Why I Stopped Dressing "Hot," And Started Dressing "Weird"

Photo by Charles Roussel.
Laura Ruof is a fashion and beauty blogger at Call To Style. She Instagrams at @Call_To_Style.

The first time I sensed that I had a weakness for the weird was in middle school, when I picked out a pair of platform Chuck Taylors at the mall with my family. The sole was three inches of black and white horizontal stripes, and the shoe itself was multi-colored vertical stripes. It fell miles outside of my normal uniform, but for whatever reason, I really really wanted them. My parents went along with me, but my brother wasn’t buying anything. “And you’re going to wear these, how?” he said in a doubtful tone. Then, as these things always go, I began questioning myself. “You’re going to wear these, really?” he asked me, again. I imagined the girls at school who might make fun of me for wearing them, in the same tone as my brother, and that (plus my glaring lack of self-confidence) led me to shut the whole thing down. I totally backed out. It was the first time I dipped my toe into weird waters, and I quickly yanked it back onto dry, normal clothed, land.

A few years later, I bought a very strange vest that had all different random strips of fabric and buttons hanging from it, which could have passed for Dolce & Gabbana. However, it could have also been a clown college uniform. Regardless, I knew it was weird, and I liked it because of that. I wore the shit out of that vest, and I was so proud of the fact that I was making strides with my fashion confidence. But then I discovered boys. In high school and college, I fell victim to peer pressure and trends. Every now and then I would graze out into the pasture of weirdness (usually in “funny” T-shirt form) before I quickly raced back to safer territory again.

In my 20s, I just wanted to look hot. Yes, I wore what I liked, and what I liked to wear were things the opposite sex would find attractive. I don’t think this is uncommon, but looking back, I’m not extremely proud that I dressed for other people. I hadn’t yet graduated to embracing my weirdness; in fact, at that point, I pretty much put it on ice. In my 30s, something really changed. I started accepting more and more that I was attracted to some pretty odd stuff. I cared less what men thought about how I looked, and learned that my own opinion was plenty. For the first time, I felt like I was actually expressing myself through my clothes. Additionally, I started writing for Refinery29 and on my own blog — which ignited my creativity, and really allowed me to learn and explore what was out there. I thought I had the weirds before, but once I really started getting deeper into the fashion industry, I realized I wasn’t even scratching the surface.

There are definitely stages for coming into your own when it comes to crazy fashion choices. I’m not Anna Dello Russo yet, and I’ll never be a Beckerman twin, but my weird factor is certainly growing, in pretty sure steps.
Photo by Charles Roussel.
Step 1: Shoes.
It’s easy to experiment with shoes because there’s so much out there, and a pair of loud shoes can completely change an otherwise muted outfit. Take exhibit one, my Sophia Webster blue banana platforms. With a strong silhouette, some height, color, and a fun pattern, they are exactly what I look for in a weird shoe. I also just like saying banana platforms.

Step 2: You start buying things that aren’t maybe possibly — how do I say this? — considered “flattering.”
Once that happens, your definition of flattering completely changes. For me, that meant getting away from always buying form-fitting things or “pretty” clothes. I started getting into menswear and oversized shapes, to the point where I can completely lose sight of what size I even am. I was recently in Billy Reid in Charleston, and tried to buy an oversized sweater two sizes too big. My friend who works there said, “It’s ALREADY oversized, Laura!” He handed me a more appropriate fit, and when I put it on, I realized he was right. (Important note: you may need to find friends who can rein you in if need be.)

Step 3: People recognize your weirds, and you like it.
For me, this started with Connie Wang at Refinery29. She really has seen my evolution since I first started working in fashion. A lover of “ugly” shoes, she’s the perfect person to recognize that my weird factor is still increasing. Outside of work, when I get stopped on the street wearing a large men’s coat, wild shoes, or an aggressive choker, it’s because someone appreciates the weirdness, and it’s the best feeling. In my 20s, I wore clothes that were sexy in order to get noticed. Now that I’m wearing clothes for myself, and if they happened to get noticed, I think it’s for a much more satisfying reason.

Step 4: The weirds roll on.
It’s all about discovering new things and experimenting. Some people find their personal style in a uniform-type look — a definable aesthetic. For me, it’s the unexpected crazy shoe, piece of jewelry, or item of clothing that makes an outfit of mine feel slightly off. It’s fun to wear and it’s fun to look at, and I think fashion should be fun. It doesn’t mean you give up looking chic or elegant if you don’t want to, but it’s all in the degree you want to take it to. One thing to remember is to build some basic foundation pieces into your wardrobe so you have clothes to work with. I look through my closet at times and find that I get overrun with the weird stuff, and need to maintain some level of normalcy to build a look. At this point in my evolution, even the most amazing banana platforms require some level of balance.
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Photo by Charles Roussel.
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