Sunday, February 24, 2019

What I Won't Wear, and What I Will Wear Instead

From A Few of My Favourite Things from 2018
I don't think anyone would call me timid when it comes to my style choices. In fact, I think most would call me a rule breaker. So it may come as a surprise to you that I actually do have quite a few personal rules about what I will and will not wear. This post is a mostly for fun list of those rules. But remember, they're just my rules, for myself. Please, dear reader, wear whatever you like, and pay no mind to what I like.

Most of the things I won't wear come down to personal taste. There are styles that I simply don't fancy, for no particular reason. There are also some styles I won't wear because they trigger me, or I find them unethical, or they don't work with my disability. I'll get into those here too. 

Throughout, for fun, I've come up with alternatives for each style I won't wear. First I'll tell you what I won't wear, and why I don't like it - and then I'll tell you what I will wear instead. I'll include visuals for each "nay," and each "yay." Most of the "yays" come from past blog posts; if you like what you see, you can click on the links to see the original posts.

A word about money. Even though I'm still in the midst of a horrible, legal battle to get my full disability pension, I know that I'm doing better financially than many disabled people. (This is down to an unexpected inheritance, and my husband's business success.) I probably look like I spend a lot on my clothing and accessories. I don't. But I do spend more than I could if I were as poor as many disabled people are, or as poor as I was for a very long time. Some of the things I like might be out of your financial reach, even second hand. I get that. Thrifting is a wonderful thing, but it can be hard if you're disabled. No judgement here. All we can do is our best in our circumstances. 

And now a word on my old photos: It was a bit hard for me to go back over the years and look at old photos of myself. Two things became very clear to me: I'm way more disabled than I was, and, as a result, I've gained weight. That's hard to see, really hard. But that doesn't stop me from wearing what I like, and, if you're in the same boat as me, it shouldn't stop you either.

So here we go: What I won't wear, why I won't wear it, and what I will wear instead.

Beau, wearing cargo shorts for a big moving day. Otherwise, nope. From My New Neighbour: Beau Leaves the Burbs
Cargo Shorts

Let's get these out of the way right away. Cargo shorts have got to be number one on most lists of what people won't wear. And even the most laid back femme isn't likely to be able to remain silent in the face of a butch type if he/she is wearing cargo shorts. Beau and my stepsons wear whatever they like. I believe in that. Except cargo shorts - and cargo pants. I don't believe in them. I'm sorry not sorry, but I just can't help it.

From Versatile Feminine Frills: the 1930s Day Dress
Instead, well, jeans are an obvious choice. But, also, what's wrong with a purse, for criminy's sake? I mean, really, who needs all those pockets when a lovely purse, or, say, a nice man-bag will do just as well?

Karlie Kloss
Camo Anything

Because, you know, ick! This is a "don't" for me, mostly because I think it's just plain ugly. But, also, I don't like the allusion to war, and I don't like the allusion to hunting as a sport (as opposed to hunting as a necessity). Camo just seems to me to be a glorification of violence, particularly certain forms of ritualized, masculine violence. That is not something I want to emulate in any way.

Also, did I mention that it's ugly?

From Robin Hood's Palette: Fun with Mustard Yellow and Olive Green
Instead, I'll wear khaki quite happily. I know that khaki is the colour of most camouflage clothing, but, to me, the colour itself need not carry that association. Besides, I think khaki is quite becoming on me. It brings out the green in my eyes.

Me, at about 24, wearing pleated pants, which I would not wear now. From Gym Bunny to Cripple: How Child Trafficking Destroyed My Back
Pleated Pants

Yes, I have been known to wear pleated pants in the past. I was very thin and they were very fashionable. But they shouldn't have been.

They have this ugly way of scrunching up, bagging, and tugging at the crotch as soon as a woman (or man) moves at all. This is true for the skinny woman, and the chubby woman...

From the movie, The Informant
... and the skinny man, and the chubby man. It's just a nope in my wardrobe and has been... since about the time I wore those pants in the photo where I'm flexing my muscles.

From On Women in Suits: femme, butch, ki ki, and just being yourself

Instead, I will wear tasteful, man-tailored trousers cut to flatter the female body. I like this look very much. It makes me think of Katherine Hepburn

Clothing by Stella McCartney
Acid Wash and "Destroyed" Denim 

This look was big when I was in high school. None of my friends could afford to buy this look new, and, indeed, they frowned upon those who did. That wasn't punk. 

This bunch could have stepped straight out of my alternative high school, circa 1985. Note the homemade "destroyed" jeans on the far right.
No, my friends had a "do it yourself" approach to brutalizing their denim, like the kid on the far right did here. It was a lot of work and the results never appealed to me.

From His and Hers Engagement Rings
Instead, I've always preferred dark denim. As I used to say when shopping for jeans in the 80s and early 90s, "I don't want jeans that make me look like I've been rolling around under a truck for five years." I was poor. I wanted my denim to look fresh and new, and for it to last a long, long time. I'm still a dark denim gal to this day.

From Land's End
Polo Shirts

In theory, there's nothing wrong with polo shirts, but I just don't like them. They're t-shirts trying to be dress shirts. For me, they're also somehow inextricable from 80s preppies, and modern conservatives. 

White Nationalists, chanting, "Jews will not replace us!" in Charlottesville
They also seem to be part of the new, White Nationalist (read, racist, neonazi) uniform, and that's a look that is just not my cup of tea.

From On Being a Hero: Aragorn's Cape and Me
Instead, I prefer t-shirts that admit they're t-shirts, and don't bother masquerading as something they're not. At my age and size, I find that scoop neck t-shirts are the most flattering. This one is particularly tight, which Beau loves, but I wear looser ones too. If you're in Canada, check out Reitmans for basic, affordable t-shirts in a range of colours, sizes, and flattering, grown-up styles.

Gore Tex and its Imitators

I live in one of the rainiest cities in the world, so this particular Thing I Won't Wear might surprise you. Jackets like these are ubiquitous here, and I don't doubt that they're comfortable and practical, but they're also butt ugly. I'm all for practical function, but not at the expense of aesthetically pleasing form. Staying dry need not come at the expense of beauty. 
It's even worse for the disabled. I mean, seriously? Seriously?! Did someone write a memo to the designers of accessible clothing: "It is decreed that disabled people shall never look good again." 

Well I say ixnay to that!

From Pink and Green in Pain. Note that this cape has a hood, in case it rains or snows
Instead, I will wear gorgeous, vintage capes that keep me warm and dry - and look fabulous. Imagine that: practical function and beautiful form at the same time! Yes, this is possible, even when you're disabled. 

From The Good with the Bad: Haunted by Christmas
I'll also wear full "skirted," 50s style coats. (Hell Bunny makes several of them, including in "plus" sizes.) They're beautiful, but also eminently practical on my scooter, because they allow me full, upper body, range of motion, while their fullness allows me to cover my legs completely in the cold, rain, and even snow. If I were taller, they might not work so well for me, but I'm a shortie, and they're totally disability friendly for me.

From A Few of My Favourite Things from 2018
I know what you're thinking: How do you keep your head dry without an ugly, Gore-Tex topper? The solution is simple, and, yet again, a fashion opportunity. Hats. Les chapeaus. I'm particularly drawn to jaunty, retro style, men's hats. Granted, my head is huge, so it's not always easy to find said hats, but I manage. I recently discovered that London Fog's extra large hats fit me perfectly. I'm pretty excited about that.

From Sheep and Squirrels and Kitties! On the Curative Powers of Cuteness
Speaking of London Fog, I'm also partial to London Fog's more  classy raincoats, though none of my brand allegiances are written in stone. I don't know, but the materials used in these raincoats may actually be the same or similar to Gore Tex. That's fine by me. It's not the material itself that I have a problem with. It's styling it in unappealing ways that turns me away.


Fleece is yet another staple in my laid back, west coast city. I'll wear it at home, when I'm cozying up with a good tv show and a kitty cat. But I will not wear it in public. Let's face it: it's pajama fabric. When I wear it, Beau's likely to call me a smurf, or a muffin. Those aren't really looks I want to don for public viewing.

From The Cape, the Colours, and the Mobility Scooter: Disability Style Every Day
Instead, for winter warmth, I favour wool. It's incredibly durable, and holds both its shape and colour for decades. I know this because all my pure wool pieces are vintage.

From Pink and Green in Pain
Pure wool is extremely hard to find in new products.

From On Being a Hero: Aragorn's Cape and Me
It's worth the search for good, vintage wool, not just in capes and coats, but in sweaters, skirts, blazers, and other garments as well. It just holds up like nothing else.

A note, though: Wool outerwear can be very heavy. If you're disabled and have trouble lifting things, keep this in mind.

Steve Carell gets a lecture about ugly footwear, in the movie, Crazy, Stupid, Love

Ugly Runners

We call them runners in Canada. They call them sneakers in the States. I think they call them trainers in Great Britain. But, no matter what you call them, you know what I'm talking about: those super comfortable, super ugly bits of vinyl and rubber that go with absolutely no outfit ever. They're totally appropriate at the gym, or when you're going for a jog, and I wore them myself back when I could do such things. But only then. For me, they are not for everyday wear.

From Fashionable Cheer in the Drear of the 30s and 40s
Instead, I'll wear old-school, very simple, Ked-like runners.

Me, at about 12, in 1983, sitting beside a woman who was one of my early fashion inspirations. You can just see one of her Keds and how well it matches her outfit.
When I was a little girl, one of my grandmother's good friends always wore Keds to match every outfit, and had them in an array of colours. I always admired her fashion sense, and that thought she always looked classy in her Keds, casually classy. I always think of her when I wear Ked-like shoes.

From Gym Bunny to Cripple: How Child Trafficking Destroyed My Back
Since I liked her so very much, I like thinking of her when I get dressed. The last time I visited her was in 1999, when she was well into her 80s. Guess what she was wearing? Keds, perfectly matched to her outfit. I was so happy to have the chance to tell her how much I loved her style. She was tickled to hear that.
These. I don't even know what to call these.

What even are these?! I'm sure they're comfortable. I'm sure they're practical. The adjustable, velcro closures are, I'm sure, useful for some disabled people. But, here's the thing: Even if you're disabled, you do not have to sacrifice beauty for function.

For Women Folk Singers and Hippie Dystopia: a Child's Conundrum
Instead, I opt for sandals that have a very similar base, also have velcro closures, and are, I think, equally comfortable and practical. But they're also, if not super pretty, at least a bit pretty. For me, that makes a big difference.

Photo by Gay Block
Animal Prints

I don't know this woman, but I love her. For her, animal prints are, clearly, perfect. But, for me? For me, they feel like a kind of shorthand, almost lazy way of saying, "I'm wild. I'm kooky. I'm a free spirit." Me, I prefer to say that in ways that take a little more effort, and feel more creative.

From Sheep and Squirrels and Kitties! On the Curative Powers of Cuteness
Instead, I'm more likely to wear clothing with unusual prints and colour combinations. I'll even wear images of animals, but not images of animal skins. It's just not my thing. 

From Moto Cool: The Biker Jacket as Cultural Rebellion
And, if I want to project the toughness that some people associate with animal prints, I'll do it differently, more like this.

This is by Effy, a company that makes many pieces that I love, including this ring.
Leopard Jewelry

You know, honestly, I'm not even sure why I don't like leopard jewelry. I just don't. I kind of hate it. I think I associate it with wealthy, Republican, matrons, who have haughty demeanors and stiffly coiffed hair. Or something like that. At any rate, I won't wear it. In general, I'm not super fond of any figural jewelry representing animals.

From Gay Pride: Charlotte Goes Camp
Instead, I'll opt for bugs, especially butterflies (but never spiders, because they scare the bejeepers out of me.) I inherited several, David Andersen, butterfly pins from my paternal grandmother, and I think they jump-started an interest in butterfly pins (while my maternal grandmother jump-started my love of brooches in general). I've since bought a few more, and I doubt I'm done yet.

Pleather, and faux leather pants/skirts

I will, occasionally, wear faux leather coats or shoes (though the shoes tend to hurt my back), but never faux leather skirts or pants, and never pleather. To me, it just looks tacky. I hesitate to say this, because one of my favourite, style bloggers loves faux leather skirts, and she looks great in them. To me, she has a rare, magical ability to make faux leather look good. I definitely don't have that ability.

Honestly, I can't see myself ever wearing real leather pants at all. I might wear a real leather skirt, maybe, if it's just right.

From Liking Pink: A Child Slave's Secret Rebellion
Instead, I'll wear real leather jackets. I have a fraught relationship with leather clothing and footwear. I stopped eating red meat when I was 12, and poultry when I was 17, and I've been pescatarian ever since. I'm not dogmatic about my choice, but, if you push me, I'll admit that it means a lot to me. 

And yet I wear leather. Granted, given the price of leather jackets, I've never owned or bought one new. They've all been vintage, either handed down or bought in thrift stores. That might make a difference; I'm not sure. (As for footwear, that's a disability thing, so I cut myself more slack on that, though maybe I shouldn't.)

Whatever This Is

I don't even know what to call this look, with chains and harnesses all over it, but I know I don't like it. Is it supposed to evoke scenes of stables and horses and some kind of patrician life? I associate it with haughty white women on Murder She Wrote, and with white rappers with overly curated facial hair in the early 90s. But that's almost beside the point. I just don't dig it.

From Self-Respect, Gold, and Golda
Instead, I'll wear... well, nothing very similar. The only thing I can think of is vintage jewelry chains, like this men's watch chain, circa 1920s. It's not really similar at all, but it's the best I can do. Also, it's a cool watch chain, n'est pas?

Tassled Tweed

To me, this just looks like tweed that's frayed because someone didn't take care when hemming it. That seems pretty ironic, since this style seems to be most popular amongst wealthy women, or those who would like to appear to be wealthy. Maybe it's just those of us who have been dirt poor who prefer not to feign poverty in our fashion choices.

From Fall Colours and Autumnal Melancholy
Instead, I'm very happy to wear just about anything in well-hemmed tweed. I'm crazy about tweed. If it's the real, woolen deal, as with this jacket, I'm thrilled. But that's hard to find new, and, when you do, it's expensive. But vintage tweed can still be had for a song, if you know where and how to look for it.
Purses with Chain Straps

Worse if they have leather woven through the chain. Why don't I like this look? I have no idea. 

I associate them with Linda Evangelista in the 90s, and there's nothing wrong with the lovely Linda Evangelista. But I just don't like these purses.

From Charlotte Issyvoo Rocks the Schoolmarm Shoes
Instead, I'll happily wear heavy, gold jewelry with a similar purse, minus the chain strap. It seems so similar as to hardly make a difference, but, for me, it does.

From Spring Flowers, Diamonds, and Real Women in the 1930s
Mixed Metals

Mixed metals = gold-tone paired with silver-tone. I don't like it. Since the above photo is from a fairly recent blog post, obviously I will sometimes break my own rule, but I always feel weird about it. While, I'm usually okay with a single piece mixing metals, I just don't like mixing jewelry pieces that are all gold tone, with pieces that are all silver tone. Somehow feels a little gauche to me.

This is precisely why I wanted my wedding rings to entwine both white and yellow gold: so they'd match whatever I happened to be wearing that day. It was only after Beau and I worked on the design that we both thought that the two gold tones represent the two of us: different, but intertwined, not entirely separate

From Self-Respect, Gold, and Golda
Instead of mixing tones, I'm happy to pile on pieces in one or the other tone, all in a jumble together. For me, that's usually yellow gold, because I'm just crazy about it, not because I think it's any more or less pretty than silver-tone, but because I feel it suits my colouring so well. If/when I ever go grey, this may change, but, for now, it's my glorious yellow, baby!

From In Praise of Spinsterhood -- on the Eve of my Wedding
Cool Coloured Gems with Warm Toned Metals

This distaste for mixing cool with warm extends to a distaste for warm tone gems and stones set in cool tone metals, and vice versa. It's hard to see in the photo above, but the beige earrings are set in silver tone, so I seldom wear them. I just don't think it looks as good as when warm is paired with warm, and cool with cool.

From The "girl next door" in hell; or, you can't tell by looking
Instead, well, I think it's obvious what I prefer to wear instead: cool with cool, warm with warm.

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, and her husband, Prime-Minister Justin Trudeau. Beau and I took this photo when the two of them joined Princess Kate and Prince William for a tour of our local immigrant and refugee centre. Yes, I did see all of them up close.
Cool with Warm Toned Clothing and Accessories

This is closely related to my distaste for silver tone jewelry mixed with gold tone. I know that brown (warm tone) shoes worn with blue (cool tone) suits is all the rage these days, so much so that the Prime Minister of Canada wears the look. But I find it jarring. 

I'm so firm on this, that I'll often buy staple pieces, like coats and shoes in sets of two: a warm and cool tone for each.

This aversion to mixed warm and cool extends to the jewerly I chose with a given outfit. I almost always pair gold jewelry with warm toned outfits, and silver jewelry with cool toned outfits. You're very unlikely, for example, to find me wearing silver earrings with a rosey shirt, or, say, a blue dress with a mustard sweater. 

From A Few of My Favourite Things from 2018
Instead, I like to keep my colour temperatures matched. Note, for example, that, in the above photo, I'm wearing brown shoes with a deep pink and purple dress. (Yes, I do own the same shoes in black.) To me, warm tones (merlot, emerald, brown, etc) should be paired only with warm tones, and cool tones (navy blue, lime green, black, etc) should be paired only with cool tones. I like the harmony of such pairings. I find it pleasing to the eye and therefore to my heart and soul. Laugh if you will, but there it is.


No special reason. Just: blech. 

Even worse if they have tassels! 

When I became disabled, and needed some options for the heels I used to wear, many people suggested loafers. It was a very sensible suggestion. But blech. It was a nope for me.

From They Made of My Body an Iron Maiden: Medieval Torture and Modern Rape
Instead, in warmer weather, I often opt for simple mary-janes. To me, they're just as practical and comfortable, but more feminine, and therefore more in keeping with my own style.

From Dead Girls' Ghosts: Mount Pleasant in the 1980s

I'll also wear lovely lace-ups. 

From The Ditsy Dress and the Dirty 30s: Honouring the Women of the Great Depression
I especially like ones with a little brogue detailing. 

Having come of age in the 1930s, my maternal grandmother often wore laceups with her dresses and skirts, and I thought it was pretty classy, so I've continued the look into my own generation. 

Leggings as Pants

They're not pants! No matter how many celebrities think they are, they're just not. Argh.

From Disability Style: What I Wear When Everything Hurts
Instead, I wear leggings as tights, under dresses and skirts. Because tight waistbands hurt me, I find leggings a bit more comfortable than tights, but, still, I usually have to wear loose ones. Loose leggings are ugly, so I have no photos where you can see that I am wearing them. Generally, if I am wearing leggings, I hide them by wearing tall stockings over them. 

But even loose leggings are likely to hurt my back, so, whenever it's warm enough in winter, I just wear my tall stockings with socks and boots. Since we have mild winters here, I can generally manage this way.

From From Gym Bunny to Cripple: How Child Trafficking Destroyed My Back
Body Con Clothing and Belly Shirts

When I asked women on Twitter what clothes they simply will not wear, body con clothing and belly shirts came up the most. I've decided to put them together since women's feelings about both styles has a lot to do with how we feel about our bodies. I think I'm about 26 in the above photo: young, and abled, with an incredibly fit, carefully gym built body. When I looked like that, I wore belly shirts and "body con" outfits a lot. And why not? I worked hard in the gym. I looked good. I enjoyed that. Nothing wrong with that.

But now? Well, no, I'm not as confident about my body. I wish I were, but I'm not. And I'd much rather feel confident than deal with the constant anxiety of putting my body on display. If I dressed like that now, I'd be so emotionally uncomfortable, it just would not be worth whatever feminist statement I was trying to make about the beauty of older curves. I admire older and curvier women who do dress like this, but I just don't have it in me.

From Ration Fashion: A Wartime Dress
Instead, I like wearing clothing that flatters the figure I have now, just as it is. I'd rather embrace and flatter my older, disabled body, than chase after the body I once had. A-line dresses and skirts feature a lot in my current fashion choices; they are almost universally flattering to the female form, and they work well on wheelchairs and mobility scooter too.

From Rockabilly, Swing, and the Va-Va-Voom Top
Don't get me wrong: I have no problem with looking sexy, and I'm not about "modest" dressing. I'm happy to show off what I've got if the mood strikes me. And one of the things I've got now, that I didn't have back in my belly shirt days, is a whole lotta bosomy loveliness! I like that. I'm happy about that. I dress for who I am now, not who I once was. 

From Dropped Waists and Miss Fisher's Earrings: the Highs and Lows of 1920s Fashion
The Latest Trend (when it doesn't suit me)

Although I wear a lot of vintage and retro styles, I do keep abreast of contemporary fashion, and, if I like a current trend, I'm happy to wear it. I subscribe to Vogue, for crimminy's sake! But one thing I will not do is wear trendy styles that don't suit my style, my body, or my personality. When I taught college, I often saw my young, female students wearing trendy clothing that clearly made them uncomfortable. I thought it was sad.

I think that's just what's going on in the above photo: a perfectly lovely, young woman in the 1920s has shoved herself into the latest fashion, and it just doesn't suit her. If she'd trusted herself, believed in herself, and worn what suited her, I'm sure she would have looked great. A proviso though: If that young woman really, truly liked that dress, and the way she felt wearing it, then I think she absolutely made the right fashion choice. What we wear is about making ourselves happy, not those around us.

If you enjoy closely following the latest trends in your own sartorial choices, go for it! It's just not for me.

From The Ditsy Dress and the Dirty 30s: Honouring the Women of the Great Depression
Instead, if I'm going to slavishly follow fashion trends, I'm more likely to follow vintage fashions. I like to carefully research past fashion trends and then match them as closely as I possibly can. It's not easy, but that's part of why I like it. It's fun! 

But, even with vintage and retro style, I'm less "religious" about it than some people are. I enjoy mixing and matching bits and bobs from various decades, or adding retro touches to modern outfits. 

High-Low Hems

This is one of those contemporary trends that I just don't like. There's nothing more profound to my dislike of the look than that, to me, it just seems silly. Same goes for...

Shark Bite Hems

I'm not a fan of gimicky trends that will very quickly seem dated. To me, both of these hem trends fall into that category. But, again, if you like them, no biggie. Just not my thing. 

From The 70s Do the 40s: Fashion History Repeating Itself
Instead I like even hems. I'm particularly fond of the early 1940s hem length: just below the knee. I think this is because the early 40s are one of my favourite fashion periods, but also because I think this hemline doesn't overwhelm my short frame. 

Cold Shoulders

This is another style that seems more trendy than fashionable to me, and I think it will be dated really quickly. There's not really anything wrong with that, but it's not for me.

From Lily White Skin and a Passion for Pastel
Instead, I'll wear sleeves that give me "cold shoulders" in other, more classic ways, like with these lovely, lace shoulders.

The unbelievably beautiful Ashley Graham
Bondage Inspired Clothing


Just nope. I know bondage and SM are some people's cup of tea, and that doesn't worry me. But, not being into that, I don't want to wear clothing inspired by it. To be honest, I find it a bit triggering, just personally.

From Soul Sisters: 40s Frocks and 90s Grunge
Instead, I'll wear... lace-up boots? I lived in boots like these in the late 80s and early 90s. They go with everything. These ones are vintage, with no zipper, so they really do require crisscrossing the laces every time I wear them. Okay, that's probably nothing like bondage wear, but it's the best I could come up with.

Ostentatious Brand Names

My first memory of conspicuous, brand name displays is from 1983, when I started high school. Every rich kid in my school wore Lacoste shirts with that silly little alligator, and the collar flipped up. The shirts seemed very dull and ordinary to me, and adding the alligator did nothing to increase their appeal. Identical shirts, made by different brands, could be had for far less money. 

Clearly, people were paying for the little alligator. They were paying for the status and prestige of... of what? Of visibly proclaiming that they were stupid with their money? Of announcing to the world that they preferred trends over beauty and function? 

I decided then and there that I was not going to be that kind of person.

From Spring Flowers, Diamonds, and Real Women in the 1930s
Instead, if I can, I will pay a little more for brands that I think are really worth it, but I won't display that fact like a badge. For example, I think April Cornell's dresses are beautiful. When this one went on sale, I splurged a little and bought it. But I don't wear a sticker on my chest that proclaims its brand name. If I receive a compliment on it, and I usually do, I will happily tell people about April Cornell, not to brag, but to share the joy, in case they'd like to own something similar.

From How Books Saved My Life, Part I
I'm also all for learning about small, local brands. Some of them make amazing stuff, their hearts are in it, and they're not exploiting workers in foreign countries. In this case, also: pockets!

From Remembering I'm Jewish: 40s Fashion and Remembrance Day
I also think it's silly to ignore less prestigious brands. This dress is by Reitmans, and that surprises a lot of people. But, if you have an eye for beauty, you can find it virtually everywhere, including when you're digging through bargain bins at thrift stores. I'm often asked how I find such good deals. Well, I guess it's just that I know how to see beauty. As an abused child, it was something that helped me survive. Now, it's just fun.

Sometimes, when people learn something I'm wearing is 2nd hand, they'll say, "Just tell people you got it new. They'll never know." But I want them to know. Far from being ashamed, I've always been proud of my ability to dress well on an extremely limited budget. If people compliment one of my finds, I'll boast about how little I paid for it.

From Mod and Op Art: The Dumpster Divers' Edition
I'll even wear things I found in the garbage, like this dress. (The boots were only $5.) Anyone who left home as young as I did, as poor as I did, learns how to save money, and dumpster diving is one really good way to do that. Now that I'm doing better financially (insurance battle not withstanding), I tend not to garbage pick, instead leaving the good garbage for those who need it more. But it's a habit that's hard to break. 

Conspicuous Jewerly Brands 

Puleeze! These is just tacky. It's proof of the old adage, "You can't buy good taste." I'd be thrilled to own a piece from Tiffany, but not a piece that simply says, "I'm from Tiffany" by stamping its brand, front and centre. Rather, a piece should proclaim its origins in its quality, craftsmanship, originality, and beauty. Otherwise, the wearer is just visually yelling, "I have money!" What's the point of that?

From Gorgeous Golden Light: Loving Autumn
Instead, I'll quietly wear splurge pieces from great brands, that I love because of their beauty, not their brand. I usually mix and match them with vintage costume pieces that I got for next to nothing. Here, I'm wearing an expensive, Birks ring (on the left), with a Rafael ring that I got for 75 cents. That's how I roll.

From Spring Flowers, Diamonds, and Real Women in the 1930s
I'm also really excited to work with local designers, of both costume jewelry, and, if I can afford it, fine jewelry too. Brands aren't everything. Often, they're nothing but a higher price. When I got an unexpected inheritance, I took a bit of the money and worked with a lovely, local designer to make my dream earrings, just for me. My money was going to a small business, not a big conglomerate, I knew the materials were ethically sourced, and ... it was fun!

Here, again, I've paired an expensive piece with a vintage, costume piece: an Art Deco necklace that I got for $10. Most people can't tell the difference between the real and the costume, the expensive and the cheap. That's fine by me. I don't dress for other people. I think those who do are... insecure? I'm not sure. I don't know why someone would do that. I dress for myself.

Heart Jewelry

To me,  heart jewelry is adorable for children and teens, but not something I want to wear as a grown woman. It makes me feel a bit infantalized, a feeling a victim of child sexual abuse definitely prefers to avoid.

I think, also, as an English literature buff, I prefer my symbols and sentiment to be less obvious and universal. 

From His and Hers Engagement Rings
InsteadI like subtle and/or personal symbols, ones that others would not see as symbolic unless I explain them. Personal symbols are deeply meaningful to me, far more than universal symbols like hearts, or...
Kitty Cats

I love me my cats. Everyone knows that about me. But I don't like wearing images of cats. Again, they seem more suited to children than adults. But, again, the bigger issue is that I like my cat images to be more subtle and personal, not just to me, but as a representation not of Cats but of a particular cat, loved for his or her particular personality. So...

From Morgan's Pendant: the cat who taught an abused youth how to love
Instead, when Morgan died, I designed a mourning pendant to remember him. Everything about the pendant is symbolic both of him and of my relationship with him. In a way, it's the ultimate kitty cat necklace, but that isn't obvious. It's private, personal. And now I'm almost finished designing one for Bobby.

Of course, not everyone can design their own piece of jewelry to memorialize a cat! But we can find other things, maybe things we already own, that have similar, personal meaning for us. You could knit a bit of your cat's favourite blanket into your scarf, put a bit of his fur into a locket you've had for years, wear a shirt the same colour as his eyes... It's up to you. That's the beauty of it.

Images of Style Icons

To me, this is just a bit lazy. Why wear an image of a style icon when ...

From Retro Girl: 40s flair
Instead, I can dress head-to-toe like that icon. I feel like that shows more veneration for that person, and more close attention to the details of that icon's style. Plus, it's way more fun.

Caterpillar Eyebrows

Oh my God, what is even up with this trend? Strong brows, sure. But this? I don't think so. Is this model actually wearing false... eyebrows? Is that a thing now? We all know that the kids of today are going to look back on this trend with embarrassment. How could they not?

From My Tribute to Dolce and Gabbana -- in my Little Italy
Instead, I just gently shape my eyebrows a little, when I remember, and then I let them be. I have naturally dark eyebrows. Those with lighter brows might not tweeze at all, or might darken them a bit, and I get that. Or a woman might decide to go a bit more dramatic. But going overboard just to be trendy? Nah. Let's not.

False Eyelashes

I concede that it might be possible for false eyelashes to look good. When they do, if they do, I imagine they're not recognizable as false. But, to my knowledge, I've never seen false eyelashes that I like, not in any style, from any period.

Tammy Faye Bakker
Dead Bug Mascara

You know what I mean: that clumpy, super dark, inky stuff that makes the wearer look like a spider crawled up on her face and died there. I know some women like this look and create it by choice. To me, it always looks it was an accident.

From Sunshine, Hope, and the Skirt of Defiance
Instead, when I do wear mascara, which isn't often, I prefer one that looks much more natural and doesn't, for the love of God, clump or cake. That can be surprisingly hard to find at times, depending on what's trendy that year. 

I had to try a few mascaras before I found this one for my wedding. I'm wearing more makeup here than I ever had in my life, but I hope you can't tell. For me, subtlety is key.

Joan Collins in the 1980s

When it's worn well, I have no problem with blush. I was going to say I won't wear "heavy blush," because I have dabbled with blush from time to time. But I've come to the conclusion that blush isn't a good choice for my skin, because ...

From Outtakes and Bloopers from the Summer of Wedding Planning
... this is what I look like when I get emotional, or warm, or cold, or when I have a drink, or even half a drink. In other words, I flush easily and often. Hell, I don't just flush, I blotch. With skin like mine, blush is just overkill.

Instead, if I bother to apply makeup, I'll apply a light foundation to my red areas, and maybe a little highlighter here and there, and that's it.

Canadian, animal rights activist, Pamela Anderson
Piles of Makeup

I think you're seeing a theme here, by now: I'm not a fan of wearing lots of makeup. I just don't like the way it looks. It looks disturbingly artificial.

From Darkness Descends: Life Under Trump
Instead, most of the time, I wear no makeup at all.

From The Ditsy Dress and the Dirty 30s: Honouring the Women of the Great Depression
Or I wear so little, you can't tell I'm wearing any at all.

From Life Does Not End with Disability: Celebrating my 10th Crippleversary
Or I wear just a bit of lipstick. It's how I feel most like myself, and I think it looks better too. I admire women who can wear a lot of makeup and look great, but it just doesn't seem to suit my personality or my face, not up to now, anyway.


Botox scares me. I mean, it makes the people who use it look scary, not quite human, and certainly inexpressive. When I'm watching a show in which the actress uses botox, I can't pay attention to anything but her smooth as ice forehead. This is especially so during emotional scenes. No matter how much she scrunches up her eyes in an approximation of intense emotion, it looks fake and creepy. And sad.

That's not something I want to do to my face, and not a message I want to send to young girls: a smooth face is must never be more important than an expressive one.

From On the Road: Fashion, Death, and Distraction
Instead, I'm keeping it real.

Cosmetic Surgery in General

I'm sure some women have been so subtle with their plastic surgery that I can't detect it, but we've all seen plastic surgery gone wrong. That's not a risk I'm willing to take. It looks dreadful, and, as a strong feminist, it disturbs me that women think they look better all puffy, clipped, pinched, and stretched, than they look natural.

From Self-Respect, Gold, and Golda
Instead, I'm going to remain natural. That doesn't mean I don't have insecurities. I do. Plenty. My biggest woe about my face these days is my chin: It's a double now, no doubt. But it's mine, my face, my expressions, my age, my survival. I want my face to remain mine forever. I never want to wonder what I would have looked like if I hadn't had this or that procedure done. I never want to find that I can't fully express my emotions, in my words, and in my face too.

And I never want to give up or betray my feminism. Cosmetic surgery doesn't fit in with my feminism.

Greasy and/or Crunchy Hair Product

I get it: the curly hair struggle is real. My Jewish hair is definitely prone to the frizzies, and hair products are my friends. But ones that leave my hair greasy or crunchy are not my friends at all.

From From Gym Bunny to Cripple: How Child Trafficking Destroyed My Back
Instead, I'll only use products that leave my hair looking natural and soft, with gentle curls - just less frizzy and uneven than it looks without product. As all of us with curly hair know, this isn't easy, and there are days when my stubborn, willful hair just will not cooperate. 

From Charlotte Issyvoo Rocks the Schoolmarm Shoes
Those are the days when go for creative updos. 

But I find that I have good hair days most often when I use Sebastian Potion #9. I've been using it for well over 20 years. I just put a tiny bit in my hair when it's wet, style my hair (often just combing it straight back), and let it air dry (never blow dry). Then, when it's dry, I spritz a bit of water in it, scrunch, and go.

Blond Hair

I can't imagine I'd look good with blond hair. When a woman looks like her natural hair is and should be dark, I don't think it looks good when she goes blond. 

From Art School Madness, the Writer's Life, and the Counter-Culture as Home. Note that I definitely have the frizzies in this photo.
Instead, so far, I've never dyed my hair. Yup, you read that right: I've never dyed my hair, not ever. I know that makes me a very rare bird indeed. 

At 48, I do have a teensy bit of grey now, but so little, there's no point in even thinking about dying it yet. And, the older I get, the more I think grey hair will be fine by me. I mean, at this rate, I'll be fairly old if/when my hair is fully grey. 

If I don't like my hair grey, I'll feel free to dye it. If, for example, light hair just looks really bad on me, I might go for an auburn a bit more red than my natural colour. I've always wanted to be a full redhead, instead of a redhead in the sun only. But what I won't do, is dye it an inky, store-bought colour that sucks up the sun like a dark hole. That can wash out a woman's complexion faster than anything!

Suede and Nubuk Footwear

I'm now moving on to a new category: things I won't wear because they're not practical for me. I love Jennifer Lopez's boots here. But I live in a very very rainy city, and I've learned the hard way that, no matter how careful I am, suede and nubuk footwear does not survive here.

From On the Road: Fashion, Death, and Distraction
Instead, I most often go for leather. If it seems unlikely to rain, I will wear canvas because, if it does get wet, it will survive. 

Me, at about 32, when I was not yet disabled so could still wear heels. This pair were a particular favourite.
High Heels

Oh my God, I miss heels! I was very good at wearing heels. I could walk and walk in them, dance in them, take the bus in them, work in them... I love them. I had so many pairs of heels, I had several of them on display on my bookshelves, as the art that they are. I basically collected them. (Since then, I've let my love of jewelry take over where my love of heels had to leave off.)

But then disability struck. Now, I can barely walk at all, let alone in heels. My lower back is in constant, crippling pain (and no, it's not because of the heels I used to wear), and there's no way I can add to that by wearing heels.

From Fall for the Birds: Autumnal Fashion in Hard Times
Instead, I wear interesting shoes, with very low or flat heels. If they're a flexible, shock absorbing rubber, that helps me a lot, as with these super pretty, yellow... well, I'm going to call them "almost heels." They're the closest I can get now, so I love them, a lot.

From Charlotte Issyvoo Rocks the Schoolmarm Shoes
Mostly, I wear entirely flat shoes, but, as much as possible, I stick to pretty and/or "quirky" ones. I've had to become a bit more quirky and artsy in my footwear choices, but that's not the end of the world. It's kind of fun.

Shape Wear

When you're in as much pain as I am, and pressure adds to that pain exponentially, there's no way you're wearing shape wear, no matter what. I just couldn't possibly handle the pain. 

Would I wear it if I weren't disabled? I don't know. I'd rather embrace my curves, but I know that's hard. So, all I can say is that, with my disability, shape wear is not an option.

Instead, I go natural. Yes, even at my wedding.

From Loving the Body: Mortality and Frailty in Love
For women with insecurities about their bodies, and, let's face it, in this society, that's all women, a-line dresses and skirts are almost always a good choice. So I go with them a lot.

From The Anti-Christmas Outfit: Bah Humbug, Only Prettier
Tight Waistbands

This includes any waistband without stretch, not just in the elastic, but in the fabric itself. This yellow skirt is pretty, and I love the way it looks, but it hurts. Any tight pressure on my lower back increases my pain terribly, and that pain lingers for hours or even days after I've removed the offending garment. Generally, this includes pants, skirts, and tights, so...

From Ration Fashion: A Wartime Dress
Instead, I mostly wear dresses now. Some dresses have a waistband that's too tight, but, if they fit me properly, most don't. Since skirts and pants stay up by virtue of clinging to the waist, they're almost always tighter at the wait than dresses, which instead stay up by virtue of hanging from the shoulders. So: it's dresses.

Sure, I'd like a bit more variety, and I do wear pants and skirts sometimes, but, really, wearing beautiful dresses all the time is not a huge hardship. I have a growing and varied collection of dresses that I like very much.

Painful Bras

For most women, comfortable bras are like a holy grail: always sought, never found. This an even harder search for women with large breasts. Bras got less comfortable in the mid 90s when the damnable Wonderbra hit the shelves. Suddenly, we were all expected to hoist our breasts up with wires and tight straps, cram them together, and hide our nipples with hot, sweaty padding. God forbid anyone could tell we had nipples!

Lately, what we used to simply call "bras" - no wires, no pads, no hoisting - are making a comeback, but now they're called "bralettes." With bralettes, nipples are finally making a comeback too. Thank God. The other day, I even saw a pair poking through a sweater on the uber-conservative, Hallmark channel! Amazing.

Does this mean we're all comfortable now? Not really. Bras still suck. I do still wear uncomfortable bras. But I will no longer wear painful bras. I have enough pain, thank you very much. I'm not going to willingly add more to my life.

This one is pretty good. You can find it here.
Instead, I now wear the most comfortable bra I can find that still makes me feel "presentable" when I go out. If my top is at all loose, I'll wear a bra with no underwire. I no longer hide the nipple. I won't wear something that pinches and pokes. I'm just done with all that. Done.
Ballet Flats

I like the way ballet flats look. I'd wear them all the time if I could. But they always slip off my heel when I walk, requiring me to curl my toes in ways that hurt my back. Yes, my back. You'd be amazed by how many daily motions require a strong core, and I just haven't got one of those anymore. I never did really, not since my injury.

From Fighting Racism with Mid Century Modern Style
Instead, it's mary-janes again. They're the closest I can get to a ballet flat without causing myself added pain.

Me, at 18, with a friend
Hippie Style

I was raised by hippies. Raised and severely abused by hippies. Hippies who used their hippie philosophies of rule-breaking and free love to justify raping children. So, no, I'm not fond of hippie style, though I once wore it with the youthful pride someone might show when wearing the clothing of their ethnicity. Basically, being a hippie was my ethnicity.

But since I've been all grown up and sensible to the abuses I endured, I have avoided all styles that make me look like a hippie. This is not because I think hippies are, by their nature, bad people. Nor do I think their lifestyle and fashions and awful. It's just that these things remind me of the people who abused me.

From Fall for the Birds: Autumnal Fashion in Hard Times
Instead, I'll wear unusual and  unexpected patterns and colour combinations. After all, I may not be a hippie, but I am counter-culture, left-wing, bohemian, creative, intellectual... in other words, a person who doesn't follow the beaten path, not even in what I wear.

Me, at 19
Tie Dye

Objectively, I suppose tie-dye can be pretty. I know I used to find it aesthetically pleasing, though I don't anymore. It's probably the first thing most people think of when they think of hippie style, so it's not for me.

From Pink and Green in Pain
Instead, I'm more than happy to wear bright colours in interesting combinations and patterns, as long as those patterns don't remind me of hippie fashion, like...

Me, at about six

I have an almost physical reaction to paisley. I hate it, not because it's ugly, but because it reminds me of abuse, as virtually everything associated with hippies does.

From Missoni Knit, Mod Makeup, and Spring Merriment
Instead, if I'm going to go for a 1960s look, I'll go for Mod. I'm completely comfortable with that, and I think it's a great look.

Hippie Jewelry

Same reason as all the rest: it has too many bad associations for me, so much so that I avoid most beaded jewelry altogether. Hippie beads just... almost freak me out.

From The Corseted Nymph: Edwardian Fashion at the Dawn of Modernity
Instead, I will wear murano glass, wedding cake beads. They are one of my few exceptions to my "no beads" rule. They're so pretty, they make me feel all sparkly inside.

Me, at about eight. From Women Folk Singers and Hippie Dystopia: a Child's Conundrum
Indian Prints

Same story: makes me think of my hippie childhood.

From On Being a Hero: Aragorn's Cape and Me
Instead, I'll wear any print that I like. Conservative plaids and tweeds are fun for me because they are so far from the world in which I was raised. I associate them more with Agatha Christie novels than with hash pipes and incense.

Me, at about 19

I never liked these, even when I owned them. I'd just been told so often how comfortable they were, that I thought I'd buy a pair. They weren't comfortable, not at all

And they were still just as ugly as they'd been years earlier, when I was nine, and Smother nearly made me cry by saying she wanted to buy a pair for herself. How could she? How could she wear something that ugly? Yes, I had strong opinions about such things even at that age.

From Self-Respect, Gold, and Golda
Instead, I'll wear sandals, normal, non-ugly sandals. They're more comfortable, less expensive, and far more attractive.

Culturally Appropriative Fashion

When white culture steals styles from other cultures, and uses them without respect for their meaning, traditions, or makers? That's cultural appropriation, and it happens a lot. I imagine I've been guilty of this without realizing it, probably quite often, but I try to continue to educate myself on this topic. If I know or suspect that something is an example of cultural appropriation, I won't wear it.

From Fall for the Birds: Autumnal Fashion in Hard Times
Instead, if I want to wear things associated with a specific culture and/or ethnicity, I wear things from my own cultures. Then I'm not stealing from anyone. Besides, instead of being mere fashion statements, when they come from my own cultures, I actually know what they mean, and they have deep significance to me.

"Indian Garb"

When it comes to sartorial, cultural appropriation, nothing sticks in my craw like white people wearing "Indian garb," or, as they call it if they think they're enlightened, Native American garb. My distaste for this "style" comes directly from my ongoing friendships with and reading of Indigenous people; they have taught me what appropriation means to them. 

Usually, what "Indian garb" white people are wearing was made by other white people who have mixed and matched traditions from different nations, time periods, and meanings - and then added elements that no Indigenous culture ever wore or wears. The combined ignorance and disrespect in such gestures is like a punch in the gut to many of my Indigenous friends.

Even if the original makers of the items were, themselves, Indigenous, many white people wear the pieces with no regard for their original purpose. A head-dress, for example, might only be worn by those who have earned the honour of doing so. They certainly aren't meant as generic, "back to the earth garb", or, even worse, "I'm kooky at a concert" outfits. (Don't even get me started on people who dress as "Indians" for Halloween.)
Raven and First Man, by Ernest Swanson. From Haida Jewelry: one artist, one piece, a whole lot of meaning
Instead, if I'm thinking of buying an Indigenous piece, there are a few things I want to know. First, was it made by an Indigenous designer, and will that designer receive fair payment for his or her work? Second, what nation is the artist from? Beware of a seller who just calls a piece "Native American" without mentioning the designer's nation. They're likely scamming you and/or cheating the designer. Third, does this piece have any meaning in the designer's nation, is that meaning in keeping with something I would like to wear, and will my wearing it cause any disrespect? 

Generally, if a seller is a decent person, it's not hard to get good answers to these questions. At that point, I'd feel pretty comfortable wearing the piece I've selected. But it might not be cheap. Some day, I'm going to own a gold, west coast, hummingbird pendant, perhaps in the Haida style. But that will cost a bit. It will be worth it.

Dream Catchers

I'm mentioning dream catchers specifically because they are ubiquitous amongst the white, crunchy granola set, mostly as nothing more than a fashion statement. Last night, I even saw a Chinese made bedspread with a huge image of a dream catcher on it. It was being sold by The Bay, a company famously intertwined with the colonization of Canada. How's that for tacky irony? 

I honestly don't know what nation dream catchers come from, if any, or if their purpose is the purpose white people think they have: to ward off bad dreams. As someone with PTSD, who has nightmares every night, I like the idea of dream catchers, but ...

From A Death in the Family that Was Never a Family
Instead, I prefer again to wear a talisman that comes from one of my own culture. For example, when my father died, and I was feeling badly haunted by unwanted ghosts, I wore this dragon to make me feel fierce and protected. I've studied Medieval, European literature. I know what dragons meant, and what they mean to me personally. I feel much better about that. (Dragons, by the way, have a very different significance in Asian cultures.)

Jayne Mansfield

Baby Doll or Lolita Clothing

It's not the clothing itself I have a problem with. It's the immorality of clothing company's in giving clothing names directly culled from pedophilia. Why on earth would I want to wear something purported to be named after baby dolls?

From the 1997 movie, Lolita
Or Lolita?! I've read Lolita. It's about a pedophile who marries a woman to get near her daughter. When the mother dies in a car accident, the man kidnaps the 12 year old Lolita, rapes her that night, and continues to rape her for two more years, at which point, she's too old for him, and he gives her (or sells her?) to another man. By the time she's 16, the "hero" of this novel finds her disgusting.

Yeah. No. Not wearing anything called "Lolita." Not.

From Prove it! Insurance Companies, Disability, and Disbelief
Instead, well, gosh I'm an adult! I'd much rather wear an outfit that makes me look like the elderly Miss Marple, than one that makes me look like a sexualized child, or an infantalized adult.

From Reparenting Yourself: a healing strategy
I'm also happy to wear things that make my child self(/selves) happy. Maybe some butterfly brooches, or something pink. But I'll tell you this for sure: that does not include anything that sexualizes childhood! I had enough of that in my actual childhood.

American Flags

Yeah, I have American citizenship. But I long ago chose Canada. Even if I still lived in the States, I doubt I'd wear American flags. The people who wear them most often tend to be the people whose politics I find repugnant and even immoral. Even if this isn't the case, living in Canada, and having had students, friends, and romantic partners from around the world, I've learned what the American flag means to many people from other countries. My American citizenship is not something I'm ashamed of, but it's also not something I want to crow about.

From Race, America, and Canadian Patriotism: Reflections on a Chosen Country
Instead, I will occasionally, and with some reticence, wear red and white, usually on Canada Day. This is about as overtly patriotic as I'll get: no flags, just the colours of our flag, red and white. I do love my country, but not unreservedly.

White supremacists in Charlottesville, at a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, in 2017. Trump, for whose campaign the Maga hats were made, said there were some "fine people" in this group.
Maga Hats

Duh. The direct link between white supremacists (who are always also anti-Semitic) and these damned hats is unmistakable. So, you know, just duh.

From Sailor Girl: Nautical Fashion in the 20s and 30s
Instead, I'll wear red hats. All done.

The incomparable Angela Lansbury

The older I get, the more I love animals. The older I get, the more I know that I too am just a mammal, with mammalian emotions and mammalian social needs. Perhaps, if I lived way up north, and I knew who had hunted the fur I was wearing, and that the entire animal had been used, I might wear fur. But I'm not sure I could.

From On the Road: Fashion, Death, and Distraction
Instead, I will wear leather, so go figure. I tell myself that it's because I know the entire animal is being used. Initially, I stopped eating meat because I knew that a plant based diet was more sustainable and would help feed all people more equitably. I didn't have a moral problem with eating meat, per se, and I think I still don't. 

It is, or at least was, all about sustainability. So, my theory went, if a cow is used for meat, it's more sustainable if it's also used for leather. So leather is okay. But I'm probably wrong. My guess is that, actually, the cows people eat are not the same cows that people wear. 

I also tell myself that I only wear second hand leather coats. So far, that's true. But can I be sure it will always be true? No. 

So, I guess I'm a bit of a hypocrite. I admit it. It is something I give quite a bit of thought, and I may choose to change my practices in the future. I know kd lang did.

From Sheep and Squirrels and Kitties! On the Curative Powers of Cuteness
The one place where I do cut myself some slack is in my choice to wear leather footwear. With my disability, walking is extremely painful and difficult, even for short distances, with mobility aids. Over time, I have found that leather footwear has a pliability and adaptation to its wearer's body that makes walking in leather just a little bit easier for me. So I let myself wear leather footwear with less guilt.

The Hebrew here reads "Zion"
Zion and Jerusalem Jewelry

This one is a bit complicated. Why won't I wear jewelry that reads "Zion," "Jerusalem," or "Israel," but I will wear a "shema" pendant that includes the word "Israel"? For me, "Zion" is not a literal homeland. Nor is "Israel." To me, neither is a literal land that belongs to Jews, and can and should be wrested from others. 

In other words, I am deeply concerned about the Israeli treatment of Palestinians. 

For me, "Zion" is more of a metaphor for a spiritual place of peace, free from persecution. And "Israel" is also not a place. Rather, Israel is a people, the people "who wrestle with G-d." But, regardless of what those words mean to me, I don't want to wear anything that might lead people to believe that I align myself a cruel kind of Zionism that justifies the oppression of others. My Judaism does not include that! And so my personal decision is not to wear those words.

However, I feel that in the "shema" prayer it is clear that "Israel" refers to a people, not a place, and that's why I feel okay wearing it. 

Instead of wearing the words "Israel," "Zion," and "Jerusalem," I will wear... well, just about any other Jewish symbol and word that I fancy, like this super pretty "shedi" pendant.

Symbols from Religions that are not my Own

I respect other people's religions enough not to wear their iconography as mere fashion statements. I won't wear a cross, just as I won't wear an Allah, or a Yin Yang symbol. I don't want to misrepresent who I am, and I don't want to be disrespectful.
From Fall for the Birds: Autumnal Fashion in Hard Times
Instead, well, duh.

Brands I Know are Unethical

I am probably not as vigilant about this one as I should be. I should take more time to educate myself about the policies and practices of the various brands that I buy. But, there are certain brands whose poor ethics are impossible to miss, like American Apparel, Axe Brand, and Ivanka Trump. In our capitalist society, we can vote with our purchasing choices, and it actually can work. I believe both of these particular brands have gone belly up, or are about to anyway. 

From Pink and Green in Pain
Instead, the more I know about the brand, the happier I am about giving it my money. If I can support small businesses, that's even better. This dress, for example, was made by a lovely, local company, run by a lovely, local, amply curvy woman. Voting with my money, I vote for companies like hers!

Hair Jewelry

Now we're moving into my "ick" category of things I won't wear. Given my love of vintage and antique jewelry, I come across designs that most people have never even heard of, like hair jewelry! Hair jewelry was a form of mourning jewelry popular in the Victorian era. People would put locks of their dead, loved one's hair on display in their jewelry, or put them them in the back of their jewerly. A lot of people do collect hair jewelry, but the pieces are kind of creepy to me.

From Morgan's Pendant: the cat who taught an abused youth how to love
Instead, when I designed this mourning pendant to remember Morgan, I picked a garnet the same colour as his old man fur, and lovingly placed it in the back of the pendant. Same idea, less creepy.

Hand Jewelry

I'm just not really into disembodied body parts as jewelry. I find it creepy. Actually, I'm not really into figurative jewely of humans.

From Race, America, and Canadian Patriotism: Reflections on a Chosen Country
Instead, when it comes to figurative jewelry, I'm more of a flowers and pretty bugs kind of a gal.


These are commonly worn by both Jews and Muslims, but I don't wear them. Same reason as before: disembodied body parts. 

From Come From the Shadows: How my Cousin Roza Survived the Holocaust
Instead, by this point in the post, you already know, right? 
Evil Eye Jewelry

I don't want to get into it, but suffice it to say that these pieces are beyond creepy for me: They're triggering. I like the idea behind them though: they're meant to ward off the evil eye. In other words, they're meant as a kind of protection. I like that, so ...

From An Update and It Ain't Great
Instead, when I feel like life is really kicking me in the teeth, and my PTSD is flaring like crazy (often at the same time as a pain flare), I like to wear a dove. I always have, even as a child. The dove is both a Christian and a Jewish symbol of hope in faith, and of the constant nearness of God. I find that very comforting, and have all my life. (To know what I mean by "God," take a look at my post, The God Question: What I Do (and Don't) Believe.)
Lots of Small Bumps Together

That's not a very elegant description, I know, but it's the only way I can describe it. When I see jewelry like this, I immediately think, "It looks diseased!" It makes me feel sick. It triggers me.

When I was about five, my abusers showed me a picture (maybe a drawing?) of "Indians" with Small Pox. When I what was wrong with them, I was told that they had Small Pox. When I asked how they got it, I was told that white people had deliberately given them infected blankets so that they would get sick and die. It was a horrible form of slow murder.

Then, I guess my abusers told me they could and would do the same thing to me if I stepped out of line. Ever since, I've felt sick when I see collections of dots, circles, or bumps together, even on a map! 

From The Edwardian Brooch and Its Outfit
Instead, I'll wear anything where the bumps are placed singly, in lines, or far apart, as with this Edwardian, seed pearl brooch.


They make me feel like I'm choking, or being choked. Yes, this is a trigger. I hardly have to explain, do I?

From '80s Career Woman, Jessica Fletcher, and the Scarf-Ruffle Thing
Instead, I like open necks, and adjustable pussy bows, that can be as tight or as loose as I choose.

From Disability Style: What I Wear When Everything Hurts
Of course, people wear turtlenecks for warmth, and I do need that warmth sometimes, so I'll wear woolly scarves, even indoors. They're adjustable, and easily loosened, so they're not a trigger.

From Forget Me Not: PTSD, Trigger Avoidance, and Reclaiming the Blues
Light Blue

Light blue is my worst trigger of all, so bad that I wrote a whole post about it, so I won't go into it here. But, let me tell you, if I ever do wear light blue, which is extremely rare, it is a deliberate act of courage, a difficult, healing exercise. But mostly: nope, never.

From Forget Me Not: PTSD, Trigger Avoidance, and Reclaiming the Blues
Instead, I'm happy to wear dark blue, navy, royal blue... all the blues that aren't light blue. Honestly, though, blue's not really my colour.

Anything that Reminds Me of "Ritual Abuse"

To illustrate what I mean, I picked the least threatening such image I could find: a picture of my goofy, gentle friend wearing a Heavy Metal t-shirt. Even so, the image on his shirt triggers me. I don't believe such images have actual power, but they were often used in some of the bloodiest, most severe abuse I endured as a child. Such abuse was once called "Ritual Abuse" but is now called by it's more accurate, and less sensationalist name: Organized Sexual Abuse. As far as I know, it is always connected to child sex trafficking. It is, in a nutshell, a very deliberate and effective way of terrorizing children into submission.

From The "girl next door" in hell; or, you can't tell by looking
I will wear clothing that makes me feel tough, and might allude to Heavy Metal style, but, obviously, I don't want anything that reminds me of the abuse.

Nor do I want to wear cargo shorts, which my friend is also guilty of wearing: fashion faux pas time two!

From Fashionable Cheer in the Drear of the 30s and 40s
Instead, I wear anything I like. And that's a lot. Fashion makes me happy. It's fun. It's beautiful. It makes statements. It teaches us about women's history. I love it!

From The Jew and the Muumuu: Celebrating Survival
And the absolute, number one rule of what not to wear, is... there are no rules! Wear what you like. Wear what makes you happy. Wear what you think it beautiful. Wear what makes you feel beautiful. 

And if that includes anything on my list here, even cargo shorts, go for it, with my complete and total blessing.

(I'm sharing this with Not Dressed As LambStyle Nudge, and Not Dead Yet Style.)

No comments:

Post a Comment