Playing Dress Up.

 

A little over a year ago, I moved to a different position at work, one where the staff tends to dress a little more nicely than the jeans and sweatshirts I was used to before.  Look – I’m a comfort dresser.  I’ve never been stylish, I don’t wear makeup, and I can best be described as ‘low maintenance.’  So this move has forced me to rethink my wardrobe and make some changes.

Let me just say that I love my new job, but the hardest part by far is having to figure out what to wear each day.  More than once, I’ve complained to Mr. Stuck that it is exhausting for me to select the next day’s outfit.  This does not come naturally to me.  Mr. Stuck has sisters who can look good in anything and who look stylish even when they’re camping in the woods.  I’m not like that.  I second-guess myself constantly, and even when I do manage to put an outfit together, I’m never really sure about it.

Many years ago, when I was expecting my first son, I was working in an office with several other women.  I didn’t have much in the way of maternity wear, so I did what I could to make my existing wardrobe work. One day, I chose a pair of bright blue cotton pants because they sported an elastic waist. The top I paired with it was a lovely shade of emerald green.  Now, in my simple mind, blue and green are complementary colors; however, not those particular shades, apparently.  I came in to work and Jill, my very outspoken coworker, was horrified. “WHAT are you wearing?  Don’t you know that blue and green don’t go together?” she exclaimed.

Obviously, I didn’t.  I was terribly embarrassed to have been called out on my wardrobe choices, feeling very exposed and pregnant, anyway — and that very evening, I put both the pants and the shirt in the donation box.  I would never make that mistake again.

I’ve never liked dressing up, partly because I never liked shaving my legs to wear dresses, but mostly because it doesn’t come naturally to me.  In my head, I imagine my ‘style’ as a cross between the Stevie Nicks gypsy queen and the Katharine Hepburn tomboy.  In reality, it’s more like a cross between thrift store and ‘mom in a mop commercial.’  I just can’t get the hang of it.  Getting all dolled up, to me, means brushing my teeth and hair, tossing my clothes in the dryer to smooth out the biggest wrinkles, and maybe adding some lip gloss before I head out the door.

Thankfully, Mr. Stuck prefers my no-makeup look to a painted face, so I’m off the hook there.  I never could apply it, anyway.  My sister tried to help me with that when I was a teen, but I never felt confident with makeup.  I’m sure the foundation, mascara, and blush in my makeup bag are all over 10 (uh, 15?) years old.  Not sure why I haven’t thrown it all away yet.  Note to self: throw it all away.

Going shopping for new clothes should be fun, and sometimes it is, but mostly I feel like I’m settling for things I don’t really like and that don’t really suit me.  Clothes that I like on the rack are often not right for me when I put them on.  And now that I’m a woman of a certain age, I’ve decided some things are off-limits.  I’m not trying to look twenty-five or even thirty-five.

Then again, I don’t want to wear lavender pantsuits, either.

Life was easier with jeans and sweatshirts.  Having to step up my game is an ongoing challenge, so I’ve had to adopt some basic rules for work clothes.  Slacks are fine, as long as the length is right and they don’t make me look like I’m 6 months pregnant.  (I yearn for pockets in all of my pants, but I am willing to forego them for just this reason.)  Sweaters are my staple, as long as they’re not itchy.  I tend to stick with black, grey and navy, but I’ll throw in red or blue once in a while.  I love scarves, so that’s where I mostly use color.  Color, as I explained earlier, is a minefield for me.

I once met a lady who came to my home as a guest.  I’ve long since forgotten her name, but I will never forget how she looked:  she was a natural redhead of the bronze variety, and everything about her outfit, hair, makeup and nails complemented her coloring perfectly.  In talking with her, I found out that she was a color consultant.  This was back in the 1980’s, when seasonal color analysis was very popular, and the book Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson was everywhere.  The bronze bombshell offered to consult with me, but her fee was far more than I could afford at the time, so I declined.  In light of my subsequent wardrobe malfunctions, I wish I had hired her.

Maybe I would still look like Mop Mom in a Macklemore video, but at least I’d be color-coordinated.

Thank goodness for Casual Fridays.

 

 

image credit: wjarrettc

Skirting the Issues.

The things we hate about ourselves aren’t more real than things we like about ourselves.
– Ellen Goodman

To accept ourselves as we are means to value our imperfections as much as our perfections.
– Sandra Bierig

 

So I wore a skirt to work today. 

This is significant because honestly, I can’t remember the last time I did that.  I have worked in an office environment for many years, but my go-to office wear has always been jeans and a sweater.  My rule of thumb was concealment: the baggier something was, the more I could hide beneath it.  Plus, if I gained weight, the clothes would still fit – up to a point, of course.  I stayed away from anything that was form-fitting.  Nothing fit properly, anyway. 

But now that I am losing weight, my body shape is changing, and I’m starting to look differently at myself.  I want to change the dowdy self-image I’ve had and replace it with a more stylish, confident version of myself.  I want my inside to match my outside.  So I’ve been trying to be more open to colors and styles I would never have chosen for myself in the past.  I imagine my sister Missy perched on my shoulder, encouraging me.  She always had a good eye for what would look good on me and was behind many of the most-complimented outfits I’ve ever worn.  I know she would have loved to help dress me now.

Shopping has always been uncomfortable, almost torturous, for me, but it’s a necessary evil.  I’m digging around in thrift stores and wearing friends’ hand-me-downs while my body shrinks.  I have shopped so long in the plus-size racks that I automatically go there; it isn’t until I’ve pushed a few hangers around that I realize I’m in the wrong spot.  But these smaller sizes throw me for a loop – I am convinced they won’t fit. 

Case in point: my friend just gave me some clothes; among them was a pair of jeans two sizes smaller than what I’d been wearing.  A few days later, she asked if I’d tried them on.  I admitted I hadn’t, because I wasn’t down to that size yet.  She assured me that yes, they’d fit — plus, they were stretchy.  So I agreed to try them on.  That night, I held the jeans in front of me.  The waist looked impossibly small and the legs looked way too narrow for my thighs.  They would never fit

Here goes nothing. 

As you may have guessed, they fit.  Perfectly.  I could not believe it!  I showed Mr. Stuck, and he told me they looked great and fit me well.  How can that be?  There is such a disconnect between what my brain sees and what is reality.  I can see that I have a long way to go before my thinking reflects the real me. 

Because I know that my brain still sees me at my largest and most unattractive, I must consciously battle against that perception.  I have to challenge myself.  What does this have to do with wearing a skirt today?  Plenty.  I rarely wear skirts because 1) I hate pantyhose, and 2) I hate my legs.  But I told myself that when I’m at the thrift store, if I see something I think is attractive, I will consider it, even if I’m sure it’s still too small for me…even if it’s a skirt or a dress.  (My favorite thing about thrift stores is buying six items for what one would cost in a normal department store.)  I now have a handful of skirts and dresses I’m willing to try.  Not all at once, though.  I’m still a tomboy at heart.

Baby steps.

But for all my good intent, it still took some mental persuasion to talk myself into wearing a skirt to work.  The mental negativity started: So much for fading into the background.  Who are you trying to impress?  A skirt?  You?  With those legs?  At least you’re behind a desk all day.  I told Mr. Stuck that I was thinking about wearing a skirt to work, and he was all for it.  It’s a long skirt, so I didn’t have to worry about my legs showing or about wearing pantyhose (yay!); but it also doesn’t have pockets (boo!).   That was nearly a deal breaker – I normally carry a wallet, not a purse.  I’d have to carry a purse if I wanted to wear a skirt.  Sigh.  Okay.  I dug out an old purse, dusted it off, and put my wallet and keys inside.  No excuses left.

This morning I pulled on the casual, navy skirt and light blue sweater.  I turned and looked at myself sideways in the mirror.  The skirt really accentuated my slimmer figure.  This time, instead of automatically voicing the negative, I chose to admire how I looked. 

Wow. Look how far I’ve come.

I put a smile on my face, squared my shoulders, grabbed my purse and walked out the door.

 

 

photo credit Orin Zebest