The upside and downside of dressing the way I do.

April 10, 2014

© B. Hogendoorn
Editing done by yours truly

Whilst cleaning the house, I was thinking: lately I experience a bit of a negative feeling with the way I dress and I am trying to find out what it is exactly. Having this feeling doesn't mean that I am suddenly going to dress myself 'mainstream', because that would just not feel like me and I am sure this feeling is just a phase.

Like alot of things in the world, dressing the way I do - vintage if you prefer - has advantages and disadvantages. Usually the advantages outweighed the disadvantages by far, but lately I don't feel it is that way. I feel that I am getting irritated over the fact that I can not be anonymous on the street - ever. Everywhere I go, people recognize me as the girl who was in the newspapers, in the magazines, on television and who dresses differently than many other woman out there on the street. People I don't know, do know me and that is sometimes a rather scary feeling, really. My place of residence, Zutphen, isn't big and that makes anonimity even harder. My way of dressing attracts attention and ofcourse, I am grateful when people say how beautiful they think my way of dressing is, but when I need to catch my train because I am running a little late, there are people who want to chit chat about my dressing vintage, - and then I reply I háve to get my train - and who are very persistent to stop me to satisfy their curiosity about my way of dressing ... and that irritates me. However, me trying to get away from them to catch my train, or me getting irritated over the fact that they put a stop to me trying to catch it, doesn't mean I am not grateful, but I do come off as ungrateful. And that's not exactly what I want, cause sometimes they know who I am and have read about me in the newspaper, and will think of me as arrogant. Or, when I am not in the mood for talking because I feel a little down and people come up to me to talk, I try to make the conversation as short as possible and sometimes I am not able to be cheery and want to continue my way. In these situations I might not have left a friendly impression. And I am a person who wants to be friendly to people at all times.

Everywhere I go, people watch me, constantly, long and shamelessly, my every move. That makes me feel I cannot permit certain behavior as I live up to etiquettes. Usually I was pretty resistant to people watching, but at times, when I feel more insecure than I might feel at other days, it's very tiresome. I try to down dress myself in those days (no hat *gasp* for example) and that doesn't feel good either. So that's a bit of a dilemma for me. Some people (thank goodness not many) also assume that, because I dress impeccable and neat everyday, I must be a snob who thinks more of herself than of other people. Oh, and to some I am very, very rich. Well I am not poor but I am not rich either. What they don't know, is that my clothing is usually not newly bought from expensive boutiques, nor is it second hand, but third or fourth and most of the time pretty cheap. Because of my dressing differently, people make prejudices much easier and quicker and some don't quite take the time to find out whether it's right or wrong what they thought.

I also found out that some men think that, because I dress like women in olden days, I absolutely must be a terrific housewife who is very submissive to her husband; glide to the couch in slowmotion to slide his slippers on his feet, when he is about to put his bottom down on our pretty floral 1940s couch. They think I am the man-pleasing woman they know from the misogynistic advertisements of, say, the 1940s and 1950s. If there's one thing I am not, it's being submissive to a man. Ofcourse, I love to pamper my partner and I love to cook (and even clean!) but if my partner wants his slippers, coffee and newspaper he can easily get it himself. With an exception here or there ofcourse. My partner luckily respects this and pampers me a helluva lot of times, too. Our relationship is equal. As it should be.

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There are, ofcourse, alot of joys to dressing vintage and even the 'fame' I have gained with dressing like this, has brought me much joy. Although it's sometimes tiring, I am atleast not a uniformity. I advocate uniqueness and encourage people to show who they are and I admire people who do so. It shows a certain strength to dress the way you want and I am proud I possess that strength. Cause let's face it: not many people can say that they dress the way they want and that's mostly because of the peer pressure. I had many a girl come up to me and say that they admire my courage for dressing the way I do and that they would love to dress vintage, too, but don't have the guts to do so. That saddens me, cause everyone should dress the way they want without being scrutinized for it or laughed at. So yeah, it makes me feel proud that I do have that strength, and the willpower, to show who I am even though I wish it would be different sometimes when I feel more insecure and when I want to vanish and keep a low profile. But no matter how insecure I am, the urge to dress how I want and think is beautiful, is always bigger. I am very contradictory I must admit: I don't want attention from people yet I keep dressing like this, which absolutely always attracts attention; wanted or unwanted. I feel a bit like reclusive but famous Greta Garbo for most times, really.

However, another joy it brings me, is that people come up to us on the street or ring at our door (very scary cause how do they know where we live?) to say they have stuff for us that we might like. Because of this, half our house could be decorated. Who doesn't love free stuff?! Also, recycle shops sometimes just donate things to us, or they call us and we have the first pick in a new batch. That's pretty nice isn't it?

It also propelled my modelling career in the right direction, and gave me the fame I hoped to get (not realising you cannot undo it when you feel you want to be average Jane for a day or two). Due to my lifestyle, I got the change to work as a historical figurant and model; not many people can say that they have a hobby that keeps the hunger away. I am pretty thankful for that.

Whatever way you dress, it should make you happy. It should make you feel good. And that's what dressing 1930s/1940s does for me. It makes me feel unique, happy, feminine and it feels as coming home, and I wouldn't want to trade it for anything else. This doesn't only counts for me and my way of dressing but for everyone either that be Goth, Lolita, Vintage or just plain Jane with Uggs. And that should outweigh any downside of the way you dress. My feeling of negativity towards it ... well I am sure it's just a phase like I already mentioned at the beginning of this post.

Well now, I am really curious what your upsides and downsides are in your way of dressing! Please tell me, unless you have a train to catch ofcourse! :-)

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  1. hi Lindsay, i definitely understand what you are saying here. I live in a very small town of not over 2000 people. I don't have a lot of vintage clothing because it is hard to find here and in the surrounding area, but i do have some, and i like to sew what i need/like from vintage patterns. BUT, i also wear jeans and t-shirts a lot because of farm related work. i confess to sometimes dressing plainer when going into town or church, just to avoid comments. I understand many favor the vintage style, but then i sometimes think; i wonder what so and so will say about this, and so and so will like this dress... etc. At one point i stopped wearing vintage/handmade aprons to cook because i would get comment after comment from family members about being 'little miss suzy homemaker'. i understand it was all in good humor and there is nothing wrong with being a homemaker, but all i did was put on an apron to make a cake! This is the same when i'm trying to leave or talk to someone else and a person wants to go on and on about sewing or old clothes. I understand some of their enthusiasm, but don't want to be rude.
    So i understand going back and forth and get into phases like this as well. Some days i feel great and wear a hat and gloves, and others i just don't want to deal with it and dress a bit plainer. (i'm very shy and introverted so it takes a LOT for me to dress differently). but its just that. Different. Its so very hard to be different, i just wish it wasn't that unusual or engaging, haha.
    Lovely, thoughtful post, i enjoyed it :)

    1. Hi Abigail, thank you so much for your comment. First and foremost: I absolutely admire the fact that, even though you live in such a small town, you do have the courage to express yourself, albeit it sometimes more plain than other days. Yet still, it is you. It's such a shame though, that other people make us feel that we can never express ourselves to our hearts content without being a little bit insecure.

      I am very shy and introverted, too. So I hear ya! There's this willpower in me that needs to get out and express myself and at the other side there's the scared little deer with eyes as big as saucers when someone looks at me a little longer.


  2. "I don't want attention from people yet I keep dressing like this, which absolutely always attracts attention". You've hit the nail exactly on the head there Lindsay - I hear and feel that contradictory message all the time. I grew up firmly believing in the old sayings "if you've nothing positive to say, don't say anything at all" and "treat others as you'd want to be treated" so I find it not only sad but baffling when people make negative comments or, yes, even just stare at you. I wouldn't do that to someone who chooses to wear a velvet pink tracksuit, for example, so why do they think it's all right to do it to you or me? It's so annoying to be judged by the clothes we wear - in my case people assume I must work in some high-powered position and try to guess my job (oh, I've heard it all - "doctor", "solicitor", "teacher", "concert pianist" ?!). I couldn't begin to imagine what it must be like for you as a model, but I know myself the despondency that can creep in when you feel as though you're being forced to change your appearance (I might sometimes wear a casual jacket, or no hat), who you feel you are, to conform even a little bit to others' views and so avoid their attention. Why should we have to do that, really?! We shouldn't! Sometimes I dream of a world where people can wear what they want (within reason!) without fear of harsh comment or judgement.

    It's best to remember all the positives, as I'm sure you know and do. You certainly do have some positives too - people giving you free vintage stuff? Wow! And look where it's taken you! You're undoubtedly an inspiration to many and to see you dressed in your favourite fashions makes the world that bit more beautiful.

    1. Hi Bruce, good to hear from you and thank you so much for your comment! My boyfriend can relate to what people say to you. He dressed nostalgic too and he constantly hears people yell 'gangster' at him. Or people who say he looks so extremely chic. Little do they know; he might look well dressed but he's dressed as a middle class man of the 1930s.

      And your right; it's absurd that we down dress ourselves just to avoid peoples attention. But it can be so tiring, that attention. But oh well, it comes with the package I guess. And who knows the world will change someday!

      We get alot of positive comments and ofcourse those are the ones one should remember!

      Thanks for your words Bruce!

  3. Your post absolutely made my day! I would love to dress vintage myself, and have been known to dip my toe into the water, so to speak, but always something happens that upsets me. Usually people aren’t even trying to be rude, (they say I must be going someplace fancy or work somewhere nice/important), but it makes me feel very self-conscious. Once, back when I was trying to start a fashion blog of my own, I walked to the park carrying my camera and tripod and a man made (not lewd) remarks about my clothing, I was so embarrassed I went home without taking any photos!
    I suffer from a lot of anxiety (agoraphobia and general social anxiety) and I find that when I dress the way I want, (which usually involves red lipstick and an a-line skirt!), I feel much calmer when out in public, and my panic attacks are far fewer. You would think that dressing more mainstream in simple jeans/t-shirt/sneakers would attract less attention to myself and make me feel more comfortable, but oh well. I think your style is beautiful, and it makes me happy to see you have the courage to dress the way you want to. Hopefully someday soon I’ll be able to do the same, (maybe I can start that blog I always wanted). (:

    1. Elsa, your post made mý day! I can totally understand what you say about having agoraphobia. I have general social anxiety too. So in a way it makes dressing differently much more difficult. But I indeed, too, experience a certain feeling that, when I dress the way I want (which can be very extravagant) the anxiety *sometimes* vanishes more to the background.

      I also recognize the situation you describe of making photos in public. I always feel a bit embarrassed when people watch me whilst I pose for a photo - even if my boyfriend takes them. It's quite weird that I am embarrassed if you consider I am a model and I have to be used to that.

      I would really love it if you start that desired blog and I am for sure a follower! The blog would be a great step in the right direction, don't you think? :-)


  4. Superb post, dear Lindsay, I wrote a couple in particular in recent months that touched on some of these subjects, too, and how I was feeling about them, because I think that a lot of times many of us vintage folks experience things sorts of feelings and situations have just keep them bottled up inside or, equally bad in another way, give up on vintage because they're not able to talk them out with any one. To know that they're not alone and that one bad day, rude comment, longer-than-polite stair, time when you don't want to wear vintage (it's not a uniform, it's a choice after all!), or other rough patch doesn't mean that you won't still love and want to keep rocking vintage the next day, or week, or month. The best thing to do is to talk (and that can certainly mean blog) about these kinds of feelings and connect with others in our community over them, especially since doing so will often help remind us of all the positive reasons (many of which you've covered here) that we continue to drape our bodies in the past as we tackle each day of the present.

    Thank you for speaking so candidly and soulfully, sweet dear. As always, you are an inspiration.

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Thanks for your wonderful words, Jessica. You are always so gifted with words.

      I have indeed encountered a few people who have stopped dressing vintage because they didn't know how to handle the situations and attention it caused and that really saddens me. We live in a world where almost anything is possible these days and yet dressing the way you want, is something being looked weird at by people. I don't understand it.


  5. Thank you so very much for your post. Though I do not dress historically every day, I can understand how you feel. I am so tired of people stressing again and again how elegant and beautiful I am looking today and asking if I am going to a party or if there is any special event. It is kind of sad that wearing a dress and heeled shoes or simply waving your hair is considered that extraordinary today.
    Additionally, like Elsa already said, I often feel more secure when wearing something elegant. And so the situations where I wear my most elaborate outfits are often those where I am the most vulnerable, my clothing and style serving as a kind of protective shield, maybe because I know that people often connect this style with arrogance and aloofness and being left alone really is the thing I would love the most on days like these. And because dressing in a more elegant way forces me to behave and move accordingly, it gives me a kind of support, like a corset would support me physically.
    You dress in such a wonderful style, I am sure you will see the positive sides of it again very soon. And hopefully some people in your town will learn that you are more than just the girl from the newspapers, but a women that has a life, a schedule and a personality like everybody else has (a fact that we often tend to forget when dealing with more or less "prominent" personalities).

    1. I am really touched by your beautiful words, Ette! Thanks so much for them! I really like how you described the situation much better than me. All that you describe is exactly how I feel! I, too, am asked more often than not if I am going to a party/funeral/wedding/etc. And the look on their face when you tell them that this is how you dress everyday. Some look amused in a good way, others look as if they have just seen a ghost.


  6. I know little bit of these problems you wrote about. I have also been on tv and magazines in my home town, but surprising enough, nobody bothers me on the streets. I don't know if it's the difference in the culture, but perhaps Finns are a bit too shy to confront people like that. So even though people do stare at me on the streets, atleast they don't insist on talking to me all the time. Most of the time I can walk in peace. I don't mind the staring so much, most of the time I'm pretty occupied by my own thoughts so I don't even realize it every time.
    But I can totally relate to your feelings about wanting to be nice to all. I am quite shy too and quiet in new company, but chatty with friends. To new people I might come across arrogant or even rude, but that's just because I'm shy and sometimes even a bit awkward when it comes to conversation.

    It would be nice to be offered free stuff :D but unfortunately after I was in tv, people have mostly called me trying to sell old junk to me. Unfortunately the vintage knowledge of these people isn't exactly perfect. When I'm looking for older stuff, like 1940's and backwards, they offer me 70's and 80's stuff, most of the time, thinking they got some valuable treasures. I'm not rich person, quite the opposite, and I can't buy everything they offer me. It is quite hard to say no to all these people and hear the disappointment in their voices when I say "no, unfortunately I don't have use for that stuff".

    When it comes to dressing up, here I basically only need to add lipstick and people ask if I'm going to party/special event/whatever. They seem to think it is a huge effort to do make up and hair vintage style, but with my routine, it only takes about 20 mins to get ready every morning. And I am starting to get bored about those constant questions if I'm going somewhere special. No, I'm not. This is what I wear every day (all though I don't wear vintage every day, but very vintage inspired anyways).

    So yes, very familiar situation. I also get bored with vintage, bored with people asking about it and bored with doing my hair and my make up. But I do love vintage style and most likely not be able to return to modern clothing, atleat not completely. But I think it is quite normal to get bored every now and then, it will pass. I have decided long ago that I try to avoid thinking what other people think about me, about my style and if I look acceptable to them. I wear what I want, when I want, how I want and that's it. If someone has a problem with it, tough luck. Sometimes there are moments of course, when I feel ugly and stupid and don't feel that I have anything wearable in my wardrobe, but those moments pass too and then I'm back being my normal self.
    I think your style is very adorable, stylish and cute. So keep on doing what you love, looking the way you want. Like you said, the downsides are always smaller than the upsides. Let's hope that some day everyone can look like their true self, without being judged, criticized, mocked or ridiculed. Hugs! (did I make any sense at all...?)

    1. You certainly did make sense! It's not that I am bored with it at all. I don't think dressing 1930s will ever bore me. But it's soooo annoying to get asked constantly if I go somewhere special. How sad it actually became that people don't dress impeccable when going out.

      Why and when did that got extinct?


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