For most of my life, I’ve felt as if I’ve lived on the wrong side of fashionable. And, I’m sure, most of the people I know would agree with that statement. It started when I was in elementary school when I wore mostly hand-me-down clothes and never had the cool accessories that my friends had. When I began junior high, it was even worse because by then, style mattered. Only I still didn’t have the fancy clothes required to succeed in a fashionable appearance.
As my junior high years went on, I earned money delivering papers and later washing dishes at the local café so that I could buy stuff. Though I still didn’t have quite enough money for the most fashionable clothing—so I developed a coping mechanism that saw me pretending not to want to wear what everyone else was wearing. I convinced myself that I actively wanted to look different; I wanted to have my own unique style.
And so by high school, I was fully committed to buying charity shop clothing that I mended and altered into something a bit kooky and unique. My creations were made without a machine (I don’t really know how to sew) and were instead hand-stitched, safety-pinned, or hot-glued together in some fashion. Most things fell apart after only a few outings, but that was OK because I was “done” with the look by then.
One of my most treasured pieces was my “acid washed” jean jacket that was a very un-stylish, dark-blue, plain denim jacket that I scuffed up with sandpaper then swirled in a bleach solution before washing and repeating the process until I was satisfied. Then I stitched on loads of funky buttons along the collar and lapel. It certainly didn’t look like the cool jackets everyone else was wearing, but it was certainly a stand-out creation!
Another treasured favourite was a set of three long skirts that I cut and layered to make one flowing, floral-and-lace skirt that I wore with a kind of pirate lace-up top that I added chains to. That was then worn with these massive black daisy earrings that I made from metal daisies that once decorated a lamp base.
Oh, yes. I was so cool! (Or maybe not.)
Anyhow, when I was 20 a guy I briefly dated put a stop to my fashion nonsense and insisted that I start dressing like everyone else. And I was silly so I went along with it.
And then I met my late husband and he was happy for me to slowly start adding my unique flare to my wardrobe when I decided I wanted to go back to my way of dressing. Which made me happy. Only I had a fairly responsible job that required meetings with big, important (more in their minds) conventional suit-wearers so I couldn’t go too crazy.
But now, I am ready to delve into my very own fashion again.
You see, as a PhD student, I don’t have to worry about business meetings or a professional career setting in the same way as I did when I was working. I have the ability and the freedom to rediscover my own style and I’m going to take it!
Of course, as I’m on a “starving student” budget again, it makes sense from a practical side because charity shops are the only places I can afford to shop now. And since they won’t always have my size, I will need to make things fit me through a bit of creativity and stitchery.
And that means that you can look forward to stories about my great charity shop finds—and how I’ve turned rags into (my idea of) fashion!
(It also means that you should think of me first before you donate clothing or materials to a shop. I’m not too proud to take hand-me-downs from people I know!)
Stay tuned to find out how I get on with this great fashion adventure of mine!
[Photo Copyright: Barbara Cook (1992). That’s me as an 18-year-old at Grandpa Eberle’s birthday party in one of my fashionable creations. I really did love that skirt and those earrings. Though I’m glad to be rid of those specs!]