“I think that clothes can be a form of expression or a form of protection. And some days I choose to express myself and sometimes I choose to blend.”
As I kid, I remember Christmas meant getting clothes from my aunts and toys from my uncles. I loved the toys, of course. The clothes were a mixed bag.
You see, my aunt on my mom’s side owned a baby/kids clothing boutique on St. Claire Avenue in Toronto. The clothes were imported from Italy. My aunts on my dad’s side went there to buy special pieces of clothing for me every Christmas. I know these clothes were expensive. I also know nobody else wore them.
I specifically remember wearing knickers in my grade 2 class pictures, and another kid asking if I was one of Santa’s elves. Of course, now they would be called capri’s, but not in the early 80s!
In grade 6, I had a pair of faded jeans and matching faded jean jacket that was covered in floral appliques. Which may be cool now, but then, stuck out among the acid wash and Roots sweatshirts all the kids wore.
Shortly after that jean outfit, I spent most of my time in a uniform. Anything outside of that, was for after school and on the weekends only. In a uniformed school, civvies day was everything. You planned for those days, where once a month you could wear whatever you wanted. For me, that meant Polo shirts and Au Coton sweatshirts. It meant cuffed jeans and balloon skirts.
Really though, if I’m being honest, my wardrobe style was to blend as much as possible. I thought I was fat. (Of course, looking back now, I know I wasn’t). I also grew up in a time when hair was teased to reach the sky and this wasn’t really my thing. I adamantly exclaimed that I wasn’t a Gina*, and preferred a more preppy style.
*The definition of a Gino (or Gina), according to the urban dictionary is as follows: A term which is most commonly known to teenagers and adults alike in the GTA. The term refers to an Italian (or one of Southern European descent) male or female who is from Canada and not from the country of their ancestry. A typical Gino or Gina enjoys lively techno music (deemed “gino beats”), goes to clubs, wears tight or sporty clothing (some brands include Adidas, Puma, Kappa and Diesel), likes small and sporty cars (read: Honda Civic), and wears his/her hair spiked or curly.
While I did wear Adidas and Puma clothing, big earrings and dark lipstick, my hair could never defy gravity as some of the girls I knew. And I wasn’t really a fan of freestyle music.
So aside from trying not to be labelled a Gina, I also spent my entire high school career trying NOT to draw attention to my bra size! This is where the layering started. I avoided trends like crop tops and short shorts, and was grateful when baggy and oversized clothes were a thing.
By the time I graduated high school, I don’t think I really had a style. It was the early 90s, when fashion was probably at its worst. But I spent the summer before college going to the gym with my friend. I lost weight and needed new clothes.
I remember being in a store change room trying on jeans, and remember squealing with delight that all the jeans I tried on were too big. To put it in perspective, I dropped to a size 10-12. From a size 14-16. I certainly wasn’t overweight, but in high school, I felt differently. My friends were all tiny, and I felt huge. So, losing some weight for me, made me feel like I was a new person. So, I bought those jeans in the smaller size in every colour (remember it was the early 90’s, so they came in blue, purple, red and green).
My style in college was forgettable, at best. It wasn’t really about what I wore to school, it became what I wore to the clubs. And during that time, it was about vests and bodysuits. I had accepted my body a bit more, and felt more comfortable in my skin. I showed it off a bit more, with lower cut tops and form fitting bodysuits and vests.
I loved vests. The look consisted of a bodysuit, with a vest on top, complete with a pair of Replay jeans (which I saved up weeks to buy). I accessorized with a choker and dark lipstick. That was pretty much my signature look. I went out week after week in some form of that same outfit for years. It made me feel confident and stylish.
After college, and after meeting a boy, I got comfortable just hanging out at the local coffee shop. I began to lose my style completely, and began to gain weight. I wore sweats all the time, or worse, plaid pants! And I still had that Au Coton sweatshirt! I didn’t really care what I looked like. I worked a shift job in a call centre, so my wardrobe didn’t really play a factor.
Then I decided to get a breast reduction. After that, my confidence level rose, that boy was history and I started my first office job. From there I went onto working in a large financial institution, and bought my first business suit. I hated it at first, but it quickly became my uniform of choice. You see, it still allowed me to layer, hiding behind a jacket. I may not have been doing that deliberately, but it was happening. I was so used to covering myself up, that it became ingrained in my style.
When I think about what I wore the night I met my husband, (a fuzzy pink sweater and jeans) I know that he didn’t care about clothes too much. He liked me for me. When I got pregnant, my maternity clothes were made up of collared shirts and dress pants. I owned exactly one pair of maternity jeans. And a few casual tops. Otherwise I wore oversized sweats at home. And that trend continued through my mat leave and beyond.
A few jobs later and I work in a place where I can wear jeans to work. But if I look at what I am wearing right now, it’s still a layered look. Jeans, top and sweater. It’s my usual. I own a lot of black. Like, a lot! I do love colour, and wear bright pinks, and yellow, but I still gravitate to black most often.
I don’t consider myself stylish or on trend. I don’t go out of my way to fit in either, yet I feel confident in myself. Maybe that’s my age talking, but I don’t think clothes should define who you are. Yes, I still layer and I guess in a way, I still hide.
Note from Lainie:
Tania and I met as strangers this winter. We both attended an event for Canadian Influencers, hosted by Collective Influence Co. We got to know each other a little bit that night and have kept in touch over Instagram ever since.
After posting my clothing story, I reached out to see if anyone else would be interested in writing theirs and I was so excited when Tania said yes! You can read more of Tania’s writing on her blog, tania2atee.
In reading her story, it might bring back memories of your own childhood. I hope you can take a moment to post a comment for her – say hi and to share your stories too. It’s more fun when we all join in.