Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Playing Dress Up

Someone in a MySpace chat group brought up the subject of dressing for a job interview earlier today. I thought about my own experiences, entering the professional world as a schoolteacher and how I used to try to dress for the part. I was a part-time poseur, leading a double life as a teacher by day and rock musician by night.

I've always loved dressing up, which you can see in this photo of me as a little girl:


As I got into glitter rock, my costumes got more elaborate:


Punk inspired even more extreme costumes:


Post-punk was also alot of fun:


When I became a teacher, I quickly realized that I needed a new costume, one that would allow me to present myself to the world as a serious professional:


No, I don't dress like this anymore, thankfully. But at that point in my career, I felt the need to appear competent and "teacher-like" and in my own warped imagination, this is what a teacher would dress like. Funny, huh? The costume of a "teacher" helped me to create my professional personality. The serious look made my students and parents feel safe and my co-workers and administrators treated me with respect.

Nowadays, I pretty much dress in comfortable clothes. I don't wear anything that would negate my creative side, but I try to tone it down so that my appearance is not too distracting to those I have to work with. Occasionally in the past I have allowed myself the freedom to wear a streak of crazy colored blue or pink in my hair. One time I was called into the principal's office and asked to remove the offending color from my hair. We were two or three weeks away from vacation, so I convinced the principal to allow me to keep it, and agreed to return from vacation without the pink streak. I was and still am a good teacher, so I think the compromise worked well for everyone.

When I'm off-track (on vacation) I usually bleach my hair and completely dye it within a week's time. I pull out my old thrift store clothes and get more creative with my look.

One of my favorite magazines is a Japanese import called "Fruits," which features cover to cover shots of Harajuku District fashion plates. I love their wacky sense of style and I would dress that way all the time if I thought a woman in her mid-40's could get away with it. I still manage to have fun from time to time.


I think most of us play dress up at some point in our lives, and not just in childhood. Costumes are valuable because they allow us to act out personality traits which we desire or which are already present, but which might not be obvious to the people around us. There is also an inherent danger in wearing a costume, for as time passes and it becomes a regular part of your life, you can start to lose the ability to separate your true self from the self-image your costume has created for you.

It's important to remind ourselves that clothing, hair and make-up are tools that can help us to create an illusion. I have the same values and beliefs whether I'm wearing a leather jacket or a powersuit, but some people will only listen to me if I wear the leather jacket, others will only listen if I wear the powersuit.

6 comments:

Karl said...

Alice, You look great in all your costumes. I actually like the "Professional" look with the flag in the background best. You look like you are the Attorney General or something. Who's your friend in the glitter rock picture? She looks familiar! Karl

Kenji said...

I love that picture of you as a schoolteacher! HoTTT!!!

Sara said...

Oh my ghod - Kriss sez she'd never have recognized you!!! Rad. I'll have to get pix of me in my monkey suit, too and post them on MySpace. Whatever you're wearing your a hottie!

~Sara

P.S. WHERE did you get those red shoes in the FRUIT pic!? Yummy!

Alice Bag said...

Karl: Yes...that's Mrs. Vanian (aka Patricia). You have sharp eyes.

Sara: Got 'em at a clog store in Seattle. I LOVE clogs since I found a store that custom makes them for me in leopard print suede and shiny patent leather.
***Plug Alert*** Clogmasters in West L.A.

Kenji: Thank you! (blushes)

motomama said...

The teacher pic reminds me of the period where I did the shoulder pad/power suit thing for a couple of years. It's true that we are judged by our outside wrappings first.

I love the bottom pic of you. You have such great style.

Jenny Lens said...

Alice, I wonder if anyone ever photographed you more than I did from 1976-1980. You were/are always glamorous (even wearing a kitchen apron these days), unique, great attitude, adventurous. Carrying one or two cameras (and they were heavy in those days!) was always a lot of work, but so much fun whenever I'd see you.

However, I was blown away by your Superior Court/District Attorney shot in white in front of the flag with padded shoulders, no less! I recognized your beautiful smile, but wow, you look so much better in the other shots.

It's really sad society forces us to wear certain clothes to be taken seriously or professionally. Your true character comes through in the very stylish colorful clothes I've seen you wear when you go to shows. A little patch of blue in the hair shouldn't be so scary. I'm more scared of the spooks in the White House, you know?!

One of the advantages of focusing on my photos and resuming my life as an artist means I can have magenta hair again! Unlike you, I can't bleach my dark curly hair, so crazy color is out, but that was too temporary. I started putting a magenta highlight on top of my hair, and every time I look in the mirror, I smile. Because that's the color of my favorite flowers, paint, dyes and I feel more like me now.

No matter what you wear, you carry yourself with beauty, dignity and integrity. And as long as you're with Greg, you have the ultimate fashion accessory!!!

Pea green with envy,
your pal,
jenny lens