Clothes Encounters of the Divine Kind is a recapitulation of the author’s life from early childhood to the present time and the role that her passions for fashion and healing played in her own spiritual awakening. While it seems like an autobiography, in truth, it is an invitation for the reader to take that tumble down the rabbit hole and dare to wear the clothing of their dreams while learning about and experiencing the wonderful healing benefits of clothing & colors. An added benefit is that it is jam packed with ideas for dressing to express rather than the old dress for success paradigm. Hop on the Peace Train to experience true Freedom!
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Clothes Encounters of the Divine Kind
Where Image Reflects the Truth
By Diane Donato
Balboa PressCopyright © 2014 Diane Donato
All rights reserved.
The Beginning in Form
I was born on April 15, 1949 at 2:53 in the afternoon, which happened to be "Good Friday" that year. I was raised as a Roman Catholic and I've experienced much wonder through the years at the fact that I had been born on the anniversary of Jesus Christ's death on the cross and at almost 3:00 in the afternoon, the time of His bodily death. My mother's best friend had written her a note upon my birth expressing how special I was to have been born on Good Friday. In my innocence, I took that to mean that I had a special mission on Earth, so on some level, my quest for finding truth began at a very early age. I felt responsible not in an egocentric way, but rather in a very humble way. I wanted to fulfill my destiny.
I loved Jesus with all of my heart and wept every Easter time during my younger years at His crucifixion (and became ill almost every Easter weekend). I celebrated His resurrection on Easter Sunday (and although I am no longer a practicing Catholic, I still do to this day. I often felt like I knew Him personally and on some level I did and still do (I think we all have some knowledge of Him regardless of how we were brought up). This belief stayed with me all of my life and continues even now as I am writing this. Because I was born on Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified and died on the cross, I always feared that I would die when I was thirty-three years old (not that I ever thought I was Jesus or even like Him. I just loved Him and wanted to marry Him. I wanted to learn how to be just like Him). Yet, it is no accident that I met my first spiritual teacher on May 23, 1982 when I was thirty-three years old. This was the beginning of the death of the ego built image of Diane. But, I am getting ahead of myself. Unlike Jesus who died at age thirty-three, my spiritual journey began at age thirty-three. It is also important to note that my mother told me that she knew I was different from my older brother right away because I manifested from infancy a very free spirit. In fact, she had nicknamed me Bird, a name that stayed with me throughout my life. I remember her often referring to me as being flighty. I also remember her telling me that I was the one who had taught her that each one of us is different with different personalities, temperaments and gifts. Because she knew that I needed the freedom to develop my wings she did her best to provide that freedom to me as much as possible during that time.
When I was very young, I went on vacation at the beach with my parents. I remember my older brother was playing the accordion and getting a lot of attention. Suddenly I had the urge to get up and act like a conductor, leading him in his music. This action on my part garnered many laughs from the adults. I didn't want to play the music; I wanted to lead the band! I guess from at a young age I was destined to be a leader or conductor of some sort!
Fashion is my passion. My search for my true identity began in 1963, when I was in high school, and fashion played a huge part in this search. Actually, it was earlier than that. I recall that when I was in grammar school at Blessed Sacrament Grammar School I noticed the nuns' habits and the big rosary beads that hung from their waists. I particularly loved the wide cuffs at the wrist that allowed them to place their hands in them like a muff, and I thought the large rosary beads around their waist were very cool. I remember going home one day and telling my mother that I wanted to be a nun. She asked me why, and I responded that I liked their outfits. Mom told me that that was vanity and that was no reason to want to be a nun because they give up vanity when they take their vows. Another time when I saw a nun's wimple blow up in the wind and expose her bald head underneath, I was devastated. The desire to become a nun went away gradually after that. When I watched movies of the postulants scrubbing floors and waiting on the priests in the rectories, I realized that the life of a nun is not very glamorous. However, the clincher was when in the fourth grade I got slapped across the face by a nun teacher for erroneously putting my name on the wrong line on a piece of paper. My true direct experience of nuns was that nuns were mean and I didn't want to have to be mean. I still loved Jesus though and on some level I still wanted to marry Him. I also felt a strong connection to Mary Magdalene back then even though we were taught that she was a prostitute. I didn't believe that way back then, and now subscribe to what was revealed about her by Dan Brown in The daVinci Code.
Even though I was raised as a Catholic, I often questioned the teachings of the church. I remember being taught to fear God, and that if I walked into another church other than Catholic it was a mortal sin. I couldn't wrap my head around the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church. How could God be love and fear at the same time? Even though I attended an all girl Catholic college, I still didn't buy the Catholic religion. Yet, I am grateful for having learned about spirituality and God from a very young age. It served as a good foundation for my life's journey back to spirit.
Growing up, I had three brothers, a father and a mother. My mom wanted me to be able to do all of the things that she was not allowed to do growing up because she was female. Both my parents are of Italian heritage. My mom's parents came from Italy when they were teenagers. (I do not remember much about my father's family.) Mom was overprotected by her father, who was very old-fashioned. When Mom was younger and living at home it became fashionable for women to wear slacks. Mom was beautiful and loved beautiful clothes. One day, she bought a pair of pants and had them lying on her bed. When her father saw them he asked, who they belonged to. When she told him they were hers and that they were the latest style in women's clothes, he ripped them apart. Pants were only to be worn by men, he decreed. Because she was also deprived of her independence she wanted to make sure that I had mine. I was able to do and have all the things she was not allowed to do and have. She told me that she wasn't even allowed to roller skate with two skates, but rather only with one skate for safety. "Always keep one foot firmly planted on the ground" was his theory, I guess.
So for quite a while I was somewhat of a tomboy even though I always knew I was a girl. I liked being a girl. It seems that my earliest recollection of wanting to be pretty centered on my need to be loved. Everyone loved my mother and she was always referred to as being beautiful. In fact, she was a dead ringer for the then popular actress Hedy Lamarr. I thought that if I was pretty and beautiful, then people would love me because everyone loved my mother.
In my early teens I discovered a love for makeup and began wearing eye makeup in high school to make me look pretty. I realize now that this was the way I began emerging into my femininity. I realized I was a girl and wanted to be recognized as a girl and I wanted to be liked and loved as Mom was.
As I was writing this, a memory from when I was around six years old has surfaced. That winter we had moved into our first and only house that my parents bought. I was playing out in the backyard wearing the same sort of green hooded snorkel jacket like my brothers wore when two girls from the house behind ours were playing nearby and noticed me. One of them said to the other, "Don't go there! That's a boy!" I heard them and quickly yelled out after taking off the hood, "Hey, I'm not a boy. Look, I am a girl!" They then came over to me, and we became good friends. I don't remember ever wearing that boys' snorkel jacket again!
There was a lot of testosterone in my house growing up, so I couldn't help catching some of it. It has served me as both a blessing and a curse throughout my life. I was always torn between being "one of the guys" and "one of the girls". I loved men. I loved being a girl. I also thought that if I was pretty enough then I would be loved by men and would find my soul mate/husband. Somewhere in there was also the need to be smart. Of course, I was right smack in the middle of the feminist movement. In 1971, I was graduated from college. I no longer wanted to be loved just because of my looks. Although I never thought I was pretty enough mostly because I wasn't petite. I was larger than many of the girls I went to school with. I figured I needed to develop my brain. I also have a brain. Interestingly enough I was raised in a wonderful Italian/American family. It bears repeating that Mom was absolutely knockdown gorgeous –and as mentioned earlier, a dead ringer for Hedy Lamarr, so everyone has told me from her generation who knew her. I wanted to be pretty like Mom. Dad was very handsome too. They made an elegant couple and were utterly devoted to each other. The earliest pictures of Mom showed her very highly fashionably dressed. She was way ahead of her time socially and intellectually as well. She was a very modern woman in spite of her overprotective Italian father and mother. My mother had told me that she knew my father was the man for her the very first time she met him (I believe they met at someone else's wedding), so in my own little way I always thought I would know instantly when I had met my soul mate. I made a lot of mistakes along the way with this belief. In my own little world, beauty translated into the ticket to finding true "love".
The following is a somewhat chronological account of my evolution by decades. As you approach the end of this work you will notice that the linear account of my growth and development no longer is relevant and you see how clothing and colors helped to integrate my body, mind and spirit into wholeness. I lump the 60's and 70's together mostly because they seem to merge together and explain the formative years of high school and college and the beginning of the "image" of Diane. Huge learning experiences about life, yet fashion hadn't quite made the huge impact on my life that it made a bit later.CHAPTER 2
The 60's and 70's High School and College & Boston
During my high school years, fashion and clothing options were pretty much limited to either a "preppy" or "hoody" look. You were either a "clicker" or a "hood". The clickers wore their hair straight and wore tasseled Bass Weejuns (loafers) or saddle shoes and the hoods wore their hair teased up with high and tight fitting clothes and pointed shoes. Watch the movie Grease and you'll get the picture of the two different groups. I couldn't make up my mind so I was a little bit of both although my dress most of the time leaned towards the "preppy" or clickers. I had eclectic tastes even back then and I was always torn between wearing my hair straight or teased up and loafers or pointed shoes. I remember actually ironing my hair with my mother's clothing iron (flat irons had not been invented yet!!) and I remember using toilet paper rolls (before huge rollers were available) to set my hair on to assist in straightening it as well as teasing my hair so that it looked "big". So, I alternated as the mood or social function dictated. I had friends from both sides of the fence ... I guess you could say I was neutral – like Switzerland. I accepted everyone for who they were rather than what they wore, and I wanted everyone to accept me for who I was. I dressed to fit in no matter what the occasion was. I had a keen sense of fairness and openness even back then that I have embraced for most of my life.
The Beatles became very popular when I was in high school and I loved them and their music. I had a few boyfriends in high school - and was really in love with an older boy named Ricky who I had met while driving around and hanging around on weekends. He was more of a "hood" and had a motorcycle which I loved riding on the back of. It should be noted that my parents had forbade me to ride on motorcycles, but I did it anyway, behind their backs of course. In school I was a "clicker" and out of school I was somewhat of a "hood", but not totally either one in either place. I couldn't pick sides and I wouldn't. I was open to all of life even back then.
When I turned 16 during my Sophmore year in high school I immediately got a job working in a Doctor's Office part time after school. I did typing of patient's records and occasionally assisted in the back room with the Doctor during examinations.
I really enjoyed the job because it gave me some spending money however; it prevented me from hanging out at the "Handy Kitchen" restaurant where all the kids went after school. This was probably a blessing in disguise. I decided not to go into nursing even though I liked the job at the Doctor's Office. I wanted to go to a four-year college and perhaps become a high school math teacher like my Dad. During the 2+years I worked after school the Doctor and his Nurse often referred to me as "Sunshine" because I was always happy and up beat and loved working."
I must admit that I was your typical teenager and had issues with my mother and father at times. However, these were not the norm, and for the most part both parents supported me very well and I knew that I was loved by both of them. Yet, I did have a bit of rebellion in me.
One event that comes to mind was when the wet look raincoats were the rage and all the in crowd girls were buying them. I wanted one too and my mother told me to go downtown and charge one on her Worth's credit card. They were faux leather and the very latest trend. She told me not to buy the most expensive one or the cheapest one. I came home with one that was dark brown and a little bit shorter than I would normally wear. When my mother saw it, she hated it on me because it was way too short and didn't flatter me in any way so she took me downtown to take it back and find another one. I ended up with the most expensive one in the store in pure white and it looked fabulous on me. My mother wanted me to look my best and she proved it by getting me the very best (even though we didn't have a lot of money then).
I graduated high school in 1967 and went off to college that Fall. My weight had always been somewhat of an issue, but I was always told I had a very pretty face, however it wasn't until college that I actually went on my first diets and became more conscious of my body. College was an educational experience for me, more social/experiential than academic, although I did study a little and learned a lot. It was in college that my social consciousness arose with deciding to major in Social Sciences rather than my initial intention of becoming a math teacher like my Dad. This decision was helped along with the fact that a nun who was head of the math department met privately with students in her room and I was too cool to be meeting with a professor after school. Fashion did not play such a major role in my life then, although I did enjoy new clothes when my family could afford them and I always wanted to look pretty. The fashion and glamour world was relatively simple then: a few cosmetics and a couple of nice outfits to wear to a dance, to church and on holidays; not to mention that it was ok then to wear the same things over and over again. It was great to have 5 different outfits to wear to school each week. My mom and I wore the same size for a while when I was in high school and college and she had a really sharp orange burlap skirt suit that I loved and wore on occasions. I was always allowed to buy back-to-school outfits in the fall and on Easter outfit in the spring along with a few new spring and summer items.
Excerpted from Clothes Encounters of the Divine Kind by Diane Donato. Copyright © 2014 Diane Donato. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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