Thursday, December 20, 2012

Going Rogue

Gwen Stefani, late 90s
In my last post, I wrote about the maintenance and care of pink hair, but I realized I really want to talk more about the cultural implications of "alternative" beauty. (Another week, another crackpot feminist theory!)

I've been thinking lately about all the upkeep that is sold to us to be considered conventionally beautiful as a woman. Bikini waxes, gloss treatments, manicures, anti-aging treatments, etc. It's kind of exhausting just thinking about it, right? It's gotten me thinking that maybe the appeal of having an "unnatural" hair color is that you mentally put yourself outside of the rules of regular beauty. Maybe the message pink hair (or tattoos or piercings) sends is that you're not playing by the rules--so you can take your laser hair removal and shove it, okay? It's a liberating mindset.

You know those women's magazine articles that tell you the "top beauty don'ts" and stuff like that? As a younger woman, I remember reading on several occasions that it's an absolute crime to have a chipped manicure. I took it as gospel for a while, I suppose. But the day I realized that chipped nails aren't the end of the world, and can even look kind of cool (if you're into the whole grunge thing), it was kind of like a weight had been lifted.

The problem with this whole theory is that it's prone to backfire really, really quickly. Once you're considered an "alternative girl," you're sexualized in a whole new way. If you've ever had a dude on the street ask if you're a Suicide Girl, you know what I'm talking about. So while going rogue, beauty-wise, can be freeing--it definitely comes with its own set of issues. And it certainly doesn't make you oblivious or immune to regular beauty standards.

And even if you don't have pink hair or piercings, I think anyone reading this can relate in a way. Sewing your own clothes is the ultimate form of going rogue on the fashion and diet industries, I think. Making clothes to fit yourself (rather than making yourself fit clothes), is another way of going rogue. We can also stop being slaves to the trend-driven retail market and wear what we love--there are really no limits when you make it yourself.

Do you agree with all this? Do you see your sewing (or hair or whatever) as a form of rebellion against the status quo? Or is it naive to think that's even possible?

133 comments:

  1. I am all about the pink hair - love it!

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  2. Go Gertie! I remember a woman saying to me "women go all hater on their bodies if something doesn't fit, men just go to a tailor."

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  3. I very honestly do not care what anyone thinks of how I look. I look how I do to make myself happy. "Beauty standards"? You mean money makers and morality police? Screw 'em.

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  4. I don't know, you said pink hair is upkeep, and as I sit here with my chipped nail polish and blue hair, I don't feel very liberated. I feel guilt that I don't have time to do my nails, and guilt that the bleach on my hair wasn't perfectly even like Kelly Osbourne's. You said yourself you are going to have a salon do your hair from now on, just cuz its pink doesn't mean it is rebelling. You are still paying money to look good.

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    1. I think Gertie mainly meant going rogue against what is considered standard beauty, and redefining it to fit what you think of as beautiful. Looking the way you really want to look instead of trying to look like what you think is expected from you.

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  5. Please come talk to my daughter! She's 12 and getting the "rules" thrown at her from all directions. Sometimes my encouragemet to be unique isn't enough. The world needs more people like you!

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  6. Gertie, I'm a brand-new reader to your blog. I'm a craft sewer, and want to get into (or back into) sewing my own clothes. This thought really resonates with me, I think it's brilliant:

    "Sewing your own clothes is the ultimate form of going rogue on the fashion and diet industries, I think. Making clothes to fit yourself (rather than making yourself fit clothes), is another way of going rogue. We can also stop being slaves to the trend-driven retail market and wear what we love--there are really no limits when you make it yourself."

    Thank you for your post and your blog!

    Pattie

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  7. Sewing for myself was very liberating in a way that I realised off-the-rack clothing didn't fit me because there was something wrong with my body, it just didn't fit me because it was made for someone else.

    My clothing style has been described as a cross between a secretary, a small child and a slightly confused wizard, and I just honestly don't care anymore. I'm just really happy to have a wardrobe filled with prints and fabrics I love, made into garments that fit me. And tomorrow morning I'll pair my beautiful princess coat with my hand-knitted fox hat (including giant ears) and trot to school like it's nobody's business.

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    1. "I realised off-the-rack clothing didn't fit me because there was something wrong with my body, it just didn't fit me because it was made for someone else." Brilliant! I began sewing in earnest when I realized that it wasn't ever going to fit me properly. (Although we did have a nice period when everyone else wore massive shoulder pads and I just took them out and could find things fit. hahaha. My daughter, now almost 10, looks to have the same narrow backside and massive shoulders. So we have already begun sewing just a bit.) k.

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    2. "a cross between a secretary, a small child and a slightly confused wizard", That sounds awesome! I'd love to get some tips on how you create that style.

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    3. I also LOVE your style description. It sounds quirky, comfy and fun --- can't beat that with a stick!

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    4. Would you believe my style has been described in a very similar way? My boyfriend calls my aesthetic eccentric librarian wizard raver.

      I suspect in my case it's partly because I was a sarcastic baggy black shirt/tan cargo short/combat boots ONLY girl in high school, and now in college have decided to liberate myself from my own anti-establishment views and try something else now that I know how to sew. Having lots more fun.

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  8. Sewing IS a rebellion! I've never felt more confident than when I wear clothes I made to fit me. Some would say that confidence is the ultimate beauty secret. :)

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    1. Indeed, Jessica! I've been rebelling in this way since middle school :-). Keep it up, girl!

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  9. Gertie, I'm sure I'm way outside your usual demographic since I'm 60 years old, but I find your musings very interesting.

    Did you see wheere the new Miss Universe from Rhode Island called herself a "cellist-nerd". I was a glasses-wearing, violin-playing, competitive swimmer, straight A's nerd growing up and it was nothing like that!! All my clothes were hand-sewn by my Mother (who won blue ribbons at the county fair) because what else do you do with a 5'8" 105 lb teenager? I think there are a lot more alternatives now to what is "fashionable". I sew because it is a way to get what I really want (as opposed to what others say I can have) at an affordable price.

    I love your pink hair. It really suits you.

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    1. Wish there was "like" button on here like on Facebook.
      I really like this post....I am also outside your demographics a little :0)

      Living outside the norm is only different until a bunch of people do it. Then it is the norm again, at least for a group of people.

      I think it is most important to feel comfortable in your own skin and know when it is time to change the look of that skin. It is certainly way deeper than hair color and fashion.

      I, too, love your pink hair. It DOES suit you.

      No matter how outside the box I have ventured over the years....I plan to keep shaving my armpits. Just saying.

      :0)

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  10. It's a tough nut to crack, Gertie. I think I deviate from the "societal norm" line but then realize I'm just jumping over into another category's "safe zone" when I do. Women are sexualized and objectified in all our fringe groups. I think about my 14-yo dtr, who doesn't want to "dress like a girl" at all, no skirts, no tops except flannel shirts and t-shirts that are big and loose, no makeup or hairstyling, just a tight, low ponytail, and I wonder what the hell is happening to her out there in the world. Why the total rejection of herself as female? Why the complete abandonment of anything feminine? It just seems so sad to me, that society's reactions to femininity are enough to convince her it's not worth expressing in herself. So no, I don't think there is an escape. Even in her flannels and jeans, my dtr is still a girl, and treated thus.

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    1. I was a teenager in the mid nineties, and we all dressed like that, so to this day I'm not sure if it was grunge or comfort. I had a plaid long sleeved shirt tied around my waist for my entire grade nine year, my buttcape, I called it, and I never did a thing with my hair except hide behind it. I came out of my shell more when I was sixteen and stopped carrying what anyone thought, which felt a whole lot better. I will saythough, that without paying too much attention to the world of beauty that I felt there was something wrong with the way my body looked...and I was and still am 110-115 pounds, and I can appreciate my figure now. I think maybe all of us being as shy as we were about bodies meant we only saw them in magazines, and ourselves through our distorted eye. being thirteen, fourteen and fifteen I think are the hardest ages for girls, and I had a lot of negative input from my older brother. trying to make yourself pretty when you don't know you are feels like you are trying, which means you are vulnerable. she could have no interest in being feminine, but I suspect you would have noticed that when she was little, too, so maybe she just needs some encouragement, maybe she will grow out of it. I hope so as it felt much better for me, but if that's who she is and she's happy, you can celebrate it!

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    2. Jenn,
      What really matters is your acceptance of her as she is. (And is not.). If she has that, she will eventually grow into her own version of feminine, whatever it is. My style has changed so many times since that age I don't have enough fingers. Sometimes it was grunge, sometimes it was dresses, sometimes it was suits, and other times it was straight-up comfort!

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    3. I was also a teen in the mid-nineties, and dressed grunge. (baggy jeans, plaid shirts, pajama shirts like Kurt Cobain, cardigans, hair over my face, etc). Looking back, I think it was a convenient excuse to NOT be girly. I also refused to wear dresses. But I do think it was because I didn't get my self-worth FROM myself. I measured myself against Seventeen Magazine, and my tall slender friends, who all complained THEY were fat. I was just lucky there was a fashion style to go along with my feelings. Encourage your daughter in her hobbies, and the things she likes to do. I think then, no matter her style, she will have self-worth, which is the most important thing.

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    4. I was also a 90s teen and totally embraced grunge style. But maybe I'm alone in this: I LOVED the mismatched, crazy aesthetic. TO this day, I love to mix prints and textures, and I still love the boho-hippie aesthetic and the long lines of a 70s silhouette. I always found it interesting and, additionally, I *LOVED* that everyone could "play along" if they wanted. Grunge is the most democratic of all aesthetics: hit up an estate sale or a thrift store, and you can join the fun for pennies. I've always loved this about grunge - it is the antithesis of elitist fashion.

      On the topic of skirts and femininity: I never wanted to wear skirts or dresses as a child or a teen, because I was always running around, playing frisbee or working in the theatre's catwalks, or climbing trees with my friends, and I was modest and didn't want to flash anyone. *shrug* Maybe your daughter is just discovering some joy in being a tomboy? I wouldn't say I was denying my femininity, just defining the parameters that I was comfortable with. Though I prefer skirts and dresses for my professional dressing now, when I come home, it's right back into the jeans and slouchy, comfortable clothes that still make me feel more comfortably myself: they keep me warm and I feel like I can do things in them and not worry about damaging something precious. Maybe your daughter is just discovering her adult life and defining her own parameters of her femininity!

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    5. Jenn, sounds like your daughter is lucky to have such an understanding mom! Forcing her to wear a dress isn't going to change her current view, but it is sure to piss her off! You are giving her the space to grow into her own version of feminine beauty. In her own way, she is expressing herself!

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  11. I am definitely in agreement. In high school, during a dress rehearsal for a musical, one of the (cool) older boys looked at me in all my pancaked glory and said, "You look good. You should wear makeup all the time." It horrified me, and I felt pressure to follow his suggestion... for a minute. My skin is very sensitive to most makeup (like, blotch city - so attractive!) so I don't wear much, if at all. Plus, I bike to work, and I'm fair & freckly, so sunscreen is way more important than a "flawless" makeup mask. BB cream is my great compromise (only SPF 30 will do) but I still don't wear it all the time.

    I, too, have always loved making clothes to fit me and my own style. I tend to wear the garments I make much longer than any I buy - and that's the way it should be!

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    1. god yes! I have dark circles under my eyes, and have had them since forever. I could easily hide them with make-up, but being someone who even forgets to put on mascara on most days I just know it would be a special occasion thing, making me feel bad about myself when I'm not using it instead of fine with the circles as I am now. So yeah, I get loads of comments on them, but they are part of the face I'm used to and I don't mind them anymore.

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  12. I'm wouldn't say that I'm deliberately rebelling against the rules so much as I just don't care about them. My hair is purple, and I touch it up when I feel like it, which can mean months between dye jobs. I only wear makeup for weddings and Halloween. I've never had a mani/pedi (one of my friends reacted like that was the worst thing ever). And eyebrow waxing? Pfft. What's wrong with the shape of my eyebrows? I don't care if other people do any or all of the above, and I don't care if they don't.

    Some people act like this is rebellion. Numerous people have called me brave. It's just being my pierced, dyed, tattooed self.

    As for the sewing aspect, that is also not rebellion for me so much as being weirdly shaped. Of course, the clothes I make usually are Halloween-themed, which I guess is rebellious in the sense that, once again, I don't care what people think about what I do. Like it or not, it doesn't bother me.

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  13. At heart, I am punk and death rocker with psychobilly tendancies who now designs relatively mainstream clothing but sews retro pieces and collects vintage clothing. I write a fashion blog from this point of view that has a mostly-mainstream readership so I have quite a lot to say on the matter but I'll do my best to keep this short.

    Firstly, thanks in part to the internet making everything so accessible but mostly due to the last decade of fashion designers pushing subculture style elements onto mainstream people, the definition of "alternative" is swiftly changing.

    The first time I dyed my hair pink, I was nineteen and, back then (in 1999), it was considered different. Now, with all due respect to you and your gorgeous hair, it doesn't have the same implications at all. Elderly women sometimes scooted away from me when I sat down on the subway because of my hair colour, piercings (they're all out now), studded jackets and skull and crossbones tights. Now I can go into any bargain basement shop and pick up something with skulls on it and everyone and their dog has studded boots and jackets.

    For more on how I feel about that, you can check out the piece I wrote on the subject:

    http://montrealstylefashionandsewing.blogspot.ca/2012/11/no-such-thing-as-punk-fad-effects-of_12.html

    So, now that the "rogue" is almost no more, with bright coloured hair becoming mainstream, subculture style being pillaged by people who can't name one actual punk band and more and more people sewing for themselves, whether it be due to the economy, an anti-capitalistic approach or because they are inspired by people like you, it all comes down to how you fine tune your look and make it your own and, as Jessica mentions above, about having the confidence to not care about what others think.

    S'my two cents. :-)

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    1. Rosemary H - your article articulates everything I've been complaining about for the last 10 years or so. I remember how annoyed I was when they started selling Ramones tshirts in TopShop...

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    2. Yup. It's exactly that type of thing that started happening and it's all kind of gone downhill since...

      Along the same vein, I'm bound to write about how people shouldn't wear band t-shirts if they only know one song (usually the one that plays at hockey games or in a commercial). I'm not going to open that can of worms here, though. Ha.

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    3. This! I remember thrifting my clothes to match my mohawk in the 80's; now I look quite 'normal' --whatever THAT means. It's interesting to see the subculture become 'mall fashion' and what was Mod in the 60s being sold at Penny's because of Mad Men. There is nothing new under the sun... but confidence and self-Love are always beautiful and in fashion!

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    4. Yeah yeah.... "You ain't hardcore 'cause you spike your hair / When a jock still lives inside your head".
      Around 2000 I was at a ska concert, with youngsters jumping around looking like you just described yourself Rosemary. I thought I just had gone back in time. What kept it contemporary were the piercings. There were no piercings in my teens, during the early 1980s, except for the multiple ear piercings.
      My first reaction was: pah, look at them, doing still this look we had so many years before, how unoriginal. Been there, done that, even bought the t-shirt (also made them, but there were ready-mades then also).
      And then I shook my head about myself. The ego, always thinks of the better of itself. Assuming to be authentic when others are not?

      Let Gertie do her personal hair journey, though I think I prefer the brown hair. :-)

      But sewing your own clothes as an act of rebellion? Going rogue sitting behind a serger? You must be kidding me!

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    5. What is also funny, is that you talk about going pink as rebelious and alternative in 1999, when my sister went purple in 1991... I guess it was not all that new then either.

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  14. I didn't know "Suicide Girls" were still around. I was asked if I was one eight years ago. Honestly, unnatural hair color is considered normal these days, and I don't think it's really that daring to do. Well, taking the leap to dye your whole head of hair a new color you've never tried before (unnatural or natural) is very daring. For example, there are Pinterest pages by the thousands of people pinning and talking about the beauty of blue, pink, and purple hair. I think you look great, and I think it was brave to make such a bold leap. I don't think you are doing anything that is a "fashion don't" these days, though.

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    1. I think this depends greatly of the context the person lives in. In a more fashion-forward environment, in a big city, things like brightly colored hair are more easily accepted (or at least ignored).
      If she were, let's say, a lawyer or an elementary school teacher, or if she lived in a small town, pressure over her because of fashion choices would be much greater. Of course is better than 20, 30 years ago, but I don't see people being that acceptant yet...

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  15. The way I see it, I sew because I like it. It's fun, I'm good at it, and I like having well-made clothes that fit perfectly, that weren't made in a sweatshop (though to be honest, I couldn't tell you if my fabric was produced ethically...). I dye my hair redhead-red now, and blue or purple when I was in college, because I like/liked the color, and it looks good on me. I'm a vegetarian, because that's the word that describes the way I like to eat.

    I'm endlessly surprised by the strong reactions they engender from people who see them as a personal affront. Especially with the vegetarian thing -- people can take that fact really personally, when it's not directed at them at all. Like I'm standing in judgment of them, when I'm just eating dinner.

    With hair color, so many people commented on my blue hair, almost always positively. But I was always amazed that strangers even *had* such strong opinions about my hair color! Most people were like, hey, I like that! That's pleasant and unexpected, good for you for going for it! But some, I guess, saw it as transgressive and, like the food thing, interpreted it through their own lenses, maybe took it a bit personally and said something along the lines of the Suicide Girl thing. Which is fine! All of these reactions are valid reactions -- but it's strange to be on the receiving end of so many of them.

    When it comes up that I sewed the dress I'm wearing (or whatever), people often commiserate about how tough it is to find clothes that are well made and flattering, that fit in all the right places, that are ethically made, and sometimes, they lament the fact that many of these "traditional" skills are less well-known than they used to be. These reactions strike me as very similar to what most people say when the vegetarian thing comes up -- oh, yeah, I'm almost a vegetarian, too, I only really eat chicken these days, and not all the time, at that.

    Again -- all totally valid and fun reactions -- but sometimes, they seems to come from a place of insecurity, like they're responding to a feeling of being judged, like they need to justify their maintenance of the status quo to me. For most people, it's a conversation starter, or a surprise, or an ice breaker, and it comes from a place of curiosity or wanting to make a connection. Some people see it as a threat to their values, or they expect to have to defend themselves in one way or another.

    But I guess the way I see it, is I just do the stuff that I like. Of course, I exist in the world, so this isn't, like, a totally pure thing, but it's a guiding principal, an ideal. There's this concept that if you put, say, three digital cameras in front of a person, each with more features (and a higher pricetag) than the last, most people will pick the middle one or the most expensive, feature-heavy one (depending on how it's framed). But if you look at their needs on paper, the cheapest one would have been just fine. As a consumer, as a creative person, as a person just moving through the world, I try to be mindful of this bias and to make choices based on what I actually need, based on my values and likes and preferences and moods, and not just in relation to the other options. Otherwise, I end up with too many fancy-ass digital cameras that I don't need. You know?

    Same thing for this -- I like to sew. I don't think of it as a rebellion, or "actions against." I acknowledge that having blue hair is super weird, and that it can be defined as "not having natural hair," so it's gonna draw attention in a way that my normal mousey dirty blonde wouldn't (but that my dyed natural-red does, when that comes up). It's going to challenge people sometimes, just by existing. So I just try to make sure that I come from a place of, "this is what I like," and not, "I'm rebelling! I'm opting out!"

    So, I guess I unexpectedly just went into my philosophy on life. Sorry about that!

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    1. I love that way of summing it up. "I'm rebelling/opting out" is too much of a fight. "This is what I like" is so much simpler!

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    2. can I like this post? judgement is the name of the game right up to me judging others for being judgemental. society on the defensive, probably from being told an endless stream of how to be..

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    4. Hey, this is a brilliant comment and I want to say thank you. You explained a dynamic that I could not get my head around. Gold stars for you.

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  16. I do like the notion of fitting our clothes to our bodies rather than the other way around. That is rather striking in our current world. k.

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  17. I think every woman should feel confident in her appearance whether she prefers a simple classic wardrobe or something more out of the box like full on vintage. At the same time, a lot of these counter-fashion-culture genres have their own set of rules and pressures. A couple months ago, I chopped my hair off into a pixie even though it's not very vintage. I pushed off the cut for a long time because one of the unspoken rules of vintage (especially 40s) is to have long pretty pin curled hair. It's been very freeing and I still rock 40s and 50s looks but I also allow myself to wear more modern styles too when I feel like it.

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    1. Yes, it's interesting how those "unspoken rules" of vintage have developed, isn't it? I was at a vintage store with a friend of mine recently and she sighed, saying, "Oh, I really wish XX was here. She really knows how to wear vintage." All you have to do is pick out what you like!

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    2. Audrey Hepburn had a pixie cut, so you're still retro. : )

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  18. I love the idea of "going rogue" (as I sit here with badly, badly chipped blue nails... the blue hair was too much work to upkeep, though, with the bleaching and re-application.) I actually find I pay a bit more attention to "trends" now that I'm sewing my own clothes, lest I wake up and be REALLY far off the beaten path... I think you're right, though. Sewing *allows* us to opt out, whereas there isn't even that option if you don't sew. (Yes, you can seek out alternative styles, but it's always going to be a style decided by someone else.)

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    1. So absolutely agree with this - you've articulated exactly what I wanted to say too :-)

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  19. Well, I think there's a distinction between "upkeep" and "alternative beauty." I had brightly colored hair for years and returned to good ol' brown about five years ago because the constant bleaching, reapplying dye, etc., go too tiring. I'm not a high-maintenance gal, generally. That being said, I decided to return to magenta last week because I was bored and can echo what Rosemary said above. I used to get comments all the time -- now I hardly get a second glance. Granted, I'm in L.A., but still -- my hair isn't the big deal it used to be.

    Sewing for me can be an expression of personal style -- or, since I'm so damn slow at it, it can be a way to put off having nice clothes (ie, why buy that skirt when I know it would be so easy to make?) The "not caring what other people think" can be a trap for me -- as someone who has fought depression for many years, I know that my saying "f**k it" about my appearance too much can be a sign of the black dogs circling. Caring about my appearance is good for me, and girly stuff can be fun -- but on the other hand, I admire Einstein's solution of wearing the same outfit every day so he didn't have to clog his brain with that decision. I couldn't do it, but I admire it.

    I certainly didn't bring any clarity to this discussion. It's a complicated topic, Gertie!

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    1. Yes....yes you did. "The black dogs circling".
      I like that phrasing. Thanks. I needed to read your post.

      I have a conservative friend that always wears black trousers, suspenders, and black shoes with a simple button shirt. (long sleeve or short depending on the weather). He throws on a black jacket when meetings are formal and a tie if needed.
      He told me one time, "all my clothes work".
      Darn it, he nailed it.

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  20. Oh Gertie, I do love it when you go crackpot feminist.

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  21. I love your hair, Gertie, but I must disagree. I think those who are praised as "alternative beauties" still fit the dominant mold of what our society deems worthy and attractive--young, slim white women. While my "weirdness" is one my most cherished personality traits, I try to recognize these superficialities for what they are. I don't think it's a feminist victory when, let's say, Haley from Paramore--cute, young white singer with to dire for Crayola orange hair--is on a magazine cover. Despite the "alt" way she choose to decorate hersekf, she still is supporting/benefitting from decidedly anti-feminist, western notions of beauty.

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    1. I largely agree, but alternative beauty is by definition superficial. To be alternative/to break out of the mold of normal beauty standards leaves a lot of people behind by that definition.

      I hope that someday we can get to a point where all forms of beauty are celebrated, but in the mean time, can I break out of the existing mold while still being white and slim?

      There's not really a whole lot I can do about my skin color or body type. No matter how hard my mind rejects anti-feminist, western notions of beauty, those dang old melatonin and metabolism adjusters just won't kick in. ;)

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    2. I have to agree with Anonymous, Gertie. Don't get me wrong -- I adore your new hair and your overall style! But it's not "going rogue" or rejecting Western standards of beauty -- it's just going in a slightly more offbeat direction, which is great and cool.

      To really look at issues of rejecting standards of superficial beauty, revisit the story of Balpreet Kaur, the bearded Sikh woman who was mocked on Reddit and responded beautifully about her faith and why it teaches her not to alter her appearance. It's really pretty amazing, and I know I couldn't "go rogue" in the way she has.
      http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourcommunity/2012/09/bearded-sikh-woman-teaches-reddit-a-lesson.html

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    3. Totally agreed with Anonymous and Frenesi -thank you both for being so articulate so that I don't have to be.

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  22. Regardless of what color, length or style my hair is or what type of make up I choose to wear there is still a certain amount of upkeep necessary in order to look put together. Do I appear to dress unconventional? I suppose so. Do I look sloppy and unkempt? no.

    So no matter how I present myself to the world I will always be judged in some way. That's just the way it is.

    I like to wear what makes me happy and comfortable. I'll look good to some, bad to others. What really matters to me is what I see looking back at me from the mirror.

    The secret is not to obsess.

    ~Sewjourner

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  23. Outward appearance and alternative beauty can mean varied things. For many, sewing is a way to show that they know who they are, what they want and how to get it. For others, it is just another way to conform to a fringe group while emphasizing that no one understands them or what they need.

    Regardless of what you wear or change on your body, you still have to come to terms with your self and enjoy who you are at any given moment. To me that is expressed through attitude and behavior rather than a style. I feel women are judged for this confidence more than they will ever be for what they wear or how they look. Our culture is based on exploiting women's insecurities (insert very long feminist rant) and it can upset people when they no longer have that power over you.

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  24. Can we wait until tomorrow to talk about what is and isn't the end of the world? Not sure what the Mayans have to say about chipped manicures... ;)

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  25. I don't see sewing/crafting my own wardrobe/decor/hair as rebellion, but confirmation that I know what's best for me. Some multi-national, big business, mass media set of photos or words don't. I also agree with 'anonymous'. In order to consider oneself 'alt', you need to be comparing yourself to what is considered 'normal' or 'appropriate'. I don't consider myself either, but 'is' (as in 'I am').

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  26. I colored my hair pink for my 40th birthday last April. I loved it! However, it is not the mainstream trend like the long, wavy brunette or blonde tresses you see in ANY form of fashion media. So yes, it is a bit rebellious. I sew my own clothes. I like knowing that what I am wearing is different than anything anyone else is wearing. I can sense the disapproval of those I talk to who know I am bucking the trend of wearing the same things as everyone else. Love going rogue and proud to do it. Your hair is beautiful and this post is honest and excellent!!! Way to go.

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  27. Hell yes my sewing is me going rogue! I'm big - really big - and there are very few clothing stores that make clothes I like in my size. Although the tides are slowly turning, for so long I've felt like the plus size collections are an afterthought to 'main' collections, and that society wants me to cover my body in a tent. Sewing means I have total control over my wardrobe. In theory, I can wear anything I want because I can sew it. I am not restricted to what the fashion industry decides I can wear. In practise, I am intermediate level, so sewing my own ball gown is a little ambitious right now.. but not forever!

    As for those awful magazines and their beauty rules... as a teen I was horrified that no one had told me I had to exfoliate, cleanse, tone, moisturise, face pack, mani-pedi, tan, whiten etc. I was consumed with anxiety about keeping up a beauty routine. I have way more time on my hands since I stopped reading those magazines and stopped holding myself hostage from what the beauty industry says I "must do". Just imagine all the things we could do if we freed ourselves from the tyranny of the "beauty regime"!

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  28. I think of sewing,drafting my own patterns,weaving, knitting, and spinning my own yarn as freeing myself from the tyranny of commercialism. Yes, until I get that flock of sheep I'll still have to buy my raw materials--and I do love me a good fabric store or yarn shop--but the more I can do myself without depending on others, the better. It's also a way of looking and acting exactly the way I want to. Everyone should do the same, within their own personal boundaries and tastes. I have prematurely gray hair--perhaps not as notable as your lovely pink hair--but fully as freeing to the psyche. Be who you are, people! Long live creativity!

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  29. Long-time lurker, de-lurking because this is dear to my heart.

    Does it seem to anyone else that pattern models are often more diverse in looks than couture or RTW fashion models? I think about this a lot. Not sure why it is, but it's encouraging in a way.

    Yes! I feel freer when I make my own clothes. It's absolutely transcendent for me. I get a rush of excitement when I wield this power over the eating disorder and depression I've fought since my tweens. I wouldn't say sewing has helped me recover so much as it's shown me I'm capable of recovery.

    When I measure and trace out my body on pattern paper, it's just a body. Not a series of deviations from The Perfect; just a body. Just as idiosyncratic as everyone's and just as acceptable. And I'm not hiding from it, I'm examining it and decorating it in whatever way I please (social pressure notwithstanding).

    For me, sewing is brave and defiant.

    Thanks, comrades, for sharing your stories!

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    1. I think pattern models are women who are considered more "catalog" than high fashion. While even though they are pretty and slim, they are a bit more pedestrian.

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  30. "Free your mind, and the rest will follow." Fashion related media is a surprisingly easy bully to conquer. Put it down. Turn it off. Walk away. Choose self confidence. Make your own standard of beauty, revel in what you truly are, please yourself, and to hell with the rest. Life is too short to spend it fretting that you don't fit a mold. Who wants to do that anyway?

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  31. Yes, very much so! Sewing my own clothes mean I get to decide what I think looks good on me, and feels right, rather than having to settle for whatever the Powers That Be have decided is in style this season.
    Incidentally, you might be amused by, and relate to, Emilie Autumn's "Thank god I'm pretty"; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1E4UPJ7P9do

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  32. I feel that I'm going off the "fashionable" path simply by not dyeing my hair these days, I'm going grey gracefully (and early), my nails are sometimes done and sometimes not and I wear what I like. I have a lot of clothing I've made myself, some I bought ages ago in sales after it was no longer fashionable. Luckily I have no interest in fashion, just clothes that fit well and make me feel good, that's when I'm not slobbing in workout gear!

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  33. I was so inspired by Gwen in the 90's! (High school for me) I had neon orange hair and wore high waisted grandpa trousers I'd buy from the thrift store.

    I spent all of high school coming up with the most uncool style of clothing I could think of (oversized 80's lapeless jackets, for example) and wearing only that from the thrift store. Until it would somehow catch on, and then I would have to find something else to wear. I usually feel kind of embarrassed looking back on it, but reading this made me realize I was just trying to avoid having people put me in a box based on what I was wearing.

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  34. I am not interested in following trends. I tend to wear what fits my personal style and brings out my best points. I think it's fun to wear something a little different than everyone else, something with a little flair, artsy or edgy. Maybe that's my rebellion.

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  35. Like Rachelle, I am going grey naturally which is so opposite of what everyone else is doing. Everyone else I know dyes their hair at the first sign of a grey strand. Because of that I stand out. I get a lot of compliments. Lately I have been exploring more with accessories: jewelry, belts, scarves, etc., to make an outfit my own.

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    1. LOVE this! I think gray/silver hair is so lovely. I'm streaky brown/gray now in my early 40s and haven't dyed my hair in ages --I've EARNED every one of these gray hairs and wear them like the badges of Honor that they are.

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  36. Hair colors like pink or blue used to be completely out of the mainstream. They are still unusual choices, but not as unusual as they once were. In the same way, it used to be completely unusual, shocking even, for a woman to color her hair, but now it's so mainstream that it's expected. I'm thinking the most rebellious hair color possible is to let one's hair go naturally grey. I'm 31, so I only have streaks of grey, but already feeling the pressure from some well-meaning friends and family to cover it up. I suppose I could always change my mind on this, but for now, I'm planning to rebel and let my natural hair color make me unique. Not that I would hold it against another woman if she wants to choose another color for her own hair. I've done pink, it was fun, it just isn't for me anymore.

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    1. I recongnise that 'pressure from well meaning friends and family' thing, so far have managed to ignore it although my hair is now increasingly grey at the top and I am very dark haired. My sister dyes her hair and I look at her hair with envy sometimes but the I realise how much it has changed texture since she began to dye it. Luckily my hairdresser has grey hair too, and as a vintage stylist her hair looks amazing and I just copy what she does! I say go ahead and take the grey to the max, concentrate instead on condition and styling and if your are like me spend the money you save on hair dye on hats!

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    2. I love that idea. Hats are awesome!

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  37. I totally agree with you. People make assumptions about who you are when you have alternative hair, piercings or tattoos and know you are a rogue or rebel. I have tattoos and didn't get them till I was 45. The whole world changed its attitude towards me. Funny because I did it for myself not anyone else. Sewing your own clothes adds the final element of not forcing yourself to fit into preconceived ideas of who women are. I love sewing and my tattoos and I am happy to be different to what a middle aged woman is supposed to be.

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  38. From the age of 11 I wore mostly hand-me-downs as we had no money. Necessity however, soon became a virtue as at the age of 14 I discovered jumbles sales, then sewing, then the newly emerging vintage scene. As a mixed race teen growing up in an very white town I had never had confidence in my own image, I discovered I could change that by dressing up for little cost and being different, but deliberately. The ultimate form of this sartorial therapy must be sewing your own clothes. I feel alive and more 'in charge' in something I made than otherwise.

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  39. Well I'm a lurker, and way older too.
    Back in the day, 1970's HS, I discovered home ec class. Been sewing ever since. I was into vintage then also. I can't tell you how many times I was sent to the principals office for my attire.
    In grade school I remember routinely being crowded into the gym with all the other girls, being told to kneel and having our dress length checked. I was always in trouble for that! I was tall and skinny, the other kids called me spider legs.
    I never was one to follow the rules, even today at 60, I still do it my way.

    So you rock on girl, tats and all!

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  40. I remember once at a shop when I asked for my size, the answer was "women don't go that size here". That's ok - I won't go to that shop, but everywhere else, because that was my initiation to the wonderful world of sewing!

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  41. Gertie, what a great post, again! I haven't read the comments yet and am impatient to do so as I bet they're good, but I wanted to put in my 2 cents worth before I get distracted! Which is: by far my favourite thing about sewing my own clothes (even though I sew far from all of them) is that I can completely switch off thinking about conforming or not to fashion/beauty trends and expectations, and more or less have done. What's ironic is that I do feel like I look 'better' in terms of what's seen as beautiful or stylish since I did that,and I think about fashion (in terms of clothing and the shape/style/structure it has) more than ever before. But I think it's just that I'm so happy to be wearing clothes I made that I know suit me, and by the way, yes I MADE them!

    Thanks so much for yet another refreshing, stimulating post!

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  42. Oh, yes, I've known for some time that one of the main reasons I sew is to get off the fashion treadmill. If a current style is horrific on me, I don't have to buy it and wear it; I can pull a 20-year old pattern out of my stash and make something that makes me smile, even if it looks oddly out of date.

    I just wish I could do that with shoes...

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    1. (and I will admit...when I saw the title, my brain read 'rouge' with a long oo and soft 'g'...took me a minute to realize I had the wrong word in mind...)

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  43. Why rebel at all? If it's you, whether that be tattoos, pink hair or unchipped manicures, you can feel at peace with it and "just be your unique self". Rebelling and conforming out of "fear" are just two sides of the same coin, and far from being really free in your self-expression. It's hard to stay feeling so free when the pressures are on, but just see that as one of life's lessons. :-)

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    1. "Rebelling and conforming out of "fear" are just two sides of the same coin, and far from being really free in your self-expression."

      Spot on.

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  44. Hey Gertie. Thanks for the though provoking post about beauty, social norms/expectations, sewing etc. My main motivation for sewing is that I can make what I want to wear rather than trying to find what I want in the shops, and secondarily I want to go for a look that is unique to me (hence also why I love thrift stores). I have to agree that its interesting the reactions that you get when you decide to do/wear/be something outside of the norm. I'm an archaeologist (so no nail painting for me as my nails are generally just caked in dirt), but I have found it interesting the way that my (male) colleagues i think generally see me as desexualised (i know not really a word, but hopefully you get the gist), until I put on my normal going out clothes and suddenly you become a 'girl' again. I don't know that this relates exactly to your post (as I've gotten caught up in a lot of ideas surrounding you main point), but I think you will get my point i hope? I think what I find most disappointing about women choosing to follow their own path rather than the societal path set for us, is that so many other women then try to cut them down. I (re)realised this again when Julia Gillard was elected as the first female priminister in Australia, and the amazing array of nasty newspaper articles by both men and women about her hair, her fashion, her choice not to be married, the fact that her partner is a hair dresser (etc etc) - many facts that are almost completely irrelevant to her political opinions and views.
    I think that your pink hair is awesome, and I think that its great when you can come to your own realisation that your own view is what matters first when it comes to your appearance etc. thanks!

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  45. I love what you're saying here. I am super low-mantenance. I've got a tomboy style but I just embrace it. I've never listened to the beauty 'rules' (though I often wish someone had taught me how to do my hair, make up, etc for the times that I *do* want to get done up). Sometimes I feel like I don't look very alternative so people just think I'm a mess. That being said, I'm comfortable with how I look and I don't care what people really think.

    I LOVE that making my own clothes puts me off of the grid. It's such an awesome feeling like I'm really making my own fashion rules.

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  46. 5th Avenue may define some Manhattanites, but it doesn't really define us all. The trick is, feel confident. Then you will look good.

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  47. For me, personally, it's the complete opposite. In contrast to seemingly pretty much everyone, a big part of why I enjoy sewing is because I like having interesting, fitted, lovely and SEXY clothes in which I will be attractive to men. (Personally, I would be pretty pleased if a guy thought I was a Suicide Girl.) So in terms of abandoning the beauty standard, that's definitely not what I'm doing when I sew - even if my fashion sense is a bit different, my whole purpose is still looking good.
    While I dislike the oppressive, pervasive emphasis on female beauty in our culture, I feel that appreciation of beauty and the desire to beautify oneself are understandable and not something I have to completely reject in a reactive way, especially since that would mean limiting the romantic/sexual opportunities that give me so much pleasure in this life.

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  48. I dyed and highlighted my hair auburn/red for a bit in highschool but stopped for many years until I took the plunge and dyed my hair purple about a year ago. It was really liberating in that I was dying my hair because I wanted to try something fun (but not permanent like a tattoo) instead of not liking my natural hair and wanting to "correct" it.

    Unfortunately the purple only lasted about a month because it faded badly and was really high maintenance. I'm still glad I tried it out, though.

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  49. yes to feeling like a fashion rogue because I sew, but no to the other idea- about whether there is much difference between pink hair or other types of grooming.
    As a kid I used to read National Geographic a lot, and see pictures of people with stretched out earlobes, stretched necks, bound feet, a red dot on the forehead. Early on, I decided that they were just doing their thing and when I got my ears pierced or shaved my legs, I was doing my cultural thing. Even labelling my choices as "conventional" is a construct. I have just as much right to my mascara as my SIL has to her tattoo-covered back. We all have our own sense of what is conventional to us. Does that make sense? Worrying about how it stacks up with other people seems myopic - just get some National Geographics and let them blow your mind. hee hee.

    Now as far as sewing and feeling rogue - omg yes I DO feel like I get to dress in a way that would be completely impossible without my skills. And it makes me feel like I am pulling one over on the establishment!
    Hail Slow Fashion!

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  50. I find it refreshing to see someone go against the stylistic norms, even when that someone is me. My hair has been three dozen different colors, most unnatural, and my favorite eras for clothing are the 40's and 50's, and a bit of the 80's. I also love skulls like you wouldn't believe, and tend to find a way to work them into my outfits whether its with a fabric choice or a paid or earrings I crafted myself.

    Take society's brainwashed beauty ideas and shove them! Follow your own ideas of what's cool, beautiful, and fun.

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  51. I'm in my 40s and have slowly started growing out my natural grey hair with the help of my hairdresser. I have realized that I'm going to face reactions. For a middle aged woman this is the ultimate going rouge, we are supposed to look like young girls forever.

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  52. I think going rogue is a bit contrived nowadays. Being truly rogue is doing what YOU want to do instead of what ANY 'groupthink' clique deems their normal. I don't feel the need to prove who I am or what I think by my external appearance. I am quite conservative on the outside (one earring in each ear, no tattoos, no wild hair etc) but my musical tastes, gender thoughts and life ideals etc (like not chasing the dollar) is contrary to this external visage.

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  53. I completely agree with you! Before I had my two babies in four years, I never thought about making my own clothing. I used to be a professional goldsmith, so my creative energy was dedicated to that work. Now that my body has changed so much after having kids, I've found that the quality of clothing that I can afford is terribly made, and the things that DO fit well are out of my price range. Still, I never would have considered making my own clothing until I discovered Katwise on Etsy. Her sweater coats really spoke to me! They are so creative, fun and free.....I realized that I could buy my own machine and get sewing. I don't have to try to put on boring jeans and jersey tops like every other person out there. And besides, if I make my clothes fit me properly, I don't have to invest in super-strength spanx-style undergarments! Now, I've made myself five or so dresses using crazy vintage fabric I've bought on Ebay. I would never find clothes that look like what I'm making in a store. Looking so different feels rebellious and strangely cheerful. Since I'm a stay at home Mom, it's not like I'll get fired from my banking job. I've also made several quilts and curtains, stuffed christmas ornaments....learning to sew and being inspired by another fabric artist (Katwise) has literally change everything. I love seeing your blog and the amazing way you are able to complete very complex patterns; things way above my ability at the moment. But, who knows, if I keep at it, learning from experience could see me through the rest of my life. It's wonderful to feel so in control!!!

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  54. I think that I share some of that sense of freedom from the fashion police, although I don't sew yet, and my hair is a pretty regular brown- I cover my hair and have fairly significant religious modesty considerations. I'm not going to fit in, so there's less pretty to try. On the other hand, when I am in culturally similar situations- say, at certain synagogues or festive occasions, or in certain parts of town, suddenly the pressure reappears and surprises me, because I'm not so used to it. But there's less sexualization, at least of any sort that people are willing to voice out loud. (But I do wonder some of what they think, while they're not saying anything...)

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  55. I love how sewing lets me opt out of the mass produced, cheaply made items I see in the stores. Also I find that I don't like anything in the shops, my style is in my view quite normal with a nod to the 50s at times. The fabrics in the stores seem to sell garments made of cheap fabrics, poorly made and of course never fit my 5'2" curves. I love that my wardrobe is different and that no-one has exactly what I have. I guess I may be rebelling a little bit against the establishment :)

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  56. Gertie! I adore your pink hair! It's so fantastic! I was a purplehead for ages - Special Effects Deep Purple <3

    Your post is great. I hate all this nonsense about 'conventional' beauty and how you have to 'maintain' your look..blah...blah! It's one of the many reasons I do not read fashion magazines.

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  57. Dear Gertie,

    I totally agree with that kind of thinking – I would like to add something else to the thought of sewing my own clothes means I’m going rogue.
    Not only that I can wear what I love, I can choose what fabric I like. And what I don’t like is all that kind of “plastic stuff” available in the shops and stores. Sewing my own clothes offers me a wide range of materials I can choose from.

    So far, I assume, everything is said by everyone else so I wish you and your family a fantastic Christmas.

    Cheers
    Ulrike

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  58. Hi Gertie
    I have spent years and years going my own way with things but underneath feeling inadequate that I wasn't living up to all those 'Dos and Donts'. Last year, however, following a burglary in my house that left me feeling really vulnerable for months, I managed to throw off those feelings so I now accept myself and my style and don't even consider all those lists and magazines and adverts. I know this probably sounds quite pathetic but the first thing I did was to buy myself a floral pair of Dr Marten boots which I wear with skirts and dresses as well as leggings etc. It felt like a weight was removed. Now I can walk past all the advertising and hype and just not care. Lily. xxx

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  59. Totalmente de acuerdo contigo. Tienes razón y la comparto. Yo tambien coso mi ropa para que sea "mi ropa".

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  60. I never looked at sewing my own clothes as being rogue. I make my clothes because I want clothes to fit and I like the quality and workmanship. I can make what I want to wear and I won't see myself walking down the street.

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    1. For me, sewing is a " creative necessity". I love every aspect of sewing a garment and know that whatever I sew is made to my personal specifications and quality standards. Sewing is also a great stress reliever as studies have shown! Maybe the only drawback to sewing is that when I do see something in a store that I like, I decide that I could make it and have it be a better quality and don't buy it!

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  61. Gertie, thank you for talking about this subject. As a woman with purple hair and no make-up I am the epitome of going rogue on the whole beauty thing. I also make my own clothes and love the idea that I am making clothes to fit my body not the other way around. It is very liberating to no have the pressure to confirm. I literally get to be me every day!

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  62. I think, as women it's very hard getting out of social beauty because since a very ancient time we've been objectified. It's even more if you are a heterosexual women because every aspect of society is more or less sexist and that the society is still mostly based on the heterosexual model. So women are in sort of competion for men and in every “beauty” magazine it's all for perpetuatin this concept. But what could be really a rebellion against this expectation we all have towards women is not listening all those opinons about “woman's beauty” and creating our own “self beauty” how we want it, how we feel it, how we choose it, for ourselves and not all women.
    I think sewing can be a part of that, making his own clothes the one we choose with the colors, the fabric, the pattern... we should extends this to a lot of beauty tips, hair, make up or not. What makes us loving and enjoying ourselves first.

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  63. Hi! This is just a friendly, well intended reminder about the necessity of intersectionality in your feminism...I agree with your words about how not fitting oneself into the mold of what is seen as "conventional beauty" is liberating, whether by dying ones hair a vivid hue, getting beautiful (and visible) tattoos, or eschewing the normal standards of physical beauty by being whatever size or shape ones body wants to be, etc. But I think it is also important to note here that there are a lot of people of color, specifically in this country, who don't have to DO anything to fit outside of this standard because they are seen as existing outside of the normal realm of beauty simply by having darker skin, or natural, curly/kinky/locked hair. So for many women, ignoring the ideals of "beauty" that have been set in today's society is not a choice, or a way to rebel, or a way to find freedom in their womanhood- it is just the way they are born. I think it is important for both of these women to exist on the same plane of this feminist mindset; the white woman who actively participates in NOT fitting into the beauty mold, and the woman of color who could not fit into the mold perfectly even if she tried. Both of them have a similar fight, but it is not the same. I think it is important to pay attention to the nuances of each of these individuals, not least of which because not all your followers are white or even female like you. It is a privilege to be able to make a decision about how you want to be perceived by the general public, and this isn't a privilege denied just to women of color, but also denied to disabled and trans women and men, and probably a few others that I am unfortunately not even thinking about!
    That said, I thoroughly enjoy your blog and have learned so much from your book- I am a big fan and share your name and work with all my fellow sewing enthusiasts :)
    In solidarity and support,
    Jasika Nicole

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  64. I've dyed my hair every colour of the rainbow and never, ever felt rebellious. I did it because I liked the colour!

    When I dyed my hair unnatural colours, I was actually buying more into consumer culture and spending more time on my appearance- now I had to buy bleach AND dye and maintain the colour against fading and damage. I would love to have bright hair, but I just can't deal with the upkeep and the fact that these products contain chemicals that are harmful to human health and the environment.

    I actually feel rebellious now that I am choosing to let my natural colour grow out. I'm in my late 20's and my hair is going white. Every ad wants me to "fight the signs of aging!" and run to the drugstore or salon every 4-6 weeks for a touch-up. I refuse!

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  65. Rebbelion has been seen as yet another market to make money bij companies.

    Just do as you please and what ever makes you feel good .
    That is a a pretty dresse with all the make up one day and the next its a pair of slacks .

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  66. i am so glad to see your comments. my big rebellion was in the 1980's when i refused to wear clothes made with gigantic shoulder pads--i thought they were hideous and still do.

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  67. Gertie!! I TOTALLY feel you on this, girl! Men do seem to base a lot of assumptions with 'alternative' looking women, don't they? I have always experimented with bright, funky hair colors, and am tattooed/pierced as well. The assumption was always that I was a 'party girl' or i was 'kinky' because of my hair, tattoos, and vintage-style clothing. None of this bothered me until recently when I've been looking to settle down -- All the sturdy, nice men don't seem to around as often as the creeps do :( But nobody is going to make me change who I am and what my style is; a decent man isn't going to look at me and make those silly assumptions, and if someone can't take me for everything I am - knitting/sewing/baking/grandma-ish tattooed lady that I may be - then they sure as hell don't deserve a second look from me!

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  68. Or... you could just look like an idiot who is too old for this shit.

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    1. and you could just look like an old hag from your nasty attitude.

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  69. Everything about me is a rebellion against the status quo. First it became so much a part of my nature that it ceased to be much of a rebellion. I didn't own anything normal, so going with the flow meant continuing to be a freak. Then I live in an oakland bubble where there are so many odd people, and genderqueer people, that I almost fit in. I'm one of the weirdest still, but not the weirdest, and there are people who actually understand me on a deep level. I am so lucky. Not only does no one I know tell me I'm fat, that my tits are hanging out, or that nothing matches, but most people don't tell me how to live my life. On the other hand, strangers on the street seem to harass me more than anyone I know, no matter if I'm dressed high femme or just normal (for me).

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  70. My husband proudly describes my style as geriatric toddler- and it definitley is a response to the regimentation of my work field. I trid dyeing my hair pink about 5 years ago and was politely informd that I had 48 hours to return to a 'traditional color' and a copy of policy traped to my monitor. Rock the pink for those of us that can't!!!

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  71. Hey.
    For some people clothes are just functional, for many,particularly women, they are deeply tied to societal body image issues. However, I think what this discussion is missing is the concept of clothing as art. This extends to hair color and other forms of body adornment. Gertie, you appear to be a highly visual, artistic person. I think you enjoy creating visual beauty, and use yourself as a canvas for expression. Your art, as good art does, has the effect of stirring up issues of tradition, beauty, and societal norms. It is also open to multiple interpretations.

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  72. I've been quietly against-the-mainstream-for-femininity for a while now, basically since I left my all-girls high school. By 20, I had friends telling me they liked my style. I lost it a bit for a while and did the society-expects-this-of-you regime for a while, and I'm back to whatever-I-want-to-be. I could do more for my own style, which is something I'm (again) quietly working on. Thanks for posting about this Gertie :)

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  73. Amen! I think sewing circumvent a whole host of social conventions in an often times non-confrontational way and that suits me just fine. So, be it pink hair or homemade kids clothes, it is all escaping some expectation of society for what is acceptable....because acceptable is defined by the forces that are looking to make a buck!

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  74. I was a pioneer in the body-piercing movement in our city (Toronto) back in the day (early 90s) and I completely lost interest in it after it went mainstream and every little bimbo was having her navel done. Sure I made good money, but it no longer interested me, and I eventually dumped the "hole business". I guess you could say "hoist with one's own petard!" And I am an even more radical rebel: I don't dye my hair at all! Knowing what I do about the state of the world's drinking water (bad) I decided I couldn't justify the waste and pollution of this precious resource for my own vanity.

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  75. This is kinda why I started sewing clothes, it has done wonders for my body image. I think it would be so very important to teach sewing to girls in school, so they grow up knowing an alternative to standing in a shop and feeling awful because non of the clothes won't fit well and look good on their non-standard body. The concept of making clothes fit your body rather than make your body fit the clothes should be something we fight for. Awesome topic to bring to people's attention, you rock Gretchen!

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  76. I definitely see where you're coming from. I wore my hair in a mohawk style for a bit, with the sides shaved to the skin. I suppose I was making a statement, but I wasn't sexualized. No one asked me if I was a Suicide Girl. (I'm not thin, so that probably has a lot to do with it.) In fact, I was on a dating site with my profile picture being one with my hawk, and I did not get a lot of responses. I'm told (by the guy who did respond and I'm still dating) that I was a little intimidating. After hearing that, I realized that that was a message I wanted to send. It's sort of a barrier. I want(ed) to be *slightly* unapproachable.

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  77. G ~ thanks for continuing the conversation about beauty/anti-beauty. Years ago I decided to let my graying hair be gray ~ and was routinely criticized by family and friends. I've never bowed down to fashion ~ I make clothes that I like. They fit and they are comfortable. Isn't that all I need

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  78. Spot on, Gertie! I'm 65 and fed up with the pressure to dye my hair to cover the grey so I just said "stuff it" and couldn't be happier with the result. I've always made my own clothes and love to be different so when everyone is all decolletage and mini skirts I would go all Victorian and vice versa. I know what you mean though about what people (read men) who assign a set of behaviour to how you're dressed - sometimes it's hilarious but mostly objectionable.

    Keep up the good work. Hope you have a wonderful festive season and a brilliant 2013.

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  79. I have what I think is a very simple beauty concept. Whatever I wear I want it to flatter naturally. I don't want it to distract anyone from who I am 'inside' as a person because I want to be known. I want someone to notice the way I love nature or my intelligence - not my cleavage, my makeup, or some crazy fashion. What I wear, what I do with my hair should not compete with people seeing 'me'. I like the idea of sexy as an intriguing undertone – like a slight whiff of perfume. One of the things that I love about sewing is that I can make something exactly the way I want it - my taste - my style. I'm not rebelling, I'm just using it as a vehicle to express my individuality and my creativity. That’s what I think style is about. I think that conforming to any mold allows one to blend in and feel accepted which can be pleasant superficially. And outrageous expression - while fun for a while, can be distracting – like graffiti on a beautiful structure. I am not my clothes, my hair, or my makeup. What is loved about me is who I am on the inside. I think the choices I make should be an expression of self-love. Without self-esteem fashion/style can become a parody.

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  80. Interesting opinions. I never thought about sewing as 'rogue' for me it is just fun and creative - but then I am lucky that I can usually express myself in RTW clothing with my own personal twist.

    I have more of a marketing perspective on this. If you are projecting the image you want to project in accordance with your current life goals, and you're fine with whatever response you get, then you are successful.

    However, I think trying to go too far outside the norm for your overall life choices/goals can be defeating. What visual image do you expect when you first meet your new financial advisor? Is it the same as your hairdresser? Probably not.

    As much as we say we wish it were otherwise, it IS helpful that there are boxes to put people in. How do we enjoy 'going rogue' if there are no fashion 'looks' or age/gender expectations? Presenting an image is communication. Theater is the perfect example of this. Dressing 'in character' as it were.

    Like Kristel said, for many people, using the current mold and conforming is easy and pleasant. Developing a unique personal style is a lot more effort. Using the Current Look with a few personalized accessories is much easier.

    I think a lot of people 'go rogue' without really thinking about what they are communicating to others, then are upset by the reactions they get. If you know your job won't allow certain things, well, unless you've got a better one lined up, it may be best for a while to choose a more job-acceptable way to express yourself while you look for a better fit. We all make choices.

    We are lucky that we have so many choices.

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  81. Like many, I guess my penchant for making things is a form of rebellion. I do confess that a certain amount of pleasure is taken from possessing things that are one-of-a-kind. Especially, things I design and make myself. I’m a naturally shy person and having someone recognize the amount of work I’ve put into a project is just more comfortable for me.

    As for body image, I don’t imagine there is a single person who has never been criticized for their appearance. Most often, we do hear of people being singled out for weighing too much, but the word “too” is put in front of a lot of descriptive words; too skinny; too tall; too short and even “too pretty”. For those of you who think that last one is a joke, I wish it was. The Iowa Supreme court recently upheld a lower court decision that the firing of a dental hygienist, because she was “too pretty”, wasn’t discrimination. Because of her looks, her boss felt he was in danger of having an affair with her, despite the fact she never indicated a willingness to participate. However, his wife felt threatened and insisted a ten-year employee be let go. This is just speculation on my part, but it seems to me there were issues in that marriage the principals just weren’t willing to address honestly, and their employee was caught in the middle. Firing her was easier than dealing with their real problems, whatever they were, and shame on the courts for condoning it. Whatever happened to self-control, or being responsible for our own thoughts or actions?

    For those of you who are struggling with appearance and meaningful relationships, don’t lose hope. Especially for heterosexuals, it does seem that men have a habit of objectifying women. They are easily attracted to someone who likes drawing attention to certain body parts, but for those males who have actually developed some maturity, they move beyond that rather quickly. Despite what the “beauty” industry tries to tell society, most men just don’t understand why women spend so much time and money on those products and services. (Unless they’re gay or metro sexual.) While they may compliment us when we’re all dolled up, their preference is for naked, in all its forms. My husband prefers not to be kissed after I apply lip balm, and while he does appreciate sexy outfits, they’re just special occasion “gift wrap” to him. (His end goal is always naked, regardless of how the package is wrapped. Far be it from me to worry about his low standards. Takes the pressure off me.) My daughters have had male friends that expressed a dislike for various lip products and makeup in general. They didn’t care for the taste or feel of said products. It was kind of a mood killer for them.

    In the end, I’m always of the opinion, that as long as you aren’t harming someone, do what suits you. Just like everyone else I do struggle not to pass judgment on others whose standards of appearance are not the same as mine. I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t truly know those people. I don’t have any patience for those who use their religious beliefs and ideas of conformity as an excuse to be nasty to others. Relationships are a very personal thing, and that includes the relationship (or non-relationship) we have with the deity of our choosing.

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  82. There are so many wonderful and insightful comments regarding Gertie's question. My desire to have a non-conventional look (vintage)is more about wanting to look modest and feminine rather than to rebel. Sadly a lot of conventional women don't seem to grasp the concept that not everyone wants to look like "the plastics" from "Mean Girls". Be it pink hair or a pillbox hat, if you look different than most you will garner attention simply by not conforming to what everyone else is doing.

    Ultimately we have to ask ourselves why we feel a particular style suits us and what about it that resonates with us as women. Embrace that which makes you feel like yourself, be it ultra feminine or tomboyish and love yourself through the many changes your style will take over the course of your lifetime. In my experience it is just as much work "going rogue" as it is "living on the beauty grid" and have found through my own personal journey that any type of look takes work. The rougue girl who chooses to look Scene, Goth, or vintage goes through as much of a beauty routine as the mainstream girls/women who pour over glossy European fashion magazines and shop at the mall. We really never truly escape the trappings of a beauty routine unless we simply roll out of bed and get dressed in the first thing we pull off a hanger, or in some cases what is lying about on the floor. Fortunately I'm at a place in my life where I truly do not care about other people's opinions of me, but for all of the right reasons. When I was younger my attitude was a bit "in your face" if someone made a dispariging remark about my look; today I simply smile and shake my head. Women can be our own worst enemies when it comes to putting one another down.

    Sewing my own clothing gives me so much more freedom than simply buying off the rack. Vintage clothing isn't always easy to find for the modern figure (those gals were TINY!)and sewing a vintage pattern gives me the ability to have the same look without forever pining that my curves rarely fit into those vintage confections! I can make it in several different fabrics and have a killer dress that relatively no woman in my city will be seen wearing. My look is always either pure vintage, vintage inspired, vintage reproduction or a mix of all three. It takes just as much or more work to pull off an "all 40's, all the time" look as it does to look like a cookie cutter girl in the mall. Whereas the conventional gal is shampooing, blow drying and the flat ironing her hair I am having to either pin curl or roller set mine so there is no time saved. They spend hours at the mall, we spend hours online researching or at fabric stores looking for just the right textile. Be it rogue or Paris runway women will always do what we do.........xoxox

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  83. Sure, atypical hair is a form of rebellion. I had long hair my whole life apart from a brief bob stint in High School. A few years ago, i went to get a pixie cut. even the receptionist at the salon made a big deal, asking me twice if I was really ready for such a big difference. When the stylist started cutting away she mentioned she was afraid I'd cry. I was indirectly annoyed at the statement. why would i cry about something i just asked you to do? it seemed a stupid thing to cry about a haircut i specifically requested. the cut looked so awesome that other patrons got up to admire it as i was on my way out. admittedly, i did it to shock people. i wanted to fall outside the box i was known to inhabit and it worked.

    and sewing is totally a form of rebellion. i know i started learning because i was hearing too many, "oh, but you don't see skirts/jackets/etc. like THAT anymore." why not? sewing is my way of making things exist that were previously unattainable, there's no better rebellion than creativity :)

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  84. As far as beauty and the rules goes, I don't think I'm overzealous about following the latest trends. I'm of the opinion that rebelling for the sake of rebelling, these days, amounts to little more than going from one group to another--simply because, practically speaking, given the vast population currently inhabiting our planet, the probability that I'm the only person thinking a certain thought or making a certain choice at any given moment is EXTREMELY low--thus, any choice I make is likely to have company sooner or later, whether the choice be my hair color, decisions to wax or not to wax, or opt for flip flops vs. sling backs. So, I'm not the only woman who ever coloured her hair violet red with bright atomic red highlights, but to me, that doesn't matter. I didn't coloured my hair red because I was thinking about what other people would be thinking, though I figured some might make a comment one way or another: I coloured my hair red because I like the colour red and I really, really wanted to. To me, being me is less and less about reacting to a culture or making a statement or making a fuss than it is about finding the best word to fit my thought. I do not find rebellion to be an attractive goal for defining my life, because then I'm constrained to define myself by what I'm not. Sometimes there's nothing wrong with the status quo, just as there's no need to invent a wheel because it's been done well enough already. Ultimately for me, beauty is like writing poetry or composing music: there are rules for form and metre and rhyme that are to be followed and which sometimes cause me frustration because it can be difficult to find a combination of elements that satisfy both structural requirements and the artistic idea or emotion I am attempting to express. But after patient (and not-so-patient!) toil, I find that it is those very structural demands that provide a foundation for even stronger, more powerful, more beautiful results which demanded more of my creativity and ingenuity than I might have thought possible. It is the very restrictions that can inspire greater creative heights than unfettered freedom, because without the boundaries of form, there would be no need of ingenuity or creativity to find THE word, tone, harmonic voicing, that takes me from words to meaning and from melody to music. The form, the structure is not my enemy, neither is it my master, but my means. I'm not rebelling, or rebelling against rebelling... I'm acknowledging the existence of the spectrum and hoping to stay off of and out of the way of the pendulum swings along a continuum of thought.

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  85. P.S. I think we'd save money if we wanted our jeans to look fresh and our faces distressed, than our faces fresh and our jeans distressed. :-)

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  86. Great post. I love the idea of women being authentic or unconventional, although IMO there is a line not to be crossed into the "freak showish specitical" type of persona. I know it's not a big deal, but I got my nose pierced last January at the age of 34. It felt like a big deal to me. I think its my way of saying I'll do as a please. (Finger fipped) It took me 15 years to get the courage not to care about others opinions.

    I say, the more authentic you are the better! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so keep on rocking that pink hair if it feels good to you. :)

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  87. I find your questiong really interesting. To rebel agaisnt the maintream via tattoos, piercing, hair colouring, is just a positioning of the self as someone different and special, not out of the system, but part of it. We are simply identifying our tribe or the cultural icons we identify with, all of them part of the system and guided by the same rules. I recomend(Heaths and Potter's) The Rebell Sell, where the authors explain this question very clearly.

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  88. Dear Gertie - I've been rebelling against the expected norm all my life, more than 66 years. For certain people, it's the only way you can be. As long as you're true to yourself, you're doing great. Enjoy your pink hair and your individuality. Dana

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  89. wow obviously you have gotten lots of comments on this post! I am older, 50, but I love reading your posts, and I enjoy my sewing and seeing what others are doing. I just wanted to share with you, that I've shared your blog with my youngest daughter (13) on her facebook --- she wants to do her hair blue --- and I think she has talked her dad into it as personality statement no different then makeup or clothing styles. She loves looking at tats & piercings that she wants in the future, she is an awesome kid, good grades, with a deep belief in God --- I think it funny how others might view her different though just because of hair color, or being different in her expression of herself! Thanks for being an awesome example that being different visually is okay!

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  90. I love all this out of the box fashion, all the handmade. So many unique styles, it's got me interested in dressing up again. (I'm 53)
    I have to say though, it takes time, thoughtfulness and money! I love the coloured hair trend. It does remind me though of the flappers going, on mass to get their hair chopped. Some things don't change. Are woman are beauty obsessed?

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  91. I would have to say I have an "alternative" beauty. I don't shave my pits or legs and will even wear clothing that shows that. I shave my head. I don't wear makeup or nail polish. I just have never understood why it's expected for women to do those things when it's not open for men.

    That doesn't mean that I think that no one should alter their appearance. My son loves to wear dresses, makeup, and nail polish. It's a wonderful way he expresses himself.

    I guess that's the crux of it. I feel everyone, regardless of sex or gender, should be able to wear and to the things that express their personality. And screw society!

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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