Friday, February 4, 2011

the fashion evolution of a neo-victorian wannabe

I'm breaking one of my biggest rules for this blog- using my public soapbox to talk a little about myself.  I have been pondering it for a few weeks now, especially after some comments I have read from readers about the fashion I blog about- that of neo-Victorian culture.  While I love the fashion of that era, and have for a long time, I am not a true neo-Victorian fashionista most of the time. In fact, I was not interested in fashion until my last years of high school.  I think it would be interesting to take a look of how someone who had no interest in clothes suddenly is fascinated by Victorian-type clothing.

1987-2000:  My identical twin sister Leigh and I are born.  Our mother is very into modern fashions of the time.  Unfortunately for us, identical outfits for twins are ALWAYS fashionable to mothers.  This concept does not become a bother to me until I am a pre-teen, at which point it's just plain embarrassing. After that
mother holds out on the "identical" look by purchasing the same outfit in different colors for my twin sister and I.  We resist as much as possible by refusing to wear the "matching" clothing on the same days.

2000-2002 (Junior High): Our clothing at this time is heavily influenced by what our peers are wearing.  We become walking billboards for American Eagle, Aeropostale, and other clothing companies.  Leigh puts on make-up, carefully curls her hair, shaves her legs.  I am a year behind in mimicking her due to a stubborn insistence that "real" beauty should not be determined by clothes or makeup.  By the time I begin to apply make-up I am only using foundation and lip gloss.  Also, I wear a lot of button-down blouses and plain t-shirts, poorly-made cheap clothing so I can have more of it.  My mother is distressed at my obvious lack of interest in fashion.

2002-2006 (High School):  Leigh becomes a closet goth.  Once a week or so she hides black-laced gloves and crucifix chokers from Hot Topic in her backpack and throws a hoodie over her black and white lace Charlotte Russe corset-top (made school-appropriate by a black crop top) before hopping into our decrepit 1993 Toyota Tercel and heading off to school.  The cares she takes to conceal her fashion is due to our disapproving mother, who thinks that these clothes look ridiculous.   Once at her locker she does a wardrobe adjustment.  I still wear my comfy, plain clothes and plain makeup and wonder why guys find Leigh more attractive.

2005: An incident happens that makes me realize how people judge others on what they wear (but is too personal for this blog).  A close friend teaches me how to apply makeup in an attempt to cheer me up.  It works- I begin to appreciate how makeup accentuates my appearance and can be used to create different looks.  I begin to buy more daring fashion pieces ("daring" to me being knee-high boots, my first cameo necklace, and stylishly cut jackets.)  A highs school trip to France also provides me with the opportunity to purchase some rather odd pieces of clothing- a saloon-girl type army green corset top, for one.  My mother is pleased with my transformation.  Influenced by the romance and danger of Victorian stories such as the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and The Phantom of the Opera, I begin to make costumes to play out my own neo-Victorian interests.

Halloween 2005

Scene from a Sherlock Holmes play that Leigh and I wrote and performed as our school-required "graduation project."  From left: Colonel Moran, Professor Moriarty (me), Sherlock Holmes (Leigh), and Dr. Watson
2006-2009 (College): Except for my first semester in college- when I catch mono and dress sloppily because I sleep between most classes, meals, and study sessions- I avoid the stereotypical college dress code of hoodies and sweats.  It's hard to be specific about my transformation here except to say that I learn that there is more than jeans and t-shirts to clothes and I pick up accessorizing skills with scarves, belts, hairpieces.

I also discover my goth side:

Friends and I at "Ceremony," a goth/industrial dance night, at club Pegasus in 2007.  I'm the second from the left.  Leigh is the third from the left.  The club and the goth/industrial club night have both died since then.
As a journalism major, I learn a few tricks to getting fashion to get potential subjects for stories to talk to me.  Professional business-like clothes make me, a student journalist, look "legit" to businessmen, officials and judges, leave the preppy clothes for campus organization stories, and discover the sad truth that men are usually more willing to help out the girl in the skirt than the girl in trousers (on the other hand, women seem to have greater respect for the girl who dresses smartly but conservatively).

I begin to seriously look at "odd" pieces of clothing as potential wardrobe additions. I order a steampunk skirt from eBay before I even know what the subculture is.  But I miscalculate the size and end up with a non-returnable skirt that's one size too large for me.  Victorian-influenced blouses begin to pop up in local clothing stores as early as 2008, and an accumulation of neo-Victorian items begins in my closet.  Unlacing the Victorians begins as a required "subject" blog during my last semester of college.  Friends and family who read the blog begin showering me with suggestions for Victorian-type clothes and accessories.

2010 (post college):  Two words determine most of my fashion choices: my career.  After my journalism experiences with wardrobe I fully believe that other people believe that you are what you present yourself to be.  As one Sweet Lolita explained to me nearly one year ago when I asked her about how often she wore her Lolita outfits:
I'll wear full [L]olita when I'm going out on the weekends (usually I'm going into San Francisco so it's definitely not too weird there because obviously, San Francisco is a pretty weird city itself and people often wear interesting fashions. plus, the only US [Japanese] brand [L]olita store is in that city, Baby, The Stars Shine Bright) but during the week I'll throw in influences into my daily fashion. Maybe a cute brand bag or a shirt or a small headbow...
I think she calls her neo-Victorian fashion "weird" because these subcultures are mostly defined as "weird" by the mainstream, and many people who follow these subculture fashions seem to have themselves accepted that definition based on "normally-dressed" people's reactions to the clothing.

At my first job I tried to dress the part of the museum educator.  I wore mostly professional-looking clothes from Ann Taylor or Express, but added belts and long necklaces or scarves to spice them up.  I also wore jeans with cardigans if I knew we were going out on the battlefield, or I was going to be working with artifacts or moving furniture or cleaning.  Several months into the job my employers gave me a dress code that limited me to shirts with the museum name on it.

At my current job I can pretty much wear whatever I like, according to my boss.  But I try to keep it to the same professional clothes from my previous job out of respect.  Unfortunately, most of my neo-Victorian "influence" seems to be reduced to jewelry nowadays- either cameo necklaces/rings or a steampunk necklace I made around Christmas but have not been able to upload the photos yet.

What does the future hold, fashion-wise?  Stay tuned to find out...

No comments:

Post a Comment