Saturday, September 11, 2021

#authorfashion notes

Truthfully, even before covid I rarely shopped in store for clothing.  Actually, for much of anything besides quick stops for shampoo or hair color at Walgreens or CVS.  Thrift stores and the Dollar Tree sometimes in Rockford. I think I was in a Target in the fall of 2019 when I needed an alarm clock and somehow left with a bird skeleton Halloween decoration and mallow pumpkins. I remember wandering briefly through the clothes section, but spotting nothing that caught my eye.

Part of it is I rarely am able, even if the stores offer extended sizes online, to buy them in store.  For years this was true of Old Navy, who are finally making good on offering a larger range of sizes in their stores in addition to online. Even the plus size retailers like Avenue, which used to be a staple, rarely have their entire lines in store, most deplorably not all their dresses. In the aughts, when I was a couple sizes larger, I would occasionally shop Lane Bryant downtown or find some gems at Filenes Basment or TJ Maxx.  I most often left with nothing.  Fashion Bug was sometimes a winner, but not in the city. I usually couldn't afford Nordstrom or Macy's. At the time, Torrid dress offerings ran super short--fine in the winter with tights but a poor idea in the windy city, where I would certainly spend most of the day trying to keep my ass covered (this has changed over the past few years as their target audience grew up.)

Around 2013, I stopped drinking regular soda, worked on controlling my binge disorder,  started walking more, and dropped some sizes, and suddenly the door to fashion opened a little more.  Modcloth was expanding their offerings, and though sometimes it depends on the brand, I could find a lot that worked. Eshakti, an India-based company that does customizeable dresses was growing, so many of my clothes were coming from there. I also started prowling Ebay for second-hand, which gave me a huge selection of various labels at good prices, some of them still sporting tags or worn only once. I started building a wardrobe that I love rather than settling for whatever fit and I didn't exactly hate. All of which rekindled my childhood love of clothes, which I'd sort of lost in my years of first hating my body, hiding it, then later, paying not much attention to it at all. 

It's probably genetic. My mother was intent on filling her closet, first with discount store blouses, then with thrift store finds. Was a fanatic about matching her earrings perfectly to whatever she was wearing. I would borrow her clothes in junior high, her loose blouses perfect over leggings and a tank top in pure late 80's style. In high school, while I longed for mall shop attire, I mostly bought jeans and men's sweatshirts, which I wore with ubiquitous faux Keds.  When I got to college in North Carolina, I mostly swapped the jeans for khaki and olive shorts w/ Birkenstocks, then for leggings and long hippy skirts and lace up boots when I returned to the midwest. It was the 90's by then, one of my favorite fashion decades now, but I was kind of limited in my own style.  I liked black turtlenecks and floral broomstick skirts. The long skirts stuck, with occasional jeans through my first jobs and all of my 20's. By the mid aughts, my uniform was a long black skirt and layered tees, or in warmer weather, with tanks and a cardigan. Lots of black and grey I feel like I was still covering up though--rarely did I bare my arms or my knees.  Trying to blend in or disappear entirely.  

I would not be able to tell you what changed, but as I moved into my mid-30's, my skirts got shorter, the ankle length swapped for midi. Even at my heaviest weight. While I did not feel as comfortable bearing skin as I do now, I occasionally took off the cardigans in the summer,  I developed a love for layering lacy vintage slips, which I was just starting to sell in my etsy shop, peeking out beneath my skirts. The more vintage I sold in the shop, sometimes tiny dresses that barely fit my Size 8 mannequin, the more I began to hunt for similar things--similar flavors--in new things that would fit me.  Fashion Big had an amazing line called Studio 1940 that I bought a couple of my oldest and favorite dresses in my closet and still seek out even now long after the retailer closed. I discovered Modcloth and it was all over for my wallet.  

I still love knee length things best, though I will venture into sweeping maxi's if they aren't too cumbersome. I now wear colors and patterns I never would have even looked at in my 20's. Polkadots, stripes, wild florals. I regularly go without sleeves pretty much anywhere in warm weather. I discovered I looked pretty good in red, so you'll find about a dozen red dresses on my rack, as well as various shades of yellow depending on the season.  And yes, even some orange. In a city where most folks still wear a lot of black and grey I am sometimes the brightest thing in view   I am okay with this now, though for years, it terrified me. (Though I also love me some black even still, though it's a choice now rather than a default.).

A decade later, I still get most of my clothes from Ebay and Poshmark, augmented with some new things (mostly Old Navy lately, though I did get a cute sweater dress for fall from Lane Bryant recently.)  I keep my eye on pricier places, though mostly to keep track of things to look for second hand later. My summer prizes were a couple of spendy Anthroplogie dresses at 1/3 their original price I'm excited to wear in cooler weather. They, like most retailers are finally seeing the light that fat girls actually want beautiful clothes. Who'd have thunk.. 

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