The Fit

We use clothes to help us fit in.

Period.

Even if we are brimming with confidence, many of us feel the need to look the part. One of my NYC friends will be attending a wedding in ruralish North Carolina this fall. When I was talking to her the other day, she was already obsessing. And the wedding isn’t till October.

“I have nothing to wear!” She whined.

“How about that cute black dress” I asked

“Gee. I won’t stand out like a New Yorker at all in that…”

And this went back and forth for awhile, her ruling out every dress she owned and me asking her to video chat her closet to me so I could talk her off the wall. She became obsessed with wanting to fit in, though she had absolutely no idea what fitting in would entail. I asked  her “what about the nice navy, just wear it with a chunky heel neutral shoe”, because I’m betting outdoors will be involved in some way. She started trolling clothing websites no matter what I said. And I could already envision her putting the new dress up for sale on her local Mom website because she was going to buy a dress she didn’t like just because of her need to be part of the group.

This is where dressing for yourself and dressing for the occasion and location collide.

Sure- we have some sort of inbred desire to be part of the group. I’m going to say it’s probably something to do with our evolutionary need to survive- fitting in is sort of like camouflage- if we blend in we won’t get hunted. And by hunted I mean talked about. No one wants to walk into a room and feel that everyone is talking about them. And if we don’t feel comfortable in what we are wearing, if we feel out of place, we’re going to think that every conversation entails people saying “Can you believe she’s wearing that?”  Every time someone looks at us we think they’re staring with disdain and derision. If we don’t feel like we’re part of the group we’re going to check the mirror about a thousand times, pull down hems, readjust sleeves….and be miserable…

I get wanting to fit in via clothes. And traveling to a different environment cements this in. I can tell a tourist in NYC by their clothes. Just like you can tell I’m a tourist when I visit someplace else. Different parts of the country have different dress codes. But how much do we accede to regional dress? If we visit the southwest do we immediately put on cowboy boots? If we go south do we wear pastels? Do we automatically shift to our environment? Change the camouflage? Seek to fit in?

I will tell anyone visiting NYC in the spring to have waterproof shoes and layers. But that’s not to fit in: that’s about being comfortable with the varied weather patterns that NYC presents. I would never tell someone to just pack black. To me fitting in means being ready for the weather.

When we visited different parts of the country last summer I did not bring “Southern” clothes or “Midwest” clothes. I brought my clothes. My collection of black, grey and olive t shirt dresses. My comfy black sandals. My white sneakers. I did bring a function over form bag that I don’t normally use at home, but that was because I really needed the function. And I didn’t care that people knew where I was from before I opened my mouth and my accent spewed out. I was OK with my way of dressing. I am OK with my way of dressing.

When you travel, you travel. The person that you are. Just wear what makes you comfortable and happy. The rest will fall into place.

Though really- there’s nothing wrong with a nice pair of cowboy boots…

 

 

 

 

 

What Should I Wear?

Yesterday one of my friends texted in our ever going group chat:

Friend: OMG Just got asked to speak at a national conference in x.

Me: Congrats! So awesome! Love that city! What an honor! What are you going to wear?

So no matter what I say or do, it really all comes down to “What am I going to wear.”

Ann said the same thing yesterday. She stated that she now knows who she is, knows what makes her comfortable, but there are times when you inevitably ask that question…Yes- most of us have reached the age where we have our look or our uniform. We have stores we frequent and styles we prefer. We know who we are and are confident enough to own it.

Yet…

There are still moments when we look at our date book, look in our closets, and just go “Hmmmm”

I have my evening event look, and I have my day event look. That’s easy. I don’t even think about what to wear to a wedding or funeral. But what about those curve balls? My tea society is having a summer event in June- the invite says dress or suit please. OK. I can do that. But then it says “Hats optional.”

Hats optional?

And I don’t mean baseball caps. I know what kind of Kentucky Derby, Sunday church hat that is being spoken of. So do I buy a hat for the occasion? Or do I sit there and be the only person not wearing a hat? It really doesn’t matter: I don’t think anyone is going to .point at me and hiss “Traitor!” But should I wear a hat?

Where do I even buy a hat?

The colleges that my daughter has been accepted to have meet and greets. This was a troubling one for me. Do I go business like, or is that too much? How casual is casual? What’s the proper middle of the road look? (For the record, I went with black dress, grey long cardigan and black flats) Yes, I was far too worried about what the other parents would think of me.

What it comes down to for me is that I want to be myself, so I stick to my neutral palette. Fine. But I neither want to stick out, nor blend in the crowd. I want to have my own individual stamp, but I don’t want everyone staring at me when I enter a room. Unless of course I’m winning an award and then stare all you like. Sort of like a non conforming conformist…

Yeah.  I know. That doesn’t really make sense. But do you kind of know what I mean?

I wonder if I’ll ever be completely at ease as far as wardrobe is concerned. I’m in capris and a t shirt right now and I am content and comfortable. It is the perfect outfit for writing and errands. And 98% of the time I am totally confident in my look. But that other 2%? I just think there will always be that little sliver of time when I have that little sliver of doubt. I think that 98% of the time I dress for myself and myself alone: but that little tiny 2%? I think that I’m dressing for someone else. And whenever you are doing something for an audience you have that certain hesitation- You second guess yourself. You wonder if you should take a risk, or if you should play it safe. What will X think of me if I wear this outfit? Will they think I’m beautiful, sexy, smart, powerful? Or will they think I’m trying to hard? Or not trying hard enough?

In the end, I think I will always be plagued by those four little words “What should I wear?”

 

 

 

I’m Just Being Myself

Yesterday I wrote a post about how I realized that I have created a uniform of sorts: I have a basic layer and then I add something to show the direction in which I need to carry myself for the day. Ally mentioned that we should always be ourselves when we dress, which I agree with. We should always wear what makes us comfortable and feel confident.

Except…

I love the show “Modern Family”. There’s an episode where the family goes to Disneyland, and Gloria (true to herself) go in high heels. To Disney. After complaining for awhile, Jay guys her slippers. After she puts them on she is much happier. Now I know this is a sit com, and I know they go to extremes to prove a point, but think about the underlying principle: Gloria is an incredibly sexy character who is always dressed sexy, including heels. It is who she is. But…she’s going to an amusement park. Does she need to totally be herself in this environment? Or should she adapt?

Say you’re a jeans and t shirt kind of person. Say you get invited to a cocktail party. Do you show up in jeans and t shirt? Do you proudly walk in with your levi’s and proclaim “Hello world! I’m just a denim sort of person?” Or do you wear something different? What about a wedding? Funeral? Holiday?

Are there times when we need to adjust who we are by wearing something different?

Dress codes in schools or work places? You know I hate them because I think they rip the individuality out of everyone and are maintained by an arbitrary board which actually has no rhyme or reason to it. But does a school or employer have the right to tell you what to wear? Or are you allowed to be true to yourself?

What about dress codes at events? A few years back we were invited to a 40th birthday party where we were told we had to wear white. I wore a white dress and hated it. I felt uncomfortable the whole night. In this instance, it was a party that I had to attend- there was no going around it. But what do you do in this instance? Do you not go to the party? Do you wear what you want and stand out? Or do you suck it up?

How far do we go in order to be ourselves?

So….do you have a look or style that defines you? Do you dress to suit the occasion or yourself?

 

Resolution Style: The Update

As December turned to January, I made a pact to up my style game.  At the close of last year I felt that my wardrobe was just bleh, and bleh wardrobe morphed into bleh mindset.  So I began my journey to style.

First off- it is really hard to add style to your life, especially if you are a minimalist, understated sort of person. Where do you start? How do I add a little flair while still retaining my personality? And how do I do all this when I hate shopping? I even wrote a follow up blog detailing my difficulty in working towards this goal.

Enter Stitchfix- the monthly service that sends you clothes. This was great for me: I was able to add some great pieces to my wardrobe with little personal fuss.  I also tried things that I might not have tried otherwise.  This step alone added something- I went a little out of my comfort zone- just enough to add a little zip.

Then I really began playing with accessories.  As I normally start out with a neutral black palette, adding things really helps. I began playing with texture and shape and I daresay color. I started going a little bolder with my jewelry.  And it helped.  I felt better walking out of the door every day. Friends commented on my look and on my choices.  I knew I was on the right track.

Then a few weeks ago I wrote about my favorite black dress, and I described how I accessorized it different ways for different occasions.  My friend Cozy commented on how she like the styles I was able to create…and it was at that moment I realized that I had done it- I had worked my way towards creating a personal style that made me feel good about myself, made me feel unique, made me feel put together. Last year at this time I felt I was sort of hiding in my clothing.  I don’t feel like that anymore.

So yesterday when I met up with my daughter for lunch, she looked at my slightly above the knee grey dress, knee length down vest, knee high boots (I have a thing for knees apparently) grey cuff bracelet and silver pendent and she said “Look at you Mom. I like the look.  it’s totally you.”

And I smiled to myself. I wanted to switch up my wardrobe a little and I did it, but I’m still exactly who I am. Just a little more so.

 

Resolution:Style

I made a resolution/goal to be more stylish.

I know.  How does one do that?  What did I even mean?

I always wear black.  It’s sort of a joke amongst my friends- whenever one of them is doing something and they ask “What should I wear?” I say “black”. To me, a black dress, or pants or whatever always wins out.

So to be clear, when I said I want to find style, I don’t mean changing the color of my clothes.  I just feel the need to add a little oomph to my wardrobe.  I’ve seen my hair go from brunette to blonde.  I’ve seen new wrinkles appear in unlikely places.  I don’t wear heels anymore.  I’m a bit heavier than I used to be.  So I feel an internal need to add just a little something to my wardrobe.

Enter Stitchfix.  We know my love. (and no- I am not getting a kickback- it’s just been a really good thing for me) Last month, my stitchfix box included a scarf.  Not a heavy duty one, but a pretty thing meant to be warn as an accessory.20180309_073145.jpg

So, I got the scarf on a Saturday morning.  I loved it.  I thought it was the right thing for me.  I was meeting my family for lunch that day, and along with a pair of leggings and a black t shirt, I tied the scarf on.  And then I went to lunch.

My daughter laughed when she saw me enter the noodle shop.  “What?” I said. (I mean, I am a Mom, so I’m used to being laughed at)  and my daughter answered “You look so happy.  I’m laughing because you’re smiling.”

So there you have it.  Clothes and such do affect how I view myself.  I feel better when i wear an outfit I love.

Is this shallow?  I don’t know.  Part of me doesn’t want to care about what I wear.  Part of me wants to be above physicality. (this is my emotional baggage- I have all sorts of issues due to my Mother’s attitude towards physical attractiveness)  But, what’s wrong with liking what you wear if you’re only doing it for yourself?

I think I am always going to struggle with doing things that enhance my appearance.  I have visions of my mother who wears sunglasses at night, indoors if she is not wearing make up.  I hear her voice in my head saying “What? no lipstick?  What kind of dress is that?  Did you buy a new dress for _______”.  I think my Mother is incredibly shallow when it comes to these things.  I tend to want to go to the exact opposite direction.  But- is that the right way to go?

So, at 53, I’m starting to reconcile my looks and my appearance.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s OK to like what I wear, love what I wear, as long as I’m doing it for me.  And it’s OK if I feel a little better if I am pleased with how I look.  These have been lifelong struggles for me.  But I’m getting there.