Wardrobe setbacks (and a silver lining)

When we get dressed in the morning, we create our persona for the day. As we go into the world, we hope to communicate positive messages about ourselves.   Depending on the day, we may hope to appear confident, competent, professional, powerful, playful, approachable, sexy, or something else.

So when we have wardrobe setbacks — and inevitably, we will — we worry that our public persona will take a hit.  On my bad days, I fear that I will appear scatterbrained, disorganized, sloppy, depressed, powerless, or just plain clueless.   Not in control of my own life.

Last week was a week of wardrobe setbacks.  The timing was especially inconvenient because it was also my first week of the new school year.  Is this the end of the world?  No. It’s important to put things in perspective, especially during a week when the news is dominated by unsettled politics, a solemn anniversary, and near-cataclysmic weather events.

But life goes on.  Petty grievances and annoyances are part of life.  So I’m going to share my litany of insignificant woes, but I’ll try to moderate the volume of my whining.  Or, as Elvis Costello might say: instead of being disgusted, I will try to be amused.

So let us begin the litany of woes.

Woe # 1

Because I have failed to buy cute rain boots and a stylish raincoat, OF COURSE it rained on the first day of school.  And on the second day of school.

On the third day, though, it didn’t rain.  It poured.  As in — cats and dogs, rivers running down the street, you’re soaked even with an ugly raincoat and umbrella.

I knew this would happen, every time I walked by a rain boot display and failed to act.    I had dreamed of getting a fabulous rain outfit so that I could look like “A” over at Academichic.  Here’s what she looks like on rainy days:

It’s just so unfair, isn’t it?

But since parts of Vermont and Pennsylvania have been under water recently, I will refrain from going on and on about how my workplace has a serious drainage problem, and how discouraging it is to have to walk outside, every day, multiple times, lugging all of my teaching materials with me, in the pouring rain.

Nobody in Vermont or Pennsylvania wants to hear it.  So what I really must do is get off my butt and pick up some decent rain gear.

How about some boots like these?  (Ooooh, second from left:  is that a leopard print I see???)

I just have to overcome my own natural resistance. Simply put, I’m too damn cheap to buy rainy day clothes.  Because it doesn’t rain every day.  Unfortunately, this is how I think when it comes time to let go of my hard-earned dollars.

Woe #2

Clearly, the dreaded closet gremlins have been visiting my house in the middle of the night. Because some time during the summer, inexplicably, both of my pairs of long trousers became just a bit too tight. How does this happen?  I’m simply baffled.  All I did was eat, drink, and not run all summer.  Why does that make my clothing change size?

One of the pairs — the old, worn one, naturally — is still wearable. The other, newer pair is not.  I mean, I can button them. That’s something, right? But those ugly, pulling “whiskers” extending out from the crotch area are just not a good look on anyone.  So at least for the near future, my viable wardrobe has just shrunk significantly.  But wait: there’s more.

Woe #3

In an effort to expand my wardrobe, or at least to maximize it, I made my annual trip to the tailor right before school started.  Not for the trousers.  (Don’t even talk to me about letting them out.  I always lose any excess weight while training for my Fall 10K.  The fact that I am not doing the 10K this year in no way changes my belief that these pounds will melt away).

No, I went to the tailor to have a jacket fixed and a top shortened. Getting to the tailor is not easy for me when I’m working.  I had to leave work early to rush over there, only to discover, after returning home, that the hem of the top was crooked.  And by crooked, I mean that one side hung visibly lower than the other.  My choices were: stand on a tilt, forever, or leave work early ANOTHER day to go back.

Which I did.  And my tailor can fix it, no extra charge.  But I now have to get through all of this week, one top short.  On top of the one pair of trousers I’m already short.  But wait, there’s more.

Woe #4  

This is the big one, folks.  I am fighting back tears as I write this. My very favorite, most flattering, most versatile, most wearable denim pencil skirt — a cornerstone of both my work and casual wardrobes — may have just bitten the dust.

I’m talking about this one:

Which now looks like this.

Can you see the discoloration on the right hand side?  It started as a harmless food stain, incurred while carelessly eating lunch at my desk. But in my efforts to remove the stain, I appear to have (noooooooo!) rubbed away the blue dye.

I don’t know if you can see it, more clearly, here:

but it’s visibly disfigured.  My eye goes right to it in the mirror. Which means I probably shouldn’t be wearing it, at all, ever again.

Can we all observe a moment of silence, please?

(                                                              )

Thank you.

The skirt was purchased on consignment, at least 5 years ago and probably more.  It  came from a Gap outlet store, but there is no model number on the tag.  So even if I knew how to deploy savvy online shopping tactics like Ebay, I have nothing to go on.

I think this falls into the irreplaceable category.  Unless any of you folks out there know something about dying fabrics.  I’m kind of afraid to try.

So now my wardrobe is even more depleted.  My most reliable wardrobe workhorse is gone.  Poof.

The Good News

Aside from whining here, I think I’ve borne these losses with grace and composure, so far. It helps that I’m trying a new system where I plan out my outfits for the entire week, based on the extended weather forecast.  I’m even including a couple of alternates in case of emergencies.  I also usually try on the outfits the night before, to make sure that everything’s OK, so I don’t get unpleasant, time-consuming surprises in the morning.

(If you’re curious, my old wardrobe system was to stand in the closet for 20 minutes or longer every morning, trying things on and throwing them on the floor in disgust, getting later and more stressed by the moment).

So I discovered the trouser problem early and was able to adapt.  I simply took the unwearable pair out of rotation and wore one of the alternate outfits, pairing the tight-but-still-wearable trousers with a longer top (so that temporary emergency unbuttoning could occur, if needed, when I was sitting safely behind my desk).

Unfortunately, I didn’t discover the skirt disfigurement until morning, because I didn’t try that outfit on the night before.  This also happened to be the worst day of the rain — the flash flooding, River Runs Through It day.  And it was forecast to be clear.

So my extended-forecast-based wardrobe plan was useless.  I had planned to wear the denim pencil skirt with a cute top, wrap and sandals.  But then I was stuck with sandal-submerging rain and a disfigured skirt.

But some good fortune crept in.  The wrap covered the spot on the skirt!  And I own a pair of leather boots that go with the outfit.  And the temperatures were cool enough for me wear them.

So here was my outfit on this terrible, awful, no good, very bad day:

(Please excuse the disturbing cut-off head, but believe me when I tell you: this was the best shot I could get all day).

I even got a compliment on this outfit from my office mate!  So that was something.

The Very, Very Good News

I have an update for the squeaky shoe saga from last May!  You may recall that my only pair of trouser and skirt-appropriate shoes had been sidelined by an ugly creaking noise.  On the same week that I went to the tailor, I discovered an honest-to-goodness, old-school cobbler shop right down the street from where I work.  Who knew????

Let me tellya, the place was mobbed.  Everybody needs a good cobbler!  Is this a lost art, or what?

I had pinpointed the source of the squeak — in both shoes, now — as being located just under the ball of the foot.  I thought maybe the cobbler could fix the problem, or replace the soles, or something.

Well, he couldn’t.  The soles of the shoe do have a strange design, sort of fused to the shoe and not intended to be removed or replaced.

But you know what he told me?  He said:  remove the insoles, sprinkle some baby powder into the problem area, and put the insoles back.

“Just regulah baby powdah,” he said.  (We are in New England, after all, and I told you he was old-school).

“That should work,” he added.

And lo and behold, it does.  The powder absorbs the sound.  I don’t know how long the effect will last, but I can just carry baby powder with me, right?

Thank God: I don’t have to buy a new pair of shoes.

I still have a pair that fits with both skirts and trousers.

Which would be great if I still had my favorite skirt and trousers.

(Heavy sigh)

I think it’s time to hit the consignment store.

Have you ever been blindsided by unexpected wardrobe woes?  How do you cope?  

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About Anne @ The Frump Factor

Reflections on beauty and style, for women who weren't born yesterday. Bring your sense of humor and "Fight the Frump" with me!
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29 Responses to Wardrobe setbacks (and a silver lining)

  1. Ah, Anne, I feel your pain. So many minor wardrobe malfunction in so little time. (I love the Elvis Costello quote, and I love him). I have never dyed a piece of clothing but so many of our fellow bloggers swear by it, so it can’t be tooooo dangerous. Maybe it’s worth a try for such a favorite item. Hang in there, sister, you do look marvelous in your floral top and boots. I got some great faux-Wellingtons on ebay for just a little $$$.

  2. H. E. Lexus says:

    That is a lot to consider… Personally I… I do not know what to say… On second thought… Make a few more rub spots and perhaps it will all be ok..? 😉

  3. Oh, Anne, I understand losing something you love…I have had that happen to me…a dry cleaner’s ruined one of my favorite tops….but LOOK AT THE GOOD NEWS MORE…consignment shopping is fun….wait, any shopping is fun!! At least you have rain…I would love a reason to pull out the rain boots…do you have a Ross or Marshall’s…great places for shoes!! Just focus on the great new items you will have to share with us soon!!

  4. Ann Marie says:

    Wow, who knew that baby powder would help a squeak! Hmmmm, wonder if I can sprinkle it under my carpet and it will take care of the sqeaks…..?
    Though you did not ask, there is another great use for baby powder. If effectively removes those small “mystery grease stains” you find on your clothes or even men’s ties. Just rub a good amount in with your finger and let it set; preferably a couple hours or overnight. The talc lifts the stain out. Remove it by brushing with a dry washcloth or very soft toothbrush. I worked with a seamstress and she told me this years ago. Thye have a lot of neat tricks, so maybe you can ask your tailor for suggestions to fix your denim skirt. I don’t think it is a total loss….there has got to be some sort of magic fix……

  5. I’ve been nagged with the feeling that I should buy some rain boots “just in case” but like you I hate to spend the money on something that might sit unused in my closet all year. But there have been times when I wished I had them and really, they go on sale all the time!!! Your story has convinced me it would be worth it.
    I’ve had things ruined like your skirt. Usually, I spill my lunch and leave a big spot on my boob. I’ve never tried dying but it might be worth a try.

  6. Serene says:

    I’m seriously laughing so hard over here! But totally laughing WITH you! (You are laughing, right?) Before I forget, let me say, I would take a blue permanent marker and lightly color in the whitened spot on your skirt. I mean, if it’s almost unwearable anyway, the marker could only help…and it might take away the white enough for it not to be noticeable. I am soooo with you on the rain boots. Just not something I want to invest in. But I remember being in school and there were just some girls who were just always perfectly and appropriately dressed and there I was wearing the ABSOLUTE WRONG thing in the rain and looking like a doused puppy! Big “Fingers crossed that the coming week is sartorially perfect with no mishaps, spills, burns, quakes, floods or shoe muggers) hugs to you!!!! ~Serene

  7. I cry. And light a candle. And leave the woefully inadequate garment laying out to torture myself with what was once a beloved treasure. I still have a pair of my favorite skinny jeans that have horrible crotch tears that I just can’t part with yet.

    P.S. I love your writing! Like I-was-smiling-the-whole-time love it! I am so excited I found your blog! 🙂

  8. Paula says:

    Anne, I just love the way you write! I love this post.
    I love the cobbler story–so true–that is a dying art and so important! I love his answer–will try it sometime!
    The skirt can be dyed or like Serene said–sort of painted. Worth a try, right?
    Hey, now you can go shopping! That’s a good thing, right?

  9. Melinda Hobausz says:

    I agree about cobblers. I found one this summer near my workplace. He saved a pair of expensive sandals for me. Consignment shopping–lots of fun. There is one in the middle of my town. I run through it at every opportunity just to check. My last get was an unused pair of hiking boots for a very low price. They replaced the ones that my daughter stole (or is that borrowed and never brought back?). ; – )

    • Hee! I believe we shop in the same consignment store. If it were on my way to or from work, I would pop in twice a week at least! But alas, they’re 20 minutes out of the way so I just don’t get there enough.

  10. Kari. says:

    Oh my. I think that we are twins. We are even dealing with the same (well, sort of the same) life issues! AKA clothing woes. Oh. my. do i ever feel your pain (except for that to do with the rain boots. I would buy (and I have a pair — they invoke such great memories for me) them in a heart beat. You don’t have to just wear them in the rain — they’re perfect for snow as well. This is the line that spoke VOLUMES to me … “On my bad days, I fear that I will appear scatterbrained, disorganized, sloppy, depressed, powerless, or just plain clueless. Not in control of my own life.” I have an interview tomorrow, and I have gained so much weight this summer, that I don’t fit into any of my “professional” clothes. So I am terrified that “I will appear scatterbrained, disorganized, sloppy, depressed, powerless, or just plain clueless.”

  11. Terri says:

    I’m going to remember the baby powder trick! And dying the denim skirt should fix that problem. We suddenly have much cooler weather here and I’m wearing tights and sweaters already. Hope the wardrobe dilemmas improve soon. I always start a semester slow and understated. I like what you came up today!

  12. MMH says:

    Re. your denim skirt, you might just try washing the skirt again to see if the white spot “fades” a bit. I had the same problem with my favorite old J Jill tencel pants, having rubbed Simple Green into a grease spot and left the pants a day or so before doing laundry. When my pants dried after washing, the white spot appeared and I assumed I’d have to toss the pants. Before doing so, I decided to wash them again, and the spot faded into the background so that it’s now hardly visible. Certainly worth a try.

  13. GingerR says:

    Trying on pants you haven’t worn for a few months is trying. Hopefully going back to work will reduce your kitchen time and the pants will begin to fit again without too much agony.

    You should be able to replace that skirt. It’s a pretty standard design. I’ve had a son who worked in a resturant and used bleach on his shirts and some collateral damage to other clothing in the same general laundry area and bleach mishaps are hard to fix. You could keep the old skirt around for around-the-house wear but for wearing in public you don’t want to look like you’ve got your painting clothes on.

    Coldwater creek has some straight knit denim skirts that look quite similar, sadly not in my size, or try Old Navy. It’s worth it to keep your workhorse items in fit shape.

  14. Beryl says:

    It’s nice of you to give us such a great post after the week you just had. I don’t understand how the closet shrinks clothes between seasons, but I also don’t understand how my toes get so much farther away every winter, which I only find out when I try to polish my own toenail at the start of each summer. Denim is so had to dye, since it is a mixture of blue and white threads, (and contrast topstitching on that cute skirt), and you really only need to dye the blue ones. Ask your tailor if they can dye it, since you’ll be there picking up that top anyway. I agree with the need for rain boots for rain and snow, and also for winter beach walking. The Target Missoni ones are pretty cute, even though they aren’t selling very well at my local store. I think the price might be the problem.

  15. Lorena says:

    I am laughing – not at your wardrobe issues – but at how the trousers have “whiskers” when they are tight. I am wearing a pair of black cropped pants that will most likely go to the donation pile as they too have whiskers….

  16. ariane says:

    I feel your pain Ann…go,go shopping girl and yes a tailor could do something with your skirt.
    You write so well Ann – i can do the same in french but who would understand…

    Ariane xxxxx

  17. Gail says:

    This time of year brings a lot of wardrobe woes because it starts to get chilly, then, confusingly, the sun comes out and it’s unexpectedly hot. So you don’t know whether or not to put tights on, take a jacket, etc etc. Plus I start hoarding winter clothes and can’t wait to start wearing them, but they look too wintry so I have to try to be patient.
    Glad you found a fix to the denim skirt problem…..it’s so frustrating when a loved garment is damaged and you can’t source another!

  18. Debbi says:

    I hate those closet gremlins! They seem to get worse every year.
    I don’t know if you have any new really dark denim, but if you do, you might wash it with this skirt and see if you get some extra blue in it. I have a white jacket that has a stain that I CANNOT get out. It makes me so mad as I’ve only worn it twice.
    You did have a bad week! Hopefully this week was better.

  19. RuthieK says:

    I have very successfully overdyed all 3 of my wearale but unevenly faded jeans using Dylon machine dye. Using Navy on one, Denim Blue on another and Black on a third pair. All with great results. The stitching did not dye, but I got lovely dark coloured jeans.

  20. Angie says:

    When me and wardrobe have problems I always wear my uniform … jeans + stripped top + cardi and I’m set for the day . I think you can bleach the skirt and have …a new skirt . Happy school year by the way. I also feel like I’m getting used to my new school year.

  21. meagan says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your skirt! It always breaks my heart when something happens to a piece I love (like this summer when I broke both of my favorite pairs of sunglasses) so I can completely feel your pain. Hopefully you’ll find another piece you adore when you at least expect it, but very soon!

  22. Rose says:

    When my favourite denim skirt started fading, dyed it with navy, this gave it a new lease of life

  23. Hi Anne,
    It seems that the asymmetry of the spot on your skirt is the big problem. Why not just rub away at a spot on the opposite side of the skirt to give it a symmetrical distressed look? It might look like the pockets were worn by holding lots of money! The result couldn’t be any more distressing than the thought of doing a dye job. Worst case, you can distress the whole skirt with bleach and gardening implements….lots of fun.

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