Fashion Week

I love to travel because when I’m in another country, it’s as if  time stops and all life at home is put on hold. I’m more relaxed, I get to see and taste new things and I’m more open to new experiences. I become more willing to think “why not?” instead of my usual “that’s not me.” I feel changed.

And then I come back to real life.

You know the scene in You’ve Got Mail when Birdie hints that she was once in love with General Franco and Meg Ryan defends her to Greg Kinnear, saying, “It happened in Spain. People do really stupid things in foreign countries, “ and he says, “Absolutely. They buy leather jackets for much more than they’re worth. But they don’t fall in love with fascist dictators!” I think of that every time I look in my closet at the really stupid things I did in foreign countries, otherwise known as The Graveyard of Clothes I Bought on Vacation.

Everyday Me wears sneakers and jeans with a plain t-shirt and hoodie or cardigan. Everyday Me dresses like Miranda:

Miranda

Vacation Me is open to new possibilities and often makes terrible shopping decisions because Vacation Me doesn’t remember that Everyday Me would never in a million years wear Vacation Me’s clothes. Vacation Me dresses like Mimi from the Drew Carey Show:

Kinney

When I’m on vacation, I tend to forget that you need to have confidence to take fashion risks and I am not a confident person. My wardrobe’s primary colors are very safe: black, grey and denim. The most colorful things in regular rotation are the plastic hangers.

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My lack of confidence is also why I’m not a boot person. It’s not that I don’t like boots, it’s just that in my mind, I’m not the type of person who could pull off wearing boots. I was pretty sure that if I ever did wear boots, everyone would look at me and say, “What are you doing wearing boots? You’re not a boot person. Who are you trying to kid?” But every once in a while when I’m shopping, I stop to look, just in case I find a pair that looks like the kind of boots I would wear if I were a boot person.

Well guess what? I found some boots ON SALE that I thought I could actually wear. The problem is that I was on vacation when I bought them, which makes Everyday Me question the decision. Even my bank knew it was an uncharacteristic purchase – it froze my card until I called in to verify that yes, as crazy as it sounds, I did buy boots. Hard to believe, Bank, but true.

I’m still unsure about wearing them, but they were a substantial purchase and I don’t want them to waste away in the closet. So this week, I had to make wearing my new boots an actual assignment. And while I was at it, I decided I might as well go whole hog and dust off the Clothes Graveyard as well. Pretty exciting, isn’t it? Finally getting around to wearing all those things I bought while I was in an altered state of mind? Is it safe? Should I do this?

And because I know myself, I added a rule that I couldn’t explain to anyone why I was dressed that way, or make any self-deprecating remarks, or do anything else to acknowledge that anything unusual was going on. (Only my husband was in the know.) I had to work it and own it and pretend that I didn’t feel self-conscious about it. It was going to be so difficult. Even when I’m wearing something I really like, I feel self-conscious; I can’t even accept a compliment graciously.

Even though it was hard for me to leave my house wearing some of these impulse buys and even harder to pretend I wasn’t dying of embarrassment, I did it and I have the pictures to prove it. (Be careful, you might need special glasses to filter all the BRIGHT colors!)

On Friday I wore my Psychedelic Cardigan to help at the school carnival. I bought the sweater in Bali when, after passing it in window displays three times, I sheepishly admitted to my husband that I really liked it. Since he’s always happy when I stray from gray, he immediately dragged me into the store. The smallest size they had was medium, so I was ready to leave, but my husband asked the store clerk if they had any smalls. The man looked me up and down and said, “That’s an Asian medium, so you’ll be fine.” Judgy and rude, but he still got the sale.

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I do actually wear this sweater occasionally, but I felt overdressed wearing it to sell drinks at the carnival. To my relief, no one mentioned my wacky cardigan because they were too busy commenting on my very sunburned face. My 10-year-old was the only one who said anything: “Are you actually going to wear that? Oh, wait…is this for your blog?”

On Saturday we went to a dinner party with family and close friends, so I figured that would be a safe space to wear what I consider to be my strangest purchase: The Macrame Sweater (or shirt? not sure what it is but it reminds me of those mesh pear cozies you find in fancy fruit baskets). I bought it in Sweden after my husband insisted it wasn’t too weird, but once I hit the mainland, I never wore it because it is too weird. I did wear it once for a performance because it’s sparkly but I got lots of curious looks, so back to the closet it went.

I was sure my oldest son was going to be horrified when I put it on, but all he said was, “These things look like the tops of marimba mallets,” which might have actually been a compliment but it’s hard to tell. I wonder what my poor in-laws and friends thought when they saw me in this beauty. They were very kind about it (“Oh, look at you!” or “Sparkly!” – the compliments you use when you can’t honestly say you like something) and I worked so hard to bite my tongue and to prevent my eyes from rolling, but I just wish I could’ve read their thoughts as I walked around the house wearing something so uncharacteristic and strange. If I could have just explained why I was wearing it, we could have had so much fun mocking the sweater together, but I stuck with my rule the whole night. (Here I am in the first photo posing with a bird, and then in the second photo I’m trying to remove one of the sparkly beads from the bird’s grip.)

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On Sunday, I wore my boots for the first time. I felt self-conscious walking out of the house in them and they’re not like a new shirt that you can forget you’re wearing – boots are bulky so they make their presence known at all times. But as we sat in church and my son was complaining about being cold, I was quite pleased with the warmth they provided me. Plus, they make me feel kind of powerful. Imagine if I had to kick someone with these boots on. Think of the damage I could do.

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Then there was this little number (also from Sweden). I’m really not sure what I was thinking when I bought this. The long flappy sleeves get in the way, it’s too short to be a dress, too long to be a shirt, and just too purple. I don’t know why I’ve held on to it for eight years. I chose Monday to wear it because I wasn’t going anywhere – I was only teaching piano and wasn’t worried about my students’ opinions. But then I remembered that I had to go to the store and here I was dressed like Mrs. Roper. This was a true test of my resolve but I did it even though I’m pretty sure I’ll end up on a People of Walmart post. (And I wouldn’t be surprised if my husband was the one who posted it.)

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My next item is something I wear quite often as a costume, but when I originally bought it I actually thought to myself, “I know it doesn’t look like anything I’d ever wear ever, but…” That’s right, I actually thought Everyday Me would wear a FAUX FUR ZEBRA PRINT bolero jacket. I am not even kidding. It is incredibly soft to the touch, but if I wanted a tactile experience, I could’ve just bought a rabbit’s foot key chain. Here’s me wearing it for a fake prom a few months ago as a joke and then here’s me on Tuesday wearing it to take my son to school “for real.” Yes, nothing’s too good for my child. I dress up to show him I care.

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I’m not sure what I expected to learn from this experience. Maybe I wanted to see if I could become less mousy in my appearance if I shook up my wardrobe a bit. Perhaps I just wanted to get my money’s worth on these purchases before tossing them. I’m not sure, but one thing I do know is that the boots and Psychedelic Cardigan will stay in my closet but the rest will go to the costume bucket or to a good home if anyone wants them.

This experiment was a good opportunity for me to learn to stop responding to compliments with grunts, eye rolls, or self-deprecating remarks. I think I will continue that exercise in the future with my less weird clothes since this is a habit that has annoyed people my whole life. I can remember a friend’s dad shouting at 12-year-old me, “Just say thank you! That’s all you have to do when I compliment you!” And I’m sure my husband is screaming the same thing in his mind pretty much every day.

This week also made me wonder – is my husband really sweet and attentive or does he just have terrible taste? Because he was full of compliments all week. Maybe it was because he knew how difficult it was for me to not make fun of myself, or, more likely,  he was just being extra nice because he felt guilty that he was the one who talked me into buying most of this stuff.

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4 thoughts on “Fashion Week

  1. It wasn’t too many years ago, my closet looked like yours- populated with all the colors of grey- from sooty-soul to angel’s breath. That was some variation! One day, a very good friend (whose color palette and language-use ventured further from monochromatic than I seldom dared) plopped down at my kitchen table and told me I had a problem.

    “You’re hiding yourself. What are you afraid of?”

    It was the start of a very cathartic snowball, which lasted weeks (and is still ongoing, actually now that I think about it) and (sort-of) ended with her giving me a manicure in a saucy red polish. I DON’T WEAR RED NAIL POLISH! I protested. I protested over and over. Later I wrote:

    “When she was done filing and smoothing my hands, she pulled out this insane ruby red Butter LONDON polish called “Knees Up” and proceeded to paint my short, filed nails this deeply scandalous, attention grabbing shade. I rebelled. I was self-conscious. Only women with long, manicured nails should wear a color like that- “I can’t wear that!” I protested. Holding my hand and brushing on the crimson anyway, she looked askance at me. “If you have something you don’t like, and you ignore it, it just looks neglected. If you polish it, it looks like you did it on purpose. Own it.”

    Huh…

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of her saying that lately. Own it. Embrace the things that might be looked at as neglected, and suddenly they actually stop being flaws and become a beautiful, purposeful part of the whole. But what do I know- it was just about nail polish…”

    That was almost four years ago. My nails are still polished, and my inner dialogue is now peppered with confidence instead of doubt. No one can see my internal life. If I like something- regardless of what it is- clothing, color, polish, makeup, a book, food– whatever it is, if I own it, it’s mine. And that confidence has been transcendent.

    Wich is a really long way of saying your experiment makes me really like you. You, and your bravery. Own it.

  2. I like that a lot. Of course, so many parts of me are neglected, I wouldn’t know where to start. Or stop.

    I need to work on my inner dialogue. If it’s not something I would ever say to my friend or husband, it’s probably not ok to say it to myself. And this week it was pretty obvious that the rest of the world is not always looking at me. For the most part, I was the only one bothered by how I looked.

  3. Yes. Yes x100. I say that to myself, too- If I wouldn’t say it to someone I love (or am even passingly kind to?) why on earth would I say it to myself. It helps keep the keel centered.

    And yeah, the boots are awesome.

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