It may have been due to my size 42, secondhand plaid pants.
Or perhaps my hand-me-down concert tees. Or even my decision to combine those with a red chain wallet, old orange Chuck Taylors and pigtails.
Whatever the reason, it was a badge I wore with honor. My quirky dress was just a manifestation of my quirky nature.
Which is why it's so odd that in the past three weeks I've hit International Fashion Week in two major cities.
It started out with a store-by-store display of new trends in Cape Town, followed by a fashion smorgasbord across clubs in London.
And what I've learned from a dip in the pool of couture is this: tacky is a state of mind. You can basically look good in just about anything as long as you have the personality to make it work.
There are plenty of small things this Tacky Queen can do to her clothes to pull off a designer look. The big thing I've seen in many of the new clothing lines is embroidery.
A few years back someone described one of the upcoming trends as "granny chic." I scoffed at the comment then and have to say: this ain't your granny's embroidery.
Unless, per chance, your grandmother is a bike-riding member of the Pagans.
We're talking skulls and crossbones, pin-up girls and mermaids, fast cars, all embroidered on anything from a pair of pants, to a headband and a T-shirt. And for those of you not quite ready to pull on the leather, a few rugged birds, rabbits and geometric designs have still managed to make the cut.
It doesn't take much to get started, just some embroidery floss and a needle. Unlike cross-stitch, you'll knot the end of the floss to keep your design in place. Also unlike cross-stitch, you're not working on a grid.
This art is totally freeform. Find a good outline anywhere and then transfer it onto your fabric. You can hand draw it or use tracing paper from the fabric store.
To get a steady hand it's best to start with cotton fabrics that have a tight weave. Hold off on the T-shirts and knits until you've mastered the craft.
Basic stitches are pretty simple to learn. The easiest (and most used) is the backstitch. You'll do most of your outlining with this stitch, and outlining is all you really need to do to achieve this trendy look.
Simply pull the thread through the fabric from back to front. Then, moving to the right, put your needle back through the fabric and pull the stitch taut. Next, pull the needle through the fabric to the left of your first stitch and put it back down next to your initial back-to-front entry. You've completed your first backstitch. Follow the pattern at even intervals working toward the left.
If you want to jazz your outline up just a notch try a split stitch. Bring the needle up from under the fabric. Then push the needle back through, slightly to the left of your first entry. Your next stitch will come up slightly behind your previous pass and through the strands of floss. Complete this stitch to the left and start the next. Continue this pattern at even intervals for a wider and slightly more detailed outline.
But don't go overboard. Too much detail may up the tacky factor past what your trendy persona can balance. With these designs there's no time for stem stitches or French knots.
And I'm not even going to discuss satin and chain stitches. Let's save those for samplers and sundresses.
Where the details are missing from the design in these hot fashions, they are tenfold in the placement of the embroidered element. We're not talking alligators on shirt pockets here. A detail on the hip hem of a shirt, a tattoo-like design on the back ribcage, a bluebird on your shoulder. The more unique the placement the more looks you'll get.
And that's really what it's all about -- being uniquely you.
Now go out and embrace your inner Tacky Queen.
Vanessa Cook is a former Southeast Missourian copy editor who dabbles in decorating.