Not all girls enjoy wearing flowery dresses and playing with dolls in their childhood. Co-founder of Tomboy Tarts, Raven Lim was just one of those kids that broke through the norm and grew up to to have a style and attitude that spelled tomboy.
Flipping through my old photo albums, there was plenty of cute. Here was me, staring wide eyed at the camera in a sleeveless summer dress. Me in a floral dress laughing gleefully as I hugged a huge teddy bear soft toy that was about my height. There was a bespectacled me, much older, lifting up my polka dot dress in an attempt of curtsey.
Sometimes I looked at my old photos and wondered who this girl was. There did exist a period in my life where I looked all sweet and dolled up. Yet unseen in the photographs, I was itching all over and sweltering in the tropical heat from those stiff, chiffon dresses. Or had my own Marilyn Monroe moments when my flouncy skirts was lifted up by strong gusts of wind, causing me to inevitably flash my undies to the entire world.
At the age of five, I took up ballet and my world turned pink. I had to grow out my hair and it was either uncomfortably pinned into a bun for my dance classes or braided up tightly for school. At first I was swept up into the fairy tale world of leotard, tutu, tights and ballet flats with long ribbons. My nutcracker dreams were never realised as I soon found that I had two left feet and would rather learn how to play the guitar.
Eventually I outgrew all my pretty dresses and reached adolescence, the start of my awkward teenage phase. Suddenly it was all about the boobs and my mother became obsessed about me wearing clothes that would not reveal them in any way. Despite my then skinny self, I was still bustier than rest of the girls in my class. Hence I had to suffer through wearing ultra baggy t-shirts with tailored culottes made out of leftover cloth from my mother’s wardrobe. My mother might be a seamstress then but her idea of fashion was struck in the wilderness of the early 1970s.
The year after Kurt Cobain was found dead at his home, I discovered grunge and a new freedom in how I could style myself. Aspiring to look like my heroes, I still struck to the big t-shirts but with cooler graphics instead of “Community Day 1995”. Ditching the culottes, I wore my jean loose and my cargo pants baggy. I saved up for my first ever big purchase – a pair of beloved Dr. Marten boots which I worn to bits. Unfortunately with my umbrella shaped bob cut and my clumsy spectacles with clear rims, I still looked more nerd than cool cat. But I was happy and felt great in the way I looked. For the first time in my life, I had control and chose to completely rebel from the ultra-femininity of my childhood.
Over the years, my style continued to evolve but it always came back to the underlying concept of comfort and freedom. From there a new set of headaches arose – How do you find clothes that fit you when you are not a size zero? How to dress professionally without compromising your style? Sometimes I wished for the days when fashion was as simple as just rebelling against my childhood.