|Image via: Glam4Good|
Before I start, don't even bother to read on if you're only interested in a photo-log of my 'journey'. It's not happening.
I've always had an antagonistic relationship with fashion. I was the first born, so mum had fun dressing me. And to top it off it was the 70s, so I was a freaking little hipster in floral smocks, corduroy overalls and red Mary Janes. When you have your first baby you enjoy adorning your new little bundle of joy in cute outfits. You get a ton of presents and hand-me-downs and you revel in your first opportunity to give your little 'mini-me' an identity. Within the first year though, you soon realise the importance and necessity of practicality. This usually follows your first experience of a colossal shit explosion, when suddenly Bonds onesies with zippers down the front seem like the only logical solution.
I grew up in the 80s. It was short shorts with piping, tracksuits, glo socks (one pink and one yellow), jelly shoes, more corduroy, sloppy Joes and grandpa tops, denim and more denim. I was a teen in the 90s and that's when I went anti-fashion, because as a teenager, you're anti-everything, AS IT SHOULD BE.
It started slowly. My friends and I obsessed about INXS and that was my introduction to band t-shirts. I grew my collection steeply for the next decade: The Cure, The Stone Roses, The Pixies, The Clouds, Hole, The Beatles (it was retro), Lenny Kravitz, Rat Cat. I wore band shirts to identify my taste in music and reveal the concerts I had been to and therefore my personality. I didn't have a lot of money. I had a job from the age of 13 though, so I did have some and it allowed me to make independent choices about what I wore (and listened to); clothes and music were all I spent my money on. I remember saving up to buy my first pair of Doc Marten boots and it was exhilarating. To this day, when I feel like treating myself to something special to wear, I buy a pair of Docs.
I swung between Goth and Hippy - let's face it; the ingredients of Grunge, never committing to either and on some level always knowing that teenage fashion was just a bunch of bullshit to sell you stuff and convince you that you needed to 'pick one' subculture to fit into. The minute something became 'mainstream' was the second my generation, Gen X, rejected it.
When I was perceived by others as Goth, it was because I was wearing black. I loved wearing black, I still do. I related it to my cultural heritage of the traditional Maltese dress called the Ghonella. Black is an easy and practical choice. I loved lining my eyes in heavy black eyeliner. It made me feel scary and powerful; a throw back to the days when mum dressed me as a Gypsy for Maltese Carnival. I have big eyes and when I line them they look huge and foreboding. If I didn't want to make eye contact, I wore black makeup because no one could look at me for long without turning their gaze away. It accentuated my rage. I plucked the shit out of my eyebrows. It was fashionable to have thin, arched, 1920s eyebrows in the 90s. They looked feminine, but they also made my giant black-lined eyes look even bigger. I dyed my hair black or blue black.
When I wasn't feeling dark I was indulging in the trend of bringing back 60s idealism, psychedelia and shit loads of Pucci and paisley and I dyed my hair red or burgundy. I discovered the local Indian fashion shop that sold beautiful cotton maxi skirts and dresses, cheese cloth blouses and paisley scarfs. They also introduced us to silver jewellery, gemstones, crystals and incense. Looking back and still today, I'm aware that I was possibly appropriating culture, especially more recently since piercing my nose. I haven't made my peace with any of it yet, but I have awareness. I just like what I like. Again, I'm sure my traditional Maltese peasant dress roots has something to do with my taste and definitely explains my love of crocheted lace. I had crocheted dresses and cardigans that looked like doilies and wore them shamelessly. I have previously written about my crochet addiction.
The dichotomy of black and colour suited my personality of extremes and I could go one way or the other, or a bit of both. I confused a fellow student at Sydney University during a first year Sociology lecture. When I met her I was wearing a black Robert Smith t-shirt, over a short black mini and black opaque stockings beneath my black Doc boots with purple laces. She was a proper Goth, only ever wore black and lace and described to me in detail what her funeral was going to be like. The next time we met up I had on a green and yellow cotton Indian skirt covered in Aztec suns, a Stone Roses t-shirt with holes in the shoulders and my black converse Chuck Taylors. She snubbed me! She was disgusted that I was bright enough to hurt her eyes and her dark, dark soul.
Which brings me to my dilemma with clothes and body adornment/image now. I stopped dyeing my hair a few years ago. It coincided with me having three young children and making a bet with my hairdresser that I wouldn't cave. I've now fully embraced my greying hair and enjoy the discomfort it provokes in others, in particular, other women. I still get told things like "you're too young to go grey", when in fact I'm looking my actual age and the hairdresser (not the one who I'm WINNING the bet against) still asks if I will get a colour today. During my last haircut, I received unsolicited and extensive advise about dyeing my hair. I didn't hesitate to mention that my husband never gets asked about his greying hair and that I'd been dyeing my hair since I was 15 and knew all about tints, rinses, bleaching, peroxide, lemon juice, roots, foils and permanents, but had chosen to save my time, money and scalp and resist the need to be infantilised. As women, we are not allowed to grow old. We are compelled to stay child like, free from body hair, coarse hair, white hair, wrinkles, crinkles, wisdom and strength. As we get older and lose our ornamental value, we become invisible. In the media, the workplace, public spaces and anywhere where power and influence lies. This is the general rule. Women break rules all the time. And the way to break this stupid rule, in my opinion, is to get old and get visible. Get hairy, frizzy, grey, louder, stronger and in everyone's face - like men do. When men do it we don't blink an eye. We commend them and give them a parade for being 'silver foxes'.
I'm fighting the pressure to address my body hair. I don't systematically monitor my body and spend time, effort and sometimes pain to make myself prepubescent anymore. Don't get me wrong, I still groom and shave when I feel like it. Literally when I get in the shower and go, "you know what, today I'm finding a razor and spending an extra 10 minutes shaving and moisturising." These efforts are getting to be few and far between. I literally can't be arsed that often. I've also stopped plucking my eyebrows. This has been really hard to stick to. I had thick, uneven eyebrows as a teen. I'm positive that I if I'd left them alone, I would have been able to just tidy them up and the caterpillar-brow fashion of today would have been entirely accessible. However in a bid to succumb to the pressure to look more feminine and less ethnic, I plucked the bajayzus out of them and now they WON'T FUCKING GROW BACK! Well that's wrong, that was just the initial panic, but my failure to give a shit meant that I have been able to neglect plucking them and ignore their asymmetry for long enough for them to bulk up a little. For when I'm going out somewhere and feel like wearing makeup, my discovery of a very subtle eyebrow pencil gives me the opportunity to colour them in (on a cool day when I don't have sweat pouring down my face) to even them up a bit. However, I will admit, that I'm paranoid that I've become that chick. The one with the coloured in eyebrows and not in a Kardashian way, but a disconcerting and strange way. If I knew then what I know now I would never have touched them and I wouldn't have made fun of that mum at school who drew her entire eyebrows on depending on her desired facial expression! When I colour my eyebrows in, I feel like I look like Bert from Sesame Street.
So, here I am; 42, grey hair, hairy legs and pits, coloured-in eyebrows and I have nothing to fucking wear. I hate clothes. I hate wearing them, I hate styling them, I hate looking like a Big W catalogue, because let's face it, that's what everyday people wear. Myer is for wankers. I have for a long time now refused to buy expensive clothes. I'm not that person. It would be a lie. So I buy cheap clothes, but I'm not that person either because, you know, I object to slave labour and disposable fashion. I would love to make my own clothes because I know what everything would look like. In summer, I'd wear cotton peasant skirts and dresses with tank tops and in winter I'd be in jeans (more specifically, elasticised jeggings) and slouchy tops. I envisage going out in pajamas as a fashion. Draw string and elasticised pants made of linen and cotton, and loose fitting tops with low necks so I don't feel like I'm suffocating. I could make my own clothes, but fabric is expensive and I have not the time nor the patience. I hate clothes, but I can't walk around naked!
So now, I look for a bargain where I can get it, at the big department stores or online. I'm still part Goth, part Hippy at heart, mostly dressing like a toddler, happily aging and breaking the so called rules. In the end, I get a glimpse of myself in the mirror and then for the rest of the day, people have to look at me so in fact, it's their problem what I look like. It's none of my business what they think of my attire. I know when I open my mouth to smile and speak, when I look someone in the eye to connect, that's when who I am takes shape. And if they can't see beyond what's concealing my nudity, that's their dilemma not mine.