The Personal Style Project, phase 1 cont. : Fashion flashback!

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, one of the most helpful resources I’ve found so far in trying to figure out how to define my personal style is a guide on So I’m working through that. It’s a little cold (and dark) to take a walk, and I have sort of started with the lookbook thing. But what looked like the most fun suggestion on the first main section of the guide was to think about what you wore as a teenager, when you “weren’t dressing for anyone else.” And that sounded like a fun post topic! So bring on the ’90s flashback!

Admittedly, I didn’t quite have total freedom of what to wear as a teen…my school had a fairly strict dress code. No blue jeans, no printed t-shirts, no spaghetti straps, no backless sandals, nothing really tight or skin-baring or overly short (the “skirts no shorter than 4″ above the knee when kneeling” rule was one of my main inspirations for sewing my own, since being one of the taller girls in the class, it was hard to find skirts that worked with that!) But in a way, I think that kind of forced some creativity on me–how to express myself within limits, especially since I was the girl who hated having brand names plastered on my clothing and really didn’t want to dress like all of the Aberzombie-field hockey-playing preps.

But here’s what I did end up wearing… I wish I had pictures, but sadly, I don’t have too many pics of either what I made or wore on a day-to-day basis back then. Most of my teenage pics are from things like school semi/formal events and retreats where we all wore bummy clothes.

  • During my earliest teen years, usually what I wore was the colored jeans we were allowed to wear (black most often, or the weirder colors like hunter green and brick) and either huge baggy sweaters, or huge baggy plaid shirts over top of other stuff. I also remember that there was a year (I think it was 8th grade) when I wore black hiking boots all the time… I really wanted a pair of Doc Martens, but they were out of my budget, so that was my cheap substitute. Honestly, at this point it wasn’t entirely a fashion statement, even though this was when the grunge look was pretty popular. It was more a way to cover up as much as possible, since I was still one of the curvier girls in the class at the time (especially compared to all the skinny, petite, athletic future Aberzombies….I was never overweight, but I looked it compared to them) and was rather self-conscious about it.
  • Believe it or not, the turning point for me was an article in a teen magazine about thrift shopping. I’d always figured that was a way for people who couldn’t afford to shop at the mall to get clothes before that…it never occurred to me that it could be a good way to find unique items! (Besides, this was the age where my parents were basically setting a budget for me and saying I had $X to spend on clothes for the year and anything above that was coming out of my own pocket….so then I could get more for my money!) So somewhere during 8th grade, I started going to Goodwill every time I could convince my mom to take me. (She wasn’t a fan.)
  • So now onto the fun part…what I actually wore. During school days, my pants weren’t really much to speak of, since I was still limited to the colored jeans and khakis. I lived in blue jeans during weekends and days off, though! My absolute favorite pair was a pair of faded flared Paris Blues jeans with a bleached-out looking butterfly print going up the legs–I remember they cost about $30 and I thought they were so expensive but I couldn’t pass them up. (There’s my thrift store junkie mentality at work!) I wore them until they got ridiculously faded and threadbare, somewhere in my early college years.
  • Funky skirts were a staple for me, too. Particularly long ones. My go-to favorite was a black, grey and white swirl-printed long polyester skirt, which I often paired with metallic silver boots and a metallic silver pleather jacket! (My best friend’s younger sister borrowed that entire outfit when the 7th and 8th graders, who shared a building with the high school, decided they wanted a Spirit Week with dress-up days too and had “Future Day”.) I also had two favorites that I made, both also long–the first was a royal blue wrap skirt with a cartoonish hippie-looking allover daisy print in white, lavender, light blue and this weird chartreuse-ish green, and the other was a sheer (and fully lined) stripey sort of print alternating this brown almost woodgrain stripe and a silvery leopard print with these large orchid-type flowers printed on it and metallic floral stuff woven into it. (Man, I wish I had pics of these…though I think I actually do have one of the wrap skirt somewhere, since I still had that one at the end of college when I realized I should be taking pics of this stuff.)
  • There was this phase, particularly in the 8th-10th grade range, where I wore a lot of vests. Usually homemade ones. The three I remember the most clearly were: 1) a black cotton parrot print that I hand-sewed colorful seed beeds to outline the parrots with. (I also had matching huge dangly seed bead earrings that I made to go with.) 2)Another cotton print, this one being a blue and green print that made me think of water. Probably highly toxic water, given that yellowish-green stripe bit… 3) The clincher: I made a cropped vest with a vintage pattern that my mom still had from the 70s. (She was sewing back then too.) Out of snakeskin-printed vinyl that I found in her stash. (Probably also from the 70s.) Worst finishing job ever–it was unlined, and if you looked inside, you could see the pattern piece descriptions and numbers written in there because I traced out the pattern pieces on the vinyl and didn’t think to put that information closer to the edges, where it would be hidden with the seams and facings!
  • Vintage-looking jackets were also a favorite of mine. Two of my favorites were actually found on that very first Goodwill run in 8th grade–one was a lightweight brown leather (or probably pleather), and the other was a black velveteen with patch pockets and a nice fat collar, which were $10 apiece and enough to sell me on the joys of thrifting. (The black one was also one I wore until the lining literally rotted out of the jacket sometime in college-I think I also tore it across the back too, since it wasn’t quite wide enough for my shoulders.) I also had a couple of jackets left over from my mom’s 70s wardrobe, both of which she made–one was a teal velveteen with a shawl collar, and the other was a brown tweedy sort of fabric. I remember thinking it unusual that it was also shot through with turquoise and orange bits, but honestly, I’ve never had a brown blazer that was as versatile as that one was. If it hadn’t always been a little too small and short in the sleeves, I’d probably still have it. (Honestly, I wish I still had it anyway. I hope it went to a good thrifter’s home and that she loved it.) The last one is an orangeish-tannish leather hip-length coat with piping and leather-covered buttons that’s either chocolate brown or black–it’s hard to tell–also my mom’s from the 70s. But I was smarter about this one–even though it’s also a little too short for my arms, I realized I will never find a leather vintage coat that awesome for anything I can afford again, and I still own it. And wear it often on the in-between seasons. I just wish I hadn’t taken off the belt loops and trenchcoat-esque belt when I was in high school–I hated it then, but I bet I’d love it now.
  • (And hey, look, I actually do have a pic of this! From about 2 years ago. Actually, I really like this outfit all together, and I even match the 70s decor in the boba tea shop!)
  • Shoes were my fashion nemesis. (Actually, shoes are still my fashion nemesis.) Mainly because I have very wide, and therefore hard-to-fit, feet. This is when I got into wearing boots a lot. And I did have my old-school black high-top Chucks that I would doodle on with colored pens during class when I was bored. (Yeah, I only used plain black or blue ink pens when I had to–my notes were a rainbow of turquoise, purple and green ink otherwise!) Also wore those until they fell apart….I want a new pair! And this is also when I got into the Birkenstock thing–I loved that they looked hippie and actually fit my feet no problem due to the unisex factor.
  • As far as accessories went, my style now is pretty much a further evolution of what I wore back then– silver over gold, dangly earrings, beaded jewelry that I made myself, and rings on multiple fingers.
  • I did like t-shirts in the off-school time, and tank tops in the summer–usually I’d try to go for the wider straps so I wouldn’t get in trouble for anything along the “you’re going out dressed like that?!” lines. During school, it was often plain but brightly colored knit tops (within the dress code–striped or tie-dyed when I could get away with it) or funky printed blouses.

I’ve been looking into the different style definitions too… I’ve suspected all along that I have a very strong boho streak, given my propensity for things like ethnic-looking prints, nature-inspired jewelry, tie-dye and long skirts, but I’ve been having trouble trying to figure out how to make that fit with my enduring love for things like t-shirts, hoodies, and funky but tailored-looking jackets. (See here and here.) But I had a random flash of inspiration today, and I think I might be on to something…

Speaking of hoodies, I’m really excited because I’ve been wanting a plain black one for awhile, and haven’t been able to find one for some reason. I found one at Goodwill today, and got it for $1.75 because it was tagged with the half-off color of the week! It’s a bit big in the waist, but for that price, I will gladly take my serger to it–especially since it fits perfectly around my hips!


4 thoughts on “The Personal Style Project, phase 1 cont. : Fashion flashback!

  1. Tim Gunn helped me so much on my style journey. I'm a full time mom, so terrible stylish business or formal clothing had no place in my life. However, after spending some time with Gunn's book, I found ways to up the style in my everyday life. I basically took his top ten and tweaked it with items that fit in my life. The two biggest things I needed to work out: a great pair of jeans and a sweat suit alternative.


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