Let’s Talk with Maggie Toussaint

Clothing makes the man, er, woman
By Maggie Toussaint

dreamstime_xs_41429769Sometime in college or thereafter, I read a book, and I’m blanking on the title, and it was about clothing being our costumes for whatever we were doing. That was a realization I’d never articulated before, but it explained so much about my conservative wardrobe choices. I always wanted to fit in. Intuitively, I came to the realization that fitting in (and thereby escaping the possibility of childhood/teenage ridicule and ostracism) was so important to me. How odd that I grew up in such a time of change and yet what I wanted most was conformity.

In particular, I remember being worried in high school because one of my dresses for my five outfit school wardrobe was orange. Not a muted color, but orange-orange. Because we got our school clothes in a different town, I was certain no one else would have this practically neon dress. I had nightmares about it being a beacon it was so bright.

But my mom and the shop person insisted this was the right dress for me. I was stuck with it. Much to my surprise, I got compliments from my classmates and teachers on that dress. It seemed orange was my color. And so I relaxed and became comfortable in the dress.

DoggoneItFront - Copy thumbnailTwo things I learned. 1) I can be dead wrong about something because of pre-existing biases. 2) The right outfit, regardless of whether it conforms to convention or is a detour, says a lot about you. That orange dress nurtured my independent streak.

What about you? Is there a particular outfit in your past or present that gave you fits, chills, or smiles? One lucky commenter in the U.S. will win a print ARC of Doggone It.

Comments

  1. maggietoussaint says

    *** WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT *** THE WINNER OF MY PRINT ARC IS GIGI ANN. Congratulations! And thank you to everyone who commented. Doggone It will release in print and digital format on Oct 19, 2016.

  2. Debra Lamey says

    I remember finally being able to wear jeans to school. Maybe that’s why I don’t wear dresses very much.

    • maggietoussaint says

      I remember that too, Debra! What fun to have the luxury of wearing pants. Kids today have no clue…

  3. I would love to win the booklover’s bench Tote. I share on facebook, google, tweeted it and pinned it on pinterest.

  4. My mother has warm colouring and “traditional” style. She had a peach twinset with a cocoa skirt that she looked fantastic in. Peach makes me look ill. I’m much more eclectic and look better in cooler colors. Shopping for school clothes was not fun. Finally, she let me pick out a bright blue top with butterfly sleeves and handkerchief hem- she wouldn’t be caught dead in it and I would have worn it everyday.

    High school was difficult because although there was not a formal uniform, there was a unspoken uniform of certain clothes that were in, Junior year it was tight tight jeans, Oxford cloth shirts and white leather Nikes. I looked hideous in tight jeans and Oxford cloth shirts and couldn’t afford the white leather Nikes. That was when I gave up any hope of being one of the “popular kids” and cast my lot with the Geeks, who were a lot more fun and I could wear my funky blue top and nobody cared.

  5. Catherine Bogert says

    Growing up in the seventies I remember a pair of high waisted orange plaid pants. They were my favorite. Too young to know better!

    • maggietoussaint says

      I think I would’ve loved those pants, Catherine! And, in a cruel twist of fate, I’ve heard that high waisted pants are coming back! I was happy to see them go. Now I know why those little old ladies didn’t follow fashion trends. They aren’t very practical on a budget! Thanks for chiming in! Good luck in the drawing.

  6. LK Hunsaker says

    In high school, I just tried to blend in, not fit in really. My first year of college, though, as an arts student where there were people I hadn’t known for 13 years, I had an outfit I created and liked a lot: soft pink lightweight loose pants topped by a matching long sweater, accented with a big black 80s style belt. I even had pink feather earrings. Okay, it was the 80s. I have no idea if anyone paid attention to it because I couldn’t make myself look at anyone. Talk about wanting notice and not wanting notice at the same time!

    • maggietoussaint says

      Your outfit sounds like something I’d love to have on right now, LK. I’m sure people looked and they were thinking “if only I was as cool as THAT girl.” It takes courage to create your own style. Way to go!

  7. Karen Locke says

    I liked white pants a lot for school. My mom always hated them because she said was tired of bleaching them back to white because I could not keep them clean.

    • maggietoussaint says

      Our moms did a lot for us! I have one pair of white pants now, and I do think about what I’m doing in them. I try not to gorp them up… Thanks for stopping by , Karen.

  8. For a psychological take on our fashion choices, look up enclothed cognition. We are what we wear, quite literally. Though the reason I wear mostly black has nothing to do with fashion or psychology — I’m red-green colorblind and can’t be trusted to match colors. And now I’ve learned to like it!

    Great post!

  9. I went to a private school and we had to wear really awful uniforms. They were a funky brown jumper with a short blouse with a Peter Pan collar and ankle socks with saddle shoes. I don’t know how anyone could have thought that was a good looking look.

    • maggietoussaint says

      OMG! Thank goodness! I’m so glad you survived. I bet you make much different wardrobe choices today. And saddle shoes. I’ve just been thinking about them the last few days. Really, what was the appeal? That they were two-toned? I have no idea, but I remember wanting them. Thanks for the comment and the information share!

  10. My favorite color to wear when giving presentations is red. It empowers me and gives me confidence. My more relaxed favorite color is turquoise. I’m like a parakeet. I like bright, tropical colors.

    • There is one outfit I remember with fondness. I wore a gorgeous sequined gown that got a lot of comments at our son’s Bar Mitzvah. It’s still in my closet. Wish I could still fit into it but no way.

    • maggietoussaint says

      Hi Nancy, Your fav colors are the same as mine. I love red and some of it’s cousins (corals, bright pinks, crimson), and I like turquoise so much I painted my office that color! Your gown sounds amazing. How nice that you had that moment to shine and enjoy it!

  11. I remember a particular favorite junior high outfit in the 80s…grey miniskirt, green/grey blousy top, and the absolutely required matching legwarmers. I wish it had been a school uniform so I could have worn it everyday!

    • maggietoussaint says

      I wrote out a long reply to this and the computer ate it! I love that you connected with this outfit. Do you find that now when you shop that once you find something you like you buy multiples in different colors? I do.

  12. Barbara Tobey says

    I found my wedding dress in an arts and crafts gift shop. It was crocheted.

    • maggietoussaint says

      AW!!!! That’s so wonderful, Barbara. You must’ve felt like the most beautiful woman in the world.

  13. My mother made a lot of my clothes (although not all). I remember it being somewhat of a treat to get the clothes from a store, and I remember one top in particular with a huge ring on the end of the zipper that seemed “so cool,” but after I got it, I hated it. It was forest green and really ugly…

    • maggietoussaint says

      Hi Karla, Thank you for sharing that story. I made some of my kids clothes, but I was always conscious of my seams not being ruler straight, etc. The kids didn’t mind, of course, so it was fun to do that for a while. I’m sure your mom took a lot of pleasure in dressing you in clothes that she made. I think I would’ve been suckered in by a zipper like that, but they didn’t have “cool” clothes at the place where we had an account. I wonder why you took a dislike to it?

  14. I had one skirt I loved, and if I could still fit into it I would be still wearing it today.

    • maggietoussaint says

      Hi Gigi Ann, I know what you mean. I have an outfit from light years ago that I kept because it was perfect. It is two sizes too small for me, but I still pack it up and move it every time we pick up stakes. There’s just something about it that makes me smile. Thank goodness for big closets!

  15. Thinking about what I wore to school gives me chills. I remember the fads–I think I was the last female to get a straight skirt after all the shirtwaist dresses had gone out of style. Shopping for “party attire” was always the most traumatic–okay, not as traumatic as finding my wedding dress–but finding something to wear to a school dance, etc., was a challenge because I was a very ‘tailored’ person.

    • maggietoussaint says

      I hear you. On the one hand, I can see the appeal of school uniforms. They take one stressor off your back. After the orange dress episode, I learned to try on everything that appeals to me. Some styles always work though, so I get lazy sometimes and just go look for a certain type of shirt. Nowadays, I am trying to be more like Jim Jackson’s plan. Neutral color pants and anything goes tops. Oh, and brightly colored sneakers. People usually see me coming!

  16. I remember in my work years a co-worker friend was convinced I could reach in my closet and choose any pair of suit pants, dress shirt, tie, suit coat, socks and shoes and it would all go together because the pants and suit coats were all shades of blues and grays, the shirts white or light blue, shoes and socks black. Only the ties held some interesting colors, but I had selected even them for their relative blandness.

    My theory was that everyone at work (we were consultants) was allowed one deviation from norms. I wore facial hair. Others may have gone with Snoopy ties or whatever.

    As you say, it’s all about fitting in with your tribe (and differentiating yourself from the other tribe).

    • maggietoussaint says

      I love your style, Jim Jackson! You are the original mix and match guy. I also like taking the hassle out of dressing. You wouldn’t believe the zaniness around here when I try to figure out what to wear for a conference!

  17. nope