Confessions of an unwilling fashionista

I have never had much money, there was a period in my youth where I spent a little on clothes, but mostly clothes were free, or very cheap, I rarely had more than three changes of clothes – and still don’t, all my money went on guitars, drugs and travel. What I wore really didn’t matter. Except it did.

As a young woman the rules were simple: mainly black, sometimes grey, and color had to be brights not pastels. Heaven save me from fucking mint and lavender! It was not quite that I would wear anything that didn’t cost me….Jeans had to be black, grey or washed out tattered artfully ripped. I was the Richard Hell of jeans. Richard Hell, formerly of Television, after that, the Voidoids made a huge thing out of the fact that he was the first to rip his teeshirts and spike his hair. Similarly I was known to go on and on about how I would rip my own damn jeans, and didn’t want them ripped for me.

My uniform has been the same for decades, a band teeshirt, or else dark thin horizontal stripes, unstructured open fronted sweaters, skinny jeans, the footwear changing from boots to sneakers over the years, a small nod to comfort, and a sensible canvas bag. Around the age of 35 I stopped wearing skirts and dresses, the bodycon skin tight minidresses of my youth, and stuck with jeans, or cigarette legged black pants. Never a flare in sight. I will never be a hippy. I got told recently that my skinny jeans were passe. I am five foot tall in my mocs, wide legged pants give the illusion that I am even shorter than I am, drowning me in fabric.

See, for all my “I don’t care”, I actually do care how I look. Im currently coveting a middle finger at society, “I love the Tenderloin” sweater, which will look quite fetching with my dark jeans. I saw a guy wear one, and it made me smile. It said something about his affiliation to a tribe, a culture, a look, a way of thinking. It said “I am not part of affluent SF, I am down here with the rest of us.” Clothes as political statement. Clothes as philosophical assertation of devotion to a group-think. I’ve admitted it before. I wanted to be Lou Reed – Lou in his cool leathers, and mirrored shades, and perfect electric blonde buzz cut. Lou was cool. Lou said something about how he wanted the world to see him, and I felt very much the same way. Bleach blonde, baby, not natural.

I was never willing, or interested in following the vagaries of fashion, handcuffed to consumerism by the need to buy buy buy with the changing of the years. Heck, I barely managed to be seasonally comfortable, I just threw more layers on in winter, and removed them in springtime.

My years on the road were spent in discounted $1 teeshirts from walmart. It didn’t matter how ugly, whether they asserted I was Irish, or had halloween spiders on them, whether they were snoopy or an ugly sugarpink, if they were disposable, since laundry was a hyper expensive exercise in frustration, and they vaguely fit, then we were all good. I owned tees from an extra small tank top, to a large flowery tent. Jeans were from goodwill, which incidentally is outrageously expensive, no longer the place you go if you have no money and need to cover yourself up, more expensive than Walmart for the most part, even if there is plenty of wear left in a lot of the offerings, it is the rebranding of old into vintage, which made it a non-prospect.

I haven’t been to a hairdresser in 15 years. I remember my last trip, Grandpa paid for me to have a cut and color, held the babies while I sat there, going alarmingly orange of hair, and having a sweet guy razor my then waist length hair into oblivion. Disaster. It was foxy orange, with pretty but not me caramel highlights, and an explosion of lank fluff at the ends, where my pathetic western hair could not tolerate the razor cut. I bought myself a pair of scissors, and with the help of youtube, taught myself how to cut my own hair. It has settled into a brushed forwards pixie, ultrashort at the back. It might say “I don’t give a fuck” but you would not believe the amount of time it takes to give that illusion! I stare at the box of 40 volume bleach, having done just that many times before, and the purple toner, to take the yellow out, and ignore it. My hair is white in patches, not a uniform color. I hate it. It depresses me. Yet I cannot quite find the energy to try and fix the issue. I grew out all the pink, and it is virgin, healthy, pristine, and ugly as homemade sin.

See there is the secret. I want to pretend that I don’t care. As long as I am clean and not offending anyone, is what I say. As long as I am covered up, its all Gucci…except that is a tiny white lie. I have a fear, a horror of not looking cool. Of mint and lavender and sugary sweetness. I don’t want to look straight either. I want people to look at me, and I don’t care if they look and think “trash”, in fact that kinda tickles me….just as long as they don’t think boring, or mistake me for growing into middle age gracefully! Give me leopard print or give me a long slow death of boredom! It is not about attractiveness, it is about what the face I present to the world says about me as a person. Does it say, follow me round the store, I’m poor and scummy? Sometimes. Does it say “hey, don’t ask me on a date if you are a dude, I’m a lesbian”….not enough sometimes…as I still get asked by men if I would like to go dancing, or drinking, or out for food. I’ve taken to practicing not apologizing for saying no, and failing miserably. “I’m sorry…I’m just…not ready to date…” I say, wimpering, not feeling brave enough to just tell them no thanks, I don’t swing that way. Clothes do not maketh the woman…or the man. You can put on a costume, wear a uniform, and all it does it send out signals, that people choose to read…or not as the case might be. I might want to look like Lou Reed, but I know what I am, and I’m unapologetically female, just not feminine.

Clothes are armor. They are the barrier between us and the world. How many rape victims have been asked what they were wearing in court? Fact is, no ugly sweater will stop a man determined to rape. How many male rape victims were asked what they were wearing? Did they “ask for it” by putting on a particularly nice shirt that day, were they just too damn alluring.

Fuck fashion. I’m so bored of skinny catwalk girls, and whimsy. I’m bored of books being judged by covers. I’m so bored of the united sassy armies of females strutting around in gynecologic yoga pants. I’m bored…but I’m not free. Even don’t give a fuck me was staring sadly at wide legged ankle length horrorshows of jeans, going “mmmm…I wonder…?” Vanity…thy name is paltry…


  1. katelon

    My Mom was very into clothes, and I enjoyed them, too but by the time I got to college I had to ditch the matching shoes and purses, always together and moved into over-alls and sweaters. I love hippy clothes, ethnic clothes, skirts and dresses. Now, since I’ve been “on the road” for over 8 years, my uniform is jeans, long sleeved t-shirts, a few flannel shirts and hoodies or sweaters. I love pastels darker than washed out, never wear black or gray. I’m getting tired of my uniform but can only have so many clothes as all my stuff fits in my car. I like to be in choice about clothes and like you, I’m not into following someone else’s dictate about what is cool to wear or not.

  2. nickreeves

    ‘Never a flare in sight. I will never be a hippy.’ This made me laugh, but resonates deeply.
    Also, your ‘stylist’ and the ensuing disaster episode … so 2005 🙂
    ps: keep on keeping on.

    1. The Paltry Sum

      Nick…it was SO bad. I mean not just a bit bad, but horrendous! Harajuku stylist, I thought I was in safe hands. I just said…”do whatever you like”…Hah..I did not mean make me look like Lulu circa ’65 had had a fight with a lawnmover! It took forever to grow that shit out! From one not hippy to another…yeah…they will bury me in my skinny jeans, and that is that. I don’t care if Im out of date! I am not flapping in the wind like a little tiny deadhead. I have my good clippers cleaned up, and am eyeing that bleach. I added a bottle of toner, so it is not horrendous, and almost have the courage to just do it. Pink buzz cut, baby! I generally never do the bleach sober….you can tell how long it has been….I need dutch courage!

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