Monday, July 21, 2014

too many damn rules

I spent this past weekend in NYC with my good college friend Ben. We had a great time catching up on our lives (both of ours have changed considerably in the past year since we saw each other), walking all over Brooklyn, and doing just the tiniest bit of shopping. We stopped at Steven Alan, which has all of these beautiful pieces of clothing - the kind that you would wear for the next ten years and really treasure and love. As I was looking through them, I was explaining to Ben how I really liked each piece but I just couldn't wear any of them and I don't even bother trying because "I know what works on my body and it's just easier to stick to those rules".

Oh boy. The rules. It's not until you try to explain to someone what exactly these rules entail that you realize that maybe, just maybe, you are slightly insane. What exactly are my rules? Let's just work top to bottom:

  • No hats. I have chubby cheeks and hats always emphasize that.
  • V-necks only (mostly). I'm fairly busty, so adding a bit of skin (but not too much!!! more rules) supposedly elongates my frame without it just being all 'woah, boobs' even if they are completely covered up. I also have broad shoulders, so boat necks make them look even broader, and I don't think I've touched anything high crew necked in years. 
  • Nothing strapless. I'm certain strapless bras are the devil. I just won't even put up with them, so I just don't buy anything strapless. Problem solved, rule created.
  • No cap sleeves. I dislike my upper arms, and cap sleeves cut you off right at the thickest part of your arm. Why emphasize those bingo arms when a full short sleeve is so much more flattering?
  • Also nothing sleeveless. It's hard to find dresses with sleeves so I will buy those sleeveless dresses (if I really like them like this one I found last week that has an all over "neutral" pattern) knowing that the majority of the time I'll wear a blazer or cardigan over it. I would love to own this beautifully designed colorful dress, but I know I wouldn't want to cover it up with another boring cardigan so I just don't bother. There are only 3 sleeveless tops in my closet, and I always wear them layered. There's a reason summer is my least favorite season.
  • Nothing too drapey/swingey/loose. I suppose I'm hour-glass shaped, so anything that doesn't come in at my waist makes me look a good 30 pounds heavier. You know all those cool people who wear loose slightly slouchy tops and skinny jeans and look amazing and casual yet still polished and put together? That won't be me. I'll be there in my heavy duty bra and tank top to suck it all in and tight but not too tight shirt to make sure you didn't think I was actually a walking square. I don't just throw on a shirt and walk out the door. There's a process involved in harnessing it all. 
  • Longer tops only please. I'm 5'9'' and pretty equal parts legs and torso, so most tops are too short on me (the saving grace being pencil skirts and tucking everything in!)
  • No midriff. Not now, not ever.
  • Aways belted. Either at my waist if I'm wearing a dress so that I don't look like a giant rectangle, or on my pants so I can shame-tuck the hell out of my shirts (to emphasis earlier said waist). Oh yeah, and the leather needs to match my shoes...because I have issues apparently.
  • Dark on bottom: Dark denim, dark skirts, dark shorts. I occasionally break that rule with white denim, but I generally try to keep emphasis off of my hips. That weird area that sticks out the furthest needs to be as camouflaged as much as possibly please. 
  • Nothing too short. I'm a lady now (you get that title when you turn 26) and so therefore we don't do 2 inch inseam anything. Okay, really it's just that my thighs rub and therefore I need the fabric to prevent that. I would love to wear a cute romper, but it would look ridiculous on me. 
  • No skirts that don't hit right above the knee. That's probably a pretty common rule, but with midi skirts/dresses being popular, I have to remind myself that they hit at the widest part of my muscular calves, which is "unflattering". Hate that word yet? Me too. 
  • #hussyankles: If you've been reading this blog for 6+ months, you will have noticed that my ankles are almost always showing, even in the winter. I just like ankle pants! I think they are the most flattering on my legs, and I don't like my shoes to touch my pants. I don't even have a valid reason for that weird rule.
  • Feeling overdressed. I have this fear of feeling overdressed. It's hard to articulate really what I mean, but a lot of it is situational. I live in a small city where I spend the majority of my time in study clothes or in business casual clothing while at school. Nothing calls for anything too fancy or layered or stacked - it's about being practical and appropriate. So then sometimes when I could be a bit more "pulled together" I feel that I'm faking it. And so then I just default to plain. Why stand out when you can blend in?
  • Being too trendy. This may be a result of having a blog and reading a lot of blogs. I see the trends come and go, and generally don't really participate. Sneaker wedges, high-low hemlines, overalls - nope, no thank you, not since I was 4. Not practical for my life, and not something that I would feel comfortable in. I of course love some of them - statement necklaces always work, and I'm so tempted to get these Birks (because they just look so damn comfortable, and I'm German so it's allowed), but in general I don't want you to look at a picture of me in a year and be able to pinpoint what month it was taken in based on what is trendy that moment. 

Are you exhausted? Because I am.

On the one hand, it's very helpful to know what looks good on my body and what doesn't. I don't waste time trying on crop tops because I will never ever spend my money on one. Shopping time and shipping costs are kept to a minimum because I only try on things that fit within these rules. I only buy something if I know it looks good on me, is something I can wear multiple ways, and fits my general aesthetic and closet. I buy for my current lifestyle but also try to keep in mind that starting next year I'll be working with patients on a daily basis. I have a closet of clothes that I actually wear, time and time again, and that generally can be mix and matched.

But on the other hand, I'm certain I just wrote a pretty good case for body dysmorphia.

Showing ankles is the most flattering? Mmmmmmkay.

Knowing what works and what doesn't is good, but it's so constricting. I just feel that all of these "flattering" items I own and continue to buy also make it all a bit boring. There's no excitement, no new things I'm trying and making work for me and my shape. Having rigid rules limits me from trying so many fun things happening in fashion. While I do think that sometimes being my size and shape limits me in the sense that I can't just make every item work on me, I really need to just take a step back and just...have fun with it. It's not going to kill me if I own one cute graphic tee - I'm sure I'll wear it enough to make it worth the purchase, and if it adds a bit of something special to my closet, even just for a year, why the hell not? I will be the first person to endorse making responsible shopping decisions, but something has got to give.

I tried to step outside my rules a tiny bit when I purchased this tee this weekend - it still follows some of the "rules" (v-neck, longer short sleeves) but is different from what I own - it's looser, more casual...even the tiniest bit slouchy. Maybe that's how you start to break out - breaking one rule at a time. No need to jump in head-first, just get a toe wet.

Please tell me I'm not alone here. Do you have any rules you are refusing to break? How do you stay true to yourself but still branch out? Have you previously said you wouldn't ever wear something but now it's a staple in your closet?