posted Fri, 19 Nov 2004
Had one of those moments of wardrobe failure fear today when I reached back to tug at my skirt and realized that the top of the slit in the back was – very high. I tried to gauge what exactly might be visible to the average viewer, but for someone who is sighted, using the fingers to see is not a good way to measure such things. It just leads to fear and panic when the fingers extend horizontally from the top of the skirt slit until they touch the thighs – the top of the thighs. The very top.
I have never been good at dressing myself. One of my first public wardrobe traumas was when I was in 7th grade and I split the back seam in my orange double-knit polyester pants that I was wearing with the long-sleeved shirt with the black and white trains. (I had made the shirt myself. It was my favorite.)
The sad thing about splitting the seam was that that was not what made my flowered, waist-high panties visible to the rest of Mackenzie Junior High School in Lubbock, Texas. No, they were already able to see my panties because the orange double-knit fabric was translucent enough that the flowers on the panties were already visible.
In college, I wore an ivory linen dress to my college boyfriend’s Phi Beta Kappa ceremony, a ceremony also attended by his parents. This dress was also a creation of the House of Class Factotum.
My boyfriend’s parents did not care for me much. I hope this dislike was more because I was A Girlfriend of their only son and not because of me personally. But his mom was convinced I was a galoot – I had eaten her salad once at a restaurant (now I know that solids are on the left, liquids on the right) and I had also sent a crab leg flying over her shoulder, casting off butter as it spun through the air, when I tried to open it by pressing on the end the way you would a tiddlywink.
I had also used the Company Towels at their house once, thinking I was company. The next time I went, there were paper towels sitting next to the bathroom sink. I got the message.
So Mr and Mrs Boyfriend’s Parents already thought I was socially inept – which I was – and then I showed up in this dress – the first time I had worn it – and it was transparent when it was outside of the lighting of my apartment. It needed a slip. I didn’t know. I have never owned a full slip in my life. Fortunately, I was at least wearing traditional undergarments.
When I started my first job out of college at Prudential, I wore the little navy suits, the pink blouses and the floppy bow ties. This was the mid 80s – not a good time for business fashion for women. One day a kind co-worker commented on my shirt and mentioned something about starch. When I told her I didn’t use starch when I ironed, she diplomatically asked how I got the wrinkles out. I looked at my blouse and realized that most people would not consider it to be ironed and unwrinkled, even though it had passed under my iron. That’s when I learned to use starch.
Even now, as I try desperately not to wear clothes that are transparent or hideously wrinkled or mismatched, I still make big mistakes. I have forgotten to pack a bra in my gym bag before, so have had to go the entire day at work without removing my jacket. (I swim before I go to work and get dressed at the gym.)
I forgot to pack a blouse once. Fortunately, someone had left a nice t-shirt at the gym, so I was able to borrow that. I had also forgotten a bra that same day, so I just kept my suit jacket buttoned to the top. My friend Ilene told me that she would not be able to get away with going bra-less. Most women would not. I guess I am lucky that way.
Once, I wore some patterned black tights to work. In the package, they looked fine. But once on, I guess they weren’t so great, even though they seemed OK in the locker room mirror at the JCC. A friend at work asked if I was going for the hooker look. He was right. They were not appropriate for the office.
I don’t have the clothing, makeup and accessory gene. My sister Jenny got that. I’ll wear eye shadow that I think looks perfectly nice and then realize when I get into the ladies’ room at work that it looks like someone punched me in the eyes.
One of my favorite lines from Designing Women was when someone made a reference to a woman who “walks down the runway of life with her dress tucked into the back of her pantyhose.” I think this was on the episode where this actually happened to Julia. I am that woman. It might not actually happen to me, but I feel like it does.
I worry about getting toilet paper stuck to my shoe or wearing the completely wrong thing or discovering that an outfit is transparent. If it is going to happen to anyone, it’s going to happen to me. Surely there is a federal program funded by you generous taxpayers to help people like me.