Thursday, August 8, 2013

Arley 3.0. Or was it 4.0?

It's my party and I'll rant about my semi-detached ass muscle if I want to
This week, "Young and Hip" turned four years old. If this blog were a human child, it would be drawing semi-realistic pictures of horses and learning to ride a bike. (Actually, given that this blog is a 'child' of mine, eating Play-dough in the corner of the pre-school and memorizing the entire score of the Phantom of the Opera is probably more realistic). Time to celebrate with an overdue blog post!

Given that none of my limbs are coming into contact with a surgical saw these days, you might think that I had run out of things to complain about. (Spoiler alert: I have not. If you don't believe me, I have a 50-minute story about trying to get my apartment's toilet replaced that I'd love to tell you). These days, I have embarked upon yet another self-improvement project. The goal: to turn gangly, limping awkwardness into supermodel chic...or at least stop getting mistaken for a heroin addict by any members of the law enforcement community.

Because, see, in addition to having to sell a kidney to afford to live in Vancouver, one downside of the city is that practically everyone has a great ass. This is the Land that Lululemon Built, and its citizens' rear ends are sculpted by pilates and yoga and hiking and Zumba and Grouse Grinding (sounds sexier than it is) and basically springing like marble-assed Greek Gods across BC's rugged terrain. And because they have amazing bodies, they feel the need to dress them in appropriately amazing clothes. Clothes that, you know, fit. And are free from pen ink or coffee stains. And do not have drawstrings. It is enough to make a girl miss living in a small Midwestern town where not wearing the leggings-and-Uggs college-girl uniform made you look like a sartorial icon; (I  heart you Champaign-Urbana!).

Since turning 30 and moving to Yoga-Land, I have discovered that I need to Put Some Effort In. Now, see, some people can decide to dress better, walk into a clothing store, and walk out with some new duds, a lighter wallet, and a renewed sense of style. This is not a thing that happens when you're 6 foot 2, are missing part of your ass, have "wheelchair basketball arms" and one leg that's a different size than the other, and require an inseam so long that the tiny sweatshop children who make your jeans likely use the rejects as sleeping bags. Walking into a regular store and expecting to find clothes that fit you is like walking into McDonald's and asking to see their gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO menu.

But still. I was undaunted. I was going to look...better. Step 1: Undergarments! Thanks to weeks of internet research and staring at dozens of boobs on the Internet in the name of science, I emerged with a better-fitting bra that was a mere 10 inches smaller in the band than the ones I had been wearing. Bra fitting pro tip! If the garment slides down to your waist without the straps and/or if you can fit another person inside of it, it just might be too big.

Buoyed by my initial success, I got rid of most of my summer wardrobe. Goodbye too-short T-shirts! See you later pants I've owned since "The Thong Song" was #1 on the charts! I quickly realized, however, that there was a great reason why I was holding on to all that old, ill-fitting clothing. It turns out that 99.35% of all clothing made today is stamped Not Approved For Arley.

I know what you're thinking. But Arley! The Gap/ Banana Republic/ J. Crew make tall sizes! No. Those places make tallER sizes. They make sizes for "OMG! I am soooo tall! I can't wear my six-inch heels around my tiny hipster boyfriend!" tall. They do not make sizes for people so tall that elderly Asian ladies stop you on the street to point out your height and ask if you "make a million dollars playing basketball" or if you "have a black boyfriend' (??). Most of these stores simply slap a few inches on the bottom of the garment or the sleeve and call it a tall size, overlooking the fact that I am tall goddamn everywhere. I am not secretly a 5 foot 6 person on stilts. Someone call J. Crew and tell them to whip me up a structured dress whose waist is somewhere in the same area code as my own waist.

But Arley! What about Long Tall Sally? That mecca of tall lady clothing....assuming you are a tall lady that is larger than a size 6, by which we mean a 12 and also assuming that you have a fetish for zebra print! That store that dares charge $120 for a spotted jumpsuit made out of material so flimsy that reviewers report that (and this is a direct quote) "i came down from my car and people started telling me my cloth was torn at the back showing my underwear. looked round myself and i found out that my front, sides and the hip areas were torn."  (They do, however, have "trend inspired palazzo legs" offs).  

Long Tall Sally's motto is basically, "Hey, I heard you're over 6 feet tall. Why not blend into your natural environment with our wide assortment of brightly coloured animal prints and/or headache-inducing stripes? No? Well, we just tore this floral print off some granny's couch. Maybe we can make you a dress from that. No? Well, have you perused our selection of jumpsuits? We have a metric fuckton of jumpsuits. Because, according to our market research, what women over 6 feet tall really desire is a wide selection of pleated goddamn jumpsuits with cap sleeves."

I will say, however, that one benefit of rebuilding your wardrobe is that you are forced to look at yourself objectively. This can be both soul-crushing and liberating. For many years, I dressed to hide various parts of my body. Cover up the big arms, the anti-ass. Conceal the small chest, the wide shoulders, the weird pointy rib situation I've got going on. You know what you get when you try to cover up your arms and shoulders and chest and waist and thighs and calves? This. Not quite the look I'm going for.

I don't actually think that I have bad self-esteem or a shitty self-image. Whether it's because of the hip problems or the height, however, I've always viewed my body as an annoyance to be minimized, like that loud girl at a party you avoid talking to. The act of finding flattering clothes, however, forces you to confront the fact that some parts of your body are not The Worst Thing Ever, and that playing up these attributes will make you look better. And somehow feel better. And maybe strut a little like the sassy thing you are. And maybe, also, admit that you're not this or this or this, and that even if you were that wouldn't be the end of the world.

I'm not going to give any fashion tips for How To Dress If You're 6 Foot 2 and Gimpy because a) I'm still not there yet and b) who in the world besides me needs that guide? I will say, however, that I'm working on it. Which is the same thing I say about walking better. And learning how to turn my head while riding a bike without falling over. And being just a little bit easier on myself.

Because, however I look, I can take pride in the fact that my accessories are no longer so cumbersome. And my camera phone technology has improved by leaps and bounds.

The great What Not To Wear Before and After

Baby steps, yo. Gimpy little baby steps.