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Sunday, June 29, 2014

I Feel Pretty: Family Origins

My mom had a very short window to pick outfits for me. As soon as I was cognitively possible of having an opinion, I had one about what I wanted to wear. And it was never the cute thing that matched. Never. So my mother, full of wisdom, filed this under Battles Not To Fight. And I'm glad she did because I think that decision probably encouraged my artistic nature even more than the dozens of formal art classes I took growing up. Unfortunately, another battle she chose not to fight that I wished she had was making me brush my hair. Kindergarden through, oh...8th grade were ROUGH ya'll. Hashtag cowlicks. Thank God the flat iron was invented by high school. But all my growing up years my mom pretty much let me wear whatever I wanted. Certainly I was given boundaries in regards to modesty and age appropriateness, but as far as style was concerned I had complete freedom. And I'm sure there were days I came out of my room and my mom thought what in the name of sanity is my daughter trying to pull off SOMEONE SHOULD TELL HER. 

But she never said it out loud.

As I reflect on girls and clothes, I think our mom's have a bigger stake in all this than we like to think as independance craving succubi also known as teenagers. I think our mom's are on the front lines of instilling either confidence or insecurity. And I think mine helped instill me with confidence because the things she ascribed praise or value to in me weren't related to the way I looked. In fact, talking about one's appearance- the clothes you wore, the shape of your body, the state of your face or hair- these things were never a narrative in our home. My mom has never said anything derogatory about my body, and I've also never heard her say anything negative about her own body. I think this was a trend in our house because of the influence my grandmother had as well. 

So lets take a Generational Fashion Recap:

June Saling.
Thespian. Mother of 10 CHILDREN. Kindergarden teacher. Free Spirit.

This is her with her girlfriends on the beach. Aren't they adorable?!?!

This is her on her wedding day. Also adorable.

This is her from my childhood.

So obviously after all the kids, fashion is maybe not a Top Shelf Priority. Also basically anything of value my grandmother ever had she gave away if you needed, wanted or were even mildly interested in it. She held on loosly to all things of this world. So while I wouldn't initially describe her as one of my style icons, I think she had a huge influence in my self expression. She was a storyteller and actor and never batted an eyelash if I wanted to go out with her dressed as an absurd character (who also insisted she call me by my character's kroger...) One of my huge debts of gratitude to my grandmother is that I feel like she gifted both my mom, and then me as a by product, with our weddings being exactly what we wanted. My mom carried a bundle of wheat down the isle for crying out loud. I've observed many times the opposite happens: mom didn't get the wedding she wanted because her mom wanted things a certain way because her mom wanted things a certain way etc etc... With June? Free Spirit + TEN CHILDREN= oh! you're getting married to a great person? Spectacular! Ask me how many craps I give about what color your bridesmaids dresses are.

Karen Lasley.
My mom has always been a pretty trendy lady.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C 

But she's also incredibly practical and frugal. Pretty much everything I wore growing up was a hand me down or from a consignment store. She still shops a lot at Walmart even though she could afford more expensive clothes because why pay more money if you don't have to? I didn't even know what a name brand was until middle school. This has been huge contribution to my personal style because I spent all my time trying to create a certain vibe rather than having to have whatever the IT thing was. I remember when Abercrombie and Fitch was the place to shop. When I finally made it in there I hated it. I could not bring myself to like these boring overpriced clothes. Not to mention the smell.

My mom has always styled her hair and worn make up, and I observed her doing these things growing up, but it was never our main source of bonding because I was a comfort loving tom boy who wouldnt sit still to let my hair be brushed. I never felt like "this is what you need to do to be a lady". So my mom's greatest style influence on me is that clothes and make up are fun, but not the primary thing that defines who you are.

Megan Shaffer.

I really liked Annie and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang a lot as a kid.  So I spent most of my time trying to look like a homeless orphan.

 You know how children's clothing no longer has tags? That's because I threw such colossoal Hulk Smashing fits about tags torturing me within an inch of my life that it was heard the world over. If only jeggings had been a thing in 1987 I would have LIVED in those elastic waist bands. Not very far into my Homeless Orphan Phase I discovered that there were homeless people who got to wear layers and layers of scarves and long necklaces and buckled boots and way too much eye liner and carried tambourines and went on adventures. Thus began my Gypsy Pirate Homeless Orphan Phase.

This style evolution was timely with the 90s and my adolenscence because along with a bad attitude, feeling of no one understanding my plight as a teenage female, and the background of being inspired by fashionable homeless people- now I had Stevie Nicks, The Cranberries and Empire Records as inspiration. So I transitioned into the Grunge Hippie Phase. Velour sweatshirts, dozens of necklaces- long AND short- chucks, and way too much eyeliner. I just wanted a boy with a butt cut and skateboard to like me. (sidenote: at the time my now husband was rocking socks with Tevas, basketball jersies and sport coats. So glad we didn't meet in middle school)

High school was pretty uninspiring. We wore uniforms, I felt insecure, and so I played it safe and basically wore boring average trendy stuff. In college I went to music school and felt a renewed excitement in getting dressed. I discovered fashion photography. I lived in Nashville. I performed a lot. It was a great environment to be experimental with your attire. It was a ton of fun. I wore a lot of different stuff. And hair colors.

Since then, I've been fortunate to have occupations and environments that lend themselves to bringing back that little girl in love with gypsies and spies. Now that I have two children I don't typically spend much time thinking about what I'm wearing other than can I nurse in this, and how well are my bangs covering my bald spots? But the themes of endless patterns and a love of eye liner and an aversion to matching have hung in there. I rarely wear jewelry anymore cause its forever getting broken or chewed on. Thankfully I have a nose ring and tattoo as permanant accessories. I have finally after almost 30 years added foundation to my make up routine because I think your skin just dies and turns green from the lack of sleep and nutrition you recieve while your children are young. If I've been particularly sleep deprived or am feeling particularly sassy I might even throw on red lipstick. These days you will most likely see me in varying forms of this outfit depending on the season.

If attempting Especially Fancy I'll switch the denim for floral. Note: extra level of fancy employed by adding belt just for blog/vanity purposes 

By retirement age I aspire to become some combination of Emmylou Harris and Robert Plant. But that would probably involve wigs due to my insufferably frail hair so realistically hoping to land at Judi Dentch.

Ireland Shaffer.
Climber. Lover of anything bedazzled. Surprisingly great in heels at a full on sprint. Totally into swords.

One of the things my heart dearly longs to pass on to my daughters in regards to their interaction with clothing and makeup is freedom. A freedom to use it out of their own imaginations and a freedom from it. I pray they would know the are perfectly created and are in no need of any improvement. My prayer for myself is that I would not hold tightly to my preferences- which I am already being forced into since my first born only has eyes for pink and purple and sparkles. For this week's photo shoot I let Ireland choose the entirety of her wordrobe.

Not a great variety of color. High emphasis on accessories. Teddy Bear Slippers. But my favorite was the make up. She gave specific instructions as to what colors went where. My favorite is the purple on her nose. She even said "momma don't use black on my eyes like you do, I don't like black." And while I'm not planning on letting my 3 yr old put on make up to leave the house, I'm totally not offering any corrections to her vision. So if you see a 15 year old Ireland rocking out a purple nose, I hope you give her a thumbs up.

If you want to perruse the interweb for more imagination based make-up tutorials I highly recommend checking out I mean, there's a post on how to do your make up like Smaug from The Hobbit. It doesn't get much better.

Next up: Found in Nature