Remember back in 1974 when there was a Saturday morning television show called The Shazam Isis Power Hour? Probably not. I’m real fucking old and even other people my age don’t remember this show which is a damn shame because it was brilliant. The Isis part of the show was about a woman who could tap into her superpowers by invoking the goddess Isis using her magical amulet necklace. She would cup her hands around the necklace and chant “Oh, Mighty Isis” and suddenly be transformed into an ass-kicking mofo with as many titles as Daenerys Targaryen: Dedicated Foe of Evil, Defender of the Wake, Champion of Truth and Justice!
I mean, her badassery was relative to the pernicious sexism of the 70’s but nevertheless, 8-year-old me was enthralled. Forty-five years later I see how Isis made a lasting impact on my life and how I show up in the world.
Recently, a friend stopped by my house unannounced and when I opened the door she started apologizing, “Sorry, I should have called first, you look like you’re headed out somewhere.”
“No?” I corrected her, somewhat confused. “I’m just hanging out with Duncan, getting some writing done.” She burst out laughing as she stepped back and assessed me.
“So you’re wearing three necklaces, six rings, an ornately tooled belt with a massive armadillo buckle and 4-inch long dangle earrings to sit at home with the Great Dane?“
“Uhhhh… yeah. And you left off the hand-painted copper and turquoise alligator boots.”
See, just like Isis, I gain my strength via jewelry and clothes – fashion and accessorizing are my superpowers. I feel strong and confident and powerful when draped in five pounds of gaudiness. The accessories help me be more ME. Each morning, I assess my mood: which me am I today? and then carefully construct the corresponding personality of the day with my style choices. Will I be bold and graphic (simple black and white with a single huge statement necklace)? Or will I be casually wild and bohemian (lace embroidery, fringe and 12 layers of turquoise)? Maybe I’m feeling thoughtful, soft and nurturing (fuzzy pink sweaters and pearls) or brashly businesslike (dark colors and tailored silhouettes).
Fashion is how I express how I’m feeling and it also serves as a handy warning that I broadcast to people around me: “This is who I am today.” If I’m having a Tom-themed day, which means I’m sporting Tom Ford’s Fucking Fabulous red lipstick 💋 and my black Tom Petty-style top hat with the taxidermy rattlesnake wrapped around the brim, you probably shouldn’t approach me with too much attitude. There will be repercussions.
My boss used to request that I wear that snake hat to any meetings we had with County building and permit officials. He said it intimidated them. All I know is that we won every argument we ever had while I wore that hat – draw your own conclusions.
Fashion can also be a way for me to change, or at least nudge, how I feel. When I’m in an unmotivated, hopeless funk, I try to resist putting on the stained yoga pants and threadbare circa-1982 Styx (rockin’ the Paradise) t-shirt that my inner Misery Maven is telling me to wear. While that outfight would perfectly capture the essence of my melancholy, it would also most likely dial the sadness volume up to an eleven. Instead, I will thwart Misery Maven’s evil wiles AND still gently honor my fragile state of mind by donning an oversized cashmere hoodie, a buttery soft pair of leggings and if necessary, a beanie cap that says, “I’m cute, let’s put me in charge.” (On those rare occasions when I’m not concerned about crushing my fabulous hair, I find beanie caps oddly comforting; they seem to ground me. Wait – is that why so many schizophrenics wear them? Holy crap, I get it now! Wait – am I an undiagnosed schizophrenic? Or are schizophrenics undiagnosed accessorizing geniuses? That’s probably it).
Style can serve as my armor too. Nervous about a presentation? I slip into a skull necklace that is literally made of medieval chainmail. No one can hurt me with that emblazoned across my chest. It deflects judgement bullets the way Wonder Woman’s bracelets deflect real ones.
Strangers approach me all the time to say that they wish they could dress like me or “pull off” an outfit like mine. So why don’t they do it? When I ask, they usually respond with something along the lines of, “Oh, I could never…” and just trail off without giving an actual reason. Maybe they’re afraid of looking foolish, of being laughed at. Maybe they’re afraid of garnering too much attention.
Personally, I don’t think there’s any such thing as too much attention and I have no fear of being laughed at – if you’re laughing at me that means you saw me and that’s good. Because I am afraid of being invisible. There’s an adage that says ‘overweight is overlooked’ and I think we could safely add the phrase ‘mature is obscure’ to that. I don’t like being any of those.
That’s why I disallow disregard.
Try ignoring a 53-year-old spiky-haired woman in black leather leggings and snakeskin boots. You can’t. Even if you desperately want to. No, you’re gonna look at that train wreck and even if you think I look utterly ridiculous, some small part of you is going to admire the hutzpah, the audacity that it took to wear that outfit to Whole Foods on a Tuesday morning. And when I see you looking, I will whisper to myself, “Oh, Mighty Isis.”
What are your superpower(s)?
How would you describe your personal style?