I think one of my earliest memories at all has to be loving this dress. The photo is sort of old and has bad coloring, but it was a pale blue smock, a really lightweight, almost poplin fabric. I wanted to wear it all the time, but of course, being three, my mother had more say than I. Apparently this was around the time when she would occasionally find me in my bedroom, every single article of clothing torn out of my dresser and strewn across the floor, trying to choose something. I was also very much about matching, and rumor has it, I wouldn't wear certain items unless I had the socks to match. It only got worse as I got older. I remember distinctly every single first day of school outfit I ever wore, down to how it felt to wear it, how well it went over in the world of grade school fashion (or did not*). I loved dresses, but I do remember occasional of pants as well, jeans, cordouroys, overalls. My favorite first grade outfit was a skirt/top set in butterscotch, with a tiered skirt and a peasant blouse. Second grade was a red and plaid number. During 3rd and 4th grade, mini dropwaisted skirts were popular, and I remember begging my mother for the jersey fabriced matched sets. In pure eighties style, my favorite had bowling balls and a checker motif. Another was the softed brushed cotton and bright pink. By the time I was 10 or so, the trends had shifted toward pants--dresses and skirts were only really for special occasions, plus you had to worry about the boys pulling them up on the playground (this sort of irks me now, but back then apparently sexual harassment among kids didn't phase us all that much).
It was around then when I seem to have lost my passion though, around the time I became super-body conscious . I was perpetually at war with my mother, over sizes, over prices. Through junior high, it was pretty much a uniform of big shirt (button-down, sweatshirt, x-large T) over black leggings. Later, jeans and sweatshits. Pretty much anything to hide the curves. Shopping around then was this awful anxious thing, and pretty much stayed that way the next 10 years. What I wanted either didn't fit or we couldn't afford it. There was always this panic in the store, a sense of dread when I had to settle on SOMETHING lest I leave with nothing, but didn't really want anything. (this is all pre-internet mind you, nowadays I just keep clicking til I find what I want, but then I was limited to what was available at K-mart of Sears.) And admittedly, plus size clothes always sucked back then. I so longed for clothes with a regular sizing cut that just happened to be slightly larger, but apparently designers went with the oversized tent philosophy (usually populated with hideous florals). For many years as a teen, I just bought my tees and sweatshirts in the men's department, which seemed a little less traumatic. In college, I did get a little more daring with the occasional peasant skirt, but it was pretty much jeans and leggings once again. Since I spent a good amount of time crawling around the paint splattered scenery studio, I reserved the long skirts for non-poduction class days. It was still hard to find things I wanted though, limited to what was in the stores (I had expanded to the irregular treasures at TJ Maxx and Marshalls, but still without the internet, I was stuck with what Rockford had to offer.
By the time I got to grad school, I had settled on wearing long skirts pretty much all the time with occasional jeans. It was very much the first time I was starting to feel comfortable with my body, or had any idea of having a sense of style of my own. I could walk into a store and decide immediately what would work and what wouldn't, what went with what. I've finessed this alot in the intervening years, now I can tell you what colors look good, what doesn't, what cuts and fabrics will work well, which won't (not that I don't occasionally make mistakes.) The internet has been a godsend, especially in the last few years when I switched to a predilection for dresses, which alot of stores don't carry very many of.) Rockford's selection, in general, is still pretty abysmal. I've joked that formal in Rockford is your best purple sweatpants (the ones without the stains and holes). But I've noticed as I find and buy more things, I've become more obsessed with fashiony things in general to the point where I occasionally erupt in girly glee over the cut of a dress, the color of a sweater. I've also learned to like my body more, and there isn't this perpetual war between what I want to wear and whatever I happen to be able to find.
*most notably my fantastic animal print leggings circa 8th grade, paired with a peach over-sized tee and slouchy socks...an outfit which was made fun of by a girl for "stealing " her seat from the morning route (it was open seating), and who then proceeded to call me all sorts of names on the ride home, made fun of my pants, my shoes, the size of my ass, my hair, my totebag (I wouldn't wish the wrath of a 13 year old girl on anyone). I do still take some smug comfort in the fact she got knocked up in high school, dropped out, and now probably has a sad little miserable existence watching reality tv, breeding a passel of illegitimate children, wearing purple sweatpants and hating her life.. (but that's the 13 year old girl inside me talking.)