I recently went through a stack of photographs I got to use for my bridal shower back in March. They are old pictures of me, my siblings, my parents and grandparents - all from growing up. Something that struck me in all of the pictures was how confident I was in my skin as a small child, and how much dressing up and posing I did for the many pictures we have of me from such a young age. Though we never had what you could call a "dress-up box," I did have a few tutus, some hats, and a nice collection of matching outfits, all of which I enjoyed changing up on a day-to-day basis.
As I grew older, my tendency toward dress-up was put to the wayside. I had a surprising collection of Tweety Bird tee shirts (it was a phase. I outgrew it, and I don't currently have the photographic proof). I was a bit of a tomboy in my early teens and my clothing choices for a while reflected that. It didn't help that I went through puberty before most of my peers, and I often found myself hiding beneath looser tops and baggy jeans. It definitely helped my tomboy image, and it wasn't something I cared too much about while out playing with friends, rollerblading through our neighborhood, or hanging out around the house. I needed clothes I could mess up with paint and dirt and sand, and what I wore fit that need
Some of my favorite pictures of myself from childhood are the ones where I played dress-up with my tutus, hats, and dresses. I also have favorites from my teen years, when I put an effort into my outward appearance, back before leggings were popular (again. I work stirrup pants in 1990. I remember not liking how they felt under my feet). I loved (and still enjoy) skirts, dresses, fun tops, hats, and layers. There is just something fun about putting together an outfit that you feel good about. It almost makes the day-to-day feel like playing dress-up.
There is also an absence of photos from a few years of my life. The years when I lacked confidence, or when I didn't feel at home in my skin. Even though I've read my fair share of books about women, girls, and body image, I am often surprised at how little confidence many girls of a certain age seem to exhibit. I know from 15-18 I struggled in my skin. I felt too big, too small, like my skin was too tight and like nothing I wore looked right, even when I have distinct memories of feeling very cute in low-rise jeans and long-sleeves (to the point that it is a look I gravitate toward ten, twelve years later). I didn't feel like I was playing dress-up then, more like I was in a competition with myself and my peers for who could look the best.
Once I, again, found my center and my confidence, dress-up became one of my favorite activities, but in a much different manner. I had to figure out how to dress for going out (still have no idea how, also, very few clothes for going out in a non-date like manner (like for dancing)), for work, for the weekends, and for lounging around the house (answer there: flannel pants and tanks- my house is chilly!). I had to learn how to dress like a young adult and a young professional. Now, leggings are back in, and they make up a teeny portion of my wardrobe. I don't own stirrup pants and have an affinity for fun tights. My day-to-day outfits consist of jeans and tees, lots of layers and scarves, and I would live in concert tees if I could. I don't own tutus, but I do have several dresses I absolutely love.
Part of learning how to really dress like an adult and taking ownership of my personal style was to learn how to create a wardrobe and a uniform. It involved learning how to play dress-up again, and not be afraid of taking risks and looking silly. Most of the time, my intuition is right on for how an outfit ultimately will look. Sometimes it fails (tiered skirt and very patterned scarf? too busy! tiered skirt and plain scarf? perfect!). Most of the time, it's spot-on. Now, for the holidays, I'm learning to love glitter and sparkle all over again (though I don't think I really stopped, I think I just pretended not to care about glitter, sparkle, and sequins. I mean, the bodice of my wedding dress was very sparkly, which was one of its major selling points when I first put it on!), and learning how to incorporate sparkle and glitz into my outfits every day is just one spot of fun during this cold season. I may never again own a tutu, but man, will I keep loving to dress up just like I did when I was little.