When The Student Is Ready, The Teacher Appears And Does Her ColorsPosted: May 15, 2009
Last week I took a workshop with Imogen Lamport, a professional image consultant. I’ve always enjoyed wearing clothes, but I’ve never been very good at it. I mean, they stay on and everything – that’s not the problem – it’s just that I don’t always pick the right ones for me. I can trace the root of the problem back to my days as a kid in Greenwich Village, and my bohemian liberal free-thinking mother. She didn’t want me to grow up with any kind of limitations in life, so I was allowed to run around in such outfits as, say, purple flowered bell bottom pants paired with a green stripped shirt. Nothing was “wrong” or “bad.” Also, we didn’t have a lot of money, and when everything you wear is a hand-me-down, it’s unlikely that any of it’s going to match. But it was the Village in the 60’s, and there were purple pants and tie dye everywhere. I fit in.
It wasn’t until we moved to the semi-suburbs of Staten Island that I started to realize I dressed differently from the other kids. I was very excited on the first day of junior high, and I presented myself wearing a bright orange dress with a big frill down the front, white tights, and my long hair in two pigtails with huge bows of orange yarn in each. It was sort of “Sears catalog as styled by Timothy Leary.” Luckily, by the time I got to high school it was the 70’s and everyone looked bad. In college I majored in theater and wore black for four years. After college it was the 80’s, and we all know how that went. During most of the 90’s I was a struggling actor/writer, which meant I mostly wore my waitress uniform. For a large part of my life, getting dressed has been more about hiding than expressing myself. It was a costume that said to the world “This is who I want you to see,” or a mask that said “Don’t look at me.”
Of course, now that I’m finally interested in expressing who I am through my clothes, I’m at that age where nothing fits my body and I don’t know where to shop. I usually feel like I’m still fairly hip, until I wander into stores like Forever 21, the music blaring so loudly I can feel the vibrations in my feet, and I instantly become ninety years old. I’m assaulted by bright colors and TOO MUCH STUFF jammed onto too many racks. I have to be careful not to look around too fast or I’ll get dizzy because my progressive lenses don’t really allow much peripheral vision. I stumble back into the mall, and feel like falling to the floor, crying out in the words of Britney Spears, “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman ready for J.C.Penny’s elastic waist slacks!” Where do women of my age and sensibility shop?
The workshop was great, though. I had my colors done, and learned I’m a “dusky warm deep.” I love being categorized. For someone who grew up as a geeky outsider with no boundaries, it’s comforting to know that I fit in somewhere. I belong to the world of the “dusky warm deeps.” They are my peeps, my gang, and I shall proudly wear their colors. I also learned about things like body proportions. Apparently Leonardo Da Vinci used to work for Glamour Magazine back in the day, and came up with this really nifty way to figure out how long you should wear your tops. We also talked about our fashion personas and how much of what we project is based on things we learn and carry from childhood. I realized that I have come a long way from the little hippie kid running around in mismatched hand-me-downs. I have learned that fashion can actually be fun, and that clothes aren’t just a way to Stick It To The Man.
And I think I understand now what my high school principal meant when he said to me, “Tara, please don’t wear jeans and combat boots to graduation.” I think what he was trying to say was that a person can look nice, and it doesn’t always have to be a political statement. I can wear pink and still be a feminist. (Actually, I can’t wear pink because it’s not one of my “colors.” But I can wear a sort of dusky rose, as long as it’s more on the “warm” side.) It’s exciting to reinvent ones’ self at any age, and I’m looking forward to dipping my toes into the world of jeans that fit properly (no muffin top, please) and jackets that accentuate my waist. The little hippie girl in purple flowered pants will always live inside me, but she doesn’t get to dress me anymore. Now – who wants to go to the mall?