In Her Fashion

by Chloe Jeffreys · 37 comments

in Women in Midlife

Tawny Kitaen

This post is part of a BlogHop with the lovely ladies of Generation Fabulous*. Today’s topic is: “My Biggest Fashion Mistake”.

Fashion Trends

Born in 1961, I was a pudgy little girl during the reign of Twiggy, which didn’t help my self-esteem much. And the 70s were even worse. Those would be the years not just of poor self-image, but out and out self-loathing.

Farrah, Cheryl, and Bo were the girls of that day, and although I laid out for hours in the sun, basted in baby oil and iodine, I never could achieve their sun-kissed look.

Let’s not forget the fact that I went to school with Tawny Kitaen

I’ll never forget Tawny standing there at our junior high graduation, in all her majestic, bronze, flowy, auburn-haired glory, wearing some sort of Bob Mackie knock-off, looking for all the world like a more beautiful and glamorous version of Cher, while I schlepped (can non-Jewish girls schlep?) up to get my diploma in a dress designed after the one Melissa Gilbert wore as Laura Ingalls in that very special episode of Little House on the Prairie where the entire cast caught diphtheria.

Fashion 1980

Thank goodness for the 1980s. If it weren’t for all of the utterly dreadful personal mistakes I made during the first half of that decade–many thanks to cocaine, who, contrary to what Mr. Clapton says, most definitely does lie–it would have been a good era for me. That’s when my full set of luscious boobs finally arrived making a complete matched set with those aforementioned, cushiony thighs.

Most importantly though, with enough Aqua Net, I could make my hair as big as one of Gallagher’s watermelons. Shoulder pads looked good on me during those years of my hourglass figure–before cocaine wreaked her boob-withering havoc, and stole it all away.

With Madonna all the rage, I bought myself some fingerless lace gloves to wear with my layered short skirts, tight leggings, and swooping sweatshirts torn just-so to hang tantalizingly off my shoulder a la Flashdance. For shoes? My motto then, as now: The higher the heel, the better.

Confession Time

And then came the 1990s. Did I go heroin chic or grunge? No. The 1990s will always be known as the years I was a conservative, Evangelical Christian homeschool mom.


What was I thinking?

Oh, I remember now. I was thinking that if I hid my powerful and dangerous feminine sexuality under large men’s t-shirts and over-sized cargo shorts that somehow God would finally love me, and that my dearest dream– children who would never, ever stray from their faith, or my parental control–would be my eternal reward.

I sure as hell didn’t want my children to make the same terrible mistakes I’d made, and if the price to prevent that was bulky, defeminizing clothes from the clearance rack at Ross, then sign me up!

Which begs the question that is far outside of the scope of this little blog post: Why do so many religions start (and seem to end) with the institutionalized oppression of feminine sexual energy in the form of something called “modesty”? Are women’s bodies really that damned dangerous? Isn’t aggressive male sexual energy—war, rape, pillaging, anyone?—really much more dangerous and deadly? But I digress. This post is about fashion after all, not about wholesale, legalistic, religiously enforced, peer-pressure-approved, female sexual oppression.

So, during the 1990s, I donned the fugliest, unsexiest clothes I could find to appease the gods, er, God.

And was He? Appeased, that is? On that, I have no idea. What I do know is that I have a lot of pictures of me in my 30’s looking very dowdy and frumpy that make very good blog fodder.


*You must be a member of Generation Fabulous to participate in the BlogHop. If you are interested in joining our group contact me to request more information.  

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne-Marie January 15, 2013 at 7:27 pm

OMG! I love reading you! And to confirm, you have only grown more beautiful, sexy and stylish with the years. How’d you do that??


Enchanted Seashells January 14, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Nothwithstanding anything else at all, I really love that you home schooled your children! And Tawny K. Isn’t she Raquel Welch’s daughter? Did you see her too?


Walker Thornton January 12, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Wow, The conservative look. What a disservice ‘we’ve’ done by denying a woman the freedom and comfort to enjoy her femininity. Looks like you’ve found the balance!
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Jack January 11, 2013 at 3:18 pm

That last picture makes you look like the twin of an old neighbor of mine. Old pix can be all sorts of fun.
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Sarah@afterhood January 10, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Hi Chloe, Your clothing memories are so specific that they bring back immediate images of my past wardrobe choices. Actually, after a recent move home from overseas, I had the luck/misfortune of discovering that I had stored several cardboard wardrobe boxes full of my pre-children clothes, professional and dressy outfits from the early 1980’s, when I could and did spend a high percentage of my salary on dressing myself. Hilarious and painful in equal measures. 1) Face it, I will never have THAT body again, 2) the times they are a changing. That said, one or two of those outfits have a great vintage vibe. So yes, I am wearing my own vintage clothing. Weird.
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knittinpeace January 10, 2013 at 9:36 am

I cannot even believe that last photo is you! But I know it is. I don’t have the time or energy to scan the denim jumper photos of myself in that very same era. ugh…


Missus Wookie January 9, 2013 at 2:29 pm

I’ve never understood why frumpy is religious either. I’m agreeing tho’ that you looked remarkably good in that homeschool sweatshirt and could have passed for a teen borrowing her Mom’s top.
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Amanda Fox (a.k.a. Fern DeVilliers) January 9, 2013 at 6:45 am

All I see here is one very proud momma. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that!
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Shannon Bradley-Colleary January 8, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Chloe — that huge t-shirt and hideous shorts only add to your feminine mystery. Like Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies.
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Carpool Goddess January 8, 2013 at 9:58 am

I went through a major frumpy stage after I had kids too. Baggy t-shirts, stirrup-pants. So ugly! Glad to see you’re totally rockin’ it now!


Shawna B January 8, 2013 at 9:37 am

Well, you SURE look amazing now. Everytime I see you I think that!

The 90s were a particularly dark age of fashion, and for anyone inclined to look “plobby”, there was plenty of bad fashion fodder. I was in highschool/college then, with a darling little figure, and my friends and I worn men’s shirts, horrible high-waisted, pleated pants with oversized oxford shirts, hippy skirts with belted t-shirts and Birkenstocks, empire-waist jumper dresses. Railroad style overalls? Wow.

I just watched You’ve Got Mail, and even cute little Meg Ryan wore high waisted pants that made her little bottom look like an elephant. Tragic, and totally unnecessary.

Hurray that the 90s are behind us.

So what’s my excuse now? I think my lack of fashion has more to do with logistics than faith. Lack of time to think about it. Lack of energy to lose about 30 lbs. Lack of days I actually leave the house!

But I take joy in know that my 40s and 50s can look better than my 30s. Hurray for that! I would love to look more pulled together, but it just doesn’t seem possible right now. There is a season for everything I suppose… 🙂


Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs January 7, 2013 at 6:47 pm

This one SO shocked me! Not what I expected at all. Yeah, it was a mistake to hide yourself in such a manner. I’m so happy to have met the non-dowdy version of you. Great post.
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Chloe Jeffreys January 7, 2013 at 8:25 pm

It seemed the thing to do at the time, Lisa. I was a true believer in feminine repression as a means to a godly legacy. I don’t think so anymore. I still believe, but my faith is in God, not in the size of my t-shirt.


Karen Austin January 7, 2013 at 5:28 pm

In every version, you are amazing! I am inspired by your zest for life and your willingness to take risks and speak your mind. Go, Chloe!
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Chloe Jeffreys January 7, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Hey Karen, thank you. I figure I better speak my mind before I lose it. You never know how long you have left.


D. A. Wolf January 7, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Damn, woman! You look great in that bathing suit on that beach! Why oh why were we all soooooo afraid of our naturally voluptuous bodies?

I would never have recognized you in the Frumpy Conservative Mom phase, by the way. You’re much more suited to greater self expression, hot shoes, and social commentary even when you’re not supposed to be social-commentating.

I love that about you.

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Chloe Jeffreys January 7, 2013 at 8:27 pm

You know all I saw when I was looking at that girl with her own eyes was my fat thighs and ALL that cellulite. Funny, I don’t see fat thighs and cellulite at all when I look at that picture now.


Joy Weese Moll January 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm

What a terrific history of late-20th century womanhood all written in clothes!
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Chloe Jeffreys January 7, 2013 at 8:28 pm

I suppose that’s what we all have is a history of womanhood written in our clothes. What a fantastic way to see it. I wish now I’d saved at least one article from each phase. Each piece would tell a story about our lives and the time we lived in, wouldn’t it?


Jane Gassner (@MidLifeBloggers) January 7, 2013 at 11:07 am

If I squint and cover one eye AND use my imagination, I can just see you in there.
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Chloe Jeffreys January 7, 2013 at 8:29 pm

I was hiding. Mostly from myself, I think. Thanks for reading, Jane.


Marci Rich January 7, 2013 at 10:48 am

Chloe, there’s always more to your writing than meets the eye. I love your digressions, and look forward to the posts they’ll be leading you to. I do think that our fashion choices mirror who we think we are at the time—or who we think we should be based on external markers. That said, of the posts I’ve read so far, everyone looks pretty terrific. Could it be that we’re seeing one another through the lens of what we’ve become?
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Chloe Jeffreys January 7, 2013 at 8:30 pm

I had no intention of making social commentary on this post. Sometimes a post just writes itself.

I agree that everyone looks terrific. And your theory on that is fascinating. I think you are definitely on to something there, Marci.


Donna Highfill January 7, 2013 at 10:31 am

Chloe – hilarious and honest and intriguing. Thanks for taking us on your fashion journey. I was born in 1960, and also had those mommy pictures. I didn’t home school purely as a protective measure for my kids, but I do remember those days where frumpy meant “good mom.” I love this – thank you!!


Chloe Jeffreys January 7, 2013 at 8:32 pm

There are some who might say that I shouldn’t have homeschooled either. But for good or for ill the deed is done, I’m afraid. I think many of us moms felt we had to subjugate ourselves for the sake of our children. I’m not sure I’d do it any differently if I had to do it all over again. I’m pretty happy with the way my kids turned out. I still think it was worth buying from the clearance rack at Ross if that’s what it took to raise the two terrific young adults I have today. But I do wish I hadn’t worn my hair quite so stiffly. That was terrible.


Helene January 7, 2013 at 10:21 am

Chloe, you totally rocked the frumpy look. Meaning you always look beautiful no matter what you wear.
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Brenda @ MyMidlifeProject January 7, 2013 at 9:36 am

This post makes me smile…. My frumpy decade was the 80s, but the photos are in the witness protection program. I echo what others have said — you’ve definitely improved with age, dear Chloe! Congrats on keeping it real…
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Laura Lee Carter aka the Midlife Crisis Queen January 7, 2013 at 7:08 am

Excellent summary of all of our self-image confusion in a nut-shell! “And the 70s were even worse. Those would be the years not just of poor self-image, but out and out self-loathing.”
Hit the nail on the head for ME!
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Ginger Kay January 7, 2013 at 7:06 am

Chloe, even frumped up you were beautiful. If your t-shirt didn’t proclaim you to be a mom, you’d have easily passed for a teenager, too. You look like you could be a member of the brat pack. The one who borrowed her mom’s t-shirt and wore it ironically, thus being decades ahead of the fashion trends.
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Connie McLeod January 7, 2013 at 5:58 am

Chloe, your sexiness was always shining through, even if you tried to hide it!!


Julie Danis January 7, 2013 at 5:11 am

I learn so many things about you with each post, Chloe – which is one of the names I wanted to name a daughter if I ever had one or two! Thank goodness I didn’t grow up next to a Tawny and thank goodness your fashion sense final showed its true fabulous self!


Lois January 6, 2013 at 11:03 pm

I don’t think I’ve ever read a piece that included both Tawny Kitaen and homeschooling. You are truly an original, Chloe, and I can’t wait to meet you in person! You are anything but dowdy! xo
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Sharon Greenthal (@sharongreenthal) January 6, 2013 at 9:35 pm

No way, that is NOT you, Chloe. That is a pale imitation of you. So glad you came around and found your true self again!
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Raquel @ Organized Island January 6, 2013 at 9:08 pm

I can relate. The 1990’s were me at my dowdy stage, the trying to keep up with the kids so I don’t have time for myself era. You went to school with Tawny Kitaen? She is still a pretty lady. I went to school with Brian Kaelin (aka Kato Kaelin)…no comment.
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Bonnie January 6, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Chloe, I don’t care what you think…you were certainly a cute little frump.
Love this post and your metamorphosis into those skinny jeans and hot new shoes.
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