To Thine Own Self Be True

Once upon a time, in the far off land known as Primary School, I learnt a lesson that wasn’t part of the curriculum. It all started quite innocently, when I was doing my hair one morning.  For some reason, I decided to put an extra hair tie in my pony tail.  Then another.  And another.  I liked the way I seemed to be creating a tower based on my hair, so I kept going.  It looked silly, but I loved it.  Who knows what my mum thought; evidently, she wasn’t opposed to my going to school with my hair wobbling on top of my head, encased in a glorious, multi-coloured tube.

The trouble started once I got to school and sat down in my desk.  My friend at the time took one look at me and declared: “I’m not sitting next to you with hair like that.”  She and some other friends then proceeded to take my hair down and ‘fix’ it.  My happiness deflated as quickly as my hair did under their ministrations and I learnt the lesson: If you don’t fit in with everyone else, you’ll upset your friends and possibly lose them.

This is a lesson we all learn to a certain degree, especially when we move on to secondary school.  Wear the right clothes.  Have the right hair.  Fit in.  But the little girl who built a tower of hair never really went away and she grew up into someone who secretly wanted to break away and look different but who didn’t quite have the courage to do it.

Until she discovered vintage bloggers.

I always knew they were out there, but discovering and reading the blogs of people who espoused the styles of yesteryear was a revelation.  They looked like they’d stepped out of the past… and they went out in public like that.  Amazing!  I’d never have the confidence to do something like that, would I?

And yet, somehow, retro-styled items were creeping into my wardrobe.  I discovered the Dangerfield and Review sections at Myer and spent ages trawling through racks of gorgeous dresses, swirly skirts and glorious cardigans.  Suddenly, dressing up for work became an enjoyable task and my style went from ‘Girl Friday’ (pencil skirts and pinstripe trousers with fancy shirts) through to ‘Retro-tastic’ (slinky wiggle-style dresses and forties style floral tea dresses with a rainbow assortment of cardigans).

Clothes became a way to express my love for social history and to finally accept that, yes, I’m a bit of a hipster at heart and I wouldn’t mind living in a house with a range in the kitchen, thank-you very much.  I draw the line at drinking out of jars, though.

Clothes allow you to wear your personality; they let you develop your own style.  And when you have style, you don’t need to worry about fashion.  You can wear your 1920s heels with your 1960s mini-dress and that’s fine.  You can take one look at the fashion for dipped hems and decide it is not for you.  And you can wear your hair in a tube of hair ties and not care what anyone thinks of it.

Come to think of it, Shakespeare got it right in Hamlet when he had Polonius give some advice to Laertes:

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man.

Or woman, Will.  Don’t forget the woman.

Style is all about being true to yourself and not bothering what anyone else will think.  Who said the hourglass was the only acceptable female shape?  Waist, no waist, tall, short, big hips, straight up and down… embrace whatever your body shape happens to be and the devil take those who disapprove!  I once told a girl in a shop that I don’t wear skirts with hems below my knees because they make me look short.  Shorter.

“Me too,” she said.  “But I don’t care!”

True to her word, she was wearing just such a skirt and she looked fabulous.  In many ways, style is about not giving a damn how you’re meant to look, according to society or fashion designers or disapproving people on the bus.  Style is about wearing clothes that make you feel good and really shouldn’t involve anyone else’s opinion at all.

So go on.  Wear Victory rolls in your hair to work.  Wear a skirt when you only wear pants.  Put on that dress you love, even though it’s no longer in fashion.  Life’s too short to dress for anyone but yourself.

0 thoughts on “To Thine Own Self Be True

  1. Oh I used to do that with all of the bands. I remember building an entire snake of bands and finding it was fairly pliable, not unlike a giant pipecleaner. Friends did comment, although I think I wore their remarks as a badge of honour. I’ve always marched to the beat of my accordion. I think I was spared the peer pressure because people had already figured out that I was beyond a point where I could be molded into any kind of regular shape, and thus they decided not to bother.

    What I do love about sewing is when you find the tricks of design where you can wear the thing that shouldn’t suit you, but make it suit you. The exact skirt length that creates the shape you want without making your legs shorter. Last year I experimented with a drindl skirts. I can’t wear them because I’m a bit hippy. But I can wear a kind of mock drindl skirt, and most wouldn’t people know the difference. Sewing sourcery that.

    1. You make me wish I’d stuck at the crazy hairdos and discovered the pliable nature of them! My hair was pretty long at the time, so I bet I could have made some amazing arrangements. Unfortunately, I was a little too shy and always felt out of place anyway, so I stuck with being strange in secret.

      Sewing definitely is a form of magic, isn’t it? It gives you a power over your appearance that is hard to find with ready-to-wear clothes (not to mention the way you’re regarded as some sort of superhero if you happen to reveal you made the outfit you’re wearing). That makes all the hard work worthwhile!

  2. Not a truer word was spoken than those you just wrote!

    I remember the first time I really went with my true feelings and dressed the way I felt most comfortable. The Mister’s brother’s then girlfriend (now wife) looked me up and down and said “Aren’t you dressed up?” And I told her this is the real me and how I like to dress. That was the end of the story, and I’ve never felt more triumphant than that moment. Thank you for reminding me of that fact, for she is one person who continually wears me down.

    1. I love that you stood your ground and claimed your own style. Dressing up is so much fun and I believe it’s something we should keep doing as long as we can. We can’t let kids have all the fun to themselves!

  3. I went with this theory just this week! I was away for a few days and didn’t pack footwear to go with my dinner clothes, so had a choice of white Converse, blue starry Vans or purple Asics to go with my multicoloured maxidress that didn’t really come anywhere near the floor (tall person!). I decided the white sneakers would be the most discreet, so opted for the fabulous starry hi-tops instead and felt much better 🙂

    1. That sounds like a brilliant choice to me! We so often make clothing choices with everyone else in mind, so it’s nice to make some for ourselves. I bet you were super comfortable, too (says the person who chose sandals over mini-wedges to wear to work today).

  4. Way to go, girl! 😀 I have always admired people who have the guts to do their one thing regardless of what other people say. Now, I am one of them, myself. I try things out and sometimes the outcome is less than the expected, but at least I gave it a shot. My life philosophy is “it’s better to regret the things you did than regret the things you never did.” So, okay, people think I am a weirdo, but that’s just fine with me!
    About the age of sixteen, I wanted to change my surname since a/ I am presumably the only person in the world, having that name. Even in Sweden, it is a very rare surname and b/ I wanted a name easier to spell abroad. Dad freaked out and claimed that those were the silliest reasons for a name change he’d ever heard.

    Nowadays, I am quite proud of having such an unusual name and if I ever get married, I’ll stick by it. And I am also quite proud having the guts to go my own way.

    So, please, keep doing a tower of hair and maybe we’ll be fortunate enough to see it in a silly pose photo?

    Swedish proverbial: Bara döda fiskar följer med strömmen.(Only dead fish follow the stream.)

    1. The best thing about growing up (well, sort of growing up) is no longer having to worry about what other people think. It’s brilliant! Plus, I think there’s a lot of pressure to conform and do what everyone else is doing or like what everyone else likes, so it’s nice to stand out sometimes. It’s boring when everything is the same, anyway.

      I absolutely love that proverb and I think I will live by it for as long as I can!

  5. That quote is too perfect! I am so glad that you are finding your way to trying out the styles and looks that you want to wear Katie.

    It’s taken me ages to find a style that I felt truly expresses who I am and how I feel, and now that I’ve found it, it feels great! So I hope your style journey will bring you there too. ❤

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

    1. It can take a long time to work out who you are and what you like, but it’s worth it in the end! It’s just so much fun to do your own thing, rather than follow what’s expected or what everyone else is doing. That’s fine, provided it’s what you want to do, of course.

      I’m glad you liked the quote. It ended up being even more appropriate to the topic than I remembered, which worked brilliantly for me!

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