When I heard about the Unique Vintage #IAmUnique campaign I loved it. Since I launched my own campaign of #LovingMeIn2015 this year I’ve noticed lately that when I post body positive pictures on Instagram, or similar pictures under this hashtag, I sometimes get girls say they want my body or they want to be me when they grow up. I know that’s likely just the dramatic construct of the compliment, they don’t really mean they would rather be me than themselves, but sometimes I get the feeling that there is a true wistfulness there. Apart from finding that it feels alien that someone may wish that, there’s also the uncomfortable feeling that I don’t want anyone to wish to be anyone but themselves. They are the only ‘them’ that there is. They are their own special person. They are unique. We all are. I, you, they, we.
Part of the launch of the #iamunique campaign involved a lookbook of inspiring people stating one of their most unique identifiers, such as Queen of Heartz Founder and Designer Letty Tennant declaring ‘I am a boss,’ burbankmom.com blogger Jessica Cribbs declaring ‘I am a mother,’ UV’s social media Creative Curator Stan Salas declaring ‘I am fabulous’ while sporting full sublime drag, athlete Marti Davis claiming ‘I am a survivor.’
I could not think of one specific thing that I was, that felt unique enough that it wouldn’t be something someone else might claim. It’s not that I don’t think I have anything special. I feel unique. I tell people I am, and that I’m fabulous, and that I am made of awesome (I also tell people I’m a moron and giant child, so don’t worry about big britches here.) But what is my one thing? My one identifier?
The only thing I could come up with is that I am a contradiction. Not deliberately, not contrary in attitude, but in my life, the way I am contradicting what I do.
I am a 50s style pinup doll…who works in a warehouse. By day I wear steel toed boots, jeans, a high-visibility waistcoat and, in winter when it’s cold, fingerless gloves. I pick and I pack, I lift and I carry, I label and rebox and fill out paperwork in the messiest handwriting of possibly any woman ever to exist. I often don’t wear makeup to work and some days brushing my hair is as far as the styling goes. I take those days as lazy days, as a break from the fact that I am, by night, and on my weekends, full time in pinup hair, makeup and clothes.
I own two wardrobes full of fabulous retro clothes, full to literal bursting of Unique Vintage, Pinup Girl Clothing, Collectif, Hell Bunny, Lindybop, and more. I own 40-odd pairs of heels, mostly 4+ inches in height and several pairs of them hand-bedazzled with thousands upon thousands of crystals by my own fair hands. I own a lot of makeup. A lot. It has it’s own bookcase for storage. I make hair flowers and custom cardigans and bedazzled clutch bags.
I wetset my hair and learned to properly apply false lashes and have a top five of red lipsticks. When I am going out after work I go into work on those days fully made up and hair styled, all apart from the red lipstick. And I do all my usual lifting and carrying and packing in warehouse duds from the shoulders down and full glam from the neck up. Delivery drivers look confused the first time they see me, but I’m pretty used to that. I’ve always been a bit of a contradiction.
Now I wear massive skirts over 2 or 3 petticoats, but once upon a time I refused to wear skirts, wore only jeans for several years. Before that as an early teen I refused to wear trousers. I even did my farm work in a long skirt.
That’s another thing that makes me unique. I grew up on a dairy farm. I was raised from birth on our family farm, run by two generations. From the age of 11 I worked on the farm daily, rearing the calves from our dairy herd, then also milking that herd when I was a few years older. I hefted and stacked hay and straw bales in summer, and hated it because it was hot and sweaty and it gave me blisters and scratches up my thighs. I got splattered with cow crap pretty regularly, but I still preferred it to the waitressing job I had for 4 years from the age of 16 when touching other people’s left over food kind of grossed me out.
I grew up hardworking and strong and proud to be a contributor to my family. I studied hard and got good grades at school…and then refused to go to university. Another contradiction; the smart girl who refuses to continue learning. Instead I worked and tried to figure out what to do with my life, because it seems pointless to me to spend thousands on a degree I wasn’t sure I wanted or would have a use for. The most important thing for me was–and had always been, even since I was a small child–being happy. And it wasn’t that I had so much experience being unhappy that I yearned for happiness. Not at all. My sunkissed, blond-haired childhood was practically idyllic, with our beautiful farm and my 4 siblings and my lovely, in-love parents. I knew happiness. I know the most important thing in life was that I wanted to keep feeling that way, far more often than I ever felt anything else.
But I do understand unhappiness. My childhood ended when I was 15 and my dad got cancer. I had to study for my final exams while helping cover the full farm schedule with my older brother when my dad was too sick to work. He fought it for two years. I was 17, in the middle of my final year at collage, when my dad died. My grandad, who lived with us, died within two months too. after several difficult months of my family and I caring for him at home as his health and his mind rapidly deteriorated. He could not remember that his son, my father, his last remaining member of family, had died. If he forgot and I reminded him, he would curl into a withered 99-year-old ball and cry. So I stopped reminding him. ‘Dad’s just sleeping right now.’ We cared and struggled and coped, and they both left us in the same winter, not quite together. I got on and finished college on time, got the grades, and for several years the best thing I could do was to focus on how to be happy.
I think that’s part of what makes me unique. Yes, that I have known loss and heartbreak and numerous things that I needed to survive, but that I know how to be happy. That utmost of anything I could want, I just want to be happy. And I am. I am a warehouse barbie who deals with boxes by day, wears pretty dresses by night, and blogs about it in her spare time to try to help the other pinups out there who are living contradictions of glamour and elegance in a world that sometimes acts like being glamorous and elegant is arrogant and vain, or else uptight and snobby.
Because the thing is I know life is too short. I learned that at 17. I know the going is hard and the road is bumpy and it’s all uphill on a blind bend that might have a cliff around the corner. I have learned that over and over. So I wear what I want. I turn up, forever overdressed, to everything. Because I am not dressed for the supermarket, or the warehouse, or even the party. I am dressed for life. For the joy of being alive and being free and having the choice to wear the beautiful, flattering, classic, feminine clothes from the wrong era because I like them. Wasting your best clothes on the excuse of ‘Well, I don’t want people to think it’s a bit too much’ is a waste of life and happiness. Who really cares if you are the only person in a petticoat in the frozen food aisle? People stare for a while, but most of the time everyone else is too preoccupied thinking about what they have to do and be and feel. They are thinking about themselves and what they need and want. On a good day they might be thinking about the ways that they, too, are unique. So go ahead and be unique. Embrace it.
My name’s Amy. I still love cows and I miss ours very much. I miss my dad, and my grandad. But I also dearly love being an aunt to 5 gorgeous niblings. I challenge myself every year to read 50 books, though last year I only managed 41. I talk about dinosaurs more than most 28-year-olds do. I have friends across the world whom I have never met. I sleep on my side, I hate bananas, and I really, really love my best friends whom I have known since we were all 2 years old. I don’t like pink. I do like people who like to pop bubbles even as adults. I wetset my hair rather than heat set, I can’t sleep if my feet are too hot or too cold, and it have a knotty scar on the inside of my lower lip–the actual inside flesh of my lip–because I fainted when I was ill at 15 and smashed my face into a step. Oh, and I faint when I’m ill. That’s right. I’m a strong, warehouse-working, former farm girl who faints when she gets poorly. I told you I was a contradiction.
And I am unique. Fabulous and lazy and hardworking and loud and warm-hearted and bitch-faced and childlike. And unique. You are too. Unique Vintage and I would really love for you to embrace that and tell us all about it.