Even though I’ve been out of high school for more years that I want to admit, I’ve been thinking an awful lot about my high school experience lately. Specifically, why grown women give their teenage selves such a hard time. You know what I’m talking about: “Man, I was so lame in high school. I can’t believe I wore that. I can’t believe I thought that. I had the worst taste in music.” Etcetera etcetera.
Being a teenager sucks and is hard. By its very nature it involves thinking, doing and buying into things that our adult selves look back on and laugh. I laugh myself, especially at the notebook of “profound” song lyrics I used to keep and my short-lived black lipstick phase. But I really don’t think we give our younger selves enough credit. Because even though we thought we’d marry a Backstreet Boy and truly believed that hair mascara was the height of fashion, we had some pretty good ideas. And a lot of these stuck with me, especially when it came to PERSONAL STYLE. The following are some of the most tenacious rules that continue to influence my fashion to this day.
Concept: Taller is better.
Almost all primary and high schools in Australia require students to wear uniforms, so I grew up in sensible dark blue skirts and polo shirts with insignias on them. The high school that I went to was quite lax when it came to uniforms: blue jeans, navy skirts or shorts in summer with a pale blue or white collared shirt and closed-toe shoes. Every year, my mother and I would have a massive fight about school shoes and what they were or were not allowed to look like. Mum wanted me to wear shoes that looked like this:
We eventually compromised on a shoe that looked very similar to this. I wore those “sensible” four-inch heels every day from eighth through eleventh grade, and never had any problems with them (except the one time I kicked my shoe up onto the roof, but that’s another story). I’m fairly sure this early training is why I could run a marathon in stilettos to this day. If I wanted to run a marathon at all, which I do not.
Concept: Shorter is better.
I’m talking about SKIRTS. In primary school almost everything I wore was incredibly short out of necessity–I grew eight or nine inches almost overnight when I was eleven, and that was just how things fit afterwards. Really, really short. Especially jeans, which I eventually accepted would not be long enough for me, ever. God bless the extra-long inseam, savior of my adult life.
Then came high school, and suddenly wearing short skirts was AWESOME. Even though I wasn’t interested in dating boys until I was about sixteen, I was very interested in getting attention from them (and from everyone else). The thing to do was to fold your waistband over & shorten your uniform until you were practically wearing a belt. My friend Jenny Bee and I turned this into an art form during our high school days. The boys from the private schools nearby luuuuurved us, and we luuuuurved them for loving us.
Short skirts are still a mainstay of my wardrobe; the ultimate weapon of mass seduction. Or extremely specific, short-range seduction. Because legs aren’t only a gift, they are a force to be reckoned with.
Concept: Make it sparkle.
My fashion concept in high school could be summed up in one word: glitter. Glitter eyeshadow, glitter hairspray, glitter nailpolish, glitter bracelets (they’re making a comeback!), glitter lipstick…if it looked like a unicorn threw up on it, I was into it. I have fewer rhinestone bedazzled t-shirts in my wardrobe now, but my love of SPARKLE is as strong as ever. Now I’m all about sequins. I feel they are more grown-up and refined. More Cher in Vegas, less Cher in Clueless. Not that I love Clueless any less, of course. I love me some knee-high socks.
I still wear glitter nailpolish, by the way. Sally Hansen’s Rockstar Pink over OPI’s Lincoln Park After Dark is my jam.
Concept: There’s no such thing as simple.
A silver ring on every finger. A rainbow of glitter bracelets from wrist to elbow. Seven or eight necklaces of varying lengths. Two pairs of slouch socks, strategically placed so as to show off BOTH colours. While we’re at it, how about sticking eight hundred fake flowers in the massive pile of blonde hair you’ve got going here? And painting both your arms in art class for no reason at all? I laugh at your minimalism, world.
Now, if the picture you have in your head is a very tall, very blonde, very strangely accessorised, very LOUD teenage girl…yep, you’ve got it. Everything was overexaggerated: tight and short and colourful, and an awful lot of it. My idols growing up were Cher, Dolly Parton, RuPaul and Jessica Rabbit. I thought they were the most glamourous women in the world–even though one of them is a man and another is a cartoon–and I wanted to be just like them. Even in my school uniform.
Today, I define my style as “dressing like a dickhead,” which was the reason my brother provided for why people stare at me in the suburbs. I might wear a black tshirt and jeans, but cover it with a ridiculous furry vest. I still wear about a billion necklaces at once but have retired the water-filled bangles. I only wear two rings now, neither of which turn my fingers green, but they’re still pretty big. I may respect a simple, well cut dress…but I’ll be throwing a big-ass sparkly necklace on with it, too.
. . .
So what about you guys? How rad was YOUR style in high school?