Do you have a favorite outfit? I don’t mean sweats or yoga pants. I mean the outfit you could wear into any situation and feel solid and competent and…happy. My favorite outfit would be a black ribbed turtleneck over fitted jeans. I don’t even care what shoes, but they must be comfy flats. Maybe sparkly? My clothes have always been classic with a bit of ridiculous like a tulle skirt to the floor under a t-shirt or turtleneck. I try to keep my playful, unicorn mama zhuzh in check to avoid looking clownish. Lately I’ve thought more about what I put on my body because I’ve worn the same thing every day for over 50 days: a blue wool dress. I am wearing it for the 100 Day Dress Challenge and today will be day 87 of wearing it every day.
This has been a fascinating experience in society, vanity, consumption, environmental issues and the role of clothing in my life. No one noticed unless I told them. To be fair, I have swapped cardigans and scarves, leggings and jeans and I have a pair of overalls the dress tucks right into. No matter what I wear, I have my glasses on, again with some sparkle or wow factor. Because the rest of my face is unremarkable, fun glasses make me feel attractive even without makeup. And even under pandemic masks, I wear red lipstick. My signature glasses and red lips are so widely known, a few years ago for my birthday, a women’s group I lead all sported red lips and glasses in homage to me. I felt like a rockstar. It was awesome. So, the most visible part of my appearance is my face…and no one noticed the dress.
My clothing has always been predictable. I’ve only gotten wilder as I’ve aged. I wear what pleases me especially if it is possibly inappropriate for my age. I hate button down dress shirts, so my top must be a soft fitted t-shirt, usually under a cardigan over jeans or a skirt. Fashion expert Kathy Friend taught me in five minutes 15 years ago what styles and lengths suit my plump hourglass body shape and what colors make me look radiant and happy. I don’t really follow fashion, but I know what makes me happy also makes me beautiful.
Several years ago, I read Jen Hatmaker’s book “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” She talks about consumption of food, technology, clothing, media, waste, stress, spending and possessions. She opts to follow a personal challenge to only use/wear/or eat seven various items for 30 days in each category as an experiment. I never thought I could do that, yet here I am: Blue Dress. Blue Dress. Blue Dress. And longer than thirty days! I was going to quit. I felt I learned all I needed to learn about the dress and myself. My husband encouraged me to see it to the end. Since he is the one who has to look at me and the blue dress every day, and I want him to think well of me, I have persisted.
I’m tempted to dye it black. I should have bought it in black since it is my best base color to wear. I chose the blue because it was unusual for me. I wanted to mark the experience for myself, and the bright red I really resonated with would have been too obvious and harder to chameleon through so many days. I’ve taken the dress off and put on yoga pants halfway through the day. I skipped it completely on Christmas day and a day I washed it and hung it up to dry. I am surprised the wool doesn’t get stinky for two weeks of daily wear. I learned how deeply my vanity is rooted in novelty and glitter and bright color. I realized I have so many lovely clothes I cannot wait to wear again. I am donating many items that do not fit or do not make me smile. They can make someone else feel beautiful.
A girlfriend and I talked over the wild fashion on the Sex and the City
reboot “And Just Like That”. While the characters fumble on our behalf through modern day tropes and trials; the fashion, especially a tulle skirt (and later that orange dress) caught our hearts and
imaginations. How do we dress now, as middle-aged women? How do media images of ridiculous outfits translate into real people wardrobes for running errands or doom scrolling or checking homework? The answer is: Any way we want it to, or not at all! Clothing can be fun, functional or whatever we want and need it to be. Nobody else will really notice.
Originally this was an NPR radio essay; listen to it by clicking HERE!