Meshing the life of a past culture, that is decades behind the American culture, was a dance I led on a very fine line. If I overstepped I was swiftly reminded what a traditional Mexican Lady I am supposed to be. If I danced too slow my heart felt burdened with the strength it took to hold back the back flip I yearned to make. This was the dance I led for almost 40 years.
Growing up as first generation Mexican-American, I was opening the path for not only myself but for those behind me – cousins, nieces and my very own children. Every decision made was with uncertainty of what the result would be as there were no family members to help guide or inform me through most of it. My decisions were Great – GREAT Falls or GREAT Triumphs! Wincing from the memories and patting myself on the back at the same time. I miss being so young and unafraid on finding out what life had to offer… but one!
FASHION: refers to the style of clothing worn at a particular time. Clothing at its most basic is to keep us warm, but it serves many other functions. It needs to fit the customs and norms of society. It needs, for instance, to preserve decency.
Fashion was the most profound subject in my life that I faced with stress and awkwardness. I have always been Petite-Plus wearing a size 12 and a C-Cup by the end of elementary school. My parents bought clothes to cover every aspect of my early blossoming and in doing so reminded me how ashamed I should feel about my body. Add the non-existing fashion offered to the Plus Size community and even less so in lower income communities such as mine in East Los Angeles.
The years flowed by and my closet consisted of turtle necks, collared shirts and the 2 skirts I wore for church and Mariachi/Orchestra concerts. Each attempt to deviate from these choices resulted in to an eyebrow to eyebrow match with my parents and other family members. I was to be as “lady like” as they’ve taught me to be or else! The “else” resulted in negative comments of my not dressing “decently” and lectured me on how my curves were giving the wrong impression. Their extreme measure was simply “loosing” the pieces they didn’t like during the week’s wash.
I grew in to a very self-conscience young adult but somehow managed to date and marry. The house with the white picket fence with 2 children came to be the dream I neverthought I’d achieve. Sadly it too came with a price. My extended family and now Husband chimed in with the same ideals and “rules” that I am to continue to follow. They too were 1st Generation Mexican and were a bit more accepting of others, just not within the family.
Needless to say, our marriage didn’t work out. I was once again out in the world and this time it was decades since my first flight in to it. I felt even more alone and out of place than before with the voices ever present in the back of my mind still telling me what I should or shouldn’t wear. Only now I was supposed to be much older and wiser! I was 36 years old and did my best to find the strength of that young girl with eyes that shined with possibilities and dreams. It wasn’t easy and as I looked in to my own Daughter’s eyes I knew I had to do it for her if for no one else. I wanted to be the Mom that I never had filled with spirit of that little girl that was gone no more.
Each day was and continues to be a reach towards self-love and empowerment. Fashion became more than a “basic” necessity and my anthem in communicatingto the world how unique and present I am in this world of mixed cultures that intertwine the generations. I will no longer be hidden or ashamed and in its place here I stand with the brightest of colors and strength to over flow in to my children’s lives. Interestingly enough while out in the world I receive more cheers than jeers and all that my children see is how fun and full of life their money is even now at 42 years old.
Do you have a piece of clothing or fashion you were steered away from? Jump in to it and find out what you feel when wearing it. It can be just you alone in front of the mirror or out in the world at a new place that you can start a new page to your life. Wear your clothes… don’t let them wear you!