Finding My Style

I used to love What Not to Wear. It was one of my favorite TV shows. Whenever we signed up for cable, as we used to do every few years, I would binge watch the episodes I had missed, as well as all the re-runs I knew so well. And when we inevitably cancelled our cable yet again, the one thing I would really miss was watching that show.

I used to wish Clinton and Stacy would ambush me and offer me a makeover. Not because I thought I dressed badly…quite the opposite, in fact. People always complimented my outfits. But I figured, how fun would it be to be given $5000 guilt-free, and get to go shopping in New York City with two people who know so much about style!

I also didn’t understand the people who would hesitate in deciding whether or not to get rid of their old wardrobe in order to get the makeover. To some extent, I still don’t. So many of their participants wore clothes that didn’t fit, were stained and worn, unflattering, and often of poor quality. And some of them looked like they were wearing costumes…or like the clothes were wearing them, instead of the other way around. I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t breathe a sigh of relief and thank Stacy and Clinton for the money and the free advice.

But lately, I’ve been thinking about my wardrobe, and about what fashion is. And I’ve come to the realization that maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to be on What Not to Wear after all.

Why the change?

I’ve come to realize that much about modern fashion is about blending in, not standing out. Dress the way everybody else does, so you fit in. Wear the current fashions so you don’t make a spectacle of yourself. Do what everybody else is doing.

That used to be my goal. Look like everybody else, and maybe no one would notice me. Maybe if I wore the same styles I saw in fashion magazines, people wouldn’t notice that I was overweight, or that I was an introvert, or that my interests are different from most people’s. Maybe I wouldn’t stand out.

I no longer care if I stand out. I dress the way I want to dress, in clothes that I like, and that I think look good on me. Yes, because I often wear a petticoat under a full, 50s-style skirt, people might think I’m in a costume. And the full skirt isn’t necessarily a slimming item of clothing, so people might figure out that I’m not a size six. And the bright colors of my wardrobe certainly don’t blend in with the neutrals that are popular now. But these are the clothes that I dreamed of wearing my whole life, that make me happy and feel good, that express who I am in a sartorial way, and that look good on me.

Does that make me What Not to Wear worthy? Perhaps. I’m sure Stacy and Clinton would have loved to tell me all the things that are wrong with the way I dress. But that no longer matters to me. And if someone offered me $5000 to replace my wardrobe tomorrow, I’d have to turn them down, because if I accepted, I be turning my back on who I am, and that’s not something I’m willing to do!

School Drop-Off/Pick-Up

Having taken Moose to and from school for the last two-and-a-half years, I’ve had the opportunity to observe the other mothers–in particular the way they dress. If anything, it’s an interesting commentary on society, to say the least, as well as proof of the necessity of What Not to Wear!

Most moms appear to fit into one of the following categories:

  • Working Moms–it’s obvious from the way these mothers dress that they’re on their way to or from work. There are actually sub-sections within this category, as the mothers showcase a range of occupations–business women, women in the medical profession, (obvious from their scrubs), even law enforcement–there’s one mother at the school who is a police officer, and often shows up in full uniform!
  • Moms Who Are Trying Too Hard–these women are obvious, regardless of their age. They’re the moms picking up their children while wearing short shorts and skimpy tank tops, or even worse, mini-skirts, midriff shirts, and thigh-high boots (true story!). It makes you wonder whose attention they’re trying to grab at the elementary school, but they clearly want people to look at them.
  • Moms Who Have Given Up–almost the opposite of the moms above, (because you get the impression that they wish they were invisible), these are the women who show up at school in pajama pants, baggy everything, and occasionally even their slippers. These ladies mystify me more than any of the other mom groups–accidentally oversleeping I can see, but routinely picking your children up at 2:30 and still in pajama pants?
  • Trendy Moms–These are the moms you wish you could shopping with. They can pull off any look, even if it’s something that ought to look ridiculous. They also have a certain confidence about them, which is probably why they’re able to wear anything they want.
  • Athletic Moms–You just know these women are on their way to or from the Y. The usually have on cargo shorts and a T-shirt, with their hair pulled back, and running shoes on their feet. In the warmer months, they also usually have a great tan. These are the people to go to for work-out advice.
  • Moms Who Don’t Dress Their Age–These moms can be mistaken for the moms who are trying too hard, because their clothes might be revealing. They might also simply be age-inapporpriate: an over-abundance of cartoon character shirts, jeans that were clearly purchased in the junior’s department, or clothes that simply just don’t fit right.
  • Moms Who Forgot To Check The Weather–You’ve seen people out in shorts when it’s in the 30s or 40s, and people in sweatshirts when it’s in the 80s. This same phenomenon occurs at schools, and these moms often also have children with them who are not weather-ready. At least the moms don’t have to go out on the playground like that, but it really makes you feel for the children!
  • Stay At Home Moms–These women can be harder to pin down, because their clothing can cover a range of categories, just as some of the women in other categories are also stay at home moms. Not dressed as nicely as the working moms, but usually more sensibly, (and appropriately), than other mothers, these ladies are easily identified by the strollers and dogs that accompany them picking up in nicer weather, and the fact that they tend to congregate in groups around the school entrances.
  • PTA/Team Spirit Moms–When you see these moms day after day, you begin to wonder if they own anything other than “school pride” t-shirts and sweatshirts. You do have to admire their support of  their child’s school/team/whatever…unless school shirts are just a convenient way to avoid real clothes shopping! These moms are not to be confused with…
  • Sports Fan Moms–The women who wear their team’s colors in and out of season. Even if you start to wonder how many T-shirts/hoodies/jerseys one person can own, you have to respect their dedication, especially the ones that are fans of non-local and/or non-winning teams (Cubs fans, I’m looking at you!).
  • Moms Who Dress Like…Men?–There’s just no nice way to say this. I’ve noticed some women at the school who are obviously wearing men’s clothes. Jeans are the biggest offender, and even I was known to purchase men’s jeans back in college for some inexplicable reason. But there are those that take it too far, and wear men’s shirts, (and, I suspect, shoes), as well. How do I know this? Because I saw a mom once who was wearing a shirt that Ryan owns. Worse yet, he was with me. He’s never worn that shirt again!
  • Moms Most Likely To Be Mistaken For School Staff–I have to admit, this is the category I usually fit into, especially in the warmer months, when I wear more dresses and skirts. Moms like me are usually dressed a bit nicer than stay at home moms, but not as nice as working moms. We tend to stick out like a sore thumb for reasons I don’t quite understand, and on more than one occasion, someone has stopped me with a question, expecting that I work at the school.
  • The Ubiquitous “Other” Category–I have to include all of the others–dads, usually in business attire, (or uniforms, around here), nice grandmas, dressed in the grandma uniform, and occasionally, an older sibling, wearing whatever happens to be popular these days. It’s a broad range of people who wander through the doors of the school!

My Favorite Things–TV Shows

It’s been awhile, so here is the latest round of My Favorite Things!

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine–Quite possibly my favorite TV of all time, although it took me a long while to get to that point. But now I love it, especially Vic Fontaine and Klingon episodes.

Friends–My favorite comedy. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve watched through that show. We have the whole series on DVD, complete with collectible case, and I can just watch them over and over again. To some extent, it really feels like Monica, Chandler, Ross, Rachel, Joey and Phoebe *are* my friends (don’t worry, I know they’re fictional!).

Babylon 5–Although I don’t enjoy this show as much as I used to, I think it’s one of the best told stories on TV, especially the first four seasons.

Firefly–Is is a western? Is it sci-fi? Does it even matter? I’m just sad that it didn’t even make a full season; it was such a good show.

Mad About You–I loved watching Paul and Jamie, especially in the early seasons. To be honest, I started watching it because I knew my older cousins did, and I wanted to be cool like them, but I soon discovered I liked it on it’s own merit. It would be nice if Warner Brothers (I think that’s right) would decide to put more of the seasons out on DVD.

I Love Lucy–Right up there with Friends as far as best comedy shows, and it has the added bonus of being appropriate viewing for my children. I can’t believe a show that’s been around for as long as I Love Lucy has can still be so relevant and so funny, and yet it is.  Groundbreaking, too, so it also gets historical bonus points. And the recent release of the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour as the last seasons of I Love Lucy almost deserves it’s own spot on the list–who can *not* like Lucy hunting uranium with Fred MacMurray, hanging around Sun Valley with Fernando Lamas, and getting into a snowball fight with Danny Thomas?

The Cosby Show–I haven’t watched it regularly for quite awhile, but it’s another show I can watch with my children, and appreciate both it’s funny and serious moments (occasionally at the same time–remember when they buried Rudy’s goldfish?).

Scrubs–Another great comedy; I love watching the doctors and nurses of Sacred Heart at work. Although I’m a little disappointed that we watched the “finale” this year, only to have it renewed last minute for the fall, I am curious to see where the new direction takes them, and I will be cautiously watching.

E.R.–An obvious love of medical shows, here–sometimes, you don’t want the comedic perspective, and E.R. is great for those times.

Gilmore Girls–I will be the first to say that I hated how the show ended, and I found more to dislike about the characters in the last few seasons, but I still think it was a good, solid show that managed to *not* glamorize teen pregnancy, and showed a strong mother/daughter relationship.

What About Brian–Even though it was only on for a year, I really got hooked. I found the characters to be likable and real, and like Firefly, I wish it had gotten more of a chance to develop itself.

24–Anytime I want to sweat profusely and have heart palpitations, I just have to see what kind of (bad) day Jack Bauer is having.

This Old House–I loved watching Bob Vila as a kid, and I love the new format now.

Back when we had cable, I loved watching…

What Not to Wear–In my top three favorite shows, without a doubt. I loved watching Stacy and Clinton perform makeovers. Yes, the 360 mirror was grueling, and yes, they could be harsh, but the end results were always fantastic. I learned so much about fashion from watching (not that I do a lot with that knowledge being at home with the children all day), and I loved looking at the pretty clothes!

How Do I Look–Another fashion show similar to What Not to Wear, this became a favorite of mine when recovering in the hospital following the births of my third and fourth children.

Christmas Castles–It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen this show, but it used to be on HGTV every year at Christmastime.  It showcased famous mansions all over the country, from the Biltmore estate to the Pabst mansion, decked out in their Christmas finery.  So beautiful!

House Hunters–I always loved this one on HGTV, and I took special interest in it when we were first considering buying a home.  You can learn a lot just by watching other people walk through houses.

My guilty pleasure TV show…

The Golden Girls–I watched the re-runs of this show in college all the time, and I even caught a run-through of the spin-off, Golden Palace, a few years ago.  I don’t care how much older than me those ladies were, they were funny!

And, speaking of guilty pleasures, my favorite soap opera…

One Life to Live–I know I shouldn’t watch soap operas, and I usually don’t, but when I do feel the need to be completely mindless, One Life to Live is always the show I turn to. I started watching it on and off right after Turkey was born, and while I have gone for almost two years at a time without watching, eventually, I always come back to see what is happening in Llanview.

And, the jury is still out on…

Castle–I really liked what I saw of it last season, and I’m hoping it really picks up steam in the fall. It has the potential to be great in a Murder She Wrote/Matlock (yes, I like both of those, too) kind of way.