Guest Post: I Learned Everything About Style From 90s Song Lyrics

I met Shalini at the BlogHer conference last year. She was wearing the most fantastic vintage, floral-print, full-skirted dress ever created by humankind and it was all I could do to keep myself from conking her over the head and swapping her dress for mine. (Red and cute, but not AS cute.) We ended up chatting a bit about books and publishing and blogging, but were both speaking on panels and a little distracted and overwhelmed. It wasn’t until I got home and looked up her blog, Reading and Chickens, that I realized I’d just met a hilarious, astute, and truly original writer. (She also draws humorous cartoons and charts for her blog, which are fabulously entertaining.)

So, approximately a million years later, I realized I needed to hit her up for a guest post. And she delivered, friends. Oh, did she ever.

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That’s me in the 90s. I didn’t have the benefit of the whole oeuvre of 90s music to help guide my style, and thus, I looked like that. I am much more worldly and sophisticated now, as you can see.


Right? Look at that dubious smile. Look at how I look like I don’t know I’m super cool. (I know. I’m super cool.) Look at those pirate bangs covering one eye. It’s all from the 90s. It wasn’t just about jeans ripped in the exact wrong places and believing that Doc Martens went with everything, it was about style.

I know a lot of you already know all of this from reading Already Pretty, and although I’ve been a reader of Sally’s for years, and a worshipper at the shrine of What Not To Wear (both the UK and American versions, because I like overkill) (seriously, how many episodes did I have to watch before l learned that in every episode all they were saying was TRY HARDER YOU SLOBS), I am also a “learn by feel” gal. That means I have to mess up a whole bunch of times before I actually get it. And I had to listen to a lot of 90s music for this to come together. Suddenly I’m feeling all emo and like I want to paint my fingernails black and yell at my mom about how she’s ruining my life and slam doors.

And thus, here are my style tips based on 90s songs.

1. Dress Up

Some people ask me why it is – since I work from home and have young children constantly using me as a human Kleenex (a very high honor, as my kids won’t wipe their boogers on just anybody) – that I’d want to dress up every single day. Why, indeed? As with almost everything in life, the answer lies in inimitable, iconic Meat Loaf: I Would Do Anything For Love, But I Won’t Do That.

And by “that,” I mean, “dress like I don’t care about my appearance.” I’m a mother, not Courtney Love. Well, she’s a mother, too, but you know what I mean. I’m allowed to look nice even if no one else but my runny-nosed children/suicidal drug-addled rock star husband* are going to see me all day. I’m going to see me all day, and I’d like to smile (dubiously) when I look at myself.

*My husband is actually not a rock star but a software engineer, tanned only by the faint blue glow of a computer screen. Instead of tattoos, he has a t-shirt that says, “Video games ruined my life. Good thing I have two more lives.” HOT.

2. Wear Your Size, Even If It’s Bigger Than You Want It To Be


The other thing I discovered about my personal style as I dressed up more is that I was wearing the wrong size. I could fit into smaller pants, so shouldn’t I? But I felt, as the Stone Temple Pilots put it so eloquently, “Dead and Bloated.” I went up a pants size (fine, two pants sizes) and voila! I just felt dead, not bloated.

A great improvement.

3. Wear Nice Things, Even If It Seems* You Can’t Afford Them

Why would I spend money on clothes when I don’t make much money? Because of the Smashing Pumpkins, of course. Because today is the greatest day I’ve ever known. I can’t live for tomorrow.

Wait, that’s terrible advice. If I took that advice, my kids’ college funds would be depleted and I’d have eaten all the cheese in the house in a single sitting. What kind of fatalistic garbage are you talking about, Smashing Pumpkins?

I suppose maybe they’re trying to tell me that I need to start caring about what I wear right now, as opposed to waiting for some indefinite point in the future to pin my hopes and dreams on them being better. I’m sure they were writing those lyrics just for me and talking about wearing that Anthropologie dress I love instead of an ill-fitting dress I got for four dollars that makes me feel awful, right?

*If you seriously can’t afford them, don’t buy expensive clothes. Food > Fashion.

4. Find Clothes For YOUR Body Type


As Radiohead put it, “I don’t care if it hurts. I want a perfect body. I want a perfect soul.”

I can’t really help with the soul part.

But! I know I have a perfect body. It’s oxygenates blood and fights diseases like a freaking pro.

It’s just that I don’t have the perfect body for skinny jeans.

Or empire waist tops. (Unless I’m in the mood to be asked how many months pregnant I am—which is sometimes super fun, but you know, only when the mood strikes me).

Or heels. (Oh my goodness, I have written whole treatises against high heels.) (Sorry Sally but THEY’RE THE DEVIL.)

Or anything into which my kiester cannot fit.

But I do have the perfect body for shirtdresses and tights and miniskirts and scarves, so try to top that, neutrophils and eosinophils! Oh, you can heal my body from infection? I suppose that’s a tiny bit impressive, but not as impressive as a corduroy mini-skirt.


(Fine, you win, immune system. YOU WIN.)

5. Clothes Are Supposed To Be Fun

You know what my favorite song from the 90s was? That one by the Crash Test Dummies that goes, “Mmmm mmmm mmmm mmmm. Mmmmm mmmm mmmm mmmm.”

Yeah, totally deep, right? Those lyrics really connect with my soul on a different plane.


And my soul says: Shalini likes polka-dots. Shalini likes bright colors. Shalini is not a fan of pants. DOWN WITH PANTS. It’s alright if I’m the only one with yellow tights at school drop off, because it’s me, you know?


* * * * *

Shalini is taking a photo of her outfit every single day for the foreseeable future, because she’s a masochist. Yes, she does really like the Mmmm song. She blogs at Reading and Chickens about everything, and is on Twitter way, way too much @booksnchickens.

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17 Responses to “Guest Post: I Learned Everything About Style From 90s Song Lyrics”

  1. Chris

    This is a great post. It made me smile. A lot.

    I especially like Number 4. And because of Number 5 I am definitely wearing multicolored stripes today (although they’ll just be on my socks that no one but me will see – but I’ll know I’m wearing them).

  2. bubu

    Love this, and re-enforces my decision to wear bright pink tights on a rainy blech-y Wednesday.

    • mo

      Yes! Same logic I employed when picking a bright pink rain coat and bright red umbrella.

  3. Lainey

    Thanks for the belly laughs this morning! It’s nice to know I’m not the only mom getting funny looks because I refuse to wear yoga pants all the time. They look weird with my heels anyway…

  4. Nancy Davis Kho

    A friend sent me this link because of the music reference and to my delight it’s by Shalini, one of my very favorite finds on the interwebs – so great! I hate to rain on her parade here, readers, but I had the good fortune to meet her at BlogHer last year and, um, she’s beautiful and impeccably dressed. Since my frame of reference is ’80s songs, I’d say she’s in line with the Cure’s “Why Can’t I Be You?”

    Loved this.

  5. Frenchie

    I loooove this post. Count me in–I also hate pants (skirts give you room to breathe and move) and I love the self-love on body image. My body is just fine the way it is. I’m adding your blog to my “favourites” list.

  6. Gel

    This made me giggle! I was a teenager in the 90s with no sense of style, so I can relate. Thank goodness I know better now!

  7. Read This

    The big G has your web site on page Five, even though it is better than every single blog before it.