High school geekhood, and a complete
ignorance of what other girls my age were wearing, led me one day to wear a
bright pink polo shirt, jeans, pink felt maryjanes from Baclaran and black socks
to school on a Saturday. At least three of the popular girls smirked at my
socks. Not only did that incident give me much joy, it also gave my budding
personal style a sense of direction – specifically, away from everyone
In college, that meant wearing
black fishnet socks I’d found in the old Isetann in Cubao with green moccasins
from Divisoria, white cropped pants and a royal blue t-shirt. Or wrapping a red
tie around my leg. Or using an old table runner as a scarf, pinned in place with
a clashing floral hairclip. I also raided my relatives’ cabinets for old
clothes. My favorite was a lush tropical jungle-print skirt with accordion
pleats. The fabric was slick, like a raincoat. The waistline was extremely
small, so I left it unhooked, and wore it with white t-shirts. The white shirts
I also wore with various printed cotton shorts with elastic waists that Mom got
wholesale in Baclaran. She didn’t understand why I insisted on wearing
three-inch long gold-plated crocodile earrings with them.
I wish ukay-ukays had existed then.
(Well, they did, but they were in Baguio, and that wasn’t what they were
called.) As it was, I had to be content with the bargain outlet of Cinderella in
Ali Mall – in which I unearthed two machine lace tank tops, one in slimy yellow,
the other in Stabilo orange (this was the eighties, after all) – and this tiny,
tacky jewelry and knick-knack shop along Aurora Boulevard.
Cheap and strange gave way to expensive
and strange, most decidedly when I was in Jakarta. I splurged on Miyake, Ann
Demeulmeester and Dries Van Noten. (Well, on sale, but still…)
Nowadays, it takes too much energy to
not dress like everyone else. Lucien’s bound to get milk on whatever I’m
wearing. And yet I feel peculiar, off-center, in jeans and a shirt. I told Roach
the other day, “I can’t figure out what I’m trying to say with what I’m
wearing.” So I seesaw in and out of normality. Today torn and tawdry, tomorrow
in white and crisp khaki.