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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?
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.