Forget the “Zoo-Look” and Cultivate the YOU Look!

This post is part of a series examining 1950s era charm, poise, and beauty using Secrets of Poise, Personality, and Model Beauty written by modeling agency and schools icon John Robert Powers and published by Prentiss-Hall in 1960.

Unless she acquires the taste and fortitude to discriminate between the patterns which are limited fads of the moment and the true values which will equip her to assume her proper place in the outside world, she will face a trying adjustment when the time comes to break away from the old ties.  ~John Robert Powers, speaking to teenagers

Coca Cola Ad from 1955

Coca Cola Ad from 1955; Image courtesy of Paul Malon on

Mr. Powers calls them “tribes” and it is an accurate word to describe the groups that teenagers form around them.  When I was a teenager all those years ago, the tribes at my high school consisted of the popular people, the drama people, the potheads, the athletes, the nerds (who are all probably insanely wealthy by now, I’m sure), the spiritual, and so forth.  Each tribe had a distinct look about them and it was easy to identify a classmate’s tribe.

But tribes aren’t limited to the teenage years.  What groups do you belong to?  Is your “group uniform” in alignment with how you want to be perceived by yourself and others?  Whether you like it or not, you are constantly telegraphing to others how you feel about yourself and how you expect to be treated by your clothing choices, your grooming habits, and how you carry yourself.  Even your behavior telegraphs information about how you view yourself and others.  Again, is it in alignment with how you want to be perceived by yourself and others?

Mr. Powers says that it is okay to seek the security of a group.  But, you also must not lose sight of the bigger picture.  He warns that it is important to not look ridiculous in the process of trying to fit in with your group and undermining your chances “in the real world.”  Wearing black fingernail polish, adding green highlights to your hair, and wearing a mesh top with a leopard print bra underneath may get you noticed by a principal but probably won’t help you get that teaching job (or taken seriously by your child’s teacher).  I’m not saying that you can’t wear those things when you are hanging out with your group.  Just don’t be surprised when you encounter road blocks when you wear them outside your group.

Recently, I looked in my closet and discovered that it was filled with the “college student uniform” which generally means t-shirts and skirts or jeans.  I realized this was a result of spending two to three days a week for the past couple of years in a sewing lab while I was working on my custom clothing certificate. But, I can’t stand up in front of classroom full of graduate students looking like an undergraduate and expect them to believe that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to teaching college.  Fortunately, I learned how to develop a wardrobe the same way a designer develops a collection and am in the process of rebuilding a classic and timeless collection that is a better reflection of who I am and who I want to be (I discuss this process on my Grandma’s Sewing Cabinet podcast).

What groups do you belong to?  What is the uniform of your group?  Listen to the podcast that I linked to above and tell us your “story” that you want to create about yourself.