My best friend Natalie introduced me to thrift store shopping in 8th grade. An avid thrifter herself, Nat showed me where the best shops in our small southwestern town were, how to haggle, how to shop, but most importantly: how to dress for yourself.
I will always have fond memories of us leaving the .25 cent thrift store carrying large black trash bags filled with our bounty. We'd pack our spoils into the back of her grey-blue Camry and shimmy into the driver and passenger seats, inserting the cassette tape adapter for our iPhones to play through the car speakers; the cable wrapped round and round the gear shift next to the cup holder that always held her large plastic cup filled with ice water.
Before leggings became the hot fad of 2005, Nat had already been sporting them in various colors and patterns from thrift stores she'd found them at. She'd been wearing them a whole 2 years before they'd make their debut in our city's Target. That was the thing - Nat had an eye and a sense of intuition; she sets trends, not the other way around.
Natalie taught through example: dress for yourself, not for others. Be confident in what you are wearing - the clothes don't make you confident, they are an expression of your confidence. By not cowering to convention or bending to what was trending, Natalie showed me that dressing in clothes aren't an expression of you, do you a great disservice, and could even be detrimental to your self esteem or self-perception.
Natalie helped me cultivate my style into something I could own, something that was an expression of me and not a reflection of what was trendy or in fashion; she lead by example. She also taught me that my look would be iterative, with periods of stagnation and then periods of inspiration.
Right now, I'm in inspiration phase after a long stint in stagnation. Over the course of the past year I've had several major life changes from moving to a new city, getting married, to starting a new career. All these things required my energy and focus, and as an unforeseen and unintentional consequence, my personal style stagnated. My first year in Albuquerque I felt out of place and very uncomfortable in my skin and in my clothes. I bought things that I thought fit my workplace, or took advantage of blow out sale prices, but I was not buying clothes that honored me, or made me feel like me, or were in any way an expression of myself.
Natalie came to visit over Christmas holiday and she helped breathe life back into my personal style. By simply being, by simply being and dressing as herself, Natalie helped me to remember that I have style - my style, my look; and I should not be afraid to own it and I shouldn't neglect it any longer.
We went thrift store shopping, just like old times, and within 5 minutes of being there, I found a vintage leather trench coat in light brown that I fell in love with. Putting it on, I felt like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, fabulous and ready for a fight! I purchased it for a sweet $13, and it brings me joy.
Natalie was with me in spirit this past weekend when I found what I consider my greatest find to date: a fabulous vintage pomo pink coat with a soft pink faux fur trim. I named her Carmella, and she makes me feel fabulous and free.
I'm reclaiming my style this year. It's not revolutionary, it's not going to change the world: but I think its going to change mine. I'm not going to dress to convention, to appease authority, to fit conventions of what is 'pretty' or 'fashionable.' I'm going to dress for me, for my body, for my personality, and for my life. And maybe that's just the tiniest bit revolutionary in and of itself.