I love clothes. Shopping is one of my great joys and coming home with bags of items I have tried on, loved, and purchased makes me feel like a new woman. When I feel like I’m in a rut and not taking the best care of myself, I go out for an afternoon and find some clothes that make me feel like a babe. Instant pick-me-up.
On a recent trip to the mall with some of my extended family, I let my grandmother, mom, and aunts know I was heading out of Macy’s to look around in Forever 21.
“What do you need from there?” one of them asked.
Clothes? Just going to buy some clothes at a clothing store.
Cue the looks.
I am 31 years old. I have two children. I drive a minivan.
And I will shop at Forever 21 until I am cold and in the ground, buried in cute, cheap shit I bought there.
When I was in high school, my friends and I all shopped at Forever 21. We would spend afternoons trying on trendy, fun clothes together. Grabbing a new outfit before going out. And as we got older, one by one, my friends stopped shopping there. But not me.
The sign says Forever 21, not “Be Young For A Predetermined Length Of Time.” Not “You’re Still Pretty Young But Because You Are A Woman You Are Now Old Garbage.” Not “I’m Sure Someone Will Serve You At Talbot’s, Ma’am.” It says Forever 21, thank you very much.
So, I am 31 years old. I have two children. And I drive a minivan. I will buy my clothes wherever I damn well please.
It’s odd to me that it is assumed women must go through seasons of dress in our lifetime. Just because I have hit my thirties, why must my entire wardrobe change? I like crop tops. I like jeans with holes. I like maxi skirts and dresses. I like gauzy things. I like graphic tees that sometimes have swear words on them. And I like jewelry cheap enough for me to not be that sad when I inevitably lose it.
This is what I like to wear, so Forever 21 is where I like to shop for it.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I was 26 years old. I went on a massive clothing purge in my third trimester, ridding my closet of short skirts, low-cut tops, thin dresses, beat up jeans, and anything else my hormone-addled brain deemed unbefitting of a new mother. And my new body. I started dressing a little more conservatively. I made myself look a little quieter and plainer than before.
I had this idea in my head of who I was and who I would need to be once I became a mother. Looking back, these were totally irrational thoughts that don’t even make much sense to me now. But then? I felt that embracing motherhood included looking like what I (at the time) thought a mom would look like. I was being ridiculous, but it felt important. (Thanks a lot, pregnancy hormones. They really should do something about those.)
I spent the first six months of my son’s life feeling the least like myself I had ever felt. I didn’t feel like myself, and I didn’t like myself. Was it all because of clothes? Of course not. But when I went back to dressing in a way that made me feel comfortable and happy, my mood changed. The fog began to lift. And I realized how silly it was to think that because I was getting older and entering a new chapter in my life that anything about me, especially my appearance, needed to change.
So yes, I shop at stores where the clothing is made for and marketed to women in their early twenties.
I shop at stores where the clothing appeals to my personal sense of style. I shop for clothes where I feel confident walking out of the dressing room. I shop at stores that I like. Regardless of whether society, my grandma, or random strangers approve.
I am 31 years old. I have two children. I drive a minivan. Today, I wore patterned leggings and a t-shirt with a picture of Chewbacca in aviator sunglasses on it. My bralette was intentionally showing. And I felt amazing.