Clothes and I have never had any problems. Clothes have taught me a thing or two about penny-pinching, distorted body images, and beloved jackets. And just like how you change on the inside throughout the years, “my style” has evolved too.

[Thanks, Marta for the inspiration for this post.]

Grandma and Dad looking fabulous. [Hawaii, 1972]

Childhood

Running around with the boys, I usually played outside, and didn’t pay much attention to my appearance. I don’t have fond memories of outfits or remember wanting a dress or a shirt or anything like this. I was more obsessed with Barbies, G.I. Joes, Star Wars action figures, Legos, and arcade games.

I believe I’m quite easy to find. I hated lining up by height. I was always on the bottom row.

Teenage Years

I grew up during the ‘80s which meant neon socks in jelly shoes, Madonna-inspired lace, bracelets, and jewelry, diagonal stripe mini dresses, shoulder pads, and a wall of crimped, permed, teased Aqua Net flavored hair which fashionably framed your face.

The one item of clothing that defined my teenage years (and in many ways my identity) was my acid-washed denim jacket. [Why yes, I had a knock-off Member’s Only jacket, too!] But this wasn’t an ordinary jacket, it was cropped so it sat above my waist, and was covered with heavy metal band patches. I wish I still had it.

An obscenely large Megadeth patch in gold and black spanned across the back shoulders, a Vic Rattlehead (“official mascot” aka skull) patch of the metal band was stitched on the back. On the sleeves were a Guns ‘n Roses and an anarchy symbol because that’s how bad-ass I wanted to be. I took the military name patch from my father’s US Air Force days and sewed it on the front and wore his dog tags.

#hairgoals. OMG. I’m wearing two Swatch watches! [Hawaii, 1988]

Young Adulthood

Like most young women, I went for the way things looked, not how they made me feel. I wore uncomfortable bras, panties, pants, and shoes (oh, what we put our poor feet through). I was also clueless as to what looked good on me.

My mom wanted me to dress a certain way, and I’m not sure what took me so long to figure this out, but she wanted me to dress the way she would have liked if she had my figure. I was also told not to wear fitted clothes and since I felt awkward about my body, I often wore loose and baggy clothing.

See what I’m talking about? What a huge shirt! [Colorado, 1993]

But I learned two important lessons during this time. One would take a longer to fully enter my fat head, but the other stuck with me and it was this. I found (at a secondhand store) and bought a beautiful red vintage double-breasted cashmere coat while on holiday for about $50. It was the kind of material I loved to run my hand over inside and out. I didn’t even like red, but this hue was nice, and I felt like one of the Beatles when I wore it. The trouble though was I never wore it. I wanted to save it for a special occasion.

The coat came up when I was with my teacher training colleagues. My friend Mia said, “Why are you waiting to wear it? Wear it now. You’ll never wear it if you wait. Wear it tomorrow to class.”

Wearing head-to-toe red took some getting used to, some guts, but in overcast Oregon, I stood out. Folks complimented me, told me that the color cheered them up, and later when I was a teacher on the playground supervising my students, I was easy to spot.

The other lesson was I truly did not know how to shop for clothes. I didn’t understand that just because it looked good on the rack, that didn’t equate to it looking decent on me. When I went shopping with some girlfriends, they helped me purchase two blouses, one of them fit well, and it took a lot of convincing from them to get me to buy it.

Sorry, no red coat, but serendipitously matching with Barney. [Ecuador, 2010]

Moving abroad

My partner describes how I used to dress as “you were a head floating on top of a swath of fabric” or something to that effect. We met teaching at the same school and I wore mainly dresses.

But once we started dating, he had a remarkable influence on the way I dressed. As an artist, he knew what looked good and assessed what I needed – and it was a waistline. He also began to veto anything my mom sent me.

I had been a big fan of consignment stores since high school theatre days when we’d scour Goodwill for costumes. When I moved from a tropical climate to a cold one, I needed a winter wardrobe quickly so secondhand stores saved the day. Then my friend Gina taught me to hit up the stores near universities at the end of school terms as that’s when students get rid of a lot of excellent clothes, sometimes never been worn, brand name beauties.

So when I became a teacher and needed a teacher’s wardrobe on a budget, it was thrift shops again. There used to be a fantastic one in Chiang Mai and one day the BF inevitably joined me. He made me try on dresses that I never would have picked out. But then I’d leave with 3-5 dresses, wear them to work, and receive compliments after compliments from staff and students alike.

There’s a price to pay, mind you. I have to listen to him make a game show buzzer sound whenever my hand hovers near a dress that I think will look good on me. [Do you know how embarrassing this is with other people near by? He’s quite loud.]

Also trying on clothes in SE Asia’s humid heat is no picnic either. There is no A/C in secondhand markets or consignment shops. You have to be willing to look through a lot of duds. Are there stains or missing buttons? Is the dress lined or see-through? But the worst is when you can’t try it on and you have to use your best judgment, but for less than $3 I can donate it and try again another time.

I’m such a ham. This was their idea tho’ not mine! [Cambodia, 2017]

What’s your relationship with clothes?

44 replies on “What’s your relationship with clothes?

  1. I have a very relaxed relationship with clothes mostly because I never had any body hang ups and the fact that I’ve been the same size for almost a decade. What took me too long to figure out was that I should stop buying inexpensive clothes that would inevitably fall apart in a few months and rather, invest my money in good quality clothes that would last me a good number of years. Once I made that shift, I found that I needed to buy less- even if it meant I spent more- does that make sense? Anyway everyone went through that baggy tshirt phase in the 90’s, I don’t know why we were so afraid of having a shape!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re a rare woman indeed if you’ve never had any body hang ups! Wow. Good for you.

      As far as buying more expensive clothes, I think most folks figure that out throughout life. We must learn the hard way, it seems! Shoes are the items that I cannot skimp on anymore – too important to have that comfortable shoes especially in SE Asia where the terrain is uneven and the floors are all tiles!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can so relate to your journey with clothes. I grew up a tomboy always interested in sports and being outdoors. My fashion choice till college was tomboyish. Plus I was very conscious about my body so I chose to wear lose, baggy clothes.
    But over my 20s, I developed this craze for clothes. I started shopping a lot. But it’s never cheap! So my favourite shopping to do is deal shopping during sales. 🙈

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hahahhaa. We all love a good sale. 😛 I was just never one of those women who had TONS and TONS of clothes. Partly because I move so much but also because I don’t like to go shopping. I mean, it’s okay, I don’t mind it, but it’s also exhausting – I don’t know, jeez, now that I think about it. I suppose it’s not something that I like to do as much as other folks.

      Like

  3. Ah yes, a waistline. What’s that again? Growing up in the snowbelt of Ohio, coats were key–and I still think in the colder months coats can make an outfit. Since I was a ballet dancer up to my college years, clothes were really just a uniform. Then boring office clothes until I had kids. Now, here we are in pandemic 2020 and my uniform is pajamas and a bathrobe: the freelance writer uniform. My sister works in an office (usually) and she swears by dresses for their ease. In the winter she wears them with tights. I love thrift stores–where I got my black leather jacket at 19–and need to hit some up once I can no longer spend every day in my robe. I love to hit a Goodwill in the swanky part of town–good stuff!

    Like

    1. “Now, here we are in pandemic 2020 and my uniform is pajamas and a bathrobe: the freelance writer uniform.” – hilarious.

      OMG. And yes, Goodwills in good neighborhoods are the best! I forgot 😛

      Yes, dresses are easy, no matching of tops and bottoms. It also feels nicer. I like looking more put together especially in this part of the world where appearances are everything.

      Had no idea you were in ballet! Wow. Some stories you’ve written about no doubt!

      Like

  4. Love your old pictures.

    I never had much issue with size. Except for my height, nothing much has changed since high school.

    I still love baggy clothes. It is hot in India for most of the year. I can’t breathe easy in fitted outfits. So only large sizes for me.

    I do wish to dress up more at times, then I give up on it mostly.

    Loved reading your journey with clothes. Hope I find my look soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. It was fun to write and put this together. I wish I had more old photos but they are all at my mom’s.

      It’s funny what you say about India because Thailand is quite hot and humid too. Many tourists come in tank tops and short shorts because of the weather, but what I’ve learned is you don’t want your skin touching the moto or taxi seats, the outdoor restaurant seats, etc. It’s way more comfortable to not get that sticky feeling and wear something looser and longer. Clothes that breathe – yup, on board.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. But interestingly, hot climates like to wear jeans. I never understood that! And Cambodians favorite color is black and they like to wear sweaters too!

        Like

  5. I used to sew for about 15 years before cycling love bit me.
    I still have my sewing machine…which includes the face mask I whipped up 2 months ago. Modelling it on my latest blog post.

    Because I did used to sew tailored shirts, jackets, etc., I am a somewhat picky consumer in terms of quality, fit, etc. I still wear clothing from even 15 yrs. ago.

    Since I would be retiring in just a few years, the dressier/business clothing is not being replenished with new stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a damn good skill you’ve got there. You can easily take anything home and alter it too! My mom would take new purchases and reinforce buttons and such.

      You could probably repurpose your old work clothes after you retire.

      Now I must go visit your blog and see you modeling your homemade mask 😀

      Like

  6. What a fun topic (and interesting photos–I want to see that red coat! Though that last photo was a great one to end on.)

    My relationship with clothes started similarly with yours: a tomboy more interested in playing than dressing up, then becoming a self-conscious chubby teen wearing loose things. In college, I wore fitted shirts and jeans that mixed and matched because it felt like I had more important things to worry about. Then I graduated and worked in a job that needed me to dress in a polished way for clients. I started having fun with fashion, trying everything and shopping way too much. (Which you probably noticed in my old posts on hoarding lol.)

    These days, I know what I like and I stick to it. I’m often told my clothing style has a Japanese influence, an artsy/nerdy vibe–the students I mentor call me a Jedi lol–and is very minimalist. All this feedback is interesting to me as it aligns with a theory I have that our experiences and passions often unintentionally show up in our wardrobe.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing and starting this conversation. It’s fun recalling the different ways clothes have been a part of my life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I have noticed your past tendency to SHOP, young Daisy. 😀 While I haven’t gotten the Jedi thing, I’ve been told that I dress Japanese too! This is such a high compliment, don’t you think? Also, I’ve gotten librarian. 😛

      I like your theory – reminds me of that saying you can tell by the way a person dresses what their best decade was based on how they dress.

      Glad you liked this, thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A very interesting journey, haha. I loved the pictures! 80s hair! Your grandma looks absolutely amazing! And you look great in that dress.

    I should look for my early 2000s pictures but I’m kind of scared hahaha. I was into baggy trousers (I used to get them in the men’s section) which would sit in the middle of my bum so I’d be showing my underwear, yes (no thongs or lace, though). I’d pair them with tight tshirts which left my midriff exposed. To top it up, my hair was super short and dyed red. Oh god no, I don’t want to see those pictures anymore, hahahaha, so embarrasing.

    I don’t think I’ve found my style yet (can’t be bothered to look much either, too much work and not too many options in China), but things started to definitely improve in my late 20s. However I never needed to dress up for work. And now, working from home, I only wear my “nice” clothes on the weekend…

    Last Saturday I went to a clothes swapping event and it was a lot of fun, I’ll post about it soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Your description of your 2000s attire had me laughing. I can see it. Oh, Marta, Marta. 😛

      But what am I talking about! Look at my stupid hair!

      The clothes swap sounds fun. I particularly liked it when an expat leaves and you get to rummage through all her things. I’ve gotten many great clothing items that way.

      Like

  8. I remember a dark blue velvet dress my mother made me when I was 8. From then on I wished for luxurious clothes. I had to search for them at the thrift shops and managed to find one or two. I always wanted to dress artistically, not main stream. But, work and life wouldn’t let me to the extent I wanted. To this day I love a maxi dress! In my 50’s I wore Indian Kurtas and Salwar Kameez. I would still wear them if I could find them in Portugal. The Indian women have made dressing elegantly while still feel like you are wearing pajamas an art form. When I lived in Chiang Mai I remember going into a shop, the woman looked me up and down and said with disdain, “Big size over there!” I am only 5 ft and a size medium.
    I am 65 and for the past 20 years I have had such a hard time with fashion. Either is is for someone 22 or 65. I don’t want to dress like I am 25 and I sure as hell don’t want to dress like a blue hair granny! I do tend to bitch about women’s clothes. “Where are my damn pockets?” So I have a couple of men’s jackets because they have all the pockets. Now that I am retired I guess I don’t worry that much anymore and living at the beach my wardrobe is very practical. Although I still love to touch fabrics and look for that unique item that makes me feel special.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OH, we better not get started on what is considered ‘big’ here in Thailand. Plus, if you ever did come back you’d be so surprised by how large Thais have become.

      I like your pj’s as an art form observation. And the lack of pockets for women’s clothing. When I found a teaching dress with pockets it was like SCORE! pockets are so useful for taking things from students 😛 and I hate that women’s jeans have fake pockets, like we don’t’ use them or something.

      Yeah, I’m very conscious of not looking like I”m trying to dress too young. Like you, I don’t want to look like a Q-Tip, but I also don’t want to be one of those women that you’re like, “oh dear, someone still thinks they can pull that off” either.

      Beach wear is casual – so you’re all good 🙂

      Like

  9. What a fun post, Lani. I love linen clothing, and loose tops. A friend once described my style as casual chic. I want, above all to be comfortable, but in a stylish sort of way. No sweatpants for me. And I do try to buy better quality clothing that is sort of timeless (or as timeless as one can get) these days. I do remember my teenage years with permed hair, neon colours and shoulder pads. I tried my best to destroy all those photographs – they are clear and nightmarish enough in my head! My sister regularly threatens me with posting some on Facebook. I simply cringe and give in to anything she demands. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahaha. Blackmail! So that works on you, huh? Interesting, very interesting *strokes chin*

      Linen is nice, but I hate all the ironing. Maybe in warmer heat it’s not so bad. I don’t know, I just haven’t bought linen in ages because I packed a linen dress to go to a wedding assuming the friend I was staying with had an iron (you know a basic item!). NOPE. He did not. UGH. That was fun.

      Can you put me in contact with your sister? 😛

      Like

      1. Hahaha. Not a chance with that last request, Lani. I don’t need more people ganging up on me. 🙂 And with no evidence I can simply claim I never had bad taste in the 80s.

        Yip, ironing is definitely the down side of wearing linen. I use that time to listen to podcasts, so I’ve come to ‘love’ ironing. I have a French friend who says wrinkly linen is very chic. So I guess you looked very chic at the wedding. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  10. The double Swatch watch! Now THAT is a blast from the past. In the same era, I also used to wear two layers of crewneck long-sleeved tees from the Limited — I specifically remember having one pink and one red — with two layers of matching socks in the same colors. The 80s were wild.

    Also love the classic 80s elementary school pic — another blast from the past. I definitely found you right away.

    Like

  11. This is a fun post to read Lani – I love your writing!
    My relationship with clothes is: Provided it covers what it needs to then I don’t care much what anyone thinks. I’ve been going to work all week in badly torn jeans with no knees in!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well distressed jeans are all the rage over here, so you’re considered fashionable somewhere. 😀

      Thanks so much!

      Like

  12. Wow! Your grandparents looked amazing! How come their generation had so much more style than ours? 😂 Love your colormatching with Barney. 😉 I was a tomboy kind of girl and discovered fitted clothes only in my late teens. 😂 My relationship with clothes is very relaxed – I go for comfy rather than for stylish these days, especially with shoes (Birkenstocks 😉). Every now and then I buy a piece that feels incredibly decadent, like a red leather jacket last year and then struggle wearing it. 😂 Oh, btw were Fruit of the Loom hoodies a thing too in your teens? One of the clothes choices I’m quite embarrassed to look back to. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My grandma had my father when she was quite young, 15 yrs old, so that’s why they look close in age, but yeah, that’s my grandma and father. 😀

      I do wonder where those groovy days have gone, but women did spent SO much time on their hair that I can’t imagine doing that anymore. But I’m nostalgic for those days when men wore hats and suits and women wore nice dresses and lipstick.

      But boy, do I love my lounge-wear too…

      Barney was an accident by the way 😛

      Yes, we liked our hoodies. I think every teen likes those, so comforting and safe feeling.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Oops! 😂 You must tell me her secret for looking so young and ravishing – it can’t just only be the hairdo? 😁
    Oh yes, also feeling nostalgic about those days, my grandfather almost always wore a suit and hat and looked fabulous, like a film star really. Andy grandma too – the hat, not the suit. 😉
    I’ve gone off lipstick for the past months since wearing masks kind of makes it irrelevant – so much for wearing make-up only for oneself, right? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I enjoyed reading this post so much, Lani! As always, your humour and no-nonsense approach rings through, entertaining and also bringing memories to mind, as you provoke me to think about deeper issues.

    Clothes are a peculiar thing – as are mothers who dress us. They leave indelible fingerprints on us which we don’t discover till much later in life. Complicated, yet so much a part of us.

    My favourite article of clothing are boots – technically, they are shoes, but shoes complete the outfit, right? Unfortunately, I have lived most of my life in warm climates, so I only really could enjoy them for about a decade in the ’80s, when I lived in HK (during the cooler months) and in Texas (also during the cooler months).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooo. You are reminding me of these great knee high black boots I have. Yes, like you I’ve lived primarily in tropical climates but when I was in cold weather, I loved my winter wardrobe – scarves, sweaters, coats, boots!!!

      Glad you enjoyed the post, thanks so much! 🙂

      Like

  15. Haha! I was also obsessed with denim jacket in my teens. I had this mid-blue one that I wore everywhere I went. It would keep me warm in air-conditioned shopping centers in Malaysia in Singapore. You must have quite a style to pull off the acid-wash denim look. Back then I remember such kind of denim was for the cool kids 😀

    These days I am a very casual dresser. It is almost always jeans everywhere, such as to the grocery store and hanging out with friends. Even at work I can get away with dark black jeans – they look formal enough if they don’t have faded rubs. In summer I prefer a simple T-shirt and during the cooler months I like to wear a knit – which I guess is typical for people living in four-season climate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I was a wannabe cool kid rather than an actual cool kid. I was also ganged up by bigger teenagers for wearing what I wore when I was walking home one day. 😛

      Yes, you struck me as a casual and comfortable dresser. It’s nice to feel relaxed, so I understand. When I’m not working, I’m in lounge wear at home or non-fussy clothes doing errands.

      Like

      1. I hope at some point the teenagers ganged up on you because they wanted to copy how you dressed…

        Lol I am casual but also the kind to wear the same kinds of clothes for years and years 😛

        Liked by 1 person

Comments create conversations. Let's talk.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s