This coat doesn't makes much sense in the context of the rest of my wardrobe. I own very few things with similar bold prints. The last time I wore something so vibrant was back in 1987 when neon and obnoxious floral prints were in fashion, Can't Buy Me Love was playing in theaters (the original, Patrick Dempsey version), and I stored my homework in a Trapper Keeper. I also had a rather unfortunate perm, watched Growing Pains, and read Teen Beat. A lot.
I was introduced to this coat during a random visit to a thrift store. It was in perfect condition, in my size, and the material felt lush and luxurious. I admired the piping along the hems, the bold colors, the silver embossed buttons, and the fully lined interior. It was gorgeous. And yet I wasn't convinced it was for me. Mostly because I knew wearing this coat would garner quite a few looks from the general public. Looks of the evil side eye what-was-she-thinking variety. So I decided to leave the coat on the rack and continue browsing.
While walking through the aisles, I thought about a recent conversation I had with my hairdresser. You should know that I hate making small talk while getting my hair cut. I want to relax, enjoy my scalp massage, and avoid awkward chatter about the weather and celebrities and other trivial crap. On this visit my usually quiet hairdresser shared some trouble she's having with her boyfriend. She's an unusually mature 21 year-old, and has dated a slackerish younger guy for three years. She's outgrown her relationship and wants to settle down with someone more serious and stable. But she hasn't broken up with him, largely because she's afraid of what her friends will think. She confessed that they think she's too serious. They tease her for being responsible and focused while they do beer bongs and stay up all night watching Gossip Girl on DVD. She worries there's something wrong with her because she's so different from her friends. Their judgment causes her to question her feelings, and to doubt what she really wants.
I could really relate to her. I spent years second-guessing my personal style, tailoring my appearance to better fit in with my friends and family. It's hard to be true to yourself when everyone around you seems to be in opposition. When I was younger, I often felt different and unusual when I compared myself to my friends. I put a lot of energy into oppressing who I was in order to please those around me and avoid rocking the boat.
Oppression is defined as "something that oppresses, especially in being an unjust or excessive exercise of power." It is also "a sense of being weighed down in body or mind." Psychology Today recently posted an article called The Oppressor In The Mirror, addressing the link between the power given to weight and self-loathing. But I can easily see a connection between dressing for the comfort of others and overwhelming self-doubt. The feeling that you're being controlled by the wishes of other people can lead to some pretty severe self-doubt and loathing. When you prioritize being liked over accepting who you really are, that's oppressive. When you spend more time worrying about protecting the feelings of someone else rather than making yourself happy, that's oppressive. And when you feel forced to wear argyle and oxfords instead of your Doc Martens and miniskirts, that's oppressive.
It takes a pretty brave and courageous person to go against the grain, whether it be through relationships or body acceptance or clothes. It took me a long time to understand that there is nothing wrong with putting my own happiness first. If people don't accept me as I am, they're just going to have to get over it. How I express myself through what I wear is my choice. Clothing (and cosmetics, hair color, and body modification) is an wonderful venue for self-expression. I like my unique look. I feel happy in bright colors and thrifted pieces. And I love my tattoos. So I'm proud that I bought this coat. And even prouder that I wore it in public.
Evil side-eye be dammed.
Have you ever felt the need to oppress your personal style to appease others? Have you made adjustments to your wardrobe in order to make others more comfortable?
|Thrifted Sigrid Olsen coat; J Crew sweater; thrifted white cotton-down tunic; Gap Outlet jeggings; Kate Spade boots; Anthropologie necklace|