Accept Yourself

         I LOVE uniforms. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. It’s why the main character of my art wears uniforms so much.

"Oaxacan Protection", graphite and ink on paper, 9" x 12", Laura E. Alvarez, 2015

“Oaxacan Protection”, graphite and ink on paper, 9″ x 12″, Laura E. Alvarez, 2015

And as I’ve also said before, maybe if I was mandated to wear one, I wouldn’t be so obsessed. I’ve always enjoyed my fashion freedom, and if there was the slightest hint at a dress code, I was going to break it. See three month “Artist Residency at Starbucks” in the early to mid nineties recession of my youth. Or, when the director of a school was going over the teacher dress code (“professional” was the code) with the faculty, then gave me a pass when she looked at the creative patches on my jeans and said, “Well, you’re going to ruin your clothes (with paint, etc.) anyway.”

So, because I don’t know what it’s like to be forced to conform, it’s easy to have fun with uniforms. Forest green  modern shirt dress? I’m the den mother of young conceptual campers. White version with flower embroidery? I’m a lab technician in tropical Mex. Hawaiian print jump suit? I fix rusty Plymouths in Havana.

But I never thought I literally had a “uniform”. You know how some people have their self-imposed go-to outfit? They own it a lot times, too. They say, “Yeah, you know me. I’ve got my uniform. Black jeans, black sweater. Black shoes. Don’t have to think about it.”

You’d be surprised at how many people in the fashion and costume industry self-impose uniforms. Or maybe you wouldn’t be. After all, you are reading a FASHION BLOG. But, just in case you got here by accident because you googled “crossing guard uniforms” then I will elaborate. Make up artists wear mechanic jumpsuits. Fashion designers find a simple composition and stick with it – maybe so they can concentrate on creating outside of themselves. Even fashion magazine editors do this, and I get it. It’s one less thing to think about. These are people that choose the uniform because it compliments their highly productive mode. It simplifies things.

But then there’s the uniform as the sign of depression. This, I’m scared of. You know, “I’m wearing pajamas everyday because essentially, I have given up.” Or, “Sad, olive green t shirt, ill fitting jeans, and running shoes? Yeah, I’ve given up too.” With the last one picture no eye contact, while person continues programing user interface two blocks from the ocean with no windows. Or the workout suit that never comes off. “What? I’m just coming from spinning!”

No, we can’t give up.

So, no uniform for me. No sir. I pride myself on being unpredictable. Well, of course I am somewhat predictable – how late I like to sleep (definitely after 10 if I have my say), where I deem is appropriate to consume a cappuccino (Caffe Luxxe, not Starbucks), or how often The Smiths are on my playlist (I need a good Smiths/Morrissey fest at least once a month. By the way, that is a Smith song as the title of this post!). But when it comes to dressing, if I wear jeans two days in a row, it’s a bad sign. You know, maybe one day it was the perfect item to wear with a great lace top and silver shoes, then the next day I am cleaning out moldy things in the back yard so there’s really no other choice. But, it still makes me a little sad. Because mixing it up and being creative with my outfits really gives me a lift everyday.

So, imagine my surprise when one day, THIS happened…

I was teaching at a school. I saw a mom – a personal stylist, no less –  who was dropping off her children in the morning. She wore a cream colored sweater, a plaid, wool, orange and brown skirt, tights, and lovely brown boots. After I complimented her outfit, she said to me, “Thanks. Oh, I’m doing you today.”

Wait. Hold on right there. She said, “doing you”?? Doing me? A person can do me? That means I’m predictable! And I loved her outfit. I complimented it. Of course, she expected me to because she was “doing me”. This kind of freaked me out. It freaked me out because like I said, I prided myself on being unpredictable, on always mixing it up, and it turns out, I, like all these other people, had a UNIFORM.

My uniform. Three things. Sweater. Boots. Tights. Skirt. Not in that order.

My uniform – Three things: Sweater. Boots. Tights. Skirt. Not in that order.

I just couldn’t believe this uniform had been happening all this time under my very nose. Yes, on MY body without me even noticing. I mean, what kind of disconnect was that? Didn’t I own a full length mirror? I was upset by this experience. And then when I thought about it more over time, I realized that the signs were always there. I even remembered saying some things that were clues. It was like I had green paint on my cheek and nobody told me. I had to find out for myself in the wall to wall carpeted reception area of a busy rainy morning of elementary school drop off. In front of EVERYONE.

So, to process my acceptance of my uniform – which I noticed I was wearing on the above photographed rainy day – I thought I would break the uniform down into parts… Because, obviously this is A REALLY IMPORTANT ISSUE.

Let’s start with the sweaters. I can now admit that I have always had a huge amount of sweaters. However, I do look at them from time to time and say, “Oh my goodness. This is terrible. I have like, NO sweaters.” I seriously do that. That means I can never have enough sweaters. It is like when I asked my younger son when he was a wee lad, “Wait, a second. I was just wondering… If you could get a new stuffed animal every day, would you?” I think you know what the answer was. No, it was a good conversation because it was after that that I knew it was A HOLE THAT COULD NEVER BE FILLED. Oh, my god; it’s like sweaters are an addiction. No. I don’t have a problem BECAUSE I CAN’T FIT ANY MORE SWEATERS INTO MY SWEATER DRAWER. That’s the only thing stopping me.

Let’s not separate the sweaters from the skirts. Sweaters love skirts in my world going back to me wanting to be a 1940’s cheerleader when I was 14, wanting to dress like Midge in 1958 Vertigo, AND always having adored those school uniforms I didn’t have to wear. In some ways sweaters and skirts together created the image of a romantic feminist. Does that make ANY sense? I mean, it somehow was what to wear if you were kind of conservative in dress because you wanted people to pay attention to your brain, yet you were still prone to riding your bike to write poetry under a tree. See? It’s comfortable, cute, and kind of ready for action. Action, like saving-the-world-action, I mean. Or at least adventure-action.

Which brings me to the boots. That’s where I know the signs were there. I mean, it was even in my original Facebook profile — something about “never having enough boots”. I’m not a big shoe person — one pair of sneakers, one pair of sandals, one pair of sparkly shoes. But the boots? Yeah, right now there are at least five pairs of boots in my closet. And with that said, that is like, so not enough boots. If I could afford more boots you bet there would be way more boots in my life.  I can say right now — no, you better sit down for this — I don’t own one pair of cowboy boots. Yes, I do have a New Mexico Pinterest board and still no cowboy boots to speak of. (I do have a pair of custom made moccasins however. Whew!) And there is not one pair of Doc Marten boots in there. And I call myself an Anglophile? Not one pair of Docs? That is tragic. I would also take a pair of some kind of Inuit boot. LOVE me a good Inuit boot. A Victorian pair? Right this way, please. Size 7.5. Thank you. And yes, I would also take some rain boots. I’m not kidding. I find them so adorable. I’m not sure why, but if I had some I would wear them tomorrow rain or shine.

I adore almost all kinds of boots. I think I could have a blog just about boots. I just feel so powerful in them. That must be it. I could ride a horse, construct a house, hike a trail, save the world like Nausicaa, splash through a puddle. I mean the possibilities are endless. This paragraph is still about boots, but I made it a new paragraph because the boot paragraph was getting too long.

So, eventually I decided to embrace this uniform. Sure, I don’t go there everyday, but when I do, it feels so good. I feel so solidly me, if that makes any sense. See, with all this going on now I get why. And that makes it even better.

Do you have a uniform? What’s it all about? Why do you like it so much? Please tell us. Please.

Shrunken sweater from Costco by Calvin Klein that used to be Evan’s (and it is my FAVORITE SWEATER). Skirt by Banana Republic circa 2005. Boots by Teva. Hair cut by Scott.

All photos by Evan Hartzell.

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2 thoughts on “Accept Yourself

  1. Pingback: New Music Merch Equals New Purse | Clothes Stories

  2. Pingback: Adventures Down Secret Stairways (or how to accessorize for cold weather wearing a sun dress) | Clothes Stories

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