Monday, January 23, 2017

Reflection: Jheri Curls, Jello Shots, and Blue Eye Shadow: Dressing Through the Ages (Random Writings Part 3)

Reflection:  Dressing Through the Ages
by Sandra Proto

I always used to say that the way I dressed depended on my mood.  This saying was true in my teens when like everyone else my age was exploring who they were. In our pursuit of finding individualism, the pop culture of the time led the way of how we dressed.  We took our fashion nods from pop singers like Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Boy George as well as movies like Fame and Flashdance.   This was the 1980’s and neon colors also took center stage.  I had a big neon orange sweatshirt with leg warmers to match.  I wore this with a makeshift denim skirt (cut from old jeans).  I didn’t bother sewing up the split legs.  To be modest,  I covered up with black tights and rocked my tie-up low-heeled ankle boots.  My hair was relaxed, loose, and with a little curl at the end. My ears decorated with stud earrings for my upper piercing and big dangling ones dripping from my lower.  At the school dances, I moved to Prince, the Go Go's, and New Edition.

Traveling from Teens to Twenties

After high school, I was seventeen when I entered college.  I still had my hair relaxed but found I really couldn't keep up with rolling my hair with the meshed wire rollers while attending classes and studying.  So, I moved onto Jheri Curls (a curly perm) and experimented with blue eye shadow.  My wardrobe consisted of leggings, opaque tights, miniskirts (I had a few knee length ones), bodysuits, sweaters, and knee hi high heeled boots. The twenties were my discovery of sex appeal.  I never left the house with my face unpainted or my thighs not peeking out from my latest find at Mandees or Joyce Leslies. Even though I was a young free-spirited twenty-something, I still sat watching the television show Thirtysomething and fantasized about the mature family life that awaited for me between acting/theater gigs and retail sales at Theme Restaurants.

Gone with the Wind-Thirty-Something

My thirties found me still riding the wind of twenty-something and husband material was not in the forecast.  My hair styles fluctuated from relaxer to box braids while my job positions varied from Freelance Stage Management; Unemployment; Café Worker; Home Attendant; Program Assistant; and various volunteer opportunities.  I also was becoming more serious about my writing by establishing a writing schedule as well as taking workshops and surrounding myself with other writers.  My wardrobe had changed in between jobs and the middle of my thirties because I was becoming health conscience and personal stress played a significant role.

Under The Influence- Health Choices and Stress

What sparked my decision to be more health conscience were my writing friends, who were vegans, and the size 18 pants I found when I was cleaning out my closet.  I don’t know why I had them. I was a comfortable size 11/ 12…13/14 but discovering them made me declare that I will not go back to that size ever again.  So, my journey to lose weight began.  I stopped eating red meat and pork. I started to eat a lot of salads, chicken, and ground turkey  (I was not brave enough to do the whole vegan lifestyle). The change of eating habit coincided with a romantic breakup.  I was upset with the breakup but wanted to concentrate on "me." I noticed some weight loss after a month or so and then two months later, my sister got sick and died (within a two-week span). My world fell apart then, and I noticed my weight loss was increasing.  My clothes size went down to a five.  A size five was the smallest I ever been.  Even though the stress of my losses was the result of my diminishing weight, I was okay with it and felt that I finally was proportioned to my height (barely making 5'2").   I got a lot of criticism for being too small.  I dismissed the reactions and thought those who are not used to my size would eventually get used to it.  As for me, I was enjoying my new petite frame.  I was finally able to go to the size 5/6 rack and not be envious of the thin girls because now I was one of them.  I purchased lycra dress pants, skirt suits, and silky blouses.  I even went to a thrift shop and bought myself a pair of brown suede pants.  I was becoming more mature (after all I was thirty-something) and vowed that I would stop wearing miniskirts in my forties.

Last Fling-The End of the Thirties

My late thirties found me in my dream job for a minute until I became pregnant with my first daughter.  The size 5/6 also was short-lived because my first daughter liked to eat…everything.  So, I ballooned back to a size 18 (and no, I didn’t save those pants).  I found myself in the Maternity section of JC Penney’s with my mother holding a pair of half elastic waist pants up to me (I still had some elastic waist skirts that were size 12/13 that was knee length that I rode high over my baby bump). After my daughter was born, the holidays were fast approaching.  I found myself at Macy’s Santaland with my elastic-waist black velvet mini skirt-high-heeled boots-self sitting next to Santa while he cradled my one-month-old daughter in his arms.  I was not going to be forty until a month…so… I did not renege on my promise.

Drawing by Alberta Overstreet

Hello Forties/Good Bye Forties/Here Comes Fifties

My forties came in like old winter. I started wearing jeans, sweatpants, sweatshirts, and my face raw.  My hair lost between relaxers, braids, natural, rinses, bad coloring (turned my hair blue) back to braids again. After all, I was a mother of two beautiful girls (a month shy of my fortieth birthday I had my second daughter).  I let them be the Fashionistas. I had no time to walk the catwalk between doctor’s appointments; cleaning the house; cooking; laundry; writing poetry books, and being on the PTA Executive Board as well as recovering from a car accident.

Finally, on the tail end of my forties (forty-eight and forty-nine to be exact), I have revised a little of my fashion sense (at least last summer) and invested in some sundresses, slinky sandals (guidance from my Fashionistas) as well as some stylish earrings. My hair is scattered with white coils as I await my fifties with raw face and a glass of Chardonnay to my rouge lips.  Even though my fashion sense has changed over the years, I can say that I am always “me” with whatever I wear.


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Sandra Proto debut poem at the age of twelve was entitled, The Late Great April, giving homage to the first time it snowed in April. She wrote Late Great April as an English class assignment and her teacher was so impressed by the poem that he tried to get it published. After this experience, Sandra became a "Bedroom Poet" who composed Blackberry Beauty,Light, Compositions, and many others. Blackberry Beauty (her signature poem) was featured in SaSi's Production of Identity @ Space at 24 in 2000. Sandra has performed with the funky, folky, reggae rock band Hudson’s Hope. Her poetry is featured on VAMPIRE LESBIANS and ALL I CAN SEE IS HER EYES tracks of their demo CD. Sandra is also, a fiction writer, playwright, and an essayist.

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