Fashion Just Ain’t My Bag, Baby

When I was around 2 years old, I used to parade around the house wearing nothing but footy pajamas, a droopy diaper and a backwards Red Sox baseball hat. My chubby cherubic face was always sporting either a milk mustache or a peanut butter grin; my hands constantly covered in grime and dog slobber. (I lived with five brothers and several dogs after all.) Unfortunately, over the years, my sense of fashion hasn’t improved much. In fact, it’s gone steadily downhill.

Lord knows, I tried. And failed, time and again. I just had no clue how to put together an outfit or match my stripes with my plaids. There was always that girl in school who just knew how to dress. She was always hip with the latest fashions. Her hair was perfect, her makeup flawless. How did I hate her. I was always the one a few years behind on the current trend. What? Garfield scrunchies are out now? You mean to tell me my Mork from Ork rainbow suspenders are already ‘so last year’?

Overall, my clothes, hair and makeup were natural disasters just waiting to happen. Thankfully, my efforts to look good didn’t go unnoticed. Once in the early 1980s when I was in high school, I spent a solid hour hunched over our bathroom sink (while my brothers pounded on the door) holding a curling iron to the side of my head until my ear exploded into flames. I was trying to achieve the then-popular ‘feathered’ look. Very complicated stuff.  Then I spent another hour spraying Aqua Net until there was a permanent cloud hanging in the air, the pungent aroma of burnt hair and chemicals filling my nostrils.  I haphazardly applied makeup, trying desperately to cover up my dark undereye circles with concealor. I happily skipped off to school and couldn’t figure out why everyone was staring and snickering at me. Then I went to the girls’ bathroom and saw in the mirror that I had one perfectly shaped curl sticking out the side of my head. It resembled an odd-shaped airplane wing. The other side, flat and lifeless. Under my eyes, the white dots of concealor still there, not concealing a whole lot. I looked like some sort of clownish airplane, ready to crash and burn.

Ribbon barrette on my left, curling iron disaster on my right

Yep, I was a hopeless case. I still am. Most days I can barely manage to put on a fleece jacket, sweat pants and Bean boots. Good thing I live in Maine, where fashion goes to die.

If you think I’m exaggerating, please, go and check out the proof over at Angie Z’s hystercial blog Childhood Relived. Occassionally she’ll critique some poor slob’s fashion faux pas from the 70s, 80s and 90s. I have no idea where she got that old picture of me circa 1977 in her current ‘Dynomite!’ entry. But I have plenty more where that came from, if she’s interested.

Enjoy and please, be kind. That little girl in the picture couldn’t get a clue if it was on sale at Walmart, buy 3 get one free.

OK, I dug up some more  blasts from the past…(it’s fine to laugh at the next one, I understand. I laugh at it all the time.)

Curling iron skills still haven't improved much
Rockin' the mustard-yellow tights and orange sneaks
Hi, Santa. Um, yeah. All I want for Christmas is to not go out in public looking like Harry Potter in a ugly knit hat.
If Dorothy Hamill and Justin Bieber were to have a baby...

74 thoughts on “Fashion Just Ain’t My Bag, Baby

  1. You were a beautiful pre-teen…and baby.
    Daughter #1 achieved the most amazing feathering that stood high inches from her head! Wouldn’t have been possible without Aqua Net. I remember I had a curling iron back in the 70’s coated with teflon…that should have been a clue, that we were cooking our hair.

    1. Thank you, Georgette, but I have yet to post a pic of me in high school with the wings in my hair. I am digging around for it now and will post it when I can find it. It’s hysterical! And yes, my hair is permanently frizzed out now that I did so many years of damage to it…

  2. Oh, I’m in the “Oh, lime green plaid is a bad thing?” boat with you. Good news is, I think you’ve just coined a fabulous new slogan for your state. I’d by a “Maine, Where Fashion goes to die” bumper sticker in a heartbeat 🙂

      1. Me too! I think Maine should adopt it as the unofficial slogan. 🙂
        PS: I have had countless fashion disasters of my own. My past obsession with Goofy-adorned sweatshirts comes to mind, as do my neon orange short overalls, which I wore paired with neon orange slouch socks. AWESOME!!

      2. Dana, knowing Maine, it probably already IS the slogan.

        I used to have several pair of overalls, big baggy ones I wore in college. But not neon orange, you had more fashion pizazz than I ever did!

  3. In in the same boat as you when it comes to fashion. That’s why I pull my hair back, put it into a pony tail, and put a headband on to reign in those pesky fly aways (and hide the line where I stopped coloring last summer). Sleek and ready for any wind storm!

    As for clothes, I went from New England to WA. Where else can you wear white crew socks and Birkenstocks and blend in? (When I was at the end of my pregnancy and first month or two after, my feet were so swollen- and it was winter- all I could fit on my feet were my LL Bean rag wool socks and Birkenstocks loosened a notch or two).

    And I totaly remember the feathered hair days! I had the Dorothy Hamill short cut with feathered sides. Loved it!… until puberty really set in and my hair went all curly- gak!

    1. When I lived out near Seattle, I lived in my ratty Birkenstocks. Also oversized ugly plaid shirts. It was the early 90s and grunge ruled. I almost (almost) grew my hair into dreadlocks just to fit in but I value having freshly-shampooed hair too much I guess.

      Speaking of Dorothy Hamill, I just added a picture of her love child with Justin Bieber into my post along with some other stunning photos…hope you enjoy them. 😀

  4. I’ll never be in fashion but then I’ll never be out of fashion. It’s too expensive and energy sapping to keep up, classic and simple is always best.
    I saw the hipsters in London stores trying to capitlise on various jean trends by making skinny jeans that were also low slung round the bum and elasticated round the ankles – these were men’s jeans. Then I saw they were heavily discounted in the January sales since the trend lasted 5 minutes.

    1. See, that’s the thing, Joe. By the time I can catch up to whatever ridiculous fashion trend is currently hip, I’m way too late. So why bother? I have my closet stocked with the essentials: turtlenecks, sweats, the occassional t-shirt with Homer Simpson eating a doughnut and saying “D’oh!”…I try to keep my fashion options simple.

  5. I’m not particularly into fashion either. But sometimes I hit it big. In the early 80s I bought a blue suit with white polka dots, which I wore through three fashion cycles when that very look was “the thing.” It ended one day at work in Switzerland when I wore it AND got a catalog from Talbots with the very same suit on it. I laughed so hard at the idea of being “in style” and caught the back of the jacket on a doorknob, splitting it apart irreparably.

    1. Haha! I have a feeling you and I have led similar lives, Elyse. We just can’t catch a break as hard as we try. There have been a few very rare times when I am in fashion. It’s usually an accident. Like when jeans and t-shirts are in fashion. (aren’t they always?) But when I look into my closet now, I still have things I wore 20 years ago. Just waiting for the time when they come back in style. I’ll be waiting a long time.

  6. I completely disagree, Marla. Oh, crap. Darla. I think that photo of you as a tween is absolutely adorable. What a beauty you were! Truly. I can assure you my pre-teen pictures would make you be thankful that all you had were airplane wings.

    The story of how I ended up with that Barvarian photograph is very mysterious indeed. It came to me in a large brown envelope slipped under my hotel room door marked “What might this be worth to you?” I am not sure I should even be talking to you about this as now I fear for my safety.

      1. Aren’t they? I have really tried to find my high school one in which I have a giant poofy wing on either side, I look like I was either electrocuted or as my brothers used to say, I looked like I had a “cat on my head”.

      2. Peg’s right. Should be on its way. You’re getting a dual membership — I upgraded you so it also included a membership to the Shaun Cassidy fan club. You’re welcome.

  7. You were gorgeous when you were younger, and from the picture of you today on your blog you still are a looker!

    I remember the Mork from Ork rainbow suspenders. My older more fashionable sister had a pair and I was so jealous!

    Happy New Year!


    1. Louise, I thank you, you are way too kind…and I am a looker all right, usually for my glasses because I can’t see a damned thing anymore.

      I never had the suspenders either. I used to admire them at our local Kmart though and beg my mom to buy them for me. She wisely declined. I think she wanted to spare me from getting beat up after school.

  8. There is so much to love in this post, Darla. Fashion is not my ‘thang’, even if it was – I’m certain I’d fail. True story: I invited my friend over from school in either 7th or 8th grade, I forget. Regardless, she went though my entire closet and wrote down everything I had and matched items that went together. Seriously. She wrote down a dressing guide for me.

    I had many ribbon barrettes. Many. I actually liked making them, too. Yeah see – you look completely normal in the pictures here, as well as on Angie’s post. I mean, Marla looks normal on Angie’s post.

    1. Now why couldn’t I have had a friend like yours! The good thing about me is all of my friends were just as clueless with our clothes, makeup and hair. We actually thought we looked good! The blind leading the blind.

      Ribbon barrettes were my obsession. I would save up my money from my paper route and my best friend and I would go down to the store and pick out the colors. I’m surprised those things haven’t come back in style. Maybe they have? I sure as hell wouldn’t know.

      1. I loved those! My mom once bought a ton of ribbon, bare barrettes and beads and invited my friends and their mothers over for a ribbon barrette-making gathering. I’m not kidding. My mom sure knew how to throw a fun party back then.

  9. Oh, you crack me up! And thanks for the warning that there’s a rogue blogger snatching up our embarrassing kid photos (I’ve got plenty, too – my 4th grade school picture makes it look like Paula Poundstone and Dave Coulier had a baby)!! Hilarious.

    P.S. – I seriously don’t see anything wrong with that second picture – you look beautiful!

    1. Paula Poundstone AND Dave Coulier? Now THIS I’ve got to see, Julie. (I also doubt that you looked like either of them!)

      Thanks, Julie–I guess the second picture is not horrible…but still. My hair is growing a little wing on the side. And I’m wearing a plaid shirt with little wings on my shoulders. It’s the only pic I had on my computer. I really wanted to post the high school photo of me with the gigantic wings that is so hilarious and embarassing, but I can’t seem to find it.

    2. Okay, Julie. This rogue blogger is expecting that photo to appear in my inbox this week. I always hoped Davie Coulier and Paula Poundstone would get together. Cut. It. Out.

  10. Hi,
    I went through a “fashion stage” in my early teens, mind you I wasn’t very good at it either, a total waste of time and Mum’s money I’m afraid. Now of course I’m happy as long as the cloths fit, look and feel comfortable. I suppose you could say I go for the “timeless” look. 😀
    Love your photos.

    1. It was expensive, Mags. I remember saving up to buy these god-awful red leather pants with zippers all over them (think 80s glam-rock hair bands) I wish I still had them, they’re probably back in style now. I go for the timeless (and formless and style-less) look myself now. If it’s comfy, I will wear it. Simple.

  11. singleworkingmomswm

    Well, my daughter Maycee summed it up for me one day: “Mommy, you’re just not fancy.” Yep, that’s it, not fancy. Give me a pair of blue jeans, a comfy tee, and my Vans (or my riding boots). I’m good. I think fly-away crazy curls during puberty are a common trait amongst women. Mine arrived at age 13, left at age 14. Now, my hair is just plain falling out! Can I borrow your Harry Potter hat if you still got it? 😉

  12. pattisj

    My hair never was the same from one side to the other. When I was in school, Cher had to come along with all that long hair, straight, parted down the middle. I had curls a clothes iron couldn’t get rid of. Now, I’m thankful to have hair after all the abuse it took. I’m avoiding the fashion question, can you tell? My legs got too long for footed pjs. Just sayin.’

    1. Ha! yeah, me too, it’s really too bad they don’t make footy pjs for adults. However, they do make these outfits called “Forever Lazy”. My husband wants one.

      Those photos I showed don’t do my hair justice. Believe me, my hair got MUCH worse over the year and much poofier, course and curly and frizzy. Now it’s pretty much a rat’s nest in a pony tail.

  13. You were – and are – so cute! I was cursed – or blessed depending on your perspective – with curly hair. So while you were tormenting yourself with curling irons, I was ironing out curls. Go figure!

  14. I think we all look back at our early pictures (and our recent ones) and believe that we look like an elephant nested in our hair or sat on our face. In fact…you were beautiful. Like writing feemail I was ironing my hair and rolling my eyes at the old women who told me I’d be wishing I had that curl back someday.
    I just hate it when old women are right. However now I am one…so I say it’s okay to lounge around in footy pj’s.

    1. Thanks, Barb. Most days I did have a cat on my head, it just wasn’t captured accurately in these pictures. Now, of course, my hair is super frizzy and out of control. Not to mention the grays sticking out all over.

  15. Snoring Dog Studio

    No! You’re cute! Awfully cute! And I loved your wayward curls. Hilarious tale of awkward times. I still feel awkward and I’m much, much past adolescence.

    1. I am still very much an awkward person, I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow it. But truly, thanks, Jean.

      Now what in the heck are you doing over here? How do you even have time to breathe? I think last time I checked your blog had 600 subscribers and 400 comments! I have to say I’m relieved that you’re still functioning, what with the hand cramping from typing and glazed eyes from being at the computer all night. Very well deserved, by the way! (that’s being Freshly Pressed, not the hand cramping and eye-glaze)

      1. Snoring Dog Studio

        Yeah, I haven’t slept for two days. I’m existing on coffee and No-doze. I’m not actually sure I’ve responded to comments but my fingers were touching the keys. Or was that my nose?

  16. I would have KILLED for all that thick, wavy hair. I love your first photo. I didn’t even know they DID ribbon barrettes back in the Little House On the Prairie days.

    1. Oh, sure we did, Pegasus! As soon as night fell and Pa laid down his fiddle for a spell, we’d all gather ’round the fire and Ma would bust out the ol’ loom and rustle us up some of them purty ribbons for our hair.

  17. Saara

    Okay. This is so me! I’m only 19 but I’ve given up on “fashion” (whatever it meant in the first place). My mother and my friends don’t get that sometimes, one fashion disaster could be one too many.

    Thank you for the laughs, Darla. But people like you and me know deep inside that it isn’t all that funny! It’s our lives!

    1. I’m glad you’ve had some laughs and can relate, Saara. But what’s funny is I was actually trying to be fashionable. But you’ve given up already which is good, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache and cash.

    1. Get some! They are seriously the highest quality boots you can buy and one of the few boots that are actually still made in the U.S.–made in Maine. They manufacture them right down the road from me in Lewiston and Brunswick. Your feet will never ever be cold or wet in Bean boots and they have a 100% money back guarantee.

      (…and my sales pitch is ovah!) 🙂

  18. Priya

    This is the kind of post that makes you wonder why you didn’t meet the author earlier than today, so that you knew you’re not the only one wanting to hide all those unfashionable memories in some invisible closet somewhere. That there’s a kindred spirit! Having said that, I have to admit I think you’re mistaken. You were cute, very confident-looking. And oh those blue eyes and the smile, Darla!

    Gosh. It only took 5 seconds to feeling alone in the unfashionable world again!

    1. Priya, why do I have a hard time believing you were ever fashion-challenged? Thank you for the comment on the confidence. I suppose in a way I did have a some nerve to go out in public wearing the things I did back then!

  19. Pingback: A Little (black market) Vera Wang for The Very Bloggy Wedding « the ramblings

  20. You were so adorable…now you have me searching for pictures of me with the world’s worst home perm and 1/4 inch long bangs.

    P.S. stop back by my pity party post for an answer to your need for a kick in the butt….

  21. Firstly I think you were really lovely. What gorgeous hair. I have no idea what the ’feathered’ look is so please find a photo for me. (I’m older than you. We used to whirl and twirl and iron our hair. Oh god it would take all afternoon and evening to get it straight enough … )

    I also didn’t have fashion sense when I was a teenager. I hated our school uniform but I was awfully glad we wore a uniform so I didn’t have to chose what clothes to wear every day.

    1. Rosie, I am still searching for my high school photo where my hair hovered about a foot above my head.
      I wish I could wear a uniform now so I wouldn’t have to deal with looking in my closet every morning!

  22. critters and crayons

    I don’t think you did a bad job- I had the woody woodpecker thing- the higher the hump, the better the hair day. Lots and lots of that classy aqua net. 🙂

    1. yes, I also had this huge HUGE wing/hump of hair sticking out across my forehead in high school and the first few years of college. Between me and my roommate always spraying hair spray, it’s a wonder we didn’t succumb to the fumes.

  23. Love these pictures and the hysterical comment that Maine is where fashion goes to die. I had no fashion sense, apparently , when I was a young mother raising a daughter, but she informed me of the error of my ways way too late to do, or care to do, anything about it. Now I slap some lipstick on five minutes before hubby comes home and call it done.

  24. I’ll never forget when I discovered hairspray was my friend in my 30’s. To this day, I wonder how much time it takes to achieve perfect grooming — and always decide I’d rather spend that time sleeping.
    Curling iron or no, you were a beautiful young girl.

  25. I notice the commenters on this post are almost all women. The reason, I’m sure, is that the men are looking at the pictures and thinking, “What? What’s the problem?” You were adorable then and you’re adorable now. So there.

  26. Shut up! You’re SO cute! I love that photo of the “curling iron” disaster. You’re a natural beauty, no need the “the ‘Net” (thankgoodness).

    PS: LOL – New state slogan:
    Maine: Where fashion comes to die.

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