Bumpity-bump-bump. Bumpity-bump-bump. I run my hands down a long length of pearls from the base of my neck to the small part of my waist, where a large knot stops the downward motion. I release the strand and start again from neck down. Soothing myself with continuous repetition.
The meeting wraps and I stand. Pack up the Blackberry and laptop into the stylish brown plaid laptop bag sitting beside them on the table.
I’m the youngest in the room, one of the only women. Dressed to fit in. Long, straight-legged tan wool pants lined with polyester made to feel like silk. Crewneck fine-knit cream sweater. Pearl earrings. A Banana Republic poster child.
Of course, there are the long pearls too. Tied in a knot at my waist to enhance the femininity of my shape and (very practically) so I can walk without getting them stuck between my legs.
As we leave the room, the team lead holds the door for me. I look up at his exceedingly kind face, smile, thank him. He smiles back, eyes dancing behind his dark rimmed glasses, black curls gleaming on his head, his appearance strikingly similar to Egon from Ghostbusters. As I walk through the door, an off-the-cuff remark from Egon on the boldness of the necklace I’m wearing.
I do not remember the comment. I do remember the way I felt. So much effort placed everyday to dress to fit into that specific workplace and yet, I was still standing out. In the smallest way, but it was there. I felt devastated. Embarrassed. Hurt in that deep dark shameful place. Blamed the man for making a rude comment. Talked about it with my friends for days. And here I am more than a decade later, the memory still etched in my brain.
The truth I’ve come to realize—I had given away my sense of self. Dressed for what I thought other people wanted, and with that comment realized I still didn’t live up. I could never live up. Not enough. Not enough. Not enough. This is what happens when motivations come from external forces.
I’m not sure if this moment was the moment I started to think of style differently or not. I do know that it affected me and that things have been shifting since. Shifting from dressing for what I think other people want, to styling outfits that make me feel more and more like me. Building a wardrobe that helps me feel a deeper understanding of my true nature.
Of course, there is still consideration as to the setting(s) I’m dressing for. This is all part of that deeper understanding of self. I would never feel comfortable wearing sweatpants to a black-tie affair even though sweatpants are one of the most physically comfortable things I put on my body (just the other day I said to my husband, “I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow morning, head to the cottage, put my sweats on and not take them off again for three whole days!”). And though physically comfortable, sweats would not feel comfortable at a formal event because in that environment they do not show respect for myself or the people around me, and both those things are important.
Yet, I’m no longer choosing a gown for that same black-tie event solely focused on what other people might think, the intention is different. It’s not about finding the most fashion-forward gown that will get me on a best-dressed list, or the safe-as-it-gets gown chosen in fear to stay off the worst-dressed list. These outside influences no longer trump my internal desire to wear the dress that makes me feel most like me. The one that I put on and leave the house feeling taller, smiling wider, with a wee bounce in my step, like a child twirling in her first flower girl dress.
On every self-discovery journey I’ve ever started, there is a deepening that happens as time goes by and style is no different. I learn more about myself with every seemingly small evolution of life. And my style morphs along with it.
With clients, I am honoured to join them on this section of their journey. Walking slowly beside them, hand-in-hand. Giggling wholeheartedly with long-time clients about where they once were and how far they’ve come. Supporting their evolutions as they arise. Bumpity-bump-bump. Bumpity-bump-bump.