Dealing with judgemental relatives in the holiday season can be tough.
The holidays are a time of family, community, joy, and festive cheer. The uni break is still stretching out in front of us and with it, the chances to catch up with extended family. It’s a time to be bombarded with questions about our non-existent love lives, plans for the future (with a wink and a nod towards medicine or law from older family members), and a time for mildly inappropriate social commentary from people we rarely see.
Because the holidays are a time for family, and family being together, the boundaries of normal social interaction change. It is suddenly okay for someone to lean in and interrogate you on when you’re planning of having children with your partner of three months, or to be compared with your second cousin who also studied Psychology, and why didn’t you do better in the final exam? It is hard enough to refuse a serving of turkey for the third time in a row to explain yes, I am a vegetarian, and no, I won’t eat this. But the impending issue is that we are always forced with the awkward decision of what to wear to our holiday festivities.
The ever so common raised eyebrow, teamed with a knowing smirk, accompany the dreaded phrase, “oh, you’re wearing that are you?”. Which is a not so subtle hint that you have fucked it.
So to make it through the remainder of the 2018 holiday season, here is a handy suggestion on how to tackle the most persistent of those relatives:
The Conservative Grandmother
Watching a grandmother’s urge to adjust a wonky shirt collar, or pull down the hem of a skirt is almost comical. Everything has to be just so, and god forbid you wear shorts to Christmas lunch. There is a constant air of her wanting to put you back in the itchy velvet dresses you wore when you were 5.
Something ‘smart’ (a favourite adjective of the picky grandmother) and classic like a sleeveless midi dress, or a button down shirt with chinos will do just fine to appease this character.
The Casual [Insert Relative Here]
This is someone who doesn’t really give a rat’s ass about the formality of the holidays and insists on wearing thongs at every occasion. They are fantastic fun to be around and you always feel a little bit too dressed up when next to them. No need to downplay your dressy-ness unless that’s the general vibe of your family events. It is always better to be dressed up than down at any event, but not so far ahead that your evening gown is brushing against Bintang singlets. To feel at ease around Casual McCasual I would suggest something light and airy like a cute romper or oversized patterned shirt – also great for those 40 degree days.
The Very Cool Cousin
They will know instantly whether you’re wearing labels or not, and spend the evening telling you all about their recent outing to a fancy club where they met some musician you’ve surely never heard of. You’ve never quite been able to keep up with them, fashionably or otherwise, so just dodge that bullet all together. Wear something second hand and original that will surely challenge their idea of the importance of brand recognition. A quick “this only cost me $5 and I look fabulous” will shut them up in no time.
The Creepy Man You’re Distantly Related To
This is the classic situation of your second cousin’s future father-in-law, the man who’s hand lingers for too long on your back, and who starts making jokes in the first four minutes of meeting you. Creepy men will follow you in every aspect of your life, and I am certainly not one to encourage appeasing this lot. Best to wear what makes you feel comfortable and just avoid him like the plague.
And here we come, full circle, right back to you. The person who is actually wearing the clothes and enduring these events. You have to feel comfortable in what you’re wearing without fundamentally changing who you are as a person (that’s not a huge ask, right?). For me, the holidays are not quite the time to take fashion risks, mum’s choice of “let’s all do handmade presents this year!” is risk enough. There is enough pressure in the holiday season that a fashion related one doesn’t seem worth it.
Dress simply and nicely. Wear those earrings that grandma bought for you last year that you’re not quite fond of, and maybe leave the leather corset at home. And if you can feel funky fresh and festive amidst the chaos of the holidays and avoid a stink eye from across the table – you have officially won.
Frances Harvey | @frances_harvey