Thursday, August 19, 2004

Vestis Virum Reddit

Warning: Somewhat Self-Centered, Navel-Gazing Narrative Follows

I hate to admit it, but the clothes I wear sometimes affect how I feel about myself.

Today I’m wearing khaki pants and a faded, tired light-blue shirt: plain, boring cookie-cutter clothes that I bought at the mall ten years ago. My hair is in a ponytail (woke up too late to wash it) and I’m wearing glasses (contact problems… long story). I look and feel like the near-sighted Cubicle-Dwelling Technical Writer that I am.

Yesterday I wore a sparkly purple gypsy skirt and a stretchy, sexy black shirt. And sandals. No glasses. My hair loose. I felt beautiful, even though the clothes were a little big on me. I felt like the Dazzlingly Exciting Creative Person that I am.

But today I feel blah. Like an imposter. I really am more of a Dazzlingly Exciting Creative Person, and not so much of a Cubicle-Dwelling Technical Writer, but you wouldn’t know it to look at me.

I think it's time.

Yes, it is. It's That Time Of The Decade.

Once every five or ten years, I have to throw out the hole-y socks, stained shirts, and threadbare pants and start over. It’s an event that I dread because I hate shopping, hate malls, hate having to try on stuff that never fits (when you’re 5’2” and small-boned, finding clothes is a problem, whether you’re a size 4 or a size 14. I know; I’ve been both).

And then there is the whole issue of spending money. I don’t like most clothes, and I hate spending precious money on things I don’t like.

Oh, Adam and Eve, why did you have to eat that stupid apple? If it weren’t for you, we’d all be running around blissfully naked, and none the wiser. But you listened to that stupid snake, and now we have retail.

And my clothes are falling apart, so I need to go shopping soon. Wal-Mart and Target are out of the question; their clothes don’t fit my body or my style any better than mall clothes. Believe me, I've tried both.

When it comes to wardrobe issues, I actually do have a “style.” I think. Can I call it a style? My brother, who has very good taste in clothes and style-related things, would probably respond with a resounding “NO.”

Ah, my dear older brother Ghent ...

[Looking nostalgic, with a faraway look in my eyes.]

I remember the first time I was exposed to what would help to mold my “style.”

[Dreamy harp music playing.]

It is the mid-1970s, and Daddy, Ghent, and I are riding around in the vicinty of Ella Shoe on a sunny Saturday afternoon. We drive down Chimes Street, where shiftless-looking people hang out on the side of the street and the stores and bars have a run-down look to them. In a small parking lot, a long-haired, dirty-looking couple is selling flowers and clothes. The clothes are a mix of long, flowing skirts and dresses and t-shirts, many of them painted in bold, swirling colors.

I am mesmerized.

“Can we go there?” I ask naively, pointing at the clothes display.

My older brother wrinkles his nose in disgust. “Waterfall, those are hippies.”

Ghent’s disgusted look tells me all I need to know. But still …

“What are those clothes? They’re pretty.”

“Those are tie-dies and hippie clothes.” My older brother, already fashion-conscious at the age of eight, speaks knowingly and with finality. He clearly does not approve.

I guess I wasn’t so fashion-conscious. I thought those swirly, flowy, and colorful clothes were beautiful.

So now my favorite stores are the hippie stores in downtown Asheville like Street Fair and Indo, where I can find long, crinkly batik skirts, flowy peasant blouses, jangly silver jewelry, and funky little hats. And tie-dye. I will never outgrow my love for tie-dye, no matter how often it goes out of style.

There’s only one problem with those stores, other than the fact that they’re a little out of my price range.

Nearly everything is “One Size Fits All.” That means “No Sizes Fit Me.”

So I end up at the mall, in the department fartment stores, in the Petites Department, buying things like “sportswear” and “misses fashions.” Blah, cubicle-dwelling cookie-cutter clothes. Unfortunately, malls do not sell hand-dyed hippie/gypsy garb reeking of patchouli.

Now I'm getting depressed. My khakis have a hole in the hip. I've been fiddling with a loose string hanging from the sleeve of my shirt. One sleeve is literally shorter than the other because I pulled out so much string. I wonder if the Cubicle-Dwelling Ragamuffin look will ever become "in."

Yes, I'm a professional with a professional job. Mm-hmm. I shoulda been a seamstress.

Lunch hour is just around the corner. Maybe I’ll go to Street Fair or Indo and see if I can’t find a size S or XS buried in the One-Size-Fits-All-But-Me clothes. If not, I can always get a funky hat. If I’m going to be a Cubicle-Dwelling Ragamuffin, I can at least be a Cubicle-Dwelling Ragamuffin With A Cool Hat.

Don’t you think so? Ghent? Dear brother, are you out there?

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