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83. Do you remember the first time you were conscious of what you were wearing? Can you describe this moment and what it was about?
No, but because my father was camera happy, I can see myself plastered onto their living room wall, wearing a sky blue dress with fluffy sleeves and little red buttons, cotton deeply into a piece of birthday cake, probably at the age of 3.
It would have to be around my sophomore year of high school, which was also around the time I had begun thrifting my clothes for the new school year. My mother had given me a choice: we could go to the mall and I could get a couple new things, or we could go to the resale shop and I could leave with a whole bag of stuff.
Getting a garbage bag full of second-hand clothes for $50 made me realize that I could create my own style, and the odds of someone else wearing the same thing as me was slim to none.
This was an amazing discovery.
On Hat Day, in second grade, I wore an Anne of Green Gables straw hat with braided red yarn pigtails attached. A girl snidely told me, “That’s not a hat.” That was the first time I remember being aware that there were rules about clothing. There were hats and then there were costumes. I wanted to wear costumes.
The very first time was in kindergarten or maybe grade one when I was wearing blue overalls and a red and white striped shirt. I had short hair (which I love to this day) and I went into the girl's change room at the pool at school. The older girls looked at me and said 'are you a boy or a girl?'. I don't know how I felt at the time, but I loved my clothes and hair so it didn't matter to me. It was probably the moment I realized how you dress can influence people's perception of you in many ways.
Yes, when I wore a generation x t-shirt to school and everyone thought an adult must have purchased it for me, but actually I purchased it myself.
One of my earliest memories is waking up on my third birthday, and the first thing I noticed is that one of the pompoms on my socks had fallen off. I doubt I felt anything more than, “Huh. I don't know when that happened,” because it was my birthday and I had CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE-ing to do. As is a 3 year old's wont.
I feel like I've always been conscious of what I am wearing. Even my earliest memories as a 4- or 5- or 6-year old revolve around clothes in some way. I can vividly remember my favorite green overalls and purple flowered swimsuit in preschool or kindergarten. I have a vague recollection looking in the mirror as a child while wearing one of my favorite outfits and thinking, "I look so cute in this!" and feeling proud. Is that weird for a tiny girl?
Clothes are like my memory signposts. When I see myself in an old photograph, that's often what triggers the larger memory for me -- the outfit, not the scene.
One of my earliest and fondest clothing-related memories is from when I was maybe 6, and my sister, who was 8, either found a jellyfish in her shoe or was irrationally terrified of finding a jellyfish in her shoe. We were living in Hawaii at the time, so it wasn't entirely irrational, I guess. My mom sat us down and had us write and illustrate little books about finding jellyfish in our shoes to work through her anxieties. Sort of a "what's the worst thing that could happen?" exercise, but cuter. I think they were titled, "What Would You Do If You Found a Jellyfish In Your Shoe?" I'm not sure where the story went from there.
I was wearing a red bathing suit, age 2 or 3, and my mother suggested that I suck my tummy in.
Yes, it was in fifth grade. Growing up, my mother would always dress me in my brother’s hand-me-downs and cut my blond hair into a bowl cut. I finally grew sick of it – I threw a tantrum when I wasn’t allowed to wear a dress on my birthday and I demanded that I get to grow my hair out. Of course, it was right after my mother relented that I got lice...
I remember screaming “Heart Shirt and Green Pants!” If I didn’t have my outfit, my turtle neck with a heart print and mint green sweat pants, I threw a tantrum. Because how did my parents expect me to be me without them? It’s as if I was a cartoon character, defined by one outfit. I wish I could say that I’ve grown and changed my relationship with clothes, but I still rotate familiar outfits. It’s safer, guaranteed comfort, and no one notices—except for my mother. She’ll smile and say, “Nice heart shirt and green pants.”
light brown corduroy bell bottoms - i just loved them and loved them until they fell apart. They looked like a pair my father had. I think I was 6.
I remember my saltwater sandals, and loving them.
I think I was 4 years old. My mum had bought me shiny black shoes and I wanted to wear them the day after, to go to school. She said I shouldn’t wear patent leather shoes to school and I asked « Why do we have nice shoes if we can’t wear them when we feel like it ? »
I was 6. It was at my ballet recital and I remember having a yellow costume when all I really really wanted was the pink one (there were pink, yellow, green and purple costumes). I have the photos to prove it.
I was about 4 years old and I was wearing a dress my grandmother had gotten for me. I loved my grandmother but I hated that dress. My mom took us both to Anthony's Fish Restaurant in Solana Beach for a nice lunch, and I refused to eat. I was so upset about having to wear that dress. Wearing that dress felt like the end of the world. I'm not sure why. I can't remember if I thought it was ugly or uncomfortable. I vaguely remember thinking it had something to do with the fact that it was a dress. With a bib. But then I didn't wear pants until age 8. So I don't really know why I hated wearing that dress so much.
My mom tells me it was the moment when she realized that she would never dress me again.
When I was really young I used to wear my mum's bikini tops with woollen tights and snow boots. This was my general playing in the garden look. I think I liked to feel like I was a grown up woman by borrowing the top, but at the same time I think it was funny to me that I had no breasts, and I loved stomping around in boots, and was never very demure. I think this look is quite indicative of the approach to dressing I have followed through my life. I dress for myself and how I want to feel, I put things together that don't necessarily 'fit'. A friend recently said to me 'on paper, that outfit does not work, but it's actually super fly!' That didn't give me the pangs of self-doubt it once would have, because I know that as long as I enjoy what I'm wearing, the fact it doesn't work on paper does not matter to me, and hopefully wouldn't if she'd said it looked awful.
I had a pair of pajamas when I was around 5 years old that I was obsessed with - I made up songs and stories about them. I called them my "fire flamer" pajamas - why I don't know! Perhaps it was the colouring. They had red pants and a long sleeved top with little pictures on them, though I don't remember what of. Nothing to do with flames though. I associated the pajamas with my favourite time of the day, which was bedtime, with the lights out, as then I'd have a chance to get back to the long story I told myself every night before bed. The story moved very slowly, and featured me wearing the pajamas and having special powers.
In general, I didn't dress like other kids, and as soon as I went to school this was pointed out many times and I felt very self conscious about it. In particular, unlike what seemed to be every other child in Australia, I didn't own jeans. I wore skirts (and have continued to wear mostly dresses or skirts my whole life) and dresses - my mother had a vision of me and my sister that was perhaps more attuned to the 1880s than the 1980s. In some ways I found this embarrassing, but in other ways I enjoyed being different.
I was in my bedroom that I shared with my sister, in between the giant crib that I slept in and the little table next to her bed. A Barry Manilow song was on the clock radio and I was wearing jeans with an embroidered rainbow. The rainbow was in little rounded V open ended ovals of color all lined up in rows, what I now know is chain stitch. The chain stich rainbow went up one leg, around the back waist of the pants and down the other leg. I was in LOVE with these pants. I knew they were jeans, and that that were a different kind of pants from the stretchy polyester ones my mom wore.
I was eight years old. Wolves were my favorite animals, and for two years in elementary school I wore anything with a wolf on it: t-shirts, jackets, baseball caps, jewelry. It was the first time I defined myself with an interest, and I remember hoping the imagery would inspire questions about my new-found area of "expertise". My peers found the obsession weird and geeky, but this only fueled my commitment. I enjoyed the attention; I felt like I had character. There’s still a stash of faded wolf shirts in my parents’ garage.
I remember being three years old and wanting to wear "the monkey shirt" with red overalls above all else. It was my first favorite outfit. The shirt was a red and blue plaid blouse with rounded collar, so named by me because there was a small monkey embroidered on the tag. I liked the overalls on one hand, but disliked them on the other because they made it so much more difficult to show my best friend Marie which Underoos I was wearing — Wonder Woman, Super Woman or Spider Woman.