Saturday, April 10, 2010

Polka Dot Archives: My Year 2000 Makeover!

From the Mikhaela Sewing Archives, 2000-2001

From my 2000 sewing notebook

Around the time I got serious about learning how to sew--winter 1999/2000--I decided it was high time for a Mikhaela makeover. I was 19 now and in college, and I had outgrown my grungy high school look. And combing through all those lovely pattern catalogs, I decided that maybe wearing dresses and skirts might be fun for a change.

As you can see above, my high school fashion uniform was quite... casual: self--cut uncombed hair + metal-framed glasses + threadbare thrifted (or punk rock) T + ill-fitting stained jeans + steel-toed Doc Martens or Converse sneakers. Here I am in full regalia in 1997 at the Rhode Island School of Design's high school summer program:

And with my parents as a Harvard freshman in 1998 (I used to remove my glasses a lot in photos):

After some study and trips to the eye doctor and the hair salon, I put together my new look, as described in the above sketch (still with the Doc Martens, by the way). At the thrift store, I began heading for the dresses, skirts, tank top and cardigan aisles instead of the men's T-shirt rack:

I even started rocking sweetheart necklines! I still have and wear the below $4 dress find, a beautiful black velvet strapless number with an elastic-shirred back, big front waist bow and all-over squiggle burnout pattern:

And I acquired some stain-free darker jeans. But as you can see from my notes, while I was willing to do skirts and makeup, I was SO not about to start shaving my legs (that came years later). Some more "after" examples, from 2001:

From the Mikhaela Sewing Archives, 2000-2001

Of course, no "before" and "after" story is ever that cut and dried. In high school I did glam up for prom--I even painted my nails green to match my consignment-store dress (though I think my mom talked me out of "matching" green lipstick):

And to this day I still rarely wear makeup and often sleep in many of those old tees ("Go Ahead, Make My Day", "I May Grow Older But I Refuse to Grow Up"). Still, from 1999-2001 was when started to think seriously about fashion and style, and realized it could actually be fun! It was also the beginning of my habit of re-evaluating and updating my wardrobe and overall look every few years, though never quite as drastically as that first time.

So, what was your biggest self-inflicted style evolution? How do you feel about it today?

Update! In retrospect, I wanted to add one note to this post--I by no means meant to imply that more girly or figure-hugging or stereotypically feminine looks are generally "better" than more butch or androgynous styles, because I don't believe that at all--I love seeing women rock those styles! But for me, dressing in those ill-fitting tees and jeans came from being a bookish punk rock nerd girl and the frequent target of harassment by classmates, having low self-esteem and just generally not feeling very pretty--I felt exposed in more girly looks, like everyone was staring at or laughing at me.

So this makeover was not about conforming to outside pressure to look more girly--it was more about transitioning from an anti-style to finding my own sense of Mikhaela style, if that makes sense!


  1. M: you are just too adorable. I went through a similar transformation, but in a less self aware way, around the same time (and same age!). When I was younger, I did not think that dressing in a more feminine way was possible or fun, but since I've become more open minded about style, I like how I can mix elements of my old style with more feminine pieces (like crazy boots with frilly dresses, boyish jackets with skirts, etc.)

  2. Hi, I'm new to your blog and love it thus far. It's cool seeing your style evolution! Continue to have fun creating your own style!!! And congrats on the little one on the way!!!

  3. What an interesting topic! Come to think of it, I was girly in high school, boyish in college, tired in graduate school and now that I'm finishing, I am leaning toward a more classic, tailored style. I made a resolution a year ago to stop buying t-shirts. So far it's working well, I haven't been able to stop buying skinny jeans however...


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