The Museum of My Fashion, Pt. 2

The High School Years (1990-1993)

Zelda attended an all-girls’ high school with uniforms, so roughly 80% of her life during this time was spent wearing a wool kilt and various pastel oxford cloth shirts, all hand-me-downs from previous graduates who could not be rid of their uniforms soon enough.

Note that the kilt is specifically and definitely a kilt and not a skirt, such that it is in effect one large piece of wool cloth that wraps around the waist and closes with a single button. Although the school permitted both skirts and kilts and the skirts were far more practical, only kilts were available second-hand. To keep the kilt from flying open as the wearer moved around a gold-plated kilt pin, very much resembling a large diaper pin, was used to hold the cloth together slightly above the hem.

Due to her exhaustive curricular and extracurricular schedule and the absence of an opportunity for creative expression through dress, Zelda gave little to no thought to which color shirt she wore on which day, or whether she sported tights or socks. Instead, she focused on matching her nail polish to her shirt color in somewhat the same way Marie Antoinette matched her poodles with her dresses. Fortunately, and inexplicably, Avon began producing nail polish in the exact shades of blue, yellow, and green of Zelda’s shirts.

Eschewing the footwear choices (i.e., Bass Weejuns) of other girls in an attempt to stand out, Zelda wore black Doc Martens exclusively, and instead of a backpack carried an Esprit canvas tote, the pattern of which changed every year. These bags were not constructed to carry 40+ pounds of books every day, so the straps cut into her shoulders and caused some bleeding. However, Zelda had developed a visceral hatred for Eddie Bauer and would not purchase a true suitable backpack until sophomore year of college.

When she was not in school, Zelda worked at a hair salon as an assistant, meaning she washed people’s hair and helped with perms and dye jobs for minimum wage plus tips. There was no official uniform, so Zelda created one of jean shorts, black tights, and a t-shirt with one of the following bands on it: The Cure, U2, Erasure, REM, Morrissey, or the Violent Femmes. She had “weekend shoes,” which were Doc Marten boots that allowed her to wade through piles of hair and discarded perm solution-soaked cotton strips with impunity. This look transitioned seamlessly from work to the few hours of purely social time Zelda had, spending them at a coffee house, bookstore, or friend’s basement listening to Depeche Mode.

Jewelry during this period shifted from the ornate to the neo-hippie pre-grunge look. Rope bracelets crafted with a safety pin and beaded necklaces with yin-yang and peace charms were constant fixtures.

Toward the end of this period, grunge exploded, and Zelda donned a uniform of her father’s black combat boots (only slightly too big), plaid flannel lined shirt-jacket, and jeans. Although her mother told her she looked like Judd Nelson, she persisted and this remained her style when she began college.

Drunk with Freedom (1994-1997)

Zelda attended a program with no letter grades, a focus on the arts, and a large amount of drug use. While she herself did not use, the style of those who did definitely influenced her, as can be seen in her choice of headware (see purple crushed velvet crumpler, upper right). Her first two years of college were spent in overalls, flowing floral skirts, linen jumpers, Peruvian-influenced jewelry, and, for the most part, no shoes, leading to her hospitalization in the summer of her first year from an infection from which she eventually recovered.

Her favorite outfit was what she referred to as her “Dada outfit,” consisting of a long-sleeved black tunic, black-and-white striped wide-legged pants, and a black top hat. It was in this outfit that she first watched Luis Buñuel’s film “Un Chien Andalou,” which helped her finally make sense of the Pixies song “Debaser.”

Her second half of college found Zelda taking more classes with mainstream students, and while this did not make her choice of dress more normative, it did prompt a slight tweaking: clothing items took on more shape, as can be seen in the green crushed velvet vintage bellbottoms stolen from her mother and the faux leopard mini-skirt worn with black platform sandals and a black velour short-sleeved zip-up.

Patience’s one deviation from what she had come to consider her personal style was in the summer of her junior year, when, during her second day on the job at a Washington, DC unpaid internship, she was informed that she would be going to court the next day and would need a suit. Having no money, she took the Metro to the Crystal Pavilion shopping mall, opened a Macy’s credit card account, and purchased the cheapest suit she could find: a shiny beige polyester skirt suit with large shoulder pads that was a size too big.

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