My Life In Fashion, Part 1

From Formspring:

How did your personal style evolve throughout your life?

Contrary to popular belief, I was not born wearing Louboutins and shouting “Bring me a green dress! With a bow! And some stripes! Also: dots! Bring me dots!” Quite the opposite in fact:

Yes, readers, I was once a little boy. My secret is out.

OK, so maybe I wasn’t a REAL boy, although like Pinocchio and George from the Famous Five, I did often behave like one, for in my formative years I was a bit of a tomboy and my interest in clothes extended no further than wondering how many days in a row I could get away with wearing that bathing cap my mum bought me for swimming lessons, but which went just PERFECTLY with a pair of Wellington boots:

(I’m not joking: I refused to take the bathing cap off. I thought I was IT. I was, like, SO EDGY and ahead of my time. If I’d only realised, I could be an up-and-coming British fashion designer with a trademark line in “crazy” by now, but sadly I was too busy pulling worms out of the ground and presenting them to my next-door neighbour as a “gift”. Another promising career ruined!)

Sadly for me, things didn’t get much better, fashion-wise. Some would say not ever, in fact. As I got older (this is the serious part of the post coming up, by the way, so quiet at the back please, and stop rustling those sweets) and reached an age when I was starting to realise to realise that clothes could look NICE as opposed to just providing a good excuse to never have to brush my hair, I was being pretty badly bullied at school. We’re talking parents in regular meetings with the head teacher and considering removing me from school, me being kept behind after class to make sure my classmates didn’t try to kill me on the way home: that kind of thing.

And actually, as surprising as it may seem, none of the bullying was connected to my appearance: it was just stupid, petty schoolgirl stuff, but it got WAY out of hand, and it totally destroyed my confidence for a long, long time. One day I left school to find most of my classmates waiting for me outside the gates: they followed me home, surrounding me and hemming me in, while the ring-leaders hit me with rolled-up umbrellas, which were apparently the weapon of choice at the time. Thank goodness guns weren’t legal!

After that, my only real aim in life was to not stand out, and not give people any reason to want to pick on me. This was difficult for me, because I pretty much always stand out, and not JUST when I’m wearing a bathing cap in the street.

Once I grew out of the tomboy phase, you see, I started wanting to dress up. It’s always (well, OK, not ALWAYS: see above for evidence) been my instinct to be slightly-to-outrageously overdressed. I tend to feel most comfortable in the kind of clothes that make people ask if you’re off somewhere special after this, and this tendency in me first reared its head when I was about ten, and came to school wearing a bright green coat and kicky little matching beret. This was the era of designer sportswear and shell suits, so you can imagine how well THAT went down.

For the next few years, then, I did my damnedest to just blend in. I always got it WRONG, though – sometimes really badly wrong – and that’s why there are no photos of me from this era. (Well, there are, but I’d rather eat my own eyeballs than put those photos on the Internet.) This was the early 90s: it was a disastrous time for fashion anyway, but I was also “growing into myself”, as my mother put it. I had a horrendous, frizzy perm, a fringe which I “styled” until it stood up perpendicular to my head and… those were some bad times.

But! Better times were… actually, no, better times weren’t coming, because once I realised I sucked at the whole “blending in” thing, I decided to rebel. Grunge was big at the time, and I embraced it in the way that only a angst-ridden teenager who is pretty damn sure Kurt Cobain is, like, the ONLY person who understands her, can. I had Doc Marten boots, long skirts, lumberjack shirts, and a collection of shapeless black sweaters. I also had hideous, high-waisted jeans with slightly tapered legs, because those were the only kind of jeans they had in the 90s, CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE?

Because I refused to have my photo taken, and because my parents were probably worried that my scowl would break their camera anyway, this is the only photo I could unearth from that era:

Also the only photo you’ll ever see of me voluntarily using a phone. This was the day my 6th year exam results came out, and I was calling my grandparents to tell them my results. (I got straight As. No, you WOULDN’T think it, would you?) The shirt was my dad’s, the leather jacket was from a second-hand shop in Glasgow, because I was just too ALTERNATIVE for normal shops, and the jeans were straight-up hideous. Luckily you can’t see my feet, but I was wearing my DM boots, and was pretty sure I would wear them FOREVER, which just goes to show what I knew, eh?

Just in case my parents decide to ground me over this post, I feel I should point out here that they DID try to dress me like a little girl sometimes:

That’s Snoopy (he of “doing the toylet in the cichon” fame) I have in a headlock. My favourite thing about this photo is the very undignified doll in the background.

Oh, and I ALWAYS liked stripes, apparently:

I’m pointing at the ground to indicate where Snoopy had just done the “toylet”. Because if there’s a funnier thing than a dog peeing on a child’s sandcastle, well, my younger self didn’t know what it was.

To be continued later in the week, or possibly never depending on how I feel…

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books by Amber Eve
  • I can sympathise so very much with so very much of this! Except the tom boy bit, a phase I never went through…

    I did, however, go through a phase of my own we will call "I want to dress EXACTLY like my Gran" during which I insisted on having little kilts that looked just like her pleated tartan Granny skirts, so that when we went for our Saturday-morning-coffee-and-a-milkshake EVERYONE would know we were together. Like some cool Granny-Granddaugher club. You can imagine how popular THAT made me!

    My theory is that more experiemental children grow into more stylish adults. They've spent so many years trying really hard and getting everything wrong, they've used up all their fashion disaster tokens and it's plain (if over-dressed) sailing from thereonin.

    Btw, LOVE the Snoppy-strangling dress! Very cute!
    .-= Caroline´s last blog ..Challenging assumptions =-.

    March 9, 2010
  • Cie, I love your theory about the fashion disaster tokens. I'm hopeful I used all mine up being dressed in hand-me-downs and charity shop garb (it was not at ALL fashionable to wear secondhand back then) as a child.

    And Amber, once again you had me LOLing at my desk – I'm sure the rest of my team think I'm a loon!


    March 9, 2010
  • Karen


    Fashion aside, the undignified doll in your picture is hilarious! You're also lucky to have been spared the horrors that were early 70's kids clothes. I think the picture of you at the beach is adorable. 🙂

    March 9, 2010
  • British kids are so brutal. I was bullied for nine years in four different schools so that was already pretty bad, but everytime I hear bullying stories from the UK I have to collect my jaw from the floor. What I personally learned was that there's no point trying to fit in, because why would you want to blend into a crowd of idiots, but I'm still yet to become as fab as you!

    March 9, 2010
  • Laura


    You were such a cute child! Absolutely adorable!

    March 9, 2010
  • Rock Hyrax


    Sorry to hear about the bullying. I had a similar problem in infant school, and in those days the teachers on playground duty used to look on calmly, and if I fought back I'd be the one ending up in trouble.

    That picture of you and Snoopy is a classic: such a perfectly posed picture of a prettily dressed child and family pet, completely sent off-key by the doll. 🙂

    March 9, 2010
  • Alexandra


    Ah, you were (and are) always so pretty! I want your teenage self's hair so much! (Although it'd look pretty funny with my black lashes and brows, I admit.) I got bullied in school too- but much older, from around age twelve to age thirteen. (I did develop my own style of self-defense, though…)

    March 9, 2010
  • Summergal


    I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who went through those awkward stages. I also got bullied (in junior high) and went through the grunge stage in the late 80's early 90's. If I never wear a plaid flannel again it won't be too soon!

    March 9, 2010
  • Stephen


    Hey! I fell in love with that kookie girl on the phone! (Sorry Terry!) What are you trying to say about my taste? ;+)

    Happy Birthday, Red. Hope you're having a great day!

    March 10, 2010
  • The picture with you and Snoopy is very nice, you’re such a pretty girl there!
    Very interesting post!
    .-= Ally C´s last blog ..Happy Easter! =-.

    April 5, 2010
  • Sandy


    I love the picture with the bathing cap and the rain boots. I love it when I see little kids out and about with Mom and Dad wearing something totally ridiculous. I think that parents should let little kids wear whatever crazy clothing combinations they want, assuming it's within the guidelines of decency and weather-appropriateness. The kids aren't hurting anyone, and they probably think it's the greatest thing ever that they can wear their Spongebob pajamas with a polka dot skirt and rain boots.

    April 10, 2010
  • I can relate to the uber bullying at school too, it never let up until I really left at 18. I’ve only now found personal style and its taken me a long time to so you’re not alone in that. And that doll just stole the picture, that is brilliant!

    June 12, 2014