Do I look Fradiculous?
When getting dressed, is it bad to care about fitting in?
When I was a little girl, my mom got tickets to a play for my babysitter and me. And she dressed me up in a dress and tights (as I recall a bottle green a-line dress with an overall-style top and some kind of turtleneck under). And my babysitter arrived in jeans. I stood in the mirror and lamented to my mom: “I look fradiculous!”
I’ve been thinking about this moment quite a bit lately. Most of my life, I’ve wanted to wear certain things and not wear certain things. And felt strongly about it. And that’s made me, at times, not fit in. And generally, I’ve felt like “screw it who cares?” I’m doing me.
I’ve been of the mind that the problem is the other person’s. What do you care if I look different? Things I’ve refused to wear at varying points in my life: sneakers, flats of any kind, down jackets, shorts.
I have had to deal with people who say “ooo, where are you going?” knowing full well I’m just coming down to breakfast or whatever. It’s a little dig. Fine, whatever, I don’t care …. but I’m annoyed.
Over on her IG, @amysmilovic has been talking about feeling right in what you’re wearing — right for you and your style and also right for the situation. Challenging the idea that it’s about confidence, i.e. “just be bold, do you, wear your sequins to the supermarket, whatever.” (Though she did say, and I paraphrase, if you’re just so you and feeling yourself ala Dolly Parton, DO THAT! And she’d expect nothing less. Dolly Parton is not asking if this is working for her.)
In a way, maybe it’s a kind of growing up. You go through periods of wanting to fit in. And then you fight to know yourself and have the outside be what you want it to be, to express the you that you’ve finally found. And that fight was hard and it’s a tender bud, and you won’t compromise it for anything.
And then you grow again. You know who you are. You know that person so well. And you don’t want to stop expressing that. But the bud isn’t fragile. It’s more like a sturdy plant. One that takes very little maintenance. It does its thing. And you don’t have that teenage insecurity kind of desire to “fit in.” But instead you have a grown up desire to feel right for a situation. Because there’s a calm in that. Everywhere you go isn’t about wavemaking. And announcing yourself.
I’m wrestling with this, because it’s new territory. An evolution from “just doing me wherever, whenever.” One I’m undertaking, though, because it feels like something I want to undertake.
Let’s look at “rightness.”
There’s more than 1 kind of rightness in dressing. Rightness for who you are on the inside, yes. Practical rightness (walking shoes, warm coat). Extreme situational rightness (no sequins at a funeral, no white as a wedding guest). But then also two others that have me thinking. Mood rightness. That is, which facet of your personal style do you wake up wanting to bring forward. And the “less extreme situational rightness.” That’s the controversial one. Because it has a negative connotation to say “fitting in.” A sense of not being confident. A fear of crushing that self we fought so hard to express freely.
So what if we reframe it more like a combination of the two: How do you want to feel in this moment? Do you feel like fitting in, going relatively unnoticed? Is the desire to self express bigger (maybe you crave the dopamine, maybe you’re meeting someone for the first time, whatever the reason) than your desire to feel that ease that comes with fitting in — and still always with your own twist, always right for you.
Ok here’s what I mean. I wore this on a walk in the Miami Design District in the morning. Anything goes in the Design District. But most women are in yoga shorts and matching bra tops. I just really felt like I wanted a lift, I wanted endorphins, I needed a little push, and if people looked askance it was NBD. I was ready to smile at the world. The shoes are comfy, the pants are like silk boxers, the necklace is actually light. Practically speaking, it was very good. I felt great, and people looked and smiled. Some stared and when I caught their eyes they said “nice necklace.” All good. It was nice, a warm feeling.
Ok this pic of me in the glasses shop is pretty much the same use case. Walking, errands. Walking shoes. Comfy, breezy pants. Still me but the Miami is way pared back. (The glasses I picked up en route). Overall this is way more about “chill” than anything else. The polo is relaxed vintage men’s, just open, the Tibi balloon pants rolled and easy. Dad’s croc belt. All navy with a little black, just relaxed and subdued. But I still felt me, the Miami serpent watch and sparkle shoes. Just putting a different part of me forward. No one looked twice, no one said anything. Just nice, at ease. A different — also good—feeling. If I wore a winterized version of these looks to Thanksgiving in New England, one would get me some comments, one would not. Either would feel like me. But maybe I choose the chilled out version — not to please others and not to avoid comments but because there’s something soft and relaxing about fitting in while still being yourself.
One more illustration. Last night we were going out to a hot new restaurant. I’d been looking forward to it all week. And I’d been planning to wear a black dress I got in Italy, maybe with a sparkly T shirt under, and maybe with a tall boot! Saturday night! Date night!
But when I put the dress on it felt so attention-y. And that would have been fine if that made me feel good. But what I wanted to feel was more chilled out. Maybe this is where I am in life in general. I crave more moments like these. I wanted to feel like — out to have great food and conversation with my hubs at age 52. Not like SATURDAY NIGHT. But still like saturday night.
(Also I do not know why, holding my own phone and looking at a mirror, I enjoy closing my eyes. You’re welcome.)
So I wore this MM6 sparkly turtleneck (when I moved, I had the sleeves cut off). But instead of the black I’d usually put with it (there’s a little black background to the sequin), I put brown leather pants that are like jeans. (Still “night out” ish, but chiller.) And took my “new” vintage men’s brown sweater from Capsool for the A/C. And the blue old Celine bag. Which was actually inspired by this Loewe window on my walk (below), with the blue sunglasses and bag and that brown shoe and the black/white/gray that’s related to the MM6 top.
And I just felt very at ease on this date. A little — I don’t know, like calmed and apart from trends and older in a good way?
So looking at Amy’s guide. This is like — wear the pieces you love wherever. Here’s how to turn the dial so they’re appropriate.
I think what it is for me is maybe slightly different. Though #wearyourclothes is so big for me. I think it’s like — assess your mood. Which of your style adjectives do you feel most like greenlighting hard today? Do you feel like standing out (with all that goes with it) or fitting in (which is a nice way to feel, not anything about lack of confidence or pressure; and you can still be you). Then dress the pieces you have to that. (note: I mean, the message is hugely valuable to me but I would not ever take a Bean Bag to the grocery store with a graphic tee and a slide with socks. I would feel alien to myself. And like a poser.)
Do. what. you. feel. All things considered. Including if you want to stand out or blend. Meaning, assess everything thoughtfully and know what to expect. Dress for that. That feeling.
(But if you feel like sequins at a funeral, fight that feeling. Unless maybe you’re Dolly and there’s singing.)