Thursday, October 11, 2007

I am Fashion Challenged

Pin It
Yes. Sad, but true.

It's not a new thing, either. I used to get Seventeen Magazine back in high school and I would slowly go through the magazine circling things, longing to look as cute as the models did in their pleated skirts and sweater sets (shut up, it was the eighties). We were poor though, and I got most of my clothes for freshman and sophmore year from the thrift store.

See, this is the part of the story where, if I had any eighties cred at all, I would then sit in my room and teach myself to sew (with the theme from St. Elmo's Fire playing in the background of course), creating dozens of cute and trendy outfits made from somebody's vintage cast-offs and dental floss. I'd show up on the first day of school looking cute in my one-of-a-kind fashions, and Keith from Some Kind of Wonderful would fall in love with me because I was so quirky and alternative and real and crap.

Yeah, in the real world, this is just the part where I show up at school looking really, really ugly.

(Note: In my early twenties, when I was fairly thin for about five minutes, I dated a guy who looked EXACTLY like Keith/Eric Stolz. EXACTLY. His name was Justin and he was hilarious. He was also a HUGE jerk and we fought constantly. I HATED him, but I couldn't break up with him because - if I stayed with him, I could pretend he was Keith from SKOW. And I loved Keith. During the few moments each date when he would actually shut up for ten seconds in a row there was some lovely internal wish fulfillment happening. Unfortunately, he was not capable of staying quiet for long. One night when I really just wanted to spend some quality time making out with my imaginary boyfriend Keith, Justin instead chose instead to start in on me about polygamy and how we would be required to live it someday, in heaven. And so I had to kill him. But it was fun while it lasted.)

Even after high school, I never learned the skill of putting together an outfit. I have shirts, I have pants, I have skirts, I have shoes. I have no outfits. I don't know how to accessorize. I look at the other women and try to figure it out, how they combined a bunch of stuff and it resulted in something adorable. I shop at the same stores, combine a bunch of stuff and end up with something both awkward and uncomfortable, or on a really good day end up somewhere in the vicinity of "trying too hard."

I like the idea of having cute clothes, but the reality never quite translates. I think it's a talent - an art form that I will just never understand, kind of like modern art. I can sit and stare, and muse, and appreciate, but I can't actually accomplish it on my own. The closest I get to achieving any kind of fashion related artistic accomplishment is performance art - in the vein of constant public humiliation.

Because - people? If there is something embarrassing you can do with clothes – I’ve done it. I’ve had people come up to me to “discreetly” remove dry cleaning tags and price tags from my sleeves, or XXL tags from the back of my thighs. I've worn shoes that don't match to work, and not realized it until the end of the day. I had a very nice old lady approach me at Smiths the other day to ask if I "meant" to wear my shirt inside out. Once, during a period of rapid weight loss, my slip fell off while I was singing a solo in church, on stage, and I had no choice but to gingerly pick it up and continue singing while I watched my friends dissolve into hysterics in the congregation.

My attempt at Word Illustrations, ala Kristy.
The humiliation, it is not a stranger to me.

I'll never forget what happened right after we moved into our current neighborhood. Our neighborhood is sort of upscale, and is full of trendy, gorgeous, thin women, the kind of women that scare the living crap out of me. I was supposed to meet some of them to go walking, and as usual, was running late.

I was a scattered mess - nervous and tense because there was the possibility that I might have to participate in actual small talk, which makes me incredibly jumpy. (I think I would function better in the world if everyone had a little keyboard attached to their forehead and we could just type messages to each other instead of ever, ever talking.) I flew into my closet, and miracle of miracles, managed to find a few things that sort of - MATCHED, that sort of looked like they might possibly go together - black sweats, a black hoodie, and a white t-shirt. I threw them on and checked myself out in the mirror. I looked - passable. Nothing stood out. Socially acceptable exercise camouflage? Check.

So I run out the door, find the group and we all start walking and talking. To my amazement, I'm fitting in, or at least managing not to make a complete idiot of myself. The women all seem smart, funny, and unfortunately for me, extremely fit. I start to sweat, so I take off my hoodie.

A minute later, one of the women looks at me and starts laughing. I am perplexed. A second later another one looks and cracks up. Now I’m freaking out a little. Bad high school flashbacks. This is not good.

I look at the blonde one, feeling panicky. “What? WHAT?!!”

She points at my shirt.

I look down. I am wearing my husband’s garment top.

Put me out of my misery. Please tell me you have a fashion horror story of your own. Or that you will take pity on me and teach me the strange art of accessorizing.

P.P.S. For my non-mormon friends, who are scratching their heads and thinking, "What in the ??" Garments are special clothes that some mormons wear under their regular clothes - a reminder of certain covenants they've made - kind of like how some Jews wear a yarmulke on their heads. Anyway, it's white, and t-shirtish, but, uh, definitely not socially acceptable outerwear for women. Not by a long shot.


  1. Just take solace in knowing it's not your fault. Those garments totally look and feel like t-shirt's. . .Meanwhile, I think my worst fashion mistake (which was totally not my fault) can also be blamed on garments, are pregnancy. I was 9 months preggo, at the movies, stood up, and my pants stayed down because I was stepping on the hem. *Note to self* elastic waistbands and silky undies do not mix. . .

  2. OK
    You are a very very funny lady. It's almost 7AM here in MN and I am supposed to be getting ready to go to school, and yet, here I sit, typing a response because you made me laugh out loud in a dark room. My children are now certain that I am certifiable. In fact, I laughed out loud several times. Not AT you. Nonononono. WITH you. I, too, have fashion fear due to excess exuberance as a teen. I, too, bought thrift store clothing. I, too, thought that I could change things from crappy into cool. I was dillusional. And the worst part - no one told me! I pranced about our small town looking ridiculous, but thinking I was really really cool. (My mother, a teacher, refused to drive me to school on several occasions due to the extreme stupidity of some of my get-ups.)
    I still have dreams of being a styist, but I would starve because no one in their right mind would hire me.
    So, I have simply forged a "uniform," No, not hospital scrubs... anything black. It always matches. It usually looks fairly put together. I sometimes throw a white shirt or khaki pants into the mix, but usually I stick with all black. Save me from hours and hours and hours of humiliation. :-)

  3. do you live in my neighborhood? that's how i feel too-- at an utter loss when it comes to stones on string (i think they're called necklaces) and how they don't look too forced (or heavy) on women of infinitely tiny proportions.

    and i will nominate you for w.n.t.w. i've been asking people for years and no one listens to me-- so i feel your pain.

  4. Anonymous7:15 AM

    Once again, you have done brung the funny!

    I once made a suit out of an old suit of my dad's:

    And Mary Stuart Masterson was my style idol. I wore the cut-off jeans/men's vest thing for years.

  5. Oh my gosh! You are hilarious!!! The garment top story...the funny thing is, I can totally picturing myself doing the exactly the same thing. I feel your pain! Wouldn't it be cool to be on What Not to Wear. I love Clinton and Stacy.

  6. Ok, you just made Postum come out of my nose! (Sheesh talk about a fashion statement!)
    I've never had illusions that I could dress well. But at least I usually wear my own clothes! ;)

  7. Here's the trick:

    You MEANT to wear it; it's a statement, not a mistake.

    It's all in the attitude.

    I have more thoughts for later.

    "Oh you DON'T wear your husband's G-tops? I find they are so much more comfortable when I want non-binding Gs."

  8. OK - truly? You REALLY want fashion advice? Because your fashion stories make for excellent blog fodder.

    But if you really want fashion advice, contact Alicia Richmond. Her email is Alicia at chiconashoestring dot com. She does a fashion segment every Thursday on Good Things Utah. (you live in Utah, right?)

    OK, she will come to your house, go through your closet with you, help you organize it, tell you what works and what doesn't. She's like a really nice Stacey London. Then she will shop with you. She will show you which stores work, which brands are good, where the sales are and when, and how to put things together, and best of all, what's best for your body type. Truly she will. She's a genius, and her knowledge floors me. She picked out stuff I would have never bought, put it on me, joined it with this and that, and I looked fabulous!

    My husband bought 2 hours of shopping wih her for me last Christmas, and let me tell you, it was sublime. Really sublime. I now feel like I sort of know what I'm doing, and I felt like I had been on WNTW, without the good natured abuse.

    So convince your husband you need a nice Christmas present. She's $50/hour, (or she was last year)and worth every penny, because seriously, if you are buying crap you're not wearing, you're wasting a lot more money than that.

    I've done the husband G thing too. When I was pregnant. It fit nicely over my belly. Ooops.

  9. Oh, and if you contact her, you can email me and I will tell you my real name if you want to tell her who sent you. Not that it matters, really, you can always just say you saw her on TV.

  10. I read this post to my friend Supermommy and we both laughed. When I was dating the love of my life, I was wearing a wrap around skirt at a sunrise institute service. Yeah, I lost my skirt. Good thing my coat was long. But it sure didn't help the romantic moment at sunrise as we looked down at my skirt on the ground. You are not alone in your humiliation.

  11. Oh yes! I have plenty of wardrobe malfunctions and fashion disasters. I'd like to care more. I just don't

    One in particular. It scared me for life. I'll never never repeat it.

    My response to did you intend to wear that inside out is "Yes, it was stained on the other side."

    People I know get a laugh and those I don't. Well, I just hope I don't run into them again.

  12. Anonymous10:53 AM

    i have one. it's terrible.

    7th grade, very 'fashionable' pink Esprit bubble skirt with white keds. Was seriously feeling awesome that day. Came out of history class. Friend tells me in horror that I've started my period. On my bubble skirt. Run to the locker room with my sweatshirt tied around my waist. Another friend gives me HIDEOUS teal green bike shorts to wear for the REST of the school day.

    I later broke up with a boy for wearing bike shorts over to my house.

    And of course you're on my blogroll, I love your blog!

  13. Wiz,

    Hmmm.... Go for the easy laugh, or look nice on a regular basis. Hard choice. (Actually, it IS a hard choice - I'm all about the easy, cheap laugh.)

    But I may contact this lady, once I save up some cash. I know there will be nothing left in my closet after she goes through it. THANK YOU!!!!!

  14. I just dissolved into hysterical giggles picturing the g-tops. I also remembered the time my room mate and best friend got home from school one day, walked into the living room to talk to me, and proceeded to drop her pants. On purpose. ***** Sorry, I had to take a break for more giggles. Anyway. I asked her why she dropped 'em, and she was like, "what?" and looked down at her puddle-o-pants. She then tried to explain how she had been walking home thinking how uncomfortable her pants were, and how she couldn't wait to get home to take them off. Then the auto-pilot kicked in. I laugh every time I remember that story. And I tease her about it.

    As for fashion sense? The fairy godmothers forgot to gift me that one. I had a brief (5 or 6 years) of Punky Brewsterness. I recall one outfit I loved in 7th grade, starting from the top: A sky blue felt hat, a yellow t-shirt, a gray way-too-big sweat shirt with a big yellow triangle on the front and a red square on the back, bermuda shorts in psychedelic turquoise with multi-colored zig-zags and stripes (80s, remember?), green tights, yellow and/or purple crew socks, and a pair of red Converse high tops. Oh, and a Swatch. Do I win?

  15. Elizasmom, you owe me a new computer monitor. What a hilarious picture. And these stories - I would never laugh at any of you to your FACES, but I am SO LAUGHING right now.

    Please, please keep 'em coming. It make me feel not so alone. ;>

    "Oh you DON'T wear your husband's G-tops? I find they are so much more comfortable when I want non-binding Gs." Bwahahahahaha

  16. Sarah - HA HA!!!!! I am speechless. You definitely ought to win SOMETHING!

  17. Anonymous11:48 AM

    Ha ha ha ha You are kinda out there, but in a nice way. It sounds like your problem is more being careless than about being tacky. I don't think a personal shopper is gonna be able to help you with that. It's more like you need someone to check you before you leave the house every day, ha ha I would do it for you, but I live in Oklahoma, ha ha Really I'd rather that you didn't fix it and just told us about the embarrassing stuff that happens.

  18. During 4th grade I pretty much wore the same pair of stirrup pants for about 6 straight months, often paired with an oversize sweatshirt and slouch socks tucked into my hot pink (I repeat) hot pink LA gear high tops.

    Where were my parents during all of this? Who lets their kid wear the same pair of pants for 6 straight months? Answer: mine.

    And don't worry that towards the end (when my mom finally noticed), I had huge holes in the crotchtile area of my stirrup pants. Did not deter me from wearing them anyway.

  19. I am still laughing. You are too funny!
    I feel like I wear the same shirt, the same pants, every day. I need help! As more kids join our family I am more inclined to buy cute clothes for them and just think I can get by with what I have, which isn't very cute.
    My embarrassing clothes moment was last December. My baby was starting to scream in church so I got up quickly to take her out of the chapel. While trying to hurry out I didn't notice that my slip was starting to fall to my ankles. When I got out to the lobby it was down at my feet. I had the baby in my hands so I just had to step out of the slip and pick it up. I was dying as I hurried to the mother's room to feed my baby and get over my embarrassment. Luckily we were visiting family at the time and not in our own ward.

  20. ha ha ha ha ha Kalli, that made me laugh for five minutes...

    I'm one of nine kids and my mom had more important things to worry about (like survival). If we weren't naked when we left the house, she was satisfied.

    In elementary school I'd wear the same thing over and over again. If someone complimented me on a shirt or something, forget about it. I'd wear it for days on end. I didn't know it was gross until a girl in our carpool told me so.

    Man, I hated that girl. I mean she was TOTALLY RIGHT, but still. Nobody thinks fondly of the person who cues them in that they smell a little.

    Jess, I would have paid money to see that. Once again the image I have of my cool, unflappable SIL takes another hit, tee hee.

  21. Anonymous3:17 PM

    I'm coming out to my closet to say I too am fashion challenged. I have never heard of garment tops before, though.

    I have a story similar to Nicki's, one of the worst ever. One 7th grade day I was wearing yellow pants (bad enough!), and our Social Studies teacher had us playing a game that required us to run up to the board and point out a state capital on the map. I found my capital first, and then went back to my seat to see a huge blood smear on my chair. That's right. I started my period and EVERYONE in the class saw.

    I loved SKOW, by the way.

  22. i once thought i had shorts on under my jumper (this was in elementary school) and when it came time for p.e. i tossed my jumper in the piles of girls skirts and was left standing there, in a co-ed p.e. class, in my underwear and frilly shirt.


    to this very day when i see people i went to elementary school with, they say, "remember when you...."

  23. Oh boy. These comments all had me busting a gut. I must've been lucky in the fashion department (and born late enough in the 80's) to have been spared any significant fashion tragesty. But I definitely think you're deserving to be on WNTW, Sue. I can see it now. "You wore your husband's underwear out in public. What were you thinking????"

  24. Anonymous7:32 PM

    OH man! I just linked over to your site and this post was so funny! I was so Laughing Out Loud. Not in the disrespectful way though! :) I feel your pain! Thanks for the laugh!

  25. One time I wore my dad's pants to school. I belted them really tight, and thought the blousy look of them flowing over the belt was cool.

    Shocking that I didn't get many dates. I know.

    I too had a womanly incident in highschool that resulted in the need to wear a bright green fleece wrapped around my waist all day. Lovely.

    I had a pair of cut off jean shorts that somebody told me made my legs look cute. I wore those suckers until the bum was threadbare, and then just tied a white sweatshirt around my waist so I wouldn't expose myself. I mean seriously, who DOES that?

    Oh my, I will stop now, as the memories of exactly how lame I am are coming flooding back, and if I stay here too long I won't be able to sleep tonight for the horrific flashbacks.

  26. ACK! Oh, the humanity! I am cringing over all of the period horror...

    Patti, I love that everyone STILL REMEMBERS it. You know how your mom always says, nobody will remember this in a few years, about anything embarrassing? She's SO WRONG.

    Heather, you were just a trend-setter, making Mom Jeans before their time. Oh, man, the shorts. Bwa-ha-ha-ha

  27. Um, I swear I left a comment (because, y'know, I don't want you to DIE), but I don't see them.

    Are they getting stuck in your spammy filter or do you just hate me? [sob]

  28. I love reading your blogs!
    I have many a and otherwise.
    It is so comforting to know I am not alone in the completely embarrassing myself!

  29. I think pretty much every woman secretly longs to be on What Not to Wear. I've thought about nominating people, but then I think it might hurt my chances of one day getting on, and so I selfishly decide not to nominate. Maybe we could go on together.

    Here's a couple of my bad fashion moments:

    eighth and ninth grade, when nirvana and sound garden were still cool, I constantly wore my brothers' flannel shirts that were two or three sizes too big. I was like 5'1 and 100 pounds, and they went down to my knees. I thought I looked so GRUNGE. more like homeless.

    Junior year, big poufy light blue prom dress. Yards and yards of tulle. Matching blue manicure. Yikes.

    ninth grade, my best friend and I bought matching outfits: light blue jeans, light blue jean vest, white short-sleeved faux turtleneck. AND WE WORE THEM AT THE SAME TIME.

    And my favorite: At a dance when I was 19, I wore these awesome black pants made of some material that was wipe-able, not washable, and about halfway through the dance, the sister of a boy I had a massive crush on came up to me and told me that my pants were split down the seam in the back. I forced a friend to walk really closely behind me out of the dance and into the car and then drive me home to change. I went back to the dance, though. I apparently have no shame.

  30. I have a SPAM FILTER? What is this you say? I will have to go check it, Hot! And here I thought you were blogvoiding me...

    Wendy, you were always cute, so shut up. Even the blue dress, with the blue eyeshadow? Which should not have been cute? Was ADORABLE. I specifically remember it because it should have been so wrong, and yet it was so right. If you weren't my sister I would TOTALLY hate you.

  31. Sue, you are killing my street cred. Or, uh, blog cred.

  32. Anonymous6:10 PM

    Blame it all on your mom, Sue. Lack of fashion sense is a genetic flaw. I grew up with home-made clothes and hand-me-downs from older girls at church (sound familiar?) until I saved enough babysitting money once in eighth grade and went to a real mall and spent $15.00 on a white blouse. My mom was horrified at the expense! (Actually, back then that probably was expensive). Karen still buys most of her clothes at D.I. and can afford to shop anywhere. It wasn't that I didn't care about what you girls were wearing...I just didn't know better! I figured you girls (or the Zobrist girls who were sort of rich and gave us their outgrown things) knew about the current fashions more than I did, what with my life cycle of maternity clothes - nursing clothes - maternity clothes- nursing clothes.
    My embarrassing experiences mostly had to do with nursing.... standing up at the pulpit to give a talk or leading the music somewhere and having milk start dripping and spurting everywhere...or not having my blouse buttoned after leaving the mothers' room at church.
    Maybe this is all why I thought boys were easier to raise..jeans & t-shirts and one Sunday outfit, and they were happy. Or maybe that is just another clueless belief I had.
    Keep on posting. This is better than a therapist! And lots funnier!

  33. Anonymous10:14 PM

    You wore the same thing two days in a ROW?

    Ew. I would NEVER. Ew. Cooties.

  34. I'm delurking AND confessing (of sorts) g moment:

    I was running late for high school cheerleading practice (yes I was one of those - please don't hate me) and I couldn't find a white shirt. I ran up the stairs and saw the laundry basket full of whites. I grabbed the first white t'shirt I saw and went to the school. I didn't realize until a Freshman pointed out that I had weird gathers on my boobs. Yeah, how do you explain g's to a bunch of 14-18 year old girls when you're not quite sure you understand them yourself.

    My next favorite one - yep another cheerleading moment. I ran to the bathroom at half time of the boys basketball game and got back just in time to start cheering. We ran out to do a time-out cheer and I trailed toilet paper tha I had tucked into the back of my skirt right on the court. Woo-Hoo...Go Beavers!

  35. Ha! Mom, I totally remember things like that happening with you all the time. So maybe it is inherited, and I have an excuse.

    Stephanette, that made me laugh out loud. Oh my gosh. Gs at cheerleading practice. Ha ha ha

  36. My goodness, you get such great comments. I'm just hear to tell you that the Mormon garments are more comparable (in fact, remarkably similar)to the Orthodox Jews' fringed garments (worn similarly, under the clothes, with the strings to remind them of all God's commandments) than the yamulkah. The yamulkah is a sign of respect.

    So do all adult males wear the garment all the time, or only on special occasions?

  37. Thanks for letting me know that - that is fascinating. As for your question, if they are fairly orthodox and active in the church they typically wear it all the time - women too.

    And welcome!!!

  38. Oh my goodness. That's awful! Funny, but awful! No wonder Sue-donym brought it up today.

    I detest making small talk with people I don't know. I'm terrible at it. And I accepted long ago my lack of fashion sense. If it fits and is comfortable (and I didn't wear it in the 80's--I do have some pride), I'll wear it.

  39. Anonymous2:08 PM

    ok, so I know this post is waaaay old, but that just shows how engrossing you are, that I just found your blog today and I'm reading all the old stuff! It also shows how boring work is, but I digress....
    I just wanted to tell you that before I finished this post, I googled "garment top" b/c I'm all, "what the..." and I couldn't find a darn thing. Then I read the end of your post... thanks for the explanation!

  40. You are so not alone. My personal experiences include nylons falling down in sacrament meeting thanks to slippery garments, and, sacrament meeting with a 1 1/2 year old MONSTER, half monkey, must have been trained by the World Wrestling Federation daughter of mine, only to look down and notice that my entire blouse is OPEN. How LONG has that been OPEN? Who knows? How did EVERY button fail? Who knows. WHY didn't my husband say ANYTHING to me!? Who knows! And of course, I'm wearing a purple bra. Bright purple. On top of holey garments. Great. Did I mention we were visiting the home ward on vacation? No wonder they stare and point when we come in.

  41. Anonymous2:57 PM

    Love the site great read ! Keep it simple with the fashion and get yourself some vintage sunglasses.

  42. hehe..funny. I was (actually am) poor so I was used to hand-me-downs as a kid. However, problem was that I am a girl and was given hand-me-downs from my older brother (who in turn used hand-me-downs from my father). Sigh. Honestly...looking back at it, I think the funniest part for me was the fact that I thought I was working it:D