When I was three years old, I decided that I was going to ride my tricycle in nothing but my frilliest shirt and teal underwear. Naturally, my parents didn’t approve, and chased me and my tricycle around our neighborhood for a good half hour. Upon my capture, they made me apologize to all the people who witnessed my rowdy behavior. Which, coincidentally enough, was how I met my very first best friend.
Since my rebellious age of three I am glad to say I have become more reasonable with my choice of attire. But I still hold on to the belief that it matters less what someone is wearing than the person inside it. The rudest person in the world could wear the most fashionable clothing, but it wouldn’t make them any less rude.
I have learned that dressing differently can help in meeting new people: I wore a Nala costume with saddle oxfords everyday for the first three weeks of kindergarten, and I had more friends by the end of it than little Suzy who only wore plain-colored skirts. It’s a natural conversation starter that can end in lifelong friendships—and if it doesn’t, it is probably for the best. Plus, no one forgets the girl who rides a trike in teal underwear and regularly dons lioness suits.
Perhaps the reason for my unique outfit pieces—which included at one point a hand-made dress with fifty different types of fruit and shorts covered with tiny smiley faces complete with matching shirt and bucket hat from my grandmother—was due to an innate desire to show individuality. After all, I did resemble my older sister far too much, and my hair did not quite stand out enough at school: orange is hard to notice in a sea of brown. But whatever one’s prerogative may be—to be different, to make a statement, to be noticed in the big city—they should dress accordingly.
I believe in dressing in a way appropriate to yourself. If you prefer purples and plaids to puces and plains, go for those you like instead of those of the lemmings (unless, of course, you are a lemming, in which case I encourage you to dress like the best lemming you can be). I wear the same set of sparkly headbands and bows found in the baby and toddler section of Target merely because I think they are cute. And also because I still have some of the mindset of my toddler self.
Though I would not recommend that anyone wear bright yellow to a funeral, as I have done—in my defense, I was unaware that I was attending a funeral until my mother drove up to the church—I will still proudly wear a denim dress with red polka-dotted shoes to family barbeques, a pair of plaid Sperry’s around the entirety of the tri-state area in the summers, and butterfly dresses to weddings. And I salute everyone who does the same.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.