My mood is determined approximately 93% by what I’m wearing at a given time.
It started from infancy, with comfort being a priority. Think: soft cotton onesies and dry diapers. As I grew into toddlerhood and through my early years of schooling, comfort flew by the wayside in favor of glamor (at least what was considered “glamor” in the 80s).
When I was in 4th grade, my parents received a call from the teacher asking if they were aware that I was sporting high heels at school each day.
Apparently my mother’s adult-sized shoes on my kid-sized feet clued Mrs. Smith in that these were not my pre-arranged footwear.
This was not the first contact from school regarding my fashion choices, however. A few years prior, the teacher had asked during a conference if any changes were going on at home. After mulling this over for a while, my mom couldn’t come up with anything:
“I-I was on a business trip last week. Why? Is everything okay?”
“Aha! That must’ve been it, then!” the teacher proclaimed. “Academically she’s been fine, but wore velvet and taffeta dresses with dirty running sneakers to class all week. It was just rather strange.”
Apparently my dad was indifferent about the “homeless-chic” ensemble choices that his child determined were appropriate for kindergarten.
I was lucky enough to have a mom who didn’t fret over the details of my get-ups, unless it compromised the integrity of my family. For the most part 90s-fashion was pretty low-key, anyway, though I sometimes looked with envy on the kids who identified themselves as goth.
Long black dresses and capes, pale faces with dark lipstick;
I wanted to try it, but didn’t think I’d be able to pull off the “too-cool” countenance that seemed so effortless to that crowd.
So I decidedly blended in through high school and college. I kept up with the trends (platform foam flip-flops, tank tops atop other tank tops, risqué mini-skirts, wool sweaters from J. Crew), but didn’t really try anything new during that period of my life.
Upon leaving school and joining the work force, I needed to maintain a sense of decorum, so I dressed preppy and older. My glasses and “teacher-bun” (complete with writing implement jabbed through the center) rounded out the “she’s such a professional” look.
As long as my job was as a professional hot mess, I realize when I look back.
The only thing that set my wardrobe apart were my shoes:
My collection was vast; enviable. Every color and shade was represented, from fuchsia to forest green. But what they all had in common? Height. Towering peep-toes and the tallest wedges took me from pocket-sized to altitudinous amazonian. I was able to walk long stretches, run a marathon if needed, and- most importantly- stand sternly eye-to-eye with my eighth-grade students who had hit growth spurts over the winter break.
I stood straighter and more confidently in my heels, but the moment I switched to flat shoes, I rolled my shoulders forward and waddled like a mallard. Every footfall brought a sense of woe. It’s fascinating how an item of clothing can influence temperament to such a degree.
When I was more than 7 months pregnant with my daughter, I recall slipping my feet into a pair of 4-inch pumps before a night out. I specifically remember that feeling of pleasure I had, to be able to put something on my body that actually fit- that felt GOOD even- was so satisfying. Though it was only 8 years ago, it feels like a lifetime has passed.
I actually can’t pinpoint when I began wobbling.
Looking back I can remember starting to lack confidence in my ability to get up from the table in a restaurant and walk to the restroom. I felt like all eyes were on me: had I drank too much wine with dinner? I could never remember.
During my second pregnancy, I kept falling, especially as my belly grew bigger and threw off my center of gravity. I took precautions to help me balance for the little guy’s safety. After all, I was supposed to be his protector, and it was only a few months that remained. I sat for longer stretches, I gave up exercise, and I stopped wearing heels. I remember that time of my life as being very dark.
After he was born, I was (perhaps a bit selfishly) excited to get my body back.
Falling was more infrequent, but my balance issues were still there. All of a sudden putting on taller shoes was difficult- not because they hurt or didn’t fit, but I genuinely began tottering and weaving awkwardly, as though I was heavily intoxicated. It was a slow progression, but eventually I had to phase out my beautiful high-heeled shoes.
I got rid of most, because I couldn’t bear to let my beautiful shoes see me like this, a shell of my former self, but I presently have a couple of pairs that I’ll slip on- if just for a moment- and let them electrify my soul and uplift my mood.
Then I take them off my feet carefully in favor of some sensible tangerine-and-aqua-floral-patterned flats.
Story was in response to the prompt:
“What do your clothes say about you?”
From the wonderful podcast Writing Class Radio