Monday, August 29, 2011

Playing Barbie... in Real Life

You all already know I enjoy fashion. I enjoy putting outfits together each day, experimenting with what I can do to look stylish without repeating what's worked in the past. A new challenge, each and every day, to put together the shirts, skirts, pants, dresses, accessories, and/or shoes in such a way that will make people go, "Wow, you look so great! How do you always look so cute?"

Am I vain? Yes.

But really, that's not all it is. Sure, I like looking good (especially on a date, as you'll see in that first picture), and I like the compliments that come with that at times, but I also think of it as a game or a puzzle. I enjoy putting outfits together, even if they never get worn out. Or even if I'm not the one wearing them.

Cut to my weekend. I totally "What Not to Wear"d a friend of mine. (And yes, I totally just made the name of a TV show into a verb. What of it?) And it was EPIC and made me SO happy.

We'd been chatting for a while about her clothing choices and why they were... non-ideal. Now, before you go thinking I'm a huge bitch who goes around judging my friends and telling them they dress terribly and that they have to let me fix them or else I won't be willing to hang out with them anymore, that is not how this went down. Anything I said was said lovingly and in good humor, and C. knew that I loved her as she was, and would continue to love her no matter what. Wanting to help her change her wardrobe really was, in my eyes, about helping her - in a way, it was something I considered an act of service towards her. Admittedly, it was a "service" I knew I would really enjoy, but still, I thought it would be good for her.

My friend C., she wore clothing that said, "I don't like myself," as loudly as if she'd been shouting it through a bullhorn. She was doing everything she could to hide behind her clothes, and I wanted her to step out and let people actually see her. In my opinion, if people saw her, they'd like her. They'd realize how wonderful she is. And maybe she'd start to see it too.The thing about fashion is that it's rarely just about fashion. For most of us, there's more to what we're wearing than just "I need clothing to protect me from the elements, so I'll put this on." And our clothing is very often tied to our self-esteem, in both positive and negative ways. When you look at what someone is wearing (as well as how he/she is wearing it, and how he/she carries himself/herself), you can tell what his/her self-esteem is like.

So Saturday evening, I went to her apartment, opened her closet, and began to purge. I lost count of how many t-shirts she had hanging in her closet. I also lost count of how many times I asked about a given shirt and heard, "I bought that in ______ grade," where the blank was filled with, at its worst, "eighth." This is a grown woman who had clothes in her closet from EIGHTH GRADE - she needed an intervention.

Six trash bags later, we finally lost the dead weight from her wardrobe. T-shirts, jeans, shorts, sweatshirts, shoes... Everything must go. She had precious little remaining in her closet, but she felt good. "It's hard, but I know I need to do this. I'm not a kid anymore, and I need professional clothes. I just didn't know where to start, so I needed someone to push me." That push? That was me.

Sunday we shopped. And we shopped like I have never shopped before. I've never tried to build a wardrobe before, but I loved it. Remember how I said fashion is a fun challenge for me? A game I like to play? Yeah, I was getting to play it from scratch. It was like I had a life-size Barbie doll to dress to my heart's content, and she was completely amenable to it. And when the day was done, she had a new wardrobe that made her look a-MAY-zing.

Today at school, she wore a new outfit I'd helped her pick out. So many people gave her compliments, and while she was appropriately flattered, it was clear that she was a little uncomfortable too. When asked about it, she said exactly what I already knew: "I'm used to hiding." I told her she'd just have to get used to being worth looking at. Because she is, and I'm so happy she's starting to figure that out.

Anyone else want some fashion advice? I love playing dress-up... :)


Lady M said...

You should start a fashion consulting business!

Still Jill B said...

Don't think we missed that "went out on a date" comment you tried to sneak in there. We totally noticed.

Major Bedhead said...

Indeed. More about the date, please.

I wish you lived closer. I need fashion help badly. Years of having a job that allowed me to wear jeans & t-shirts has left me with precious little that's professional. Now that I have this job that I love but need to look more put-together, I'm lost.

Amanda said...

What a gift you gave her. I hope you'll share an update!