Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bullies and the Power of Vintage

(image courtesy of

When I was in elementary and middle school, I was often the subject of ridicule. I was called "ugly," "freckle face," "nerd," "loser." You know, the usual stuff. On a couple occasions, I was even physically attacked. Now, I could have handled the assault better (emotionally) had the perpetrators been girls but they were boys.

For some damn reason, two asshats in my 7th grade class made it their mission to make my life a living hell. One day, they waited for me to walk by (during recess) and they tripped me up and as a result, I fell on my knee hard and ripped my new jeans. I was in pain, I was bleeding, and I was mortified. I went to my teacher who told me, "I am sorry. I didn't see what happened so I can't help you." I was told to go to the bathroom to clean up and instructed to return to my seat. I refused and I went to the nurse's office. There I was bandaged up and I called my dad (he was at work). Let me just say this, when my parents found out about what happened, they were beyond mad. They also paid a visit to my prinicpal's office.

Until that attack, I was quite meek and I just put up with the bullying. But in that moment of me walking out of that classroom, something in me changed. I realized I wanted to be in control of my life and no one was going to make me a victim again. Instead of enduring the name-calling and sly glances from catty girls, I stood firm and in the process, discovered my wit. For example, when a popular girl sat at my lunch table and said, "You know, you'll never be popular with red hair and freckles." I replied, "I can change my hair or wear a wig or something but no matter what you do, you'll always be a bitch!" Her mouth agape, she said, "You can't say that!" I responded, "I just did." She walked away and never talked to me again.

As the school years went on, a smattering of bitchy girls and a few jerk-off guys gave me trouble but I always handled it. One guy (some mullet-clad, redneck in a heavy metal t-shirt) had the audacity to flip me off in 10th grade English class. He thought he was being cool and tough and I said (loud enough for everyone to hear), "Oh look! It can do tricks! Aw, did you learn that all by yourself? How precious!" He turned away, embarrassed.

In the last two years of high school, I began wearing vintage clothing. My sister, who worked at a consignment store, often gave me boiled wool cardigans, Pendleton sweaters, 50s pencil skirts, and cotton playsuits. Instead of shopping for the latest mall fashions, I looked for shoes and clothes that looked vintage. (I had a pair of 40s-style black suede platforms that I wore to death!) When I wore vintage clothes, I felt a confidence I can't put into words. Sure, some kids looked at me like I was odd and I may have gotten a whisper and a laugh, but I didn't care. I knew they were just too afraid to be themselves. They needed to fit in. Oh well.
Here is me with two of my good friends on the night of our 11th grade homecoming. (I'm on the left, with Angie A. (middle), and Sunny D.) Sunny is wearing a 50s black velvet evening dress and I am wearing a 30s bias-cut, floor-length black crepe dress. My hair looks bad but I loved my dress for sure!

For a time, I stopped wearing vintage (starting in my sophomore year of college. Instead of wearing a 50s skirt and cardigan, I opted for a pair of Gap denim overalls. Yes, I did. Yuck. I strolled to class in my Gap and Esprit duds and it was during this era that I began to lose my once unbridled perseverance. I gave up and I don't know why. I stopped being me and I just went with the crowd.

When I turned 30 in 2005, I had a new awakening, a "Saturn Return" if you will. I not only did I lose 33 pounds by the year's end, I had this amazing opportunity to rediscover my vintage self. None of my clothes fit and I figured, what the hell, I am going for it. I am going to rebuild my wardrobe and be the Tara I truly am. I started my vintage collection with repro clothes like Stop Staring, Heartbreaker Fashion, and Rock Steady and eventually I added vintage pieces. (Nowadays, vintage makes up approximately 80-90% of my clothes).

I know that clothing does not make or break me (like the saying goes) but vintage to me is more than clothes, it's a mindset that reflects my most happy and true self. Sure, I often get stares from people when I am out and about but I do not pay them any mind. Why should I let the gawk of a total stranger influence my choice of lifestyle/dress? If I adapt and change based on societal pressure, I would be miserable.

No one bullies me anymore but I have received the odd snicker and whisper (usually women I see in stores and restaurants). I usually smile at them and say, "Hi there! How are you?" They realize they were busted and turn away. Just like when I was younger, no one is going to get me down or make me 'feel less than.' I am convinced bullies attack and ridicule because they are weak and it gives them a sense of power. I also suspect they bully because they feel they can get away with it. When I stood up to my bullies (usually armed with my wit), they usually stopped.

Vintage not only represents my personal style, it reflects my determination and fortitude. Life is too short and I am going to live it to the fullest and in my way.


  1. I also went through an overalls phase haha

    1. Gotta love those 90s! lol! Esprit, Express, Gap, and Pepe Jeans! Oh the horror!

  2. I think I wore them after they were "cool" so that might be better or worse, it's hard to tell ;) I had so many corduroy (sp?) jumpers in these awful jewel tones that I loved.

  3. What an awesome post! Thanks so much!!

  4. Great post and I too was bullied but stood up to the bullies. I remember once someone hitting me and I turned the other cheek and said there's the other one - very biblical ha ha!

    I've even been bullied in work, which is horrible, I think cos I'm a strong personality people see me as a challenge to break, people have come close to breaking me but no one has quite succeeded :o)

    I have worn vintage since my late teens and yes you get stick, people staring etc but I find you also get strangers telling you how much they love what you're wearing and how lovely your hair is which I guess most people don't get! I was even walking through Covent Garden a couple of months ago and a guy came up to me and told me my hair looked fantastic!!

    I think the great thing about getting older is you just don't care how people see you any more as you are more comfortable with yourself!

  5. Good for you! You're awesome just the way you are. :)

  6. Brilliant post! I too was bullied at times through school, I can still remember the time I finally snapped and stood up for myself and how damn good that felt!
    I also went through a bad clothing phase when I first went to college and wore huge shirts and jeans all the time. (I was doing an art course and thought I looked like an artist!)

    I agree with Fiona above, the great thing about getting older is being more comfortable in your own skin. I wear a mixture of vintage, repro and generally quirky and that's the way I intend to stay.

  7. Such an inspiring post! I got picked on a bit in elementary and middle school so I can totally relate.

    xx Christina

  8. I was bullied in middle school and high school. I know why too. I was weird! I was socially awkward , didnt talk to anyone and dressed like a total freak. I wore pig tails and baggy pants and dyed my hair weird colors and hung out with a large group appropriately called 'the freaks'.

    For years we spent our lunches on the soccer field next to the student parking lot and no one really bothered us. Senior year members of the football team started throwing their drinks at us as they walked by from the parking lot. It turned into a daily ordeal. They never hit us but it was getting really old. They would yell at us and laugh and call us names.

    One day we all got together and decided it was time to do something. We plotted our revenge and put it into action one friday afternoon. We brought from home a plethora of gross goodies:eggs, hair dye, old food, shaving cream, etc. Whatever we could come up with basically. We got all the various 'freak' groups in on it too, at least 30-40 kids. When the football players walked by we just waited for the first drink to be tossed from them. Then we pounced. We pummeled them with all this nasty crap and literally chased them into the school with their tails in between their legs. They were covered with goop and being chased by a large freak mob. Security broke it and the principle made announcements about it, but no one got in trouble.

    The funny thing was that I had classes with some of the players. One in particular threatened me, saying they would get us back for what we did. I just laughed at him and said they deserved it and we'd gladly do it all over again.

    After that they left us alone. They never threw anything at us or even called us any names. The whole school heard what happened and were quite impressed and a little scared. No one ever bugged me again.

    Thats one of my favorite high school memories.

  9. I was bullied at school in my last two senior years (14-16) by a group of about 10 boys. They were relentless in their daily calling me ugly, worthless, etc. EVERY day for two years....It took me a long time to get over it, and I still dream about it now sometimes. For me, age has been an amazing thing. I feel completely comfortable in my own skin, and with how I look and if someone laughs at my hair, cats eye glasses or clothes, I genuinely do not care at all! I just wish I could have felt like this at 16, and told my then self - hey, its going to be ok :)

  10. I really liked reading this. I wasn't bullied as a youth, I just felt invisible most of the time. I never feel invisible any longer (people stare all the's annoying at times) and it definitely has to do with choosing a more refined, retro style. Vintage style gives me a confidence that couldn't be gotten elsewhere. It's very magical and I'm so happy it found me. It's not just about the clothes and hair, it's about choosing something different and building the confidence to enjoy it fully. Most people don't fully enjoy the process of dressing or doing their hair. It's a shame too. Thank you for sharing that, you look absolutely lovely!

  11. Fantastic post, thanks for sharing! It sounds like a lot of us can relate to your experience.

    My best friend and I started a band in 6th grade and were teased for being freaks throughout jr high (we dressed like the Lunachicks haha). We got it from both ends - the non-freaks and the older freaks. Getting chased by much larger, older kids wasn't fun. But we kept doing our own thing, which of course is easier when you have a friend by your side. We met a lot of people with similar interests in high school, and stopped thinking about us vs. THEM. By the time we graduated, we were friends lots of different types of people, from cheerleaders to homies. It's kinda crazy, but great to say that I have good memories of high school!

    But to this day, I can't stand watching someone get bullied, and will say something (if the culprit isn't enormous). It doesn't really matter how old the are, or what they're into.

  12. Love this post, so inspiring! I've been lucky, even though I was a weird quiet kid (and later got into goth) I've never been bullied. A few comments and many stares, sure, but nothing very bad. I don't know if I could have been as strong as you had it happened.

    You look fantastic!

  13. Bravo to you! Standing up for oneself takes guts and determination. I just read your post to my 11 year old girl, who will be starting middle school in the Fall. She has been homeschooled since Kindergarten, so I'm preparing her for the good, the bad, and the ugly of having to "fit in." Your post was quite timely, and I thank you for that. After reading this, my daugher said, and I quote, "She just might be my new role model!"
    So hats off to you, my dear.

  14. Tara, was thinking about you today and hope you're doing well, since it's been awhile since you've posted. Hope things are okay with your family. xo

  15. Thankyou for this post. I just stumbled on your blog randomly and it seems very insightful.

    Amazing how many people have been bullied, but no one ever owns up to having been a bully. I do wonder what drives them and if they grow out of it or just become workplace bullies? This seems to be missing from the debate about bullying. It's all about the victims having to learn to be tougher - how about *everyone* learning to be nicer?
    Thankyou for sharing and I'm glad you've stayed true to your individual style!

  16. WOW!!!!! I loved reading this....very empowering!!!!

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