When I was in middle school, gosh, what a self-conscious kid I was, especially in the looks department. It seemed like nothing I wore was the right thing to wear, and we all know how important that is in the tender years of preadolescence and adolescence. Nothing in my closet was RIGHT - wrong color, wrong proportions, wrong cut, thin stripes instead of thick, the lime green that was so last year [Hey remember that year of lime greenness? Ugh.] I used to feel like the most ungraceful, ugly, ill-put together person on. the. planet. I do blame it for some of the grouchiness that crept into my voice and manner, an external manifestation of internal insecurities. Because sometimes when you're at a stage where the smallest things will set you off, feeling like the ugly duckling of the class will stack the cards even further against yourself.
I remember staring at college students or women in their mid 20's and envying the way they seemed so put together. Confident, smart outfits, or even just carrying themselves with a careless grace that I envied most of all, the way you can look put together without looking like you even tried. I couldn't ever imagine actually getting there myself.
I wince sometimes to think of that version of myself - mostly out of sympathy, some empathy, though I think a lot of my memories of that time period have faded away so I have a more and more difficult time putting myself in those shoes [sparkly blue Skechers, they were my 'Hm, I really shouldn't because they are so impractical but I will anyways purchase, one of the first of several. Those specific impulses, the ones that tug at some fanciful, free-spirited part of me, I've never regretted.]
I was thinking about that girl one morning as I was dashing off to class a couple weeks ago. I am always a tad bit late, and my roommate is, by now, quite used to the mad scuffle of feet and my unwieldy juggling act too many bags as I run out our front door and swipe a pair of shoes from our, erm, collectively extensive collection. I wouldn't call this 'casual grace' by any means, but I do think that part of the 'grace' I saw when I was younger was really just comfort in your own skin, and in your personal sense of style that evolves with age.
For some reason, when I bought this top it made me think "Paris." I think that's because I always think of Parisian style as quirky and expressive, the place where stores are brimming with articles of clothing that make you say, "You know, 98% of women could not carry that off, but on you, it works."
In other words, fashion as style -- personal style, and finding pieces that let your personal style truly shine. When I think of the number of times I've had that said to me - not that often, but enough, and especially when wearing a top with a ruffle rather reminiscent of a clown suit - well, frankly, it makes me a bit happy, that maybe I am slowly finding that comfort in my own skin. And that maybe I am developing my own, unique style.
Preadolescent Jessica, you're halfway there. If only somebody could have said that 13 years ago. Any ray of hope would have been nice.
[The ruffle is much more apparent in person.]