July 25, 2014

Fashion Lessons from My Childhood: Wearing Boots with Dresses

[This post was sponsored by Country Outfitter. All opinions and adventures are my own.]

I've always loved fashion, particularly shoes. Maybe it's because a good pair of shoes can make you feel like you're going places. In particular, I love boots. Always have. Come to think of it, some of my life's most defining moments took place while I was wearing boots. Do you ever think about your past self? A younger you, who might have been a little bolder or a little less scared to try something new. When I think about my childhood self, so many of the memories that come to mind include vivid imagery of what I wore. 

I think there's something we can learn from our childhood selves. After all, isn't that who we've been all along? I'm looking back at some of my childhood fashion choices to hopefully gain a little wisdom from my younger self. 

My first pair of boots were pink cowgirl boots. Honestly, I was so young, I really don't remember wearing them. But they are simply fab. I like to think I took my first steps in them. Who's to say it isn't true?

Another pair of boots that I loved like crazy as a child were white leather ankle boots with fringe around the tops and round silver buckles. My aunt and uncle (who were just dating then), took 5-year old me to the county fair and of course, I wore my white boots paired with a denim mini-skirt [What is it about little girls wearing boots with dresses? So adorable!]

We were riding in my uncle's truck, which I'm sure he'd cleaned thoroughly to impress his date (who would later become my aunt). I was riding in the middle between them. Glancing down, my boots were so beautiful and if I kicked my feet just so, the fringe fluttered in the wind. 

"Kate, don't kick your feet, you'll knock open the ashtray," my uncle warned. 

I hated to disobey him, but my boots looked so pretty as the sunlight glimmered on the shiny silver buckles. What could it hurt to give my heels another little kick? My white leather boot-clad toe hit the truck's ashtray compartment, which practically exploded, blowing ashes all over my boots (and me). My uncle was not pleased. 

Lesson learned: Sometimes you should listen the first time. 

Then I was 12 and wanted my first real grown up pair of cowboy boots. I begged my grandpa to take me to a boot shop nearby to get some. As an only grandchild on that side of the family, I was used to getting my way. But real cowboy boots were expensive and my grandpa wasn't convinced. Finally, I wore him down. 

When we went to pick out a pair, I tried all sorts of brown and black options. Feeling like they just weren't special enough, I kept looking. Finally, I spotted the pair that I knew were the ones. Soft gray leather with colorful cut-outs on each side. And not just any cut-outs. Neon green cacti and bright blue coyotes howling at a neon yellow moon. It was the 90s. Neon was kind of a thing. What makes me sad about these boots is that my feet were still growing. The next summer, I outgrew them and never wore them again. But I'll never forget the feeling they gave me...even if it didn't last long. 

Lesson learned: Savor every moment and every experience...you never know when something great will fade into the past.

As I came into adolescence and the joys of being a teenager, I struggled to figure out who I wanted to be. Boots with dresses were a big part of my wardrobe. One day I'd wear a black velvet baby doll dress with black patent leather ankle boots a' la Cyndi Lauper. The next, I might find myself in a dress printed with farm animals paired with slip on Keds booties. My style (like my angsty teenage moods) was all across the board.

So you might be wondering what's the lesson to be learned here? We don't always figure everything out when we want to. But in time, life unfolds and good things will come from it. At 32, I'm still trying to figure out who I want to be. And I think that's a good thing.

Another hard life lesson I learned while wearing boots took place in college. My sorority was having a hoe-down themed date party and there was a guy I liked and I wanted him to accompany me. His name was Frank. Little did I know that Frank had a girlfriend on the side who also happened to live in the same dormitory as me.

I took him to the party and probably fawned all over him, acting a little too silly...the whole time not knowing that after the night was over he would be going back to the dorm room of another girl. When I found out I was mortified and pretty mad. I confronted him, but he wouldn't come clean. Not much came of it after that. He ended up staying with her and we parted ways.

But the lesson from the boots was this: Don't settle for someone who doesn't think you're amazing. There's no reason to play second fiddle or be with someone who'd rather be with someone else. 

Thankfully, memories of Frank have faded into the past. There's only one guy in my life now and I'm glad there's only one girl in his life: me.

Another great lesson learned from the Frank fiasco was how important it is to have great girlfriends in your life. My friend Jill had some particularly choice words for Frank the next time she saw him and it made me feel supported to know that someone was looking out for me.

When I look back at all these stories, it strikes me how often I've worn boots with dresses in my life. This fashion statement, with all its iconic southern style, sort of sums up for me what it means to be a woman.

Wearing a dress feels oh so feminine and lady-like, but the boots remind the world that there's a toughness too. Isn't that what being a woman is all about? Finding that perfect balance of strength and softness?

These are just a few of the many life lessons I've learned, and what I wore. Do you have any memorable shoes that made you feel like you were going places? Maybe you had a favorite pair of boots that you loved. How do you like to wear boots with dresses?