Mom was handy with the sewing machine. She made a lot of our clothing or altered the neighbour’s hand-me-downs. She was forever lamenting how quickly we grew. Either she purchased, sewed, or mended our clothing and that meant additional expense, time, and effort to keep us outfitted.
She was a “frequent flyer” at the nearby textile shop. Even though she browsed the bolts of fabric displayed on the “new this season” table, she eventually wound up buying whatever was on sale or in the remnant bin.
She even cut the toes out of our sneakers so we could get through a summer without the need for replacements.
I was a difficult child to fit, according to mom’s complaints. I was tall for my age. When I was twelve or thirteen, I shot up four inches to 5’8” and finished growing two inches later. Even if money were no object, I was too tall for most of the “misses” fashions of the day.
So. (Or do I mean, “sew”?) This is my heritage. Clothing is considered a pain in the tuckus. Make do. It’s a frill, a luxury. It is also something to be considered with disdain. Certainly this was the message when Dad spoke with condescension about the “clothes horse” women with whom I’d be working when I was hired on at Bell.
Is that why I don’t care that my “at home” clothes are stretched and tired and stained? I finally discarded a nightgown this year. It was at least 15 years old and almost sheer from wear. Not sheer in a good way, either.
Is that why I buy most of my clothes at the terrific little consignment shop downtown? Is that why I didn’t go to a hair salon until I was in my early 20’s? That inaugural visit marks one of THE most excruciating social experiences of my life. Up until that point, Mom trimmed my bangs at the kitchen table. I had my eyebrows waxed for the first time in 2012.
My blogging friend Helen Meikle wrote about her hesitation to buy herself a new pair of p.j.’s and wondered about
…the line we draw between what we allow ourselves and what we don’t; between what we accept and encourage in other people, but not in ourselves. I’m ten times harder on myself than I’d dream of being on other people, and if I lapse from my self-imposed rigour, the guilt all but destroys the pleasure.
She asked, “Does this ring a bell?”
I replied, “You bet, but more along the lines of a reverse vanity, for me.”
She wrote back, “Is it reverse vanity, though, or is it a form of hiding?”
I was at a loss to answer that! I thought that by composing this post, I might find some clarity.
I dress down. I am aware of the appeal of flamboyant clothing. But there’s nothing eccentric about my wardrobe. Unless you count a man’s short-sleeved dress shirt adorned with flamingo pink embroidery as eccentric. That and the size 2 XX-large engineer overalls for when I’m out rock collecting. And the hat. The iconic floppy white hat.
You don’t see recent pictures of me here or elsewhere on social media. I’m “out there” in the sense that I’ve got nothing to hide in the written word. In the image department, however…
Then there is the other meaning of the term “dressing down.”
I told Helen, “I’ve got a lot of thinking to do.” I think I have my answer.
Categories: Personal Growth
Tags: body image