This last week I listened to the audio book version of The Hundred Dresses by Eleanore Estes. This Young Adult book tells the story of Wanda Petronski, who only owns one dress and wears it every day to school. It is always clean, always mended, and always the same. In an attempt to make friends and fit in, she says something that leads to daily teasing and taunting. Up until the half way mark, I was in love with the book and its message. Then the plot seemed to take a wrong turn and conveyed (to my mind – which I understand is not “normal”) a watered down morality tale.
I think I was so sensitive to the ending because I have been Wanda Petronski. I know what it is like to be in elementary school and not have any friends and be made fun of for your clothes. I was mocked for both quality and quantity. These were days before tweens were fashionistas, and no one really cared if things matched, but they definitely noticed that I was always wearing the same items.
I was young, lonely, having a bad life as whole, and then when I went to school, which used to be my escape and the place where only good things happened, the living hell continued. Thank goodness that phase of my life only lasted about a year and a half. Then I made a wonderful friend, my life sucked less, and the teasing stopped. But it has never been forgotten.
Tammy the Grown Up tried to convince herself that clothes really didn’t matter and only really had utilitarian pieces. This was unsatisfactory, though, for every time she went out and was inappropriately dressed, she was 11 again. Now she covers those scars with LOTS of clothes. She’s smart about it though. (Enough third person already!)
I have lots of inexpensive pieces that all mix and match. I try to have one attention grabbing piece (whether it be clothing or an accessory) on at a time. That splash is usually a piece of vintage jewelry. I love it because it is different so it stands out, it’s inexpensive, and I get tons of compliments for them.
My first piece (and one of my favorites) is my silver butterfly brooch. It came all tarnished, so I sat there and dutifully wiped it with my polishing cloth. Rub, rub, rub, hold up and admire, say, “Hey, DH2U, look at it now!” (which to his credit he did every time and said something appropriately admiring of how my hard work was paying off). Repeat often.
Getting ready each morning I giggle as I think of Office Space and “pieces of flair” mixed in Marilu Henner’s character’s advice in LA Story not to wear more than 7 points of jewelry because any more detracts. I never go to work with fewer than 3 pieces of flair, and normally 4-5. It makes me feel pretty, especially since I’m getting so much better at accessorizing and not going all matchy-matchy with sets. I like playing to see what works
I wish I could send a message back 30 years letting little me know that it gets better and she will own and wear tons of beautiful things and that the “sticks and stones” rhyme is full of crap! Acknowledgement that words can and do hurt would have made things suck less.