The Guilty Admission: I am a fashion reject. There. I said it.


A Glamour Magazine-style "Don't" bar was used across this woman's eye to shield her from embarassment.

A Glamour Magazine-style "Don't" bar was used across this woman's eyes to shield her from embarassment.

Dear readers, let’s talk about the woman above. Based on what she’s wearing would you say that she is:

A.    A stay-at-home mom on her way to drop her kids off at school.

B.    On her way to the gym for a quick workout after work.

C.    A fashion reject who thinks this is an appropriate outfit to wear outside of the house.
D.    A writer who doesn’t come into contact with other professionals on a daily basis and so puts together ridiculous costumes like this because she’s always dashing out of the house and doesn’t put enough thought into what she’s wearing because hey, who cares, I’m just going to sit in my office all alone all day and no one will see me but Alberto, who manages the building, and he doesn’t care if I look insane.

If you chose D, you’re wrong. It’s C.

My name is Aliya. And I am a fashion reject. (This is where you all say, Hi Aliya, in unison).

For as long as I can remember, I’ve never cared about what I was wearing, unless I absolutely had to.

TheGirl* (now age 11 and seriously a better dressed woman than I am), was telling me what she would and would not wear when she was five. When she was seven, she once looked me up and down and said, “that outfit needs something to break up all that black. Do you have a bolero jacket in another color maybe?”

TheGirl can sew her own clothes and somehow makes her school uniform look like couture. If I’m buying something new, I’ve been known to take a picture first and run it by her. If The Husband is going out, he asks my opinion. And then TheGirl’s. If they conflict, he goes with what she says, always.

I just don’t get fashion. For me, clothes are what you drape across your body so that you’re not naked. Or cold. Or hot. Or naked.

I’m not clear on the concept of putting together an outfit that makes you look nice. Can someone tell me how that works exactly?

Part of it is money, of course. I can’t afford to buy the stuff that I think I like.

I think I like this. But really? For my lonely office in Newark?

I think I like this. But really? For my lonely office in Newark?

I'm pretty sure I like this too. But is this for winter? And again, I work alone, all alone...

I'm pretty sure I like this too. But is this for winter? And again, I work alone, all alone...

I like a nice, simple denim. But notice how they don't show what the model is wearing on top? Yeah. I need help with that.

I like a nice, simple denim. But notice how they don't show what the model is wearing on top? Yeah. I need help with that.

I thought the answer would be simple. Invest in a really good pair of jeans. Spare no expense! Go premium! Drop a grip! Just make sure they fit right and rock ’em three times a week if you have to. I went to Ruby, a little store on Church Street in Montclair that I love because they will work with you and not make you feel bad about trying on seventeen pairs of jeans. I found these, made by a company called Rich and Skinny.

I actually own these jeans. And unlike the model, I actually have a butt. And they look GREAT on me. But I have nothing to wear with them. And they feel too fancy for every day denim.

Unlike the model, I actually have a butt. And still, these look GREAT on me. But I have nothing to wear with them. And they feel too fancy for every day denim.

They hang in my closet, waiting for me to buy some other stuff to keep them company.

But if I’m brutally honest with myself, it’s not that I can’t afford nice things. I know it doesn’t take money to be stylish. It takes chuptzah, imagination and effort.

I ain’t got none of that.

Part of the problem is this: Before I was a writer, I was a teacher. My closet was lined with suits from Ann Taylor and Liz Claiborne. I started teaching at a very young age, so it was very important for me to look the part, right down to the bun and the glasses. I was always well put together, if I should say so myself. I wasn’t fly. Not by a long shot. But I had the skirt-suit, hose and sensible pumps thing going on. And it worked.

Then I made a switch to writing. And the rules changed. There were no rules. At The Source, I think I may have had a six-month period where I was actually thisclose to being semi-fly. Every single chick in there knew how to put it on.  I had no choice but to step my game up. I did this by watching carefully, tagging along on lunchtime shopping excursions in Union Square. And then just straight biting. (To Akiba Solomon, E. Assata Wright and most especially Serena Kim, I stole my entire shoe game from you. Thank you.)

I actually own these shoes. I just thought to myself, would Serena Kim rock these? The answer was yes. So I bought 'em. Yet in my closet they sit.

I actually own these shoes. I just thought to myself, would Serena Kim rock these? The answer was yes. So I bought 'em. Yet in my closet they sit.

And then, in 2000, I went freelance. Suddenly, I was home all day, every day. I went into the City for the occasional meeting or to do an interview. And I didn’t need to be fly. So I quickly regressed. And I was broke. So I had no money for the basics.

Even as my career gained momentum and I had a little paper for clothes, it just wasn’t a priority. Why buy something cute when I’ll Never wear it? But then Never would come around and I’d be stuck.

Fast forward nine years and I am just raggedy. Just a hot mess.

So, check me out in all my Glamour Fashion Don’t wonderfull-ness.

Sigh. This is how I left the house today. Let’s go over each offending item, shall we?


A.    My hat: This hat was purchased on the streets of New York about four years ago. I wear it because it keeps my head warm. And it’s pink. I like pink. I tend to wear this hat all day long because a. my office is cold. (Alberto, you and I will be having a talk about this very soon. Because my $ABC rent is SUPPOSED to include utilities so you tell me why I’m rocking fingerless gloves as I type this, with my Everstar space heater on my desk. Hmph.)

B.    My white tee-shirt: This is actually new. Bought it a few weeks ago from Urban Outfitters. Just a plain white tee. Nothing special. But I discovered after buying it that it’s a little too see-through and it might be too small. So it’s a layering shirt. Like every shirt I own. I buy shirts to be the basis of an actual Outfit. And a week layer, it’s in my underwear drawer, regulated to layering. Why is this?

C.    The Red Sweater: I bought TheGirl this sweater from Target when she was seven. Okay. Let me type that again for you so I can be appropriately ashamed. I BOUGHT THIS SWEATER FOR MY DAUGHTER WHEN SHE WAS SEVEN! She is now eleven. And it doesn’t fit her. Obviously, it doesn’t fit me either. Except in my mind, it does.

See, I bought her this sweater one summer as a light cover-up for a day at the beach. I ended up throwing it on myself at some point and I loved how comfy it was. The inside is all fleecy. So I just pushed up the sleeves and rocked it that day. And the next. The next day, TheGirl says to me, “Um. You’re wearing my sweater.” I said. “This is not your sweater. I went to Target yesterday and bought the same one.” TheGirl said, “no. You didn’t!”

This has been an ongoing joke ever since. She sees me wearing the sweater and asks me where I got it from and why she never sees HER sweater and MY sweater in the same place at the same time.

I tell her it’s just like Lauryn says on “Zealots”. Two MCs can’t occupy the same place at the same time/It’s against the law of Physics. She just shakes her head and walks away.

I don’t think she’d wear the sweater if I gave it back to her. Who would? It’s dingy. It has glitter on it left over from TheGirl’s art project from three years ago. And what are the logos about? Is that an anchor? And is that an anchor on a sewn-on patch? Can someone tell me what a grown woman is doing wearing this? Like how do I even consciously slip my arms into this thing and think, yes, this makes sense. This is what I should be wearing.

D.    Grey standard issue sweatpants: Again, from Target. I’m not actually mad at the sweats. They’re not super baggy. And they kind of fit cute. Kind of. There’s a grey hooded sweatshirt that goes with it. And it’s all fine and good FOR THE GYM. I do not believe that anyone out of college should leave the house wearing sweats unless it is essential for their line of work. What do sweatpants tell the world? I’ll answer that. It tells the world you can’t be bothered to put on real clothes. And that’s just sad.

E.    Boots: Now, I do love my all-weather boots. Got them from The Outdoor Store on Church Street in Montclair. I had to go to Buffalo, New York for a story last year and they were having a blizzard. All I had were Uggs. Which would not do. So I bought these joints. And I love ‘em. I can splash in puddles, shovel snow, (as if!) and generally do what I gotta without worrying about getting my feet wet. The problem? Well, if you’re in the tri-state area, look out your window. See any rain? See any snow coming down? Well yeah. I knew that too. But still I managed to pull on my boots, knowing full well I didn’t need to. I have one or two decent pairs of shoes. But really. Would they go with sweats and TheGirl’s sweater? Yeah. I don’t think so.

So, how did this happen? This morning: TheGirl snoozed her alarm clock and overslept. I snoozed my alarm clock and overslept. The Husband doesn’t have an alarm clock so he overslept by default. The OtherGirl* was pissed off that no one was coming in to rescue her from prison, aka, her crib.

And away we go…

We’re all bumping into each other. Quick showers are taken, clothes are being thrown on, sippy cups are being filled, weather forecasts are shouted to far ends of the house. Waffles are stuffed in mouths. Babies are stuffed in car seats. I didn’t give a second thought to what I was wearing. Was I dressed? Yes. Okay, let’s move.

The Husband: on train. TheGirl: at school. The OtherGirl: at daycare.

I slide into my office, take a deep breath and check my schedule. Meeting at 10:30 with Tai.

Oh no.


Double damn.

We’ve talked about Tai before, she of the gorgeous profile pic:

What, exactly, are you wearing?

Aliya: What, exactly, are you wearing?

Tai is fly. Whenever I run into her I want to say, “Um, I’m in the process of moving, that’s the only reason why I look like this!”

Except I don’t say that. Because I know Tai probably has a special outfit just for moving. Fitted overalls or something. With a handkerchief around her neck.

The idea of Tai coming to my office, (So orderly! So professional!), and seeing me looking like THIS filled me with despair. Did I have time to go home and change? Was that sad and pathetic? Did I care? Yes. Yes. No.

I texted Tai to tell her I was running late. She hit me back and said she actually needed to reschedule.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Saved from mortification.

But it brought up a bigger issue. At 35, shouldn’t I always look presentable when I’m leaving the house? Why would I ever leave the house wearing an outfit like the one above? Seriously. I’m ashamed. And I’m sharing my shame with you.

I do clean up nice when I have to. At least I’d like to think so. Although I’m known to depend on a white tee shirt, skinny jeans and stilettos for every occasion.

But when I don’t have to… Well, you see what happens.

Dear readers, help me. Guide me. Tell me how to change my ways. Are you stylish? Have you ever left the house looking like this? If you work from home, do you get dressed and put on a proper outfit? Where do I begin? I can’t afford a stylist. But I. need. Help. Where can I find someone who can tear apart my closet, help me start from scratch and make me look like half a piece of something?

My name is Aliya. And I’m a fashion reject. Thank you for letting me share.

*TheGirl: As she will not be referred to by name on this blog, please note that TheGirl is my 11-year old step-daughter. A primer on how I feel about TheGirl: I’ve known her since she was three. She was the only bridesmaid in my wedding. And she was holding my hand when I gave birth to her baby sister. We were sitting next to each other on the living room sofa when CNN called the election for Obama. That’s my heart and soul right there. Seriously.

*TheOtherGirl: That’s my other daughter. The one I actually gave birth to back in‘07. She will be referred to as TheOtherGirl on this blog. I don’t have anything cute to say about her anecdotally. She’s almost two. If you know any almost two year-olds, you know what it is. Nothing to see here. Pay no attention to that  ball of emotion having a tantrum in the corner.

Sidebar: a few days ago, I slipped a perfectly acceptable sweater with snowman appliqués onto TheOtherGirl’s arms. She looked down at the sweater then shook her head and said, “no!” Then she pointed to a pink quilted vest hanging on the back of her door. (A hand-me-down from her VERY fashionable older cousin) “Dat!” she said.  She’s not even two. And she knows what she wants to wear. Sigh.

20 Responses to “The Guilty Admission: I am a fashion reject. There. I said it.”

  1. Clove Says:

    lol @ this post. I don’t think you have to know that much about fashion to be stylish or well put together and you dont have to spend much. I have a few suggestions…I’m no fashion guru but I like to soak in a thing or two from my style-savvy friends. One who’s a fashion writer and another who’s just an enthusiast but very knowledgeable of what looks good and what doesn’t. So that’s one thing: advice from friends.

    I would start by throwing away anything you don’t wear. this is kind of crucial

    Definitely invest in a few pairs of Levis jeans. They are the best jeans brand to me cause they’re affordable, dependable, never go out of style and you can find great fits

    I highly recommend H&M and Zara and even forever 21. They have awesome, cheap items that you can wear anywhere. it’s just about knowing what looks good on you which sometimes comes with trial and error

    summer dresses when the weather’s nice! easy and cute

    my girl taught me this one–whenever you see a photo of an outfit you really like (on a celebrity or whatever), save it on your desktop and eventually you’ll have a bunch of photos and start to recognize “your style.” your personal lookbook

    in all, I think it’s all about wearing what YOU like and not trying to conform or intentionally be fashion-y

    ok that’s it

  2. Misha AKA Mick Says:

    Hey Mrs. King, opps I mean Aliya, lol… I think I can offer some help and suggestions. lol, First I would say, get yourself a pair of all purpose jeans, invest in a good brand that fits well, is of a darker wash with a bit of stretch in a boot cut or straight leg. Those fits can transition well into day or night and can be worn with a variety of footwear options. T-shirts are cool, because the great thing about them is that they are comfortable and can be layered as you said to create different looks. You can never have enough white t-shirts. With these two wardrobe staples, you can throw own a hooded sweatshirt, and if you need to dress it up just a bit for a meeting, take one of you blazer from teaching back in the day ;) and wear it over the hooded sweatshirt with some flats, and even with a pair of heels. And get this, even with you’re all winter boots. lol… I could go on and on about this… but the point is, it’s not that hard once you have good go to jeans and tops. You can always be fly, there’s really no excuse not too. lol… :) Love your blog!!! I’

  3. Misha AKA Mick Says:

    Oh and I agree with Clove, Zara is a great place to start with. They have tons of options that are very easy to transition between you home, work, and extra curricular life without costing a fortune… And if you want that lux Gucci look, you can achieve that there as they knock off many Gucci looks without making you feel like you just went shopping on Canal Street. lol…

  4. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Clove: but if I throw out everything I don’t wear, I will be left with nothing but WHAT YOU SEE ME WEARING IN THE ABOVE PHOTO! (sob!)
    okay, I’m exaggerating. But seriously. Do I throw out the very cute and very pricey Rich and Skinny jeans that I actually like? Cause I never wear them. I love H&M. But I think I’m a bit too thick for Zara. I wear, like, a size 23 in there. And that annoys me. I will start saving things I like to my desktop. Sigh. Thank you.

    @Mickey: Girl. You were the flyest student I ever had. Ever. You just had IT. Even in the 10th grade. I DID get the jeans. See above! Dark wash. Check. A bit of stretch. Check. But now what? I think I need to find the Right White Tee Shirt. Cause I really love them. But they never work right. You’re saying, I need basics. And you’re right. I’m thisclose to setting fire to my closet.

  5. Clove Says:

    don’t throw out those rich & skinnys! I think that’s actually a good brand. the solution is to wear them lol. they would prob go well with that white tee you have. and the shoes! those are cute. if you’re having a problem getting rid of the old clothes maybe start by pairing old with new. the new Rich & Skinnys with an old t-shirt? like you said, start out with basics and then build from there. As you acquire new and better items, then you can throw away the older ones that you never wear and you’ll get the hang of it…last year I went through about three cycles of giving away old clothes to the salvation army, i felt so liberated

  6. yes Says:

    *taking notes* cutting pictures sounds good

    I’d rather spend my money on music and food, clothes, eh

    I’m an OldNavy kinda girl, they always have a sale. Speaking of Old Navy, a lot of stores websites have looks put together. If you select a piece it will show you things that are similar or that would work well with it.

  7. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Cloves: I edit and edit and edit until my closet is near empty. I think I’m at the point where I need to ADD. I should post a picture of my closet. It’s a barren wasteland.

    @Yes: How old are you? Are you, as Wendy Williams would say, A Woman Of A Certain Age? Cause I can’t find anything acceptable in Old Navy. I think Old Navy only works if A. you have a LOT of natural style and you can make anything work or B. You’re young and/or super thin. I have NO luck there. None.

  8. Scottie Dog #8702552 Says:

    Girl I live in Central Florida. People here wear footies, flip-flops and dress socks for all occasions. I mean long black church socks ya wore to church (at age 11), regardless of the weather condition.

    The Northeast Corridor is cold, I like what you’re wearing. It reminds of our days in High School. I miss those simple days.

    And PS I have a purple and white hat JUST like the one you’re wearing :)

  9. MML Says:

    you do have a butt, it’s true.

  10. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Scottie Dog: Thank you SO much for posting that. I really needed perspective. You’re right. In the grand scheme of things, I might not be doing *that* bad. And yes, I think part of my issue is that I dress for comfort, in things that remind me of high school, sweats, warm and fuzzy sweaters. But I’m grown now. And I really do want to reflect that. At least sometimes…

    @MML: alas, I do. And before it drops to the floor in my old age, I’d like to outfit it in something other than sweats.

  11. Portia Says:

    You always look great to me Li…but I go to work in oversized pajamas and Danskos so don’t look at me for advice…not that you were…lol. BTW…I loved the outfit you wore to the spa that day that we went. Sweater dress, tights, and Wellies. Simply Perfect!

  12. Jovi Says:

    I can’t believe it. When we first met I felt I needed to step my game up around you. Yes we were attending a wedding in T & C but even the time we spent afterwards I was still watching you. Yes that was before TheOtherGirl but …
    As Clove stated, ‘don’t throw out those Rich and Skinny!’. Wear them. I am far from the fashionista but can give you tips on accessories. I am very basic but where bracelets and necklaces to take my outfit from blah to wow. Don’t spend a lot on them because fashion can change overnight. I love long necklaces that I can double up or convert to a belt and earthy pieces. Mix and match silver and gold. Wear flats during the day so you can run the kids to school and daycare and save the pumps for the evening.

  13. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Portia: The sweater dress! Yes, I am a big fan. The problem is I need more tights. All my tights are too small after washing. Which means no sweater-dressing. See, I need BASICS. And I probably need to take better care of my stuff. Like hand-washing/air-drying my tights so they don’t shrink.

    @Jovi: See, I can get it together okay if there is A Big Event. (I have NO pictures from T&C, do you have any?) But it’s the day-to-day where I can’t pull it together. Accessories? Are you kidding me? I’m not ready to do accessories yet. First I need to get my actual gear in place. But the flat shoes. You make a good point there. I need several pair of cute flats. That would help a lot.

  14. serenakim Says:

    I always thought you dressed well. You have your own style and I like it very much. I remember having so much fun shopping with you in Manhattan many years ago. This self-flagellation is totally uncalled for! At the same time, I’m option (D) all day. That’s why one of my New Year’s resolutions was getting cleaned up everyday whether I’m seeing anyone or not. Because the truth is you always see someone. Even if it is your husband and daughter. And I want to look nice for my husband and daughter most of all.

  15. Aliya S. King Says:

    @serena: exactly. you get what I’m saying. Just because I’m not meeting w/an editor doesn’t mean I can’t look presentable. I need to wear a bit of makeup too. But I really stink at that. Another post for another day.

  16. Naima Says:

    I’m offended! :-) You know you can call on me anytime for a wardrobe crisis…plus I can help you get you basics which does not have to be spendy!

  17. R.I.P. Domino Magazine. « Aliya S. King Says:

    […] Let me make something very clear. We’ve talked about my fashion reject […]

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    […] really. How does one go about hating on Beyonce? Maybe it’s because I’ve reconciled my fashion-reject status. Or maybe because I know I can’t sing and never will be able to do more than harmonize. Maybe […]

  19. Out and About: Suave Skin Recording Session « Aliya S. King Says:

    […] geeked out and excited like I’ve never been there. It’s good to get out of my office, put on some real clothes, (okay, a pair of skinny jeans and my ubiquitous stilettos, does that count?) and go talk to real […]

  20. TG Says:

    you know thats weird because i was always ~ not to brag ~ born with a sense of style. i remember picking out my own clothes at 3 and them making sen…..

    hey is that my sweater? i thought you said you weren’t gonna wear it anymore?
    plus you can’t get away with it! not with that outfit! and don’t give me that : “NO nO No i have a sweater just like yours!” cause i’m too old too still be believing that!

    dang… that sweater was like a blanket too me. im attached you know. lots of memories stuffed in those pockets.

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