It may come as a surprise to many of you that despite my love of elaborate and revealing costumes, I am actually not very well versed in the womanly arts. If you had met me at aged 16 you would never have believed that the girl in the combat pants and baggy band shirt would one day be the Ginny Tonic you see before you know. Hell if you run into me at the grocery store you probably would have the same level of shock. On the other hand however, if you had met me at aged six I think you would not be at all surprised to see that I have grown into a woman who spends an inordinate amount of time in fringe hot pants.
As a little girl I LOVED playing dress up, demanded party dresses for my everyday wear, and worshiped the movie princesses who wore beautiful gowns and married the prince. One of my earliest and happiest memories was being the flower girl in a friend’s wedding when I was three. I wore the most beautiful dress in the world and got to walk down the aisle with everyone watching me. The poor ring bearer was about eight and was less than thrilled when I decided that he was my date for the night. I asked him to dance with me repeatedly at the reception and his mom thought it was so cute she kept making him do it. I can still remember the feeling of that night; I was sure of myself and of my charm in way that I don’t think I’ve approached since.
Of course as it usually does, age and maturity came along and ruined all the fun. By the time I was in junior high I had retreated in the opposite direction. Like a lot of quiet, bookish girls I decided that since there was no way that I would be able to achieve popular-girl status I would preemptively reject conventional standards of beauty and social status. High school got better each year and by the time I was a sophomore I discovered that I could hang out with the “skater” kids, wear baggy flannel shirts with no make-up, and still be considered cool. I grew my hair long before cutting it all off, listened to a lot of classic rock and girls with guitars style music, and starting buying all my clothes from the thrift store. The confident little princess of my youth was long gone.
This brand of alternative non-fashion worked well for me throughout most of my twenties. Almost imperceptibly, time passed and gradually I went from purple hair and combat boots to mousey brown and loafers. I settled down, got a job that didn’t involve putting books on selves and steadily gained weight over the next several years after college. During the lowest point of this dark period I was wearing my mom’s hand me downs. But like an alcoholic, sometimes in the world of fashion you have to hit rock bottom before you admit you have a problem. For me that moment was walking in front of a shop window, catching myself in the reflection and realizing that, at 28, I dressed, looked and acted like a 40 year old. My twenties were nearly over and I had wasted them.
So I did what I had to do. I started running and obsessively watched what I ate for a summer. I lost about forty pounds and that resulted in my having to buy a whole new wardrobe. My style was, and still is, more focused on comfort and ease of use than frills and sexiness. But at least I was starting to dress my age, not twenty years above it. Then I was introduced to the world of Steampunk and suddenly I had a legitimate excuse for wearing the kind of outfits that would have made my six-year-old-self swoon. As I explained in a previous post, after so many years of assuming that my body and my personality would not be appealing to people, I was thrilled to start discovering that I might have been wrong on both counts. Once I got into Steampunk everything else just kind of fell into place. One thing led to another and the next thing you know I’m in Go-Go boots or a corset at least one night out of the week.
This is not to say that the transition as been completely smooth. I frankly hate the process of getting all dressed up. I love the results but when it comes right down to it I am lazy. I have re-embraced my love of dresses and skirts but the truth of it is that these articles of clothing are easier and more comfortable to wear than jeans, in addition to looking much better. One of the biggest problems is that because I spent my formative years adhering to a grunge/hippy aesthetic I am now completely at a loss when it comes to doing hair and make-up. I have had to teach myself what little I know about these subjects but it’s like learning a second language as an adult. I don’t think I will ever be completely fluent. I wouldn’t trade my years of grunge for anything though. If I had gone the path of girly-girl in high school there is a good chance that I would not have become a critical thinker. I am much more confident and grounded because I spent years without giving my appearance a second thought. And confidence, as I learned when I was three and have had to slowly relearn as an adult, is the thing that makes you truly beautiful.