“Only You Could Pull That Off”

Why do I look like this? “Just Because” by Jane’s Addiction
Job 31:15  Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?   (Side note: Once upon a time I wrote a book called Good Girl’s Guide to Life After High school which devoted an entire chapter to this scripture and a religious perspective of ‘fashion’.  But that happened a lifetime ago.) 


Story and Pictures:

If I had a nickel for every time some one said “Only you could pull that off” to me I would swim like Scrooge McDuck in my piles of money.

Wth does that even mean?  It takes everything in my power not to whip back at them,

“So what you’re saying is, ‘Only you would be willing to look that insane.’ or did you mean ‘I cannot believe someone would put that on their body, I sure as hell wouldn’t’?” 

Any way you slice it, “Only You Could Pull That Off” is a backhanded compliment.  They’re not saying you look fabulous.  They’re acknowledging that you are dressed differently than how they would ever “dare” to dress because wearing what you’re wearing would make them feel like an idiot.  Hey Nor, what you’re wearing would make ME look like a freak, but because you ARE a freak it looks ok on you.

And around and around we go.

And to “Only You Could Pull That Off” I say, “Yep.  It’s called not caring what other people think about you.  You should totally try it some time.”


Fashion is a strange animal.  To me fashion is wearable modern art.  It’s mixing things together in an unexpected way that adds up into something artistic.  When I get dressed in the morning I do not get dressed for anyone other than myself.  I don’t dress for shock value.  I don’t dress for attention.  The only outside influence I DO consider is whether or not what I’m wearing will be perceived as disrespectful to whomever I might see.  Other than that, I wear whatever the hell I feel like wearing.

My particular aesthetic is influenced by punk culture, a little bit of goth, some avant gaurde stuffy stuff and function.  What I wear often reflects the way I’m feeling, as I think is the case for many of us.  My requirements are that I cover my shoulders to nearly my knees in accordance with my religious commitments.  It took a long time for me to figure out how to dress like “myself” using those parameters – I felt for a long time stifled and forced to dress in a more boring way, and I did that for a few years.  But it just didn’t take.  Normal doesn’t look normal on me.  It looks weird and kind of sad.

Take Lululemon, for example.  Those workout clothes are adorable.  Everybody who wears them looks great, almost great enough to not require getting dressed in real clothes at all.  Even the fattest ass looks great in Lulu.  So one day I trekked in there and bought myself head-to-toe adorable Lululemon.  I was so excited to put it on and rock it to kindergarten pickup.  As soon as I got it home I put it on and looked in the mirror.  I looked stupid.  I looked like I was “trying-to-and-can’t”.  I looked like a Lululemon poser.  Back to the store it went, then I took that $230 and bought a whole new wardrobe at my favorite thrift stores.  I don’t know why I felt so silly in that unequivocally attractive workout gear.  I threw on my black t-shirt, sparkly leggings and combat boots and was good to go.  Ahhh.  Normal.


Fashion formula for kinda boring.

Sometimes people ask me if my style is a result of my divorce, or an attempt at reinvention, or some way to obnoxiously prove myself.  It’s not.  I have always been fashion-weird and I’m kind of ambivalent about it.  I feel comfortable so I don’t really think about how it’s interpreted by others.  Occasionally when I’m out with my girl friends who dress adorably and more traditionally I am aware of looking different, but it doesn’t really matter.  The other day I wore exercisey-type clothes and a friend of mine stopped me and said, “I hardly recognized you!” 

I have discovered that when you dress off-center the general public makes assumptions about you and you have to be doubly on your toes.  For example, if my kid is doing something moderately questionable and a stranger’s judgment passes over their face it is invariably doubled when they see what I look like.  Like a parent who looks like me would OBVIOUSLY have little hellions for children.  That annoys me to no end.  At the same time I DO like it when I’m given opportunities to demonstrate that fashion is just a side note for me.  The other day when I was teaching the women’s class at my church I intro’d with explaining that my hair and style is just my theory of beauty and not a comment or rebellion against anything in particular.  When I look in the mirror it makes me happy to see colors and contrast, soft and punk, infantile and sophisticated.  That out of the way, I was able to get on with teaching without the distraction.  It’s just appearance, you know.  It doesn’t really matter.

The things I look at online and the fashion I’m drawn to in magazines inspire me, and not just in a “oh, she’s wearing mint, I shall buy something mint” kind of way.  I think we all get fashion ideas from other people or magazines, the ones I look at are just apparently different (not better or worse) from the ones most people consume.  The fashion choices I make make sense to me, to the aesthetic I appreciate.  If you look at my Pinterest style board you’ll see what catches my attention as interesting fashion choices.

Here are some inspirations and interpretations for your amusement.  Please bear in mind that I HATE posing for pictures and that the majority of these were taken by my five-year-old.  Explained in this way I hope that you kind of “get” my fashion choices.

tutu  +japanesegirls+image = image

It feels good to wear a tutu.  You should try it.


cottoncandy + image=image

Hoodie, cotton candy hair, black lipstick.

  imageimage =353

Do you have any idea how comfortable I am in this outfit?

buns+ image= 091

Gothic Game of Thrones meets Workaholics?  I say yes!

image+ zacposen+image =107and 167  

Beetlejuice meets Bitchin’ Barbie and Zac Posen.  Makes sense to me.

image+image =302

When I was in high school my dad brought me home a pair of Docs from London.  I had them for three days and then he accidentally THREW THEM AWAY.  I have never recovered and I cannot stop buying boots, mostly Docs.  And the leggings?  I originally called them my rocket pants but was corrected.  They are shuttle pants.


image +image= 129

Audrey Kitching inspired by Frida Khalo with teal blue hair.  Goes with the Sex Pistols shirt.  Perfecto.


image +image =096

There’s just something so easy about punk clothes.  The more you wear them the better they feel, wear them every day if you want.  Zero pretense. 

 image+image =image

Grungy pinkhairdon’tcare paired with ethereal material.  Reminds me of Courtney Love and grunge princess slip dresses. 

image +violet= image

Fluffy fur coat, little bit of sparkles, and romantic pastel colors.  And the Unabomber in the background.  (like that, Pet Name?)


And then just a few more things that I think about when I’m getting dressed.  If I had to sum up my taste in three pictures it would be these:



How much I want to be wearing each of these outfits.


Sandy.  Tell me about it, stud.


aaaaaaannnnd this Cotton Candy Monster.


Maybe I never grew out of tutus and sparkly things.  So what?  Fashion does not reflect character nor intelligence nor even class. 

So the next time somebody says to me, “Only you can pull that off” I think I might respond, “What does it take to pull something off?  Why don’t you have whatever that is?”


susie said...

I think I might have said to you "Only you could pull that off" meaning "Only you could look awesome in that" or "Only you could rock that look!"

Me trying to look fashionable is how you must have looked to yourself in lululemon clothing. I feel like a total poser. And then I take the clothing off and get into my faux-lululemon work out clothing and feel at home.

So while I wanted to color my hair blue thinking I'd look as awesome as Katie Perry...my best friend told me I probably shouldn't. I wouldn't have been a poser because what mother of a lot of kids does not need blue hair? And I would have done it and then realized...Katie can pull it off and look awesome whereas I looked too much like a freak. Seriously, there's a difference. So, I think your style is awesome! And I'm sorry that I am sure I said that to you.

anonymous said...

Yeah, that comment foes mean you look good in it and can keep it up every day. I would only have the hair and not outfits to match bc I don't do clothes, so I'd look scrub and couldn't pull it off. Or I'd only think of an outfit like that once a week and so I couldn't pull it off bc i wouldn't be consistent. I think that is what people mean. You are consistently good at making great outfits in a daily basis and have your style down.


Nortorious said...

Wrong and wrong. You have to start somewhere. Do the hair, wear normal clothes. You wouldn't look like a poser at all. Think how much better purple or blue hair would look tied up in a boring mom ponytail? It would make you feel happy. Also, I will give you both five dollars.

Flora said...

I own your book. It's great!

One Fish said...

How funny- I get that comment quite frequently as well but I've never perceived it as a backhanded compliment. It's always seemed like a straight up compliment to me.

Sheryl said...

Maybe from some people it is a back handed compliment, but on the flip side I think its also a great compliment. There is something called the "Burlap phenom" meaning a certain kind of girl could wear a burlap sack and still be the hottest chick in the room next to a girl who spent hours getting dolled up. I think people recognize that you have the burlap phenom going on-and not conforming is scary to some people and that's where it comes from. I have always wanted pink hair personally but am too much of a chicken so I just swap between blonde and brunette. Kudos to you for being you and looking hot at the same time :)

Shannan Deshazer said...

I think I'm a lot like you only on the opposite side of the spectrum. Here's what I mean by that. I have a fashion background and as you know am perusing design and fashion as a hobby right now. That being said, I completely and 100% understand your point of view and style. It makes me want to be friends with you. However, in my own sense of style, like you, I am very different from what the normal mommy wears. My style is refined preppy and I love it. It means I'm wearing dresses during the day, pearl-like necklaces, lots of jackets and shrunken blazers, pencil skirts, heals, and bright bright colors mixed together. This style is not the norm as I feel many moms wear jeans, tennis shoes with jeans (breaks y heart when I see that), fleece everything (I live in Portland,OR), and sad t shirts. How sad! Like you, I get lots of looks, lots of sideways glances assessing my look, evaluating who I am based on what I'm wearing to the park or preschool pickup. But I don't care - I've NEVER cared to wear what everyone else is wearing. I feel comfortable being refined and preppy. I can relate to you in that. But me in striped leggings? Ha!
I love that I'm comfortable enough in my own skin that I can encourage my daughter to wear whatever wacky combinations she wants and often I sew up what we can't find in the stores.
Fashion IS art!

Anonymous said...

Your style gives me permission to express my own style. I am more conservative, but I like that you dress so artistically. It makes me want to do more, in my own way.

Sarah Blue said...

I don't recall ever having said "Only you could pull that off". But I have thought along similar lines...but it isn't a judgment on a person's color/style choice. When I think it, I'm thinking body form. I'm a sewer. I look at people's fashion choices as it relates to their body style. Some people consistently choose clothes that don't flatter their figure just because that is the current style/trend. That is fine, IF that is what they truly like. I just feel bad when people are trying so hard to look like someone else and are basing their fashion choices on that instead of based on their own body and their own color/style preferences.

My original thought when I first read your post title was that someone had made that comment to you because you have a body that is flattered by your clothing choices and feel that their body would look not so flattered. It didn't occur to me that someone would make disparaging remarks about your color/style choices based merely on the color/style chosen. I laughed a bit when I read how people make snap decisions based on your dress. I get that too, but kind of opposite you. I'm in my early thirties and have always been drawn to what my dear Mother refers to as "Grandma" clothes. I like the old-style sweater vests, cardigans, pleated skirts. I also love to wear funky socks and Docs--but I prefer the Mary-Jane style to the boot. :)

It's interesting how people judge a person's personality based on that instead of on the person's ACTUAL personality. Personally, I love when people dress different. It is a treat for my eyes.

Sorry about the long comment. Just wanted to let you know that this "Grandma" dresser likes your punk style. It's pretty and does flatter your figure.

miss aubrey said...

I like the way you dress. I like too many styles. My taste is completely bipolar and I love everything. I agree with the fact that style has a lot to do with the artistic/visual influences you view. I feel like the more style I see, the more I love, and the less I know what to wear!

Anonymous said...

Nor, I can't do the hair color. My hair is too thin and falls out. I have almost no hair. Also, I know it would be awesome to care about looking cute each day and clothes and all that, but I just don't. And don't judge people like that, either, because we don't notice or judge other people for what they are wearing; it's a non-issue for us. I don't analyze people's clothes for good or bad, and I'm always really shocked when my friends make negative comments about what others are wearing because it does not even cross my mind. And, yes, I did wear black sweats to pick up A from preschool b/c I was watching four kids and doing yard word and my other pants were ALL dirty. Luckily he goes to school on a farm, so I think non of the other moms care.

The end.


Anonymous said...

Hey Nortorious, I just started reading your blog and I think you are awesome. I think your hair and clothing are fun and admire you for the courage it takes to be different especially surrounded in conservative suburbia. I think it is a complement that you are pulling it off because many people cannot and we have all seen what that looks like.

I am first generation outside the Mennonite church and had colored hair and wore what I could afford in my day. Now, not only am I too cheap and lazy to maintain it, but standing out came at too high a price. The judgements from not only family but everyone I encountered got tiring and wore on me. I also felt like I constantly had to prove myself to gain acceptance. I found that, like you stated, people do assume you are poor, uneducated, and maladjusted. I quickly learned I could not earn my degree that was based on subjective opinions if I stood out.
I then decided that I would be inconspicuous.I once saw this band play at the Cobalt in Vancouver, Canada. There was a guy in the crowd that totally stood out because he was wearing a suit and tie. It turned out was the singer of a Washington band. He started his set then proceeded to get punched in the face by the straight edger fan club. It then became business time requiring him to take off his suit jacket in order to wipe the blood all over his face, shirt, mic, and anyone near him. He was hot. There was something inspiring and interesting about being unexpected inconspicuous that drew me in.
No one would ever be the wiser. So I dyed my hair brown and bought cords. My tattoos will never be visible stereotyping me as being tattooed. Once a coworker saw them and said, "oh, I didn't think you were THAT kind of person." I asked what kind of person that was and got no response. I had a classmate later tell me that her image of me was a mild mannered hippy type. HA.
Now,sometimes I wonder if people find it as funny as I would seeing a lady wearing Lulu with a baby in the back of her Mercedes singing along to the Misfits. Then I think even though I think everyone should know who they are, no one currently in gridlock on highway 4 has ever heard them anyway so I am safe.
Wait... if one else was in on the secret... was/am I now inconspicuous, or, did I just become boring? Where is the line? Or it is possible that I just have a really poor sense of fashion and self? Because I have watched a lot of What Not to Wear, and I still don't know what to wear. But as Stacey and Clarke remind me, it really does matter what the image is you portray to people and how they view you 'cause I now have a hell o' a time finding friends with similar interests and world views. Hmm.

Nortorious said...

Sorry all other friends, anonymous is now my best friend.

Do you have a blog? I want to know more.

anonymous said...

I know, and a former Mennonite!!! Sold. I want to meet her for lunch. I don't think you can, though, bc she is a Benz girl and you are a BMW girl, unless you are not.


Anonymous said...

No blog. We Menos do not speak of private issues in a public format unless repenting in front of the congregation. As for the crucial matter regarding cars: Cat, I for one, would never reject a person based on their choice of make or model of vehicle! More important is the paint job, stereo settings, interior, tinting, and rimz.
I would consider meeting up to educate you further on the infinite value of inconspicuousness IF Nor could promise not to cramp my style by drawing too much attention to us due to her pink hair. Maybe you have some advice on the well guarded secret of an exciting yet family oriented Bay area neighborhood to move my family to. Am I dreaming?

Amanda said...

You make me want to dye my hair purple and wear sparkles on my sleeves! You are a walking work of art my dear. Keep on rockin it! Xo

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