I must win at everything I do. I’m a perfectionist. If I can’t win I get out of the game and play on my own. I know this is immature and silly but I must shield my eggshell-like self-esteem from the cruel world. Forgive me.

Due to this obsessive personality flaw, I must always dress out of fashion. Please, note this is not the same thing as not caring about fashion. Many of the computer science majors at my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon were experts at not caring about fashion. Mostly, this resulted in khakis, white sneakers and the kind of monogrammed polo shirts they give away at computer conferences like SIGRAPH. That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m not talking about dressing comfortably either. The person who dresses comfortably (unlike the person who does not care about fashion) has no regard for social norms. Comfort is supreme. This ratty, old, ultra-feminist grrl I knew was the expert in this. She wore these pants that were so loose that they only touched her body in two places. Her shoes were flat deep clogs filled with soft, soft padding. She yawned a lot. Somehow she was never hot or cold. That’s very nice, but that’s not what I’m talking about either.

Nor am I talking about dressing to shock. Gothic and Raver fashion is king of this today. Though, to be honest, I miss punk. Remember the punks? Oh that hair! Those holes! But, I digress. Dressing to shock is not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about dressing perfectly unfashionably.This requires a great deal of concentration and planning. The proper unfashionable outfit must cause an involuntary shudder in those I meet. Reactions include “I didn’t know people still wore those.” or “I would never wear that!” And, of course, it must not be too obvious what you're up to. Any two-bit punk can dress to shock. Horizontally striped stockings and cartoon print socks work every time. That’s too easy. To be truly unfashionable you must still be normal looking enough for people to feel awkward saying anything abou it. Oh, and it’s not easy. (One time I had on spats and it totally tipped the scale. People said "Are those spats!?" I had shown my cards. It was too much. You see, if your unfashionable outfit strays in to the realm of shocking you risk becoming inadvertently fashionable. Then you fail. It is a fine balance. It may take years before you perfect the art of dressing unfashionably. But, keep trying. If you need help just send me an email (susan@futurebird.com) I'll do my best to help.

Remember 1995? The hippest thing you could do then was look like you were from Colorado. A solid colour tee in a muted shade of blue, deep red, or grey (ideally made with natural berry dye or hemp cloth) a plaid flannel shirt in a matching colour scheme, lose jeans and hi-tech rubber sandals or Birkenstocks. (Accent with femo beads that matched the shirt, and a hand woven ankle bracket.) That was how everyone dressed-- or tried to dress-- most couldn’t hit the mark. Still, the degree of conformity was mind numbing. I remember, one day in an English class I decided to sit on the floor. Down there I could see the legs of all my classmates. All were covered in blue jeans the identical shade of blue. Everyone had on sandals or sneakers and there were only 3 brands! I tried to express my horror at this to my teacher after class, but he dismissed it as mere angst. I must still be angsty. I hate him. I hate them. I hate everyone.

I knew with my limited clothing budget it was hopeless. I could not lick the rigorous and specific standard set by my classmates. I could not compete in the realm of those who did not care about fashion because I did care. I could not dress comfortably because I thought it’d make me look soft. The extremes of goth an punk were right out for one raised by Baptist parents and too impoverished to buy piercings with my part time job money. So, at age 15 it hit me. Dress Perfectly Unfashionably. I figured that the least fashionable thing in the world had to be the clothes from the mid 1980s. The most unfashionable thing is always the clothing style from about 10-15 years ago. Cloths that make you think “they should know better by now” So I dug up my mother’s leg warmers and puff paint shirts, I cut the neck out of my sweat shirts and wore 4 pairs of leotards. No one saw it coming. Fashion is about fear, you see. It is a war costume to intimidate your enemies. The fashion mistakes I made were so blatant and persistent they could not be accidents. I had won at last! No. One. Could. Top. Me.

Of course, things have become more complicated recently. The grunge fashion has not died off completely so I can’t revert to it. the 60s 70s and 80s are all in revival stage. Nothing is horrible enough for me to wear! Until, just about a month ago, I hit upon it. Go back to the 1950s. Not the women’s clothes (to flagrant, remember it can’t be “easy”) but the men's clothes, specifically my new look which I call “the male cheerleader.” White on white saddle shoes and white creased pants, a vinyl belt with a pink stripe. A white blouse and a V neck in pastel yellow. No. One. Can. Mess. With. Me. Ha ha ha. I WIN!

Though as I type I’m doing research in to turn of the century boy’s clothing. Specifically, the outfits worn by paperboys. That will be my next move, since I have a feeling soon even the 1950s will be back in style. My life gets harder and harder by the decade.

Retro has made my life a living hell. It’s hard to be unfashionable.

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