Monday, April 12, 2010

Clothes make the (wo)man. Not.

So I think I'm not superficial. 

But I am.

It bothers me.

Here's how I know I am: I like to look in style. That's not such a big deal and it doesn't make me superficial. But I don't have a great sense of natural style. I've talked about my overly matchy-matchy dressing tendencies before. I can see stuff in a magazine or on a mannequin and then buy it for myself, but that's not exactly an organic approach to fashion. It seems like people with a natural sense of style can find really disparate items of clothing from all kinds of places and pull them together in a way that is totally hip. I would never be able to look at the same pieces they do and come up with an outfit. Yet you look at the same stuff on someone else and they have that air about them, that confidence that even if what they wore didn't all match, they'd feel sure they were awesome, anyway.

Yesterday at church I saw a girl in a gray and white striped blouse (matte cotton), a silver skirt (shiny), opaque black tights and metallic gold Mary Jane heels trimmed in silver. It shouldn't have worked, but it did. I'm sure (in my own head) that if I tried to wear the same outfit, it would look all wrong. People would look at me and think, "She has no idea how to dress."

Naturally stylish people can find the coolest outfits at the Goodwill. I'm sure if I wore thrift shop clothes, people would know I got them from a thrift store. That wouldn't matter if I still came off looking cool or stylish, but I would look like a bag lady. And that's how I know I'm superficial. Give me a Payless version of a shoe or the $90 Nordstrom version of it, and most likely, I'll pick the Nordstrom version of it because I'm sure in the Payless shoe people would look at me and say, "Huh. Cheap shoes" and in the Nordstrom pair, people will say, "Huh. Cute shoes." Even if they're IDENTICAL.

Basically, my self-esteem depends on me spending more money than I need to on clothes so that I can feel confident in front of other people.

I'm so pathetic that I've actually seen something cute on markdown and then thought, "Wait. If it's on markdown then nobody else wanted so it must not be that cute after all." And then I've not bought it.

On a related note, I'll be spending my next vacation running with the lemmings.

Anyway, I'm trying to overcome this. There are flashes of hope. When I have bought items of clothing or pairs of shoes on a whim simply because they amuse me or appeal to me at some emotional level, simply because I like them or the mood they put me in, those are the items that I get the most compliments on no matter how much or little they cost.

So you'd think I learn. The lesson would be: spend less time and money on trying to project an image and more on the things that please YOU. That is REAL.

I understand that this is about the lamest, most inconsequential issue ever. But it's been on my mind because I have the LDS Storymakers writing conference to go to next week and I've been planning my wardrobe for weeks now. It's fun to dress up for stuff, but as I puzzle over what to wear and discard or as I eliminate choices and consider my reasons why, I realize how totally lame I'm being. If I showed up in my oldest, rattiest stuff, the truly cool people are still going to like me regardless. And if I think wearing my sharpest brand new outfit is what will gain me friends, then I'm not cool at all.

The funniest thing is that I couldn't care less what other people wear. I don't know why I think they care what I do.

That's it. It's official. Something inside my head is broken. Maybe a little retail therapy will help . . .

24 comments:

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

there's some similarities between us, and some differences.I care a lot aobut style. I want to always look my best. I love shopping.

But I also love a bargain. I refuse to pay more than $5 for a shirt unless it's specialty (like maternity). I love clearance racks. I pride myself on getting great clothes for very little. It's a game to me, a scavenger hunt.

I also only keep the clothes I feel good in in my closet. Clothes can make me feel happy, peppy, young, put-together, or fat, dumpy, old-fashioned, you name it.

So if I pull it out of my closet and don't like the way it looks on me, I put it in a give-away bag. I have no qualms w/ this b/c almost everything I own is very cheap. That way, every day when I see what I have to wear, I get excited.

Susan said...

If it makes you feel any better, I've planning my wardrobe for weeks too. But I don't have 90 bucks to spend on Nordstrom shoes, nor is there a Nordstrom anywhere within 200 miles. So my Target knock offs will have to do. See you then. Oh, and maybe now you understand my shallow ramblings about book covers--because you're the same. Just about clothes.

Maureen@IslandRoar said...

You're right, it's all about what grabs you in a moment, and at that moment you're not thinking about how it looks to others. You have to find something you feel like that about for your conference. If you don't have it, buy it. Just go with a budget in mind. Or a store or 2 where you normally have luck. And it's not superficial. Everyone likes to feel like they look good. Even cave people liked their animal skins a certain way...

MommyJ said...

There are some things I will spend big money on... like blue jeans, and running shoes. Other things, like strappy summer sandals and flip flops and some t-shirts that I really only expect to last one season anyway, I'll go cheap on.

From my experience though, if I am willing to spend a little more money on something, it will normally be something that I will wear for more than one season. It will last longer, look better longer...

I've never been able to do well in thrift shops. I have a few bargain buys that I've hung on to, but not many.

I don't have tremendous fashion sense. I think I dress pretty basic - no real flair. But I do care about looking nice. About wearing clothes that are flattering.

Charlotte said...

I can't pull together an outfit to save my life and I'm also too cheap to buy the nicer clothes, so bag lady it is.

My daughters, however, are great at putting together their clothes. I let them dress themselves and sometimes their concoctions are rather unique, but over time they are really getting a sense of their own style and it looks good on them (although there are still some duds).

It was an eye opener to me when I realized my perception of other people and their beauty and/or style had more to do with how they carried themselves than their actual looks or clothes.

MT said...

I'm with Charlotte. Boy, I wish I had more of a sense of style. If my teens say, "Nice outfit, Mom," I know it's a keeper.

L.T. Elliot said...

Well, part of this story I can buy but I still remember that great deal you got online for those killer hooker-shoes. ;)

Melanie, you could wear a paper sack and class it up. That said, I truly believe you'll knock socks off. You always look so good. (And your hair does too!)

Kristina P. said...

Melanie, you should see my closet. I have a sickness. I developed style about 5 years ago. I'm not really hip. More Banana Republic kind of style. But I can't stop buying cute clothes!!

Why does the Internet make it so easy!

Karen said...

I used to be the same way. I sort of still am, but not the way I used to be.

Now, I just don't care what other people think. If I like it, I'll wear it and to heck with anyone else.

I have this shirt that I absolutely love and think is totally cool. My roommate thinks it's hideous. I wear it with pride because I love it.

Alison Wonderland said...

I have sisters who are fantastically stylish, shop at DI and come home with great stuff kind of stylish. I can not do that. I figure I'd rather go to old Navy (because I don't have the cash for Nordstrom) where everything is (more or less) current because I go to the thrift store and I just can't tell.
BUT for Christmas every year my mom takes all of her daughters to DI and buys us whatever we pick out. With my sisters along to pick stuff out for me I'm fine. It's pretty much the only time I get clothes

Kimberly said...

I have the same broken thing in my head. No, I'm not just saying that to make you feel better. I'm constantly trying to find the clothes that will fix my self-esteem issues, which is totally mixed up backwards if you think about it.

And? I like hanging with people who don't intimidate me with their keen fashion sense. Wear jeans and a hoodie and I'll be more comfy with you. Of course, I'll be wearing my brand-new-maybe-these-will-make-me-feel-cool clothes...

Kris said...

I'm waiting for cardigans and twin sets with jeans and flip flops to be in style. Boy, when they finally are, I will totally be THE BOMB.

DeNae said...

I hear you. For me, it's a confidence thing; I want to be comfortable enough about how I look that I can, well, FORGET about how I look! I have found that I do best with primary colors, clothes that emphasize my legs and de-empahasize my middle, and scoop necks instead of V-necks.

That's it. That's how much fashion sense I have. We can hang together at Storymakers. looking hot in our hooker heels and grocery bags over our heads.

Carolyn V. said...

Hey, I'll see you at the conference! I find that style is an individual thing as long as someone feels good about what they are wearing and confident in themself, it's all good. =)

wendy said...

Fashion....I am no good at it.
Funny, but as I am typing this, I am watching Cindy Lauper on Ellen Degenneress. She---what she is wearing---looks wild, fun and crazy. And because she is Cindy, she can totally get away with it.
I like wild fashion.
But don't live in a place where they'd understand wild fashion
it's about WRANGLERS and snap button shirts here.

But I love it when I think I look good. Cloths don't make the woman---but it makes US feel good

Lara said...

I think that's how it is with so much of life. What is real and works for one person, doesn't work for the copycat because it isn't REAL. You have to be who you are, and that's when you are awesome.

And, I'm sure you'll look FAB at Storymakers! Have fun!

Amber said...

I look like a bag lady every day. Sad face.

Kazzy said...

You would look good in anything, I am sure. But I totally know what you mean. I try to not try too hard, but it is always a concern- are these clothes going to make me look like a troll?

As the saying goes... Women dress for other women. So true.

I am not attending Storytellers, but am excited to meet up with you guys at Borders on Thursday. :)

The Crash Test Dummy said...

ha ha ha ha ha That is so funny. And so true. I have the same disorder. My sister dresses so adorably. She can pull off any cute outfit. I wait for her to give me her hand me downs but then I just look . . . like a frumpy version of my sister.

I am really good with look natural and real in a gray t-shirt with a black sweat jacket.

And AAAAHHHH! I'll be at storymakers too. NO WAY! I can't wait to meet you. And I can't wait to see what you're wearing.

hee hee

peewee said...

I hear from a famous actress that Vajazzling REALLY boosts your esteem. THAT would certainly make an impression at the LDS seminar.

Debbie said...

I am far too cheap to be stylish. Once I embraced that fact about myself, it made it easier to accept my frumpishness!

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Dedee said...

I have no advice for you here sister. I like to look cute, but I have very definite ideas about what I like on me and current fashions may or may not play a part in that. Spandex dresses? All wrong for me. 50's full skirts and tight tops? Definitely me. You'll see at the Witney's.

I think it's more a matter of the confidence you have in what you're wearing. If you like it--then other people will too--absolutely useless advice from someone who will wear something 5 years old if it looks good on her.

You're awesome. Can't wait to see you.

Heidi Ashworth said...

I'm reading this after the LDS Storymakers conference but I've heard rumors about you and your darling shoes and adorable toes. I think you have nothing to worry about.