Perfectly Imperfect…My Personal Public Service Announcement.
It was the night before my kids were starting back to school, and in an effort to be prepared I had my kids pick out their clothes the night before. My daughter went in and dug out a pair of shorts that she wore to death over the summer, and a plain t-shirt. Being the annoying mom that I can be, I was like “Don’t you want to wear one of the new things I bought you? Or maybe a skirt? Or a dress?” She looked at me and very simply said, “This is what I am comfortable in. Is there something wrong with it?”
Whoops. Exactly what you don’t want to do as a parent. And especially as a parent of girl. I can remember my night before the first day of school, stressing over what I would wear. Worrying about fitting in, wanting to look like everyone else. I was disgusted with myself for projecting even a tiny iota of that insecurity onto my daughter. Of course she should wear clothes she wore all summer and was comfortable in. Who was I wanting her to impress? My friends on a Facebook post? The teachers? Other 9 year olds?
I recently worked with a client on cleaning out her closet. We really worked on organization but no so much on her style. She already had that nailed. She had a color palette she loved, and most of her clothes were from a chosen set of stores and designers. All worked together as a style statement that was classically preppy. And the style fit her perfectly. She confessed to me that as a teenager she felt like something was wrong with her. All her friends liked going to mall and shopping at Express. She was loyal to Lilly Pulitzer. She felt like the oddball. I’d be willing to bet that most of those classmates are still struggling to find their own style, whereas my client has known who she was all along.
The pressure for what we think is a public perception of perfection can be crushing. Our culture has set a standard so high, so intimidating, that it can leave women immobilized, paranoid that we are poised to fail when it comes to our image. There is a new craving for label lust, women purchasing an item, not even sure if they like it, but they know that they are supposed to like a label because of what they think it says. A gold symbol on a shoe becomes the equivalent of being in the best sorority on campus and getting to wear your letters on your sweatshirt. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with wearing that shoe or carrying that bag, if you love it. Just make sure you don’t get swept away by status symbols, sometimes they can actually scare people away.
We all know that girl. The one that always looks perfect. But then one day you find her flaw. Maybe she confesses that her house looks like an episode from Hoarders. Maybe you discover she has horrible ragged bitten nails. Maybe one day she wears shorts and you discover that she has cellulite. Whatever it is you realize that perfection is only a perception. And let’s face it, we are all a little relieved when we find out the cracks in someone else’s seemingly perfect behavior. And not because we are mean, spiteful people, it’s because seeing someone else’s flaws allows us to relate to each other as human beings. They make us more likable. None of us are perfect.This is why we love the celebrity paparazzi shots of them doing perfectly mundane tasks. ” Stars! They’re just like us!” Yes, even Heidi Klum buys toilet paper, and yes, at Target. I’m not suggesting you go pick up your kid from school sans bra, with your fly down on your jeans, wearing bedroom slippers and curlers, all in an effort to keepin’ it real. That’s just cruel, to yourself and your kid.
Another problem with perfection? It’s boring. Nobody wants to talk to the most perfectly polished woman in the room. None of us are perfect. What is interesting about that? How long it took her to get ready? How much her outfit cost? Style that looks a little askew, a little bit off is so much more fascinating. It makes us more interesting. It opens the doors to conversations and friendships. Don’t let the pursuit of perfection interfere with your own personality. My son went through a phase where we watched the movie Cars nonstop. In Cars 2 another car tries to fix the dents of the old beat-up tow track, whose name is Mater. There is a lesson to be learned in Mater’s response.
Mater: Oh, for a second there I thought you was trying to fix my dents.
Holley Shiftwell: Yes, I was.
Mater: Well then, no thank you. I don’t get them dents buffed, pulled, filled or painted by nobody. They way too valuable.
Holley Shiftwell: Your dents are valuable? Really?
Mater: I come by each one of ’em with my best friend Lightning McQueen. I don’t fix these. I wanna remember these dents forever.
At the risk of running on and sounding too much like a Katy Perry, Pink, or Lady GaGa song, my point is to let fashion be fun. So many people are so afraid to try so they end up doing nothing at all. There is no right, there is no wrong (except for men wearing denim shorts or sweatpants in public – see my blog post Y.O.P.S), because that’s just offensive to all of our eyeballs.
*Insider Tip – How do you like your eggs?
I realize I am making myself sound like a huge couch potato with all of the movie references but I’ll admit I can crash on the couch with the best of ’em. There was a Julia Roberts movie called Runaway Bride. It also costarred Richard Gere. This was few years after the Pretty Woman movie. In the movie Julia’s character keeps getting engaged, then runs away at the altar. Richard Gere is a reporter sent to interview her about her penchant to bolt. He discovers, after observing her, that she took on the personality traits of whichever fiance she was with at the time. Of course he calls her out on it, even asking her “How do you even like your own eggs cooked?” Julia’s character, having changed how she liked her eggs according to the preference of each of her boyfriends, had no idea. There’s even a sappy montage scene devoted to Julia’s character finding herself through preparing every kind of eggs to find out what kind she really likes.
I am not suggesting you go out and buy a bunch of eggs. But don’t be afraid to research and observe. There is inspiration everywhere. Borrowing from what you see around you is okay. You can’t believe how many times I meet a client who claims they have no style. Yet, upon examination of their wardrobe, a pattern emerges. Sometimes it is all based on touch. Things in the keep pile? All soft. The discard pile? Anything scratchy or restrictive. Their style is that it is has to feel good. Or maybe we notice that they love a ruffle. On tanks, on tees, on a dress. That’s when I encourage them to try some clothes or stores with a more romantic or vintage vibe.
At the end of the day, I love my job because I help people to feel like themselves from the inside on out. It’s fun to follow fashion and trends, but the most stylish part of any person is their perfectly perfect imperfections. So you ran out to the store with wet hair, yoga pants on, and chipped nails. It’s all good. If someone is judging you based on what you are dressed like you probably don’t want to even talk to that person anyway.
If you’re still really stuck? Well I know this girl that helps people organize their closets and find their style….I think her first name is Suzie.