Monthly Archives: June 2014

For Whom Are You Dressing?

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You flip through catalogs and magazines. You browse around clothing and accessory shops, both in person and online, and make choices about which pieces to incorporate into your own wardrobe. You peruse the style blogs and note tempting trends and bold pairings. And then you open your closet door to choose the day’s outfit.

Who is your audience? For whom are you dressing?

Obviously, the answer will change depending on the woman, the day, the activity. Also potentially at play: Age, mood, season, and other individualized factors too numerous to count. There is no single answer to this question, and there is no WRONG answer, either. When I asked this question of myself, I realized that, like so many theoretical stylistic queries, it leads me to goals rather than maxims.

On a regular work/life day, I dress to engage. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I dress to draw attention, but I rarely dress to blend in and thoroughly enjoy the interactions that my outfits can generate. I’m the kind of person who, when offered a compliment, gushes on about where I got the shoes/skirt/necklace in question and quickly jots down the retailer, price, website, and any other pertinent details so my complimentor can get one of whatever it is for herself. I absolutely love to engage people in dialogue about style and clothes and looking good.

I also STRIVE to dress to please myself. I can’t pull it off all the time, but I do make a goal of it. There are days when I must dress to please my clients, or the Minnesota Weather Gods, or my bloated-by-PMS body, or my in-laws. There are days when I dress because I want to look pretty or unusual or interesting in order to pull myself out of a funk. There are days when I dress to impress my cats, who love nothing more than a good sweatsuit. But the older I get, and the more I learn about myself and my personal style, the more I strive to dress only for myself.

I don’t feel like I have never dressed to impress men. At least not in any traditional way. I lack cleavage, a flat stomach, and slender legs. As a young, single girl who heard everything the media told me about heterosexual attractiveness, it never occurred to me that a body lacking these features should or could be dressed provocatively. (I was a very different person back then, of course.) So I just didn’t bother. I still got dates, but it had nothing to do with what I was wearing. Which was mostly denim overalls and beat-up Doc Martens.

But many women do dress to impress men or other potential sexual partners. And since women can be quite competitive with one another, much has been written about our tendency to dress to impress – or even outdo – our fellow ladies. Anyone who feels she doesn’t dress to please anyone at all is likely dressing to please herself. Countless potential audiences exist and countless motivations underlie our choices. Although dressing exclusively to please others without giving a thought to your own taste, comfort, or preference strikes me as somewhat limiting, I’m inclined to reserve judgment. Some lives have more constraints than others, constraints that may stem from rigid work dress codes, harmful social prejudices, or other influential forces. Some people may not have the option to dress to please themselves, while others may view dressing as a tool for catalyzing action rather than a tool for self-expression. I would love to see a world in which we can all dress for ourselves, but am all too aware that we’re not there yet.

Figuring out how you want to look – and how to make that look a reality – is a long process. An ongoing process, even. And sifting through the desires that are truly yours from the ones that are thrust upon you can be challenging. But we can all strive. We can all ask ourselves when we pull open the closet door: For whom am I dressing today? And WHY?

Image courtesy Fani Tsakiridou

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Afro-versary: One Year Of Natural Hair

The fro...has grown!

The fro…has grown!

It’s been exactly one year since I big chopped my chemically straightened hair, returning to my natural texture for the first time in over twenty years.

In the twelve months since I lopped off my locks, I’ve experience growth both personally and afro…ly. Living with a head full of nappy hair isn’t always easy, but for the most part it’s been a lot of fun! So in the spirit of fun, I thought I’d celebrate my twelve months of kinky living, by sharing twelve things I’ve learned about my natural hair this year.

1. Water Water Water

When my hair was relaxed, I had to work very hard to avoid getting it wet. Moisture is the natural enemy of chemically straightened tresses. Unless you’re at the ready with a blow dryers, straightening irons and various hair serums, water will turn a smooth, shiny relaxer into a jacked-up mess in the blink of an eye.

But my hair in it’s natural state is prone to dryness, which means I’m now obsessed with getting my head wet. I put damp bags on my head and squirt myself with spray bottles. Humidity is my new best friend and umbrellas are my mortal enemies!

2. Mudslinging

Most folks I know use shampoo to wash their hair. I use mud. For real, y’all.

Regular shampoo strips my hair too much leaving it brittle. So instead, I use this special wash from Terressentials about once a month. It’s similar to the type of fancy mud that people sit in when they go to the spa. It’s made with bentonite clay, nourishing oils and other goodness that kind of draws the gunk out of my hair and cleanses my scalp without stripping out the little moisture I have.

I also wash my hair once a week using conditioner only. Occasionally I use an apple-cider vinegar rinse in lieu of clarifying shampoo. Works like a charm!

3. Shrinkage…no, not THAT kind of shrinkage!

Pulled out straight, my hair is about collar-bone length but I’ve got a mad-tight curl pattern. I can do a style that stretches them out longer, or I can let them spring back for a shorter look. It’s like getting a commitment-free haircut!

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Twisted!

4. Defying gravity

My hair only grows in two directions: Up and out.

5. Conversation starter

Sometimes I’m at the bus stop or in line at the supermarket and I’ll spot another person with nappy hair like mine. Invariably we’ll strike up a conversation, comparing notes on our big chops, our respective hair care regimes and all of our afro-related feelings. Being able to meet new people has been especially important this year when I’m away from home. Who knew that hair could be such an effective ice breaker?

6. Accessories Included

I can style my hair into its own headband. I think that’s kind of neat.

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I can also use it to hold pencils!

7. Options

When I first went natural, I was worried that my styling choices were going to be very limited. Not so. I can pin and tuck and stretch and twist and braid it in all sorts of fun ways. I can do it up or I can let it out. Now that it’s grown out some I can even do a couple of fun, pulled back styles. I’ve also had some major style fails, but it’s all part of the fun!

My son told me this pulled back do made me look like an alien. :-)

My son told me this pulled back do made me look like an alien. :-) 

8. The Five-fingered comb

Not only do I not use shampoo, I no longer brush my hair and I very rarely use a comb. I have a lot of hair, but the individual strands are actually very fine and tend to snap if I go at them with styling tools. So I detangle with my fingers. I don’t just mean raking my fingers through my hair.  I put conditioner in my hair and then painstakingly separate the individual strands and undo any knots that have formed. It’s tedious work, but them’s the breaks when you’ve got natural hair.

9. Olive Oil…It’s not just for fancy restaurant bread anyone!

Sometimes after I put water on my hair, I put on a tiny bit of oil to seal in the moisture. I like olive oil because it’s cheap and I always have it around, but I’ve also used avocado oil, jojoba oil, castor oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil or sometimes a mixture of everything.

10. A flax-inating discovery

Did you know you can make hair gel by boiling flax seeds? If you’ve never done it, you need to YouTube that shizz pronto because it’s super-easy to do!  The gel not only holds well, it makes my hair really soft.

11. High maintenance

Washing my hair takes about two hours. Styling it can take 30 minutes. Detangling takes upwards of 90 minutes. The trade off is that I only have to do these things once or twice a week as opposed to every day. Still, sometimes I do wish that my texture was a little easier to manage. But I try to look at my hair-doin’ efforts as self-care time when I can groove out to my good-bad music or binge-watch Orange Is The New Black.

12. New love

When I cut my hair last year, I wasn’t sure I’d be okay with it. At best, I hoped I’d get to a place where I was able to accept my natural texture. A year later, I love my hair!  It’s weird to feel love for the random strands of protein coming out of my scalp but over the course of this last year, my hair has become my favourite physical feature. I don’t know how to describe it, except to say now when I look at myself in the mirror, I look like…me. It makes me really happy.

And finally, I have to say thank you to all of you. When I first presented my newly natural hair last year, you responded with tremendous encouragement. I can’t tell you what that meant to me. Your kindness quelled my fears of what other people would think of my decision to go natural. In the grand scheme of the universe, my natural hair is a very small thing, but it’s been a big, positive change for me. You all helped me embrace that change. So from the bottom of my heart…thank you!

Then...and now!

Then…and now!

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Already Pretty contributor Nadine Thornhill is a sex educator and blogger at Adorkable Undies. She is a new resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, having recently moved from Ottawa, Ontario to pursue a PhD in human sexuality. Her writing tends toward subjects such as clitorises, feminism, vibrators, body image, gender politics and non-monogamy. She is a passionately committed Scrabble player and lifelong klutz, having sustained 16 concussions to date.

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Dressed for: Lightweights

Already Pretty outfit featuring Gudrun Sjoden tunic, clamdiggers, orange pumps, J.W. Hulme tote

Tunic – Gudrun Sjödén
Jeans – Gap, cropped by me (no longer available) – similar
Pumps – Easy Spirit via Opitz – similar
Bracelets – various – similar look
Earrings – Bijoux De L’Au Dela Jewelrysimilar
Bag – J.W. Hulme (no longer available) – similar look

We haven’t hit the true dog days of summer just yet, which means I want lightweight layers but still opt for some coverage. These cropped-by-me jeans have been a warm weather standby for years, but the airy printed tunic is a new addition. Leave it to Gudrun to create such a lively, unique print in a wonderfully summery cotton.

Have you hit truly hot weather already? (I know some of you have!) What are your dressing work-arounds? Or do you just succumb and wear the fewest, lightest layer you can?

floralgudrun_details

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