It starts when we’re very little girls. Someone reads Cinderella to us, and we are told that as her clothes and shoes and coach are transformed, so is her life transformed. The seeds are planted for our belief in the Magic of the Makeover.
From Cinderella to the Ugly Duckling to Sabrina to Pretty Woman to My Big Fat Greek Wedding to Oprah to Extreme Makeover, stories abound of a physical or sartorial transformation that accompanies or is even a springboard to a new and shiny life. Our culture loves a makeover. We wait breathlessly for the unveiling, “It’s a new me!” Except that often inside it isn’t. As my friend Becky used to say, “no matter where you go, there you are!”
For a good part of my childhood, I awaited transformation. At 8 years old, I was certain that once I was older/thinner/had longer hair that my golden life would finally begin. And then I grew up and kept waiting…waiting to get thinner, waiting to make more money, waiting to become the stylish, sophisticated woman I knew I wanted to be, that golden life still just over the horizon.
The Sartorialist in his Kara post from August 28 (can’t seem to link to it directly), talking about transformation says:
“I bet if you ask most people what keeps them from being who they really want to be (at least stylistically or maybe even more), the answer would not be money but the fear of peer pressure – fear of embarrassing themselves in front of a group of people that they might not actually even like anyway.
If you were really honest with yourself and really wanted to change your style what is keeping you from doing that? Is it really the cost? Is it really your psychical shape? availability of goods? Or is it not fitting in at your office, or PTA, or skateboard park?”
I don’t know that I agree totally with that. Peer and family expectations do play a part, but during the times of my life that were most ripe for reinvention (the three times I’ve picked up and moved to a new city), money was the biggest factor preventing it. The second was my size/shape. But even today, when the money is easier, and I’m able to find clothing in a wider range of styles that fits me, my sense of self more than anything probably limits my ability to re-invent my look. Or I should say, my sense of Selves, ever thwarting my desire to develop a single, cohesive, defining style. There’s my nerdy self, my aging hippie self, my Corporate Busnoid self, my chic-and-sophisticated-wannabe self, and my practical self. My closet is a mishmash of styles, a result of these different selves being predominant from month-to-month or even day-to-day. A garment that feels like “me” one week, may feel foreign and forced the next.
Perhaps because my style icons have always been so far removed from my body type, my era, and now–often–my age, it’s been difficult for me to have some realistic style goals. I’ve met very few women IRL whose style I’d want to emulate. The styles that really inspire me are more often costumes (Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina, Juliette Binoche in Chocolat) than real-life dressing. Perhaps I just need to give freer rein to my closet Drama Queen.
The idea of makeover = total life transformation also holds little sway these days. I have enough years under my belt to know that most of what makes one’s life worthwhile comes from the inside. I’ve managed to carve out a pretty darn good life for myself, and I’m not looking to trade it in. Doesn’t stop me from fantasizing about renting a stylist, though.
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