Wearing the “Right” Clothes

The wedding was fantastic. Although we’ve had what seems like nearly perfect weather all spring, the weather yesterday was not ideal. It was unseasonably cold, especially now that we are technically a few days into summer. The high was barely 60 and it was very overcast. It rained on and off all morning and again in the late afternoon around the time that everyone gathered for the wedding. They had planned ahead though and had rented an enormous wedding tent, which served as shelter during the rain showers. Because the weather was so cool and damp, the dress I planned to wear was woefully inadequate in terms of keeping me comfortable. I anticipated this problem and preemptively modified my outfit by adding leggings underneath my dress, which detracted from how pretty I felt and how well I felt I “fit in” in terms of my outfit resembling those that other women wore.

This mismatching or failing to look like other women in different settings has always been an issue for me, both in terms of literally not looking like my peer group and in terms of feeling badly or self-conscious about it. I believe the problem arises for three reasons: I’m always unsure of what people will wear or what is expected, I generally lack the clothing and accessories that would fill that expectation (mostly because I hate most feminine clothing and accessories, particularly for sensory reasons and because I feel they aren’t “me” and I hate feeling like I’m pretending), and I’m so short and have a more androgynous body shape so the “right” clothes never fit me, don’t come in my size, or look ridiculous draped on my body (this also contribute to why I don’t own them). At barely 61 inches, I’m basically always the shortest adult lady in a room. Consequently, my clothing rarely looks the part and matches that of other women in a given environment: workplace, formal event, upscale date, performance attire (like when playing in an ensemble), etc. Essentially, any occasion where most women dress in something other than athletic wear or casual street clothing. I always fall particularly shy of the mark when dresses or dressy clothing is the norm. I end up feeling really self-conscious and like I stick out far more than I’m comfortable when my appearance is more casual, sloppy, or otherwise starkly different than the people I intend to blend in with. Most of the time, my clothing is cheap (and looks it), messy, and unduly ill-fitting.

I’ve been aware of the flaws in my dressing appearance since I was a relatively young girl. Because I was the youngest of three girls, all of my clothes were hand-me-downs three times over, often after even a fourth wearer, the original owner, my oldest female cousin. By the time the clothes got to me, they were stained, faded, ripped, and disheveled. Moreover, because I was even tinier for my age as a kid than I am now as an adult, my clothing was often hideously immature for my age (think little girl patterns and animal prints on a twelve-year-old or cutesy toddler dresses on an eight-year-old. Many kids notice these things. I never did, but my classmates had no qualms alerting me to my “babyish” clothes at every intersection. Kids have a way of being relentlessly blunt. I’m all for saving money and since I was such a rough-and-tumble messy kid, I completely understand why my parents didn’t buy me new clothing (save for a rare occasion); I would do the same thing if I was a parent. With that said, I can’t deny the consequences and inescapable drawbacks of this frugal approach.

Adding to my lifelong anxiety and self-consciousness about this disparity in outfits, I’ve had two former employers specifically speak to me about tailoring my clothing or finding better fitting pieces so that I look neater. It was mortifying. They need to make petite clothing much smaller, like petite petites.

Women certainly don’t have to wear dresses, skirts, jewelry, or makeup and I don’t mean to insinuate that’s the case. A traditionally “feminine” look does usually entail these type of pieces, though many women look just as beautiful (or more) in slacks or outfits unadorned by traditionally girly accoutrements or makeup. Personally, I’m far from feminine and I tend to feel much more comfortable in pants and a natural, makeup-free face. I will wear earrings and a necklace, but I don’t feel “naked” without any jewelry, and don’t wear any pieces unless I’m going out or trying to look especially pretty. Needless to say, I do tend to wear dresses when needing to “dress up” because even though a smart-looking pant suit can fit the requirements, I want so desperately to blend in that I suppress my own comfort (physical and emotional) afforded by more androgynous clothing for the more typical feminine dress. I hate attention on me so much that I’ll override my need for physical comfort and my emotional preference for feeling like “me” in pants to satisfy my greater emotional need to not stand out and have eyes on me, whether perceived or in actuality. The life and pathetic quirks of someone with such low self-esteem and high self-consciousness…

Fortunately, despite downgrading the “pretty factor” of my appearance yesterday by donning black legging (tights) under my dress, Ben’s extended family, who made up the bulk of the wedding guests, Leah and her husband’s friends, and his family did not exude that “I’m secretly judging you with my eyes and laughing at your stupid outfit” quality in the least. His family has always accepted me with fully open arms and hearts and have never made me feel inadequate, different in an uncool way, or badly about myself. I still want to look and act my best around all of them, but they gift me with unconditional acceptance and that is a priceless gift. I even felt pretty for much of the time I wore my slightly weird outfit yesterday and some of Leah’s girlfriends, many of whom I know but was stressed to see because I feel so much uglier and weirder and out of place with them, even graciously told me I looked nice. It felt good to be accepted, even though I blushed repeatedly and imagined they were saying those things out of kindness rather than truth.

No one looked as stunning as Ben’s sister herself, as it should be at a wedding. Leah wore an elegant white lace gown that fit her perfectly and highlighted her beautiful face and lovely physique. She was escorted by her parents and met a beaming husband-to-be at the “alter.”

I started this recount describing the weather, and although it was rainy at the event, the actual ceremony took place during a complete break in the rain. We gathered around the sloped lawn in front of the picturesque riverbank. They were wed in front of colorful floral arrangements in front of the river as a backdrop. The officiant was one of Leah’s best friends and she shared sweet anecdotes and thoughts about the intersection of friendship and love. As wedding ceremonies should be, it was heartwarming and elicited happy tears from most every guest, including myself. Ben hugged his arms around me for the duration of the ceremony as we stood on the lawn alongside the other guests to watch. I felt our own hearts communicating and reaffirming our love and vows to always take care of one another through the physical union we formed during that extensive embrace. It felt really good.

Ben and I are both exhausted today because it was a very late night and neither of us slept well. However, we both seem to be riding the high and good romantic feelings of the wedding so much so that the otherwise impossibly extreme exhaustion is somewhat ignorable. I find myself smiling when I think back on watching them exchange their vows while the strong, comforting embrace from Ben’s arms surrounded me in a tactile reminder of our own commitment to honor and love one another for life. I’ve gained an awesome brother and a bunch of beautiful memories with the love of my life.

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