It’s no secret the biggest, most recognizable trend from the fall runways was the ’70s.
From silhouettes to palettes to accessories the styles of my youth have blossomed anew along with the same body issues I had at 13. Sort of.
In 1973 I was 14 (go ahead and do the math) with a face full of zits, a bosom maturing faster than I was psychically and wavy hair that I, of course, wished was straight.
At the beginning of my teen years I was not in a hurry to grow up. I liked being a kid and went into denial as my breasts began to develop and my waist curve in. I resisted wearing a bra (which became necessary in 6th grade) telling my mother I didn’t want to grow up. But grow — up and out — I did.
Because I had boobs at youngish age and looked older, less childlike, than some of my friends I got teased by boys in my class (and leered at by grown men, including teachers), I hated school. (Also I was bored most of the time).
At the same time my face broke out so much that my working-class parents spent money on a dermatologist and therapist to help me cope … they even helped me switch schools.
The new school wasn’t much different, although it was safer having as it did about 100 percent fewer teacher stabbings than the previous school. But I still got teased. I was once surrounded by a group of girls who pointed at me and called me zit-based names (I don’t remember the exact words they used but they weren’t making fun of me because I had the smooth complexion of a Disney princess) in front of everyone eating lunch on the quad.
I grew my thick wavy hair long because I thought it would at least cover some of my zits and if I could get the perfect Jacqueline Smith or Farah Fawcett wave maybe it would distract from my face? (In case you were wondering I achieved neither goal).
Every day was a struggle not to feel self-conscious because of my complexion or body but every day a new zit grew and someone tried to look down my shirt.
(And just so you know, I am not telling you this so you’ll feel sorry for me or because it left me with permanent emotional scars. It didn’t. I was a goofy, hormonal, overdeveloped teenaged girl. I wasn’t the only one. Lots of kids got teased and bullied in school; for some it left a mark and those people feel the pain to this day. Others managed to move on without lasting effects. I’m one of the last category.)
The one thing that made going to school palatable was getting dressed. Getting to put together outfits and feel admired by girls less into fashion than me. (To be clear, to this day I have no idea if anyone in junior high school admired me, my clothing or my style but I was hoping they did). I latched on to every trend, every look … wanting to look hip and well dressed in a full ensemble with ladylike accessories one day; sporting an army jacket, suggestive motocross tee shirt and torn jeans the next day. I always saw fashion as a form of expression and as a shield to hide behind. It let me adopt different personas and try out different versions of myself.
At the start every school year my mom would take me shopping and I would pick out the trendiest pieces my parents could afford. That year it was a pair of red plaid bell bottoms, platform shoes and red v-necked sweater with ribbed cuffs and hem. I loved that outfit. I thought I looked so Vogue and so stylish and cool (and I maybe I did). It made feel in control and less like an alien in my own body.
But the pimples still kept coming and my body kept developing till the pants no longer fit and my cleavage bloomed too openly in the sweater. I wasn’t fat or even overweight I don’t think, I just wasn’t the tall willowy surfer girl or tiny, petite gamine I had hoped I would be. (womp, womp).
But what I eventually learned from those years was how to dress my body so I felt the best I could, to pick pieces and styles that showed my body to its best advantage — whether that was to minimize my chest and play up my clavicle (a body part I am often complimented on) and arms or make my shortish legs appear longer — and therefore made me feel good about myself.
I learned who I was and what my style was and that knowledge served as a basis of my innate sense of self.
In the intervening years I learned how to use style and fashion to feel confident in any situation whether it was picking the right skirt and blouse for a job interview or how to wear a black leather jacket (my favorite piece of armor) like it was a second skin.
In my 30s and 40s my hair, never curly enough to produce pretty ringlets but too wavy to be silky, calmed down and with the help of a good stylist usually looked fine. The oily skin that caused so many breakouts and so much embarrassment — which means I have very few middle-age wrinkles — eventually cleared up.
Probably because of hormonal changes (the culprit in my awkward puberty and, apparently, my dowdy middle age) I am once again chasing one red, stinging zit after another from my face. At least now I am more expert at hiding them with makeup and concealer. I’m also spending more time trying to blow dry straight my increasingly wavy hair. (I’m thinking of just letting it go wild.)
And my boobs? Well, lets just say they seem to be back in 7th grade asserting themselves farther out. Only now they aren’t aiming quite as high and my stomach is trying to follow suit.
It seems that fashion isn’t the only thing that comes full circle … so do we.
Today I spent time researching the ’70s inspiration for fall knowing that not only the prohibitive barrier of cost (no, I cannot drop $1,295 for a pair of Valentino gauchos or $5,000 for a Lanvin midi-skirt) but my thickening torso means I’ll be sitting this round out.
Instead, I’ll focus my energies on figuring out how to care for and dress this newest iteration of my body to its best advantage. It’s served me well and the least I can do is keep it strong and clothe it the best I can.
But man, you should’ve seen me in those plaid bell-bottoms…
Now excuse me while I go apply some more Clearisil.