainly not what I’ve been dressing like, so we have a disconnect.

It ties in with some of what I was thinking last spring when I was first working through the Artist’s Way and trying to get creatively unblocked and what I was drawn to was drawing (as I always have at different periods in my life) and subject-wise I wanted to set up still lives of sexy shoes and frivolous purses and perfume bottles. Stuff like this:

And I was thinking about how these items had somehow seemingly become verboten in the current culture.

So that was something I was exploring in paintings I was making at the time, and I guess since I’ve switched to writing and whatnot, the growing Barbie collection has sorta taken off from where the paintings left off.

I thought I blogged about all that, but it looks like I didn’t, so… I guess I just ranted about these topics in emails to friends.

Anyway… I can sew and have at various times in the last 20 years, including having made jackets from velvets and eyelet tops, etc. So early last year I started collecting fabric yardage with the plan to make dresses and skirts and retro-inspired tops. I have tons of fabric set aside to make dresses and skirts with as I get smaller, and even the fabric that was bought on sale with the express purpose of making some in bigger sizes that I would then either give away or alter/refit as I shrunk out of them or has ended up being deemed as “too nice to use just yet.” Which is fine, since even on-sale fabric makes for more expensive clothes than just buying new pre-made clothes at budget-friendly stores like Winners, but then it’s also like it’s an excuse to put off wearing anything nicer. (Also, my family room is literally drowning in fabric longing to be made into “anything nicer” – including one paper bag from Gala Fabrics containing $200 worth of silk slated to become nighties and camisoles, all still neatly folded for the future.)

I even bought and modified a dress last spring, it was a simple faux-wrap black dress with white polka dots but I thought it needed more oomph and I had a pink leopard print fabric in the same fibres so I added in inserts to make the skirt fuller and more of a handkerchief look. I also added inserts to the sleeves to make them flutter, then finished it all off with circular flounces made from a black chiffon with lime green polka dots and I finished it off with pink ribbon trim.

The end product has a very Betsey Johnson vibe and I love it… but I’ve never worn it. Not even around the house. (I guess I should just be happy I finished it and it’s not in a paper bag in the family room, lol…)

And I’ve lost 40lbs since then with plenty more to go, which is fine because all the boho beach girls I see on Instagram wear dresses way too big for them and just belt them for that drapey Ibiza look (usually not black with pink leopard print, but the point is, I can still wear that dress).

I’ve been buying other dresses and skirts as well, but never wearing them, and of course I have ones I had before the latest weight spike waiting to come back out into the light of day.

The whole thing kinda goes with an overall glow-up strategy (wear makeup more, am doing nails more, brighter colors) that I’ve been slowly implementing for I guess the last 2 years. When I say strategy, unfortunately I mean just that, versus action. Well, I did manage to start growing my nails last fall and keeping them painted with a Wednesday night mandatory manicure that I do while watching my friends’ livestream show. So that’s progress. And, like I said, I purged 90% of the black and grey from my wardrobe.

I’m taking better care of my skin now, and some days I even bother to wear mascara and lip gloss (and even that tiny bit helps).

And now it’s time to start dressing better.

I think it was in Vein of Gold where Cameron has an exercise where you envision different secret selves or aspects of your personality as if they were separate people and describe them including how they dress. Then, as I mentioned, there’s talk about integrating those modes of dress along with those squelched aspects of self into your actual life.

I’ll skip mentioning all of what I came up with, but there were 3 main prongs: I wanted to get my boho glam on, I wanted a more elegant daily look that incorporates some retro vibes (but kinda quirky and with an edge), and also a sexier edge, kinda a siren look.

Well, the siren can kinda be the bridge between “boho glam” and “elegant and somewhat retro”, right?

But the question comes up: so why don’t I just dress that way when that’s how I envision myself? Is it just inertia? Wanting to be invisible (and if so, why?) Not wanting the dreaded inner thigh chafing?

Bullshit from my mother? I recall my mother always hated wearing skirts for her work (as a nurse in the 80s, then as a manager and hospital administrator). She was quite heavy, closer to 300, I’m sure, and constantly complained about having to wear skirt suits and pantyhose and the nanosecond the dress code at work allowed pantsuits, she made the switch (and then eventually to ever more casual clothes). I certainly ended up with a lot of negative views that I inherited from her and am still purging out of my thinking to this day.

Some sort of peer/culture pressure? There does seem to be demonization of skirts and dresses these days (unless it’s an XY wearing them). For such a supposedly female-friendly and in many ways female-dominant society, we sure seem to shit on anything traditionally associated with femininity or emblematic of it. Skirts, pink, Barbie, ruffles, rhinestones, heels… all these are slated for only certain kinds of women and girls and we seem to have all agreed those kinds of women and girls are the stupid and less worthy ones.

Bimbos wear pink. Sorority girls. Of course, there was the whole Legally Blonde hit movie franchise about how those women aren’t actually stupid despite what society likes to think about them, but it doesn’t seem to have made much of a dent. We still think cheerleaders and beauty queens are dumb and bitchy, even though when I think about the cheerleaders I knew in high school, they were actually really nice girls and maybe not all of them were brilliant but they weren’t stupid either.

So… much as I like to think I’ve been somewhat iconoclastic in my life and a rebel, I certainly have internalized some of this garbage thought… and—dare I say it?—internalized misogyny.

You have no idea how much I loathe that phrase, so often used to shame women for wanting to be women and girls for wanting to be girly, but if ever there was a case for calling something “internalized misogyny” it’s the notion that only stupid women wear pink and only bimbos wear frilly dresses or heels etc. and we should all dress like dudes in jeans and t-shirts instead, maybe even have dudes’ haircuts and skip makeup like them, just basically obliterate any marker of what makes us different from men (and, some might point out, what gives us power over them, lol…)

BTW, when I say that, I’m talking about notions women have. I’ve never run into a man who didn’t appreciate a woman dressed in a dress or in pink or in something frilly. I’m sure they don’t all have the same levels of appreciation for all aspects of traditionally feminine wear, but they don’t shame you for any of it. That’s something women do to other women.

I recall conversations with friends where I joked that I bet a big part of the appeal of bellydance over the last 30 years is that it’s one of the few remaining socially acceptable (or at least sorta acceptable) realms where a woman can dress (and indeed move) like a woman, wear frilly stuff, rhinestones, etc. and not be viewed as some weird bimbo for doing so. (And then they change back into their jeans and drabs after the class or recital.)

I got thinking about times when I did wear skirts and dresses. Belly dance was certainly a part of that, and in fact I danced at a recital in I think 2016 when I was the same weight I am now (but with bleached hair):

It’s funny, at the time, I felt like a blimp, and I’ve certainly been far lighter as well as far heavier, but now looking at it, I was the biggest of that class, but not by some vast amount, and I wasn’t the biggest girl to dance with her belly bare that night.

So… I guess I can’t use being worried about my size as an excuse, because I didn’t let it stop me from wearing that green get-up. In two different recitals in the same week. In front of sell-out crowds of about 500 people each time, so… in front of a thousand people. And I would like to get back to bellydance.

Another time when I wore skirts and was about the same size as I am now was around 2005-2006. I was taking some sewing classes through the Vancouver School Board’s night classes, and for some reason I have vivid memories of showing up to the corsetry class and the “trash couture” (more like refashioning) class wearing a tight black Ozzy Osbourne t-shirt and a black rayon midi A-line skirt that I absolutely adored that had cream embroidery around the bottom 4″.

And I wore that thing all the time that summer. (Bit of a weird combo, a ladylike skirt and an Ozzy shirt, but there ya have it.)

Furthermore, I don’t recall wearing bike shorts under it, so either thigh chafing wasn’t as big a deal as I currently assume it would be or my skin adapted or whatever.

And as I recall, I actually looked thinner in that skirt and shirt combo than I did in pants, which is probably why I wore it so much… along with black flats that had silver sequins on them, which I think I still have.

Oh, and then there was 2010 to early 2011 when I had this massive black taffeta high-low ball skirt, which I recall wearing at least a couple times to events like the Waldorf’s Halloween bash when I went as a saloon girl (with a black velvet peasant blouse on top underneath a black corset that I’d made in the above-mentioned corsetry class). I loved that thing, but the problem was it took an entire drawer to accommodate it in my dresser, and then I lost weight and thought it would be too much work to take it in so I donated it. I shoulda kept it and paid a professional to take it in for me. Lesson learned.

Somewhere around that time I did occasionally show up to studio sessions in a tight black punky zip-front mini-skirt and fishnet tights that tended to drive the studio rats to distraction, lol.

I can’t recall wearing skirts or dresses when I’ve weighed more than I currently do, but there were of course times I wore them when I was lighter.

35 pounds lighter than I am now and 7 years ago, I recall wearing a casual black and red knee-length cotton dress to my then friend-with-occasional-benefits’ band’s show at a dive bar in Surrey, BC. Truth be told, I think other men in the bar appreciated it more than the one I wore it for, but that’s beside the point. I wore that dress a lot from what I recall, and I still have it, waiting in storage with a lot of smaller-size items.

And of course there were my teen years, including the first couple years of university before I got sick in 98 (depression) and ballooned up (because of the anti-depressants, which did a number on my body even though I quit them in less than a year). I weighed 70-80 pounds less than I do now and wore skirts all the time.

I particularly recall a crimson velvet button-front miniskirt, a red satin wrap skirt that was barely below my ass (and I wore it to an anthropology class! LOL…), a zip-front silver pleather skirt that was maybe 3 inches below my ass and started just above my hip bones that I used to wear to art school all the time, usually with platform heels, a leopard print velvet mini-dress that was also barely below my ass, and a lot of other things that I bet even Kelly Bundy might have thought a little too trashy.

And I loved them all. And never got the thigh chafing… believe me when I say there’s no way to gracefully wear bike shorts under miniskirts.

OK, so as I’ve written this, I’ve remembered way more incidents than the 2 original skirt-wearing times that I could remember at first. So… again, what the Hell is the problem now?

Is it because I’m trying to do comedy writing and comedians mostly dress like bums regardless of sex? Well… except remember Lisa Lampanelli for years spewing her acerbic dick jokes while wearing beautiful retro-style dresses with full circle skirts and I think she even wore petticoats underneath. So… scratch that excuse.

The invisibility thing comes up. That weird push pull of look at me (because I have flaming red hair and wear bright colors and rhinestones) but also don’t look at me. Wearing dresses and skirts I guess peels off another layer of reasons to not look at me while adding another layer of “do look at me” and I guess that will take getting used to again.

When I was younger, I loved the attention. And I guess I still do, but I want to skip the scrutiny. Which reminds me of a column by the late, great Kathy Shaidle, in which she talks about invisibility as a form of power. (Go read everything Shaidle ever wrote that you can get your hands on, it’s all gold.)

Now, my situation is different, because I looked like Barbie when I was in that 17-20 sweet spot, but then I got fat and have been to varying degrees since, and the larger the degree/my ass, the more invisible I’ve been, so I can sorta relate.

And now I’m losing that invisibility power, which is a good thing, but it takes getting used to again. And dressing nicer is another step on that road.

I guess I just have to remind myself that I’ll be getting back the other sort of feminine power.

And I can’t use lifestyle and convenience as an excuse. I work for myself and from home. The biggest conflict between wearing skirts and my lifestyle is I’ll have to refresh my memory on how to get in and out of a car in a skirt in a graceful manner.

And in any case, I stumbled on an article at The Darling Academy wherein the writer talked about setting herself a challenge to only wear skirts and dresses, and she’s a stay at home mom/trad wife whose lifestyle I’m sure involves far less sitting and typing than mine does, so if she could do it, there’s no reason I can’t.

And she has another blog talking about deciding to dress more femininely and a lot of the initial hang-ups sound very familiar to me.

In a funny coincidence, right after reading those two blogs last week, I was texting with my best friend and not even mentioning anything about skirts but she mentioned to me about how she’d built a reputation at work as “the girl who only wears skirts”. And how she finds she is treated as having more authority for it.

BTW, she works in a a logistics/shipping warehouse environment and is on her feet all day doing a very physical job. And she does it in skirts. Again, why’s my excuse?

Anyway, so… last week, I figured I should start actually wearing some of the skirts and dresses I have acquired. I’d had a new black boho faux-wrap skirt and a pair of turquoise cropped leggings laid out on the chair in my bedroom for days but hadn’t gotten around to actually wearing them.

Saturday morning I was kicking around the house in a floral tank top and pink golf shorts but then needed to run to the grocery store and ATM. I decided to swap into the skirt and leggings combo. Off I went feeling both weird for not dressing like a slob or in my standard Lois Griffin uniform of jeans or stretch trousers with a button-down shirt or cardigan over a tank top and ballerina flats and weirder for feeling weird about it.

No one cares, lol… and it doesn’t matter because frankly, there’s no one in this town I wanna sleep with anyway, ergo no one whose opinion I care about, ergo I don’t even know why I care either way.

Like most things, it’s all in your head. Which is of course brought in by culture and family and the rest but ultimately it’s on me and how I feel. And I felt I looked better in the boho black skirt.

I like the swishing as I walked, I like that even though it’s a very casual skirt I felt more put-together wearing it. I even like how I found myself standing up straighter in it. And I kept it on the rest of the day and evening.

Hopefully that’s burst the stupid mental block and from now on, bring on the skirts! I’m not ready for a full-time dresses-only policy, but let’s see how I do with about a 50/50 one.

One more step of dressing more like I envision myself dressing. Next step maybe I can see about strong-arming my hair into some beach waves, lol…