When we turned 13, we were supposed to stop playing so many simulation games. That’s what I had absorbed from the other girls in my neighborhood. We could still play games. These games were like jumping on Remy’s trampoline until our stomachs hurt or taking turns on a desktop instant messaging the boys at school or walking to the pool to eat. plates of overly salty fries in the sun. Most of them didn’t really look like games.
I didn’t want to stop pretending, so I didn’t. It was easy to do. I had a younger sister after all. At 11, she was still young enough to play with Barbies and Groovy Girls, and what was I supposed to do – NOT play with her?! In fact, my younger sister outgrew simulation games before me. So instead of using it as an excuse to keep pretending, I just decided that I was going to be an actress. I would do everything I could to go to high school for the performing arts in a year. I would find a way to keep wearing costumes and creating worlds.
Sometimes the stars aligned and I could ask my best friend Stacy, who was my neighbor and who was the kind of friend who didn’t need to call ahead or knock on the door before show up at my house, to play one of the old games we invented in early middle school, before we were 13, before we were supposed to stop pretending. My favorite of those games was called Fashion Emergency, and it went like this: We used a set of my mom’s walkie-talkies as phones. One of us would be the client, and the others would be the stylists. The client had to call the stylists and detail an extremely specific “fashion emergency” like “I have a wedding I have to go to tomorrow in Paris” and other normal life situations like that. Stylists could then set up clothing options for the client, who would model them and get feedback. That was it! It was the whole game!
I think I never wanted to stop playing Fashion Emergency because I wanted other girls to tell me what to wear, how to fix my 13 year old body in the midst of shedding that I didn’t understand at all into something desirable, how to feel beautiful.
In my experience, around the age of 13 is a tough time in the area of personal style for tight little dykes. I didn’t know what looked good or what made me feel good, so I just threw things wildly on a palette to see what stuck. Sometimes that meant wearing a literal pirate hat or a cape or other things that are widely considered costumes and not outfits you wear to school or a casual outing to the mall.
So in honor of the ongoing fashion emergency that was my 13th year (and the fact that Autostraddle is also celebrating its 13th anniversary! Did you hear?!), I’ve rounded up some of the most, uh, creative? style choices I made at the time and reinvented them as fashion spread into a VERY big budget teen magazine of my own making. Enjoy!
Also, consider showing up for Autostraddle’s 13th anniversary by becoming an A+ member, upgrading your membership, or giving a one-time gift to our current mini-fundraiser! It’s a place where I can continue to pretend, in a way, and I wish it continued to exist!!!!
welcome to KKU Magazine!!!!! We have tank tops on tank tops because it’s 2005 and extreme layering is the style!!!! Plus, we have braces.
My main approach to fashion at 13 (and even more so from 11 to 20) was to make my pop culture obsessions wearable. This included wearing genuine fandom merchandise like the Pirates of the Caribbean skull pendant that I layered on graphic tees from TJ Maxx and also my reversible collection star wars Burger King watches*. But it also included impersonating characters from shows I’ve watched. A few years before I turned 13, I begged my mother for a brown cardigan and a gray cardigan without explaining to her that the main reason I wanted a collection of cardigans
this is a deeply personal confession, but in 6th grade i started wearing vests because Jennifer Morrison’s character in House MD wore vests
— kayla kumari upadhyaya (@KaylaKumari) April 25, 2016
Also, I wore fake glasses. Shocking!!!!! I had several frames, including tortoiseshell rimmed ones because of Hero (even though it was technically 14).
*The star wars watches were a thing in 2005, which is exactly the year I turned 13, and at 13 I was the kind of budding young feminist who decided to write a letter energetic at Burger King describing why I thought it was disgusting that the watch that featured Leia featured her kidnapper Jaba The Hutt on the other side. I never heard back.
So as with the two different colored vests, my favorite fashion thing as a 13 year old was picking one thing I liked, then getting it in brown and black and rotating between the two. Specifically, this means that I owned a pair of black gauchos and a pair of brown gauchos that were part of the regular rotation. I would pair them with either my black sneakers or my brown sneakers. It all seems a little coordinated at least, but THEN I really threw things together by pairing the neutral look with just an overdone graphic tee. Like a hot pink with a black guitar on it (I didn’t play a guitar) or a The Beatles shirt (I pretended to like the Beatles for a girl) or a radioactive orange Hurley shirt. Gauchos with a fitted graphic t-shirt…a bold look!
In my continued quest to impersonate fictional characters, I brought a teal off-the-shoulder shirt because it looked exactly like these shorts worn by young Jenna Rink in the classic movie 13 Continue 30. But it was a whole thing, because I bought the Hollister shirt even though I was very violently and vocally opposed to Hollister. Why did I hate Hollister so much???? Honestly, I do not know. I thought I was too “alt” for Hollister, and I thought everyone who shopped there was an impostor. (My best friend who I was starting to fall out with regularly shopped at Hollister, as did her boyfriend who I hated.) So when I found this shirt at Hollister, I bought it secretly, then I LIED to everyone when I wore it to a school dance and said I got it at Old Navy! Like Old Navy is somehow cool?! I really do not know.
These three photos are actually me. Me in a Spider-Man mask, me in a complete iron man costume, me in a Batman cowl with a… lightsaber. Again, I wish I could say I just wore these things in the privacy of my own home or for photo shoots on my compact camera or something, but no, I wore these PLACES and even sometimes AT SCHOOL from about 6th to 11th grade. When I was 13, my favorite “accessory” was a lightsaber, which I hung from the buckle of my low-rise jeans. I’ve also worn a lot of small scarves and print scarves, including the one I wear in both Spider-Man and Batman photos. I believe it said PEACE AND LOVE on it. Which I feel like a confusing message to associate with a fictional weapon, but I think most of my looks on 13 could be described as…dissonant.
Thank you for taking this visual journey with me. Consider being part of Autostraddle’s ongoing journey by joining A+ or giving a gift!