I don't know when it started exactly. For so much of my life, my priority when it came to fashion — and existence in general — was to be invisible. I'd conceal my rolls and wobbles with the assistance of the baggy jeans found in the plus-size section of the local Walmart and the oversized tees or hoodies that were never difficult to find on the Jersey Shore. And then one day, I guess I discovered ModCloth. And shortly thereafter, I came across Ragini Nag Rao's vintage and Lolita-inspired blog A Curious Fancy. The old-fashioned dresses, the resonances of '20s, '40s and '50s fashion, the full skirts and red lips and cat eyes. It was magical. It was beautiful. My love for the apparel of times passed was sealed.
These days, I wear predominantly vintage-inspired clothing. Not always, but very, very often. My hair is naturally curly, which I feel is fitting for the types of looks I go for. Plus, retro makeup is so minimal that it's super easy to put on in the early morning before work or school or whatever. So since discovering brands like M.C. or Hell Bunny or Lady V London — brands that cater exclusively to vintage-esque clothes and carry plus-sizes — my wardrobe has consisted primarily of swing dresses, pencil skirts, collared tops and faux-fur coats. But considering it's 2014, not everyone always shares my adoration for all things old. So I've gotten a few... questionable comments along the way.
Much like those who get a bit hassled for wearing all black or having too many tattoos or looking "too young," I, too, get some rather annoying and misguided questions and comments surrounding my choices in fashion. Because apparently being fond of big dresses or birdcage hats makes you too old-schooled and anti-woman, or something.
1. "Don't you think it's a little anti-feminist to wear dresses all the time?"
No? Whilst I realize that some of the styles I love originated at times when women's rights were lacking, I don't think my partiality to tutus or flared dresses makes me anti-feminist. I've always believed that one of the beautiful things about feminism is that is allows for women to express their individuality — whatever that individuality might consist of. The fact that I like certain kinds of clothes doesn't suggest anything about my views or politics.
2. "You don't have to wear lipstick, you know."
That's quite true. No one is forcing me to dabble into my container of M.A.C. matte colors and seasonal blends. I just love to. I love the look of a full, red lip. Or a fuchsia one. Or a purple one. It's all good.
3. "Shouldn't you wear pants sometimes?"
OK, I actually do really enjoy a good pair of dungarees or high-waisted jeans. As of late, I've started dabbling more and more into different styles of denim. But I must admit, pants will never be my favorite. I find them constricting and rough and difficult to wiggle into, especially when you're in a rush.
4. "Why would you want to wear skirts and dresses in the winter?"
Erm, I really don't know what to say. My legs don't usually get very cold. And there's always the option of wooly tights or thigh-highs or furry boots. I would probably wear dresses in the midst of a blizzard. I would wear them to Alaska. I would wear them to the coldest depths of the coldest part of the universe and beyond.
5. "You're so old-fashioned. You should get with the times!"
I can't say I know many millennials who aren't in with the times, in one capacity or another. There might be 40 dresses in my closet right now, but I can still use an iPhone, Kindle or whatever Apple product you throw my way. I also know all the words to "Shake It Off" by this point.
6. "You're not going to wear that to work, are you?"
Since when did vintage clothing become unprofessional? Honestly, I think co-ord sets and bolero jackets are far cuter, and more work-wear-y, than a good pair of jeans. Whilst I realize that a lot of professional environments are shifting to more casual dress codes, I don't think any of my former or current bosses have ever minded me wearing a pink, polka dot dress.
7. "A pair of jeans would be way more flattering than that full skirt."
Besides the fact that achieving a "flattering" look just isn't my priority when it comes to fashion, I also just don't think this is necessarily true. Jeans can hug your bum and legs in a lovely way, sure. But dresses can often accentuate the boobs and waist in equally lovely ways. At the end of the day, I feel like all women have beautiful bodies, and most styles (whether "flattering" or not) highlight that fact in some way.
8. "Why are you so high-maintenance?"
It actually takes a surprisingly short amount of time for me to get ready. Between getting dressed and putting on a bit of powder, blush, eye liner and lipstick, I've lost all of 15 minutes of my day. Seriously, my boyfriend takes about three times longer than me to get ready.
9. "Don't you like shopping in popular stores?"
Sometimes, I certainly do. I enjoy H&M and Forever21 as much as the next twentysomething. But they're not my FAVORITE PLACES EVER. The thing is, I still enjoy browsing and window shopping wherever I may be. Whether that's at a mainstream department store or in cyberspace at a lovely vintage shop. (Even though I have serious qualms with how many retailers still aren't size-inclusive; just saying.)
10. "Are you trying to look older?"
I don't think I could look older if I tried. Like Bustle writer Sienna Fantozzi, I have a bit of a baby face and my chubby cheeks will probably ensure it stays that way for a long while yet. But I wouldn't want to look older, anyway. People always say that youth is wasted on the young, so I try my best to enjoy being the age I am — millennial recklessness included.
11. "Why do you want to live in the past so badly?"
There are definitely things about decades of the past that I would have loved to experience: the counterculture movement and Bob Dylan in the 60s, the first lunar landing, the release of Shirley Temple's A Little Princess film. But there are plenty more things I wouldn't have much cared for: rampant racial and gender inequality, McCarthyism, Vietnam. If I could actually time travel, I'd travel to the future. I'd meet some robots and take a spin in a hover car, perhaps. But I'd never want to live in the past.
Images: Marie Southard Ospina/Rachel Crittenden; Giphy