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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
I think it’s time to hit the consignment store.
Have you ever been blindsided by unexpected wardrobe woes? How do you cope?