on watching yourself grow up

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Having a blog to document arguably one’s most formative years is weird. Having a blog to document what one wears during those most formative years is way weird.

Thankfully I decided early on this little piece of internet would not be a public diary. I saved the majority of my juicy first date night stories and weepy first days in a new city rants (most of them, at least) for spilling into the ears of close friends. Instead these four-ish years of Ragged or Well-Dressed has documented what I look like. Just great.

My relationship with the way I look has, for the most part, been pretty simple.

LOL JK.

My relationship with the way I look was solely determined by men until one broke up with me and I cut off all of my hair and started this blog.

My heart was halved and with it my long tresses. But instead of the cliched break-up bob I went full on Miley, letting the hairdresser determine my fate. She said I would look great with the sides buzzed. I followed her lead blindly, leaving my confidence on the floor along with my severed locks. I loved my new do, but no one else really did, leaving me to determine my own worth, my own beauty standards by myself.

The hair was gone and with it the confidence that had once come so effortlessly. My first task in my forray into singledom: I would attempt to style a “going out” look for the downtown Tuscaloosa scene. Turns out I had no “going out” tops for drawing a strategic gaze, my shortest shorts were denim and frayed—and forget dresses, my new hair made me look like a prepubescent boy playing in his mother’s clothes. After multiple outfit changes and with my floor covered in every tank top and sparkly skirt I owned, I chose my denim shorts, a striped SWEATER, and platform sandals. And I looked good. Not one boy looked my way, but I loved what I was wearing and I was happy.

Since then I’ve rocked, no attempted, nearly every trend imaginable and settled somewhere in the middle. Culottes, tulle, crop tops, sequins, boyfriend jeans, leather. But mostly boyfriend jeans and sweaters. And behind each outfit post spewing fashion how-to’s, there was an event I overdressed for, a date scared away by billowing fabric, a Sunday afternoon dress-up session grabbing the closest cousin, friend, crush to catch the twirling half smile I never could figure out. Each outfit takes me back to a very specific story, a specific moment documenting varying levels of confidence.

I was most “me” in a fluffy tulle skirt and mink stole jaywalking across University Boulevard. I loved the way I looked and didn’t think twice about the girls gawking in their athleisure or boys baffled in ill-fitting khakis. Today I don’t think I would be caught dead (Scratch that. Please bury me in that tulle skirt) in tulle or really skirts for that matter. But cheers, old Abbey. That confidence is inspiring to this new, not so confident Abbey swathed in mostly neutrals and ankle-grazing skinny jeans.

My hair has grown out and I’ve learned to not balance my levels of confidence on what I’m wearing or what my hair looks like. But along with hair growth, this blog has also documented adult acne, the death of my high school metabolism, and this chunk of grey hair that has appeared fiercely in my cowlick.

It’s weird to be able look at your physical transformation over time. It puts your body in perspective and it’s not always kind. But it’s kind of really amazing to look back and see how I found myself beautiful in shirts with “GEEK” emblazoned on the front and humongous sweaters that turtlenecked up to my nose, overtly feminine skirts and masculine trousers.

So maybe I just wanted to acknowledge and thank my old self; who discovered at 21 her worth is not in her hair, or how many boys buy her drinks at bars she doesn’t really even want to be at, or in the tag of her new skirt she had to exchange for a larger size. She would love my grey hair. She would love that I found a new minimalist look valuing comfort over style. But she would also want me to love it too. After all this new look, this new body, and this grey hair got her to her dream job in her dream city.

Thanks girl. Love you too.