“You look so cute! Are you going to the gym later?” I asked my good friend Allie after running into her in the street. In a non-offensive way, I was pleasantly surprised to see her so put-together in workout clothes (I know her writing well, which often pokes fun at her history with dieting and reluctance to work out, so no I wasn’t being a total asshole).
“Nope! Nope! Not really!” she smiled. And this is why I love Allie.
So I told her, “Jesus, I fucking love you,” and we continued walking in opposite directions down the street, me to get coffee and her, to do something that didn’t involve cardio.
Rewind a bit. I was “pleasantly surprised to see her so put-together in workout clothes,” which I said because it was true and not so I could properly set up the point I’m about to make.
Now, zoom: “so put-together in workout clothes.”
Since when is that a thing? A thing that’s such a thing that it’s already engrained in my subconscious, like I don’t even have to deliberate whether or not Allie looked put together and consider her Lulu Lemon a part of that, but I sight-read the situation and BAM, it was automatic love, Allie looked good.
Usually, when I put on workout clothes in the morning, it’s to push myself to make it to the gym at some point later. This is a method we like to call “No Excuses.” Rarely do I go to the trouble of putting on full workout attire, sports bra included, with zero intention of going to the gym. Sports bras are just hard to put on sometimes, and smush the boobs, so I generally opt for the “complete slob” look which is yoga leggings and a sweater and sneakers and regular/no bra.
But the funny thing is that if I were to wear head-to-toe workout clothes–and real fancy workout clothes, not an old college t-shirt–I would look way chicer than I do in the “complete slob” look though an equally minimal effort was put into both outfits.
I understand the phenomenon, but it still entertains me. It’s like my theory of the Green Juice Effect (you can read about it here), which was discovered after I walked around Madison Square Park, green juice in hand. There, something magical happened, and the strangers around me ignored my resting bitch face for once. They smiled at me, they looked at me, and that’s greater than any Hanukkah miracle I’ve ever experienced. I realized that green juice was the newest accessory, and carrying it was an easy way of saying “I care about my body,” “I am fit,” “I suffer via blended greens for the sake of that healthy glow, hell yeah I do,” and even “I have the extra cash to buy overpriced green juice instead of something from the office cafeteria.”
Over the last year-ish, workout clothing has done the same thing. It’s a twofer–your body is covered in clothing, and the clothing accessorizes your personality even better than that monogrammed necklace you got for graduation.
As for when working out became a status symbol? I really don’t know. Maybe it was the rise of the $35, 45 minute SoulCycle class, which I can’t imagine paying for six days a week, or when Net-a-Porter started selling $900 Fendi stretch jersey stirrup leggings. A body is the one thing everyone has. Obviously there was a time in the early 80s when not all of America could afford Jane Fonda workout videos, so I suppose physical fitness has always somehow been divided by socioeconomic status. But still, working out now isn’t nearly as cool unless you look good doing it, which is particularly annoying when you aren’t seeing #results and god should just throw you a bone and give you a good pair of mesh cutout spandex (that rarely sell for below $80, by the way).
The new intersection between what you wear to the courts and what you wear to dinner is a whole different story. I never thought I would wear Nike Frees with jeans but hey, shit happens. Normcore happens. Ugh, normcore.
I wouldn’t say I come from a family of monograms. Or monogrammers. It wasn’t something I grew up with. But now that I’ve grown up, or am a good ways there, monograms are sprouting up like tiny molten lava islands. Especially on my Instagram feed.
So not only are people obsessed with monogramming, but they are obsessed with Instagramming their newly monogrammed objects. These people, it seems, tend to be in their mid to late twenties and are often in a self-proclaimed quarter-life crisis. If you have your shit together enough to be monogramming, then I don’t see where the crisis lies, but that’s beside the point.
One who enjoys monograms, in my mind, is also preppy. And if the monogrammer is not preppy, then she is a grandma. Monograms are the kinds of things that look good on my grandma’s sterling cutlery and on the towels in her powder room. The best way to describe the type of woman my grandma was is sort of through her cutlery. She had monogrammed forks, knives, spoons, but then also napkin rings, soup spoons, dessert forks–the whole nine yards. When we’d set the table together for a big holiday dinner, we’d give certain relatives certain cutlery because of how the letters corresponded with their names. The silverware, for the most part, was monogrammed with “S” for Sauer. The napkin rings, though? I eventually found out that my grandma was able to have different ones that correlated to the most important people in her life not because she custom ordered them or had them engraved, but because she founds ones close enough to our initials on eBay. She always loved eBay.
A few college kids will still carry monogrammed L.L. Bean backpacks. These are the same people who carried those backpacks at camp when we were eight, so I don’t consider those monograms as much as I consider them actual ways for people to keep track of their stuff.
The other monogrammed thing that’s big right now is the teenaged girl version of a “chain”–the $700 necklaces high school girls are wearing, with monogram charms the size of my palm. I like these, actually, even though they’re really large in size and in-the-face. I don’t hate them at all. They are just a token sign of being a tribe member, one of the chosen ones.
I only own one monogrammed item so far in my relatively short life: a green leather mini-tote my mom bought for me when we went to Florence together. It isn’t a big monogram. It’s not one of those intricately designed cursive ones, either. It’s just my two initials stamped toward the top of one side of the bag. They didn’t engrave it or anything fancy like that. The most genuinely, simply, and naturally boho chic Italian woman who worked at the leather store imprinted it with these stamps that were oddly similar, perhaps identical, to the ones I used in the silversmithing art shop at sleepaway camp. In other words, if I could do that when I was 13, it must not be very legit monogramming, or at least very intense monogramming. It’s so small that I usually forget it’s even there.
What I understand and appreciate most about the monogram is how it adds a timelessness to your things, or it at least proves their timelessness. Those pieces are not ephemeral trends but heirlooms. They are things that will be yours, forever, like a husband. And they’re not just material pieces, but they are the pieces that you consider to be a part of you. You share initials, anyway.
I asked my mom why she thinks people monogram their shit, and this is what she said: “It looks more formal and fancy, and it’s a way to stamp ownership on it.”
My real question is why, in my mind, the monogram is so intertwined with such a specific group of people, a specific culture, a way of dressing, and even with a period of life?
Well, that question is surprisingly answerable. Monogramming costs money. Any piece–a little towel or a napkin ring or a tote bag–can be invaluable to a family without being monogrammed, too. That’s just a luxury, albeit unnecessary, that some people can afford. Buying something monogrammed, having something monogrammed, is like getting a new charm for your charm bracelet, or another link for your Nomination bracelet. Tee-bee-tee. You don’t need that extra little thing for the bracelet to be wearable or to exist, but it apparently makes all the difference in the world.
That all aside, there’s no way all people are obsessed with monograms because of the individuality it gives to an otherwise unoriginal object. There’s no way 20-somethings are concerned with the longevity of their objects. We just don’t think that far ahead.
But then again, maybe the people getting the monograms are the ones that do.
Guess what? The sun is out! The birds are chirping! Spring has sprung, like T-Pain in 2005.
I know it is spring because just this week we had the first fake day of spring. This is the first day of the year when it feels warm but only if you’re standing in direct sunlight–if you’re not, it’s too breezy and the air still has a chill. This is the first day of the year when everyone is ambitiously dressing in dresses and skirts and Sperry-doting boys get sexually excited at their own amount of exposed skin–that is, they’ve whipped out the shorts that, woah, hit a perfect two inches above the knee.
So it is spring, and our wardrobe is supposed to adapt to the weather just like the frizz in our hair does–rapidly, and aggressively.
I’m making this change by dressing like a small Bar Mitzvah-aged boy with C cups. I should probably instead be wearing bright colors and florals like everyone else who hopped on the Coachella boat this year, but that ship has sailed, those matching sets and neon platforms have been bought by my cohorts, and I am not on it.
I’m making small improvements, I suppose. I’ve given up my olive green shearling coat for a striped boxy cardigan. I’ve resumed my tendency to favor light wash denim. But those two things aside, I’m faking spring style. I’m dressing for winter but tossing the turtlenecks.
Three years ago I stopped putting effort into the way I dressed–don’t worry, it lasted a hot second/six months–the the next year I put violent effort into dressing like a boy. Then, I realized maybe dressing like a boy isn’t always the go-to, especially if you have the most womanly waist-to-hip ratio in the world, so I found neutral ground. My friends agree: my recent happy balance of tomboyish, basic, and feminine has finally become happy.
Man oh man, but then came spring. And I’m being thrown off my rocker. I feel like I just embraced the turtleneck. I’m trying to embrace a diverse population of denim, so I just bought four new pair of jeans that are not made for leggy seventh graders. Actually, none of them are skinny jeans, all of them are a little cropped. One is bellbottomed, one is distressed and momish, and the other two just make the tush look dang good. They all flatter the tush because I’m getting older and my priorities are changing–I’d rather look skinny than wear skinny.
There’s a problem: the cropped jeans, which are relatively spring-ish, are too perfect with my black high top Converse, which I will always consider fashionable. And my black high tops are like a trigger. You know what they say: once you go black, you never go back, and you will eternally strive to dress like Kurt Cobain.
When I think of being someone with C cups who dresses this way, I think of grunge and the Olsen twins, because look at them:
The thing is that on the Olsen twins, dressing kind of like a boy, kind of like Kurt Cobain, even in the springtime, is glamorous. And on me, especially in the springtime, it looks like I am very much in the wrong decade or, even worse (and so not in line with my feminist principles), never going to be attractive to guys.
This is especially odd because the famous people who do maintain a sense of glamour, even in the denim rubble, are usually so skinny that they are flat chested, making them look even more like authentic teenage boys. You’d think my boobs and tush would give me the benefit of the doubt. Do they? LMK.
Maybe when it’s warm enough for me to commit to a dress without the incorporation of tights, I will convert to sunshine and butterfly-worthy attire. Until then, it’s just little old me over here, in my new flare-ish tush-enhancing jeans.