Sunday, August 21, 2011

Outfit for train to NY, 8-12-11

I'll begin today's post with a quote - quite possibly the most brilliant fashion-related quote I've ever read: "A dash of eccentric glamour gives you the power to keep the wrong kind of men away." - Isabel Toledo

Isabel Toledo is a Cuban-American fashion designer who has dressed First Lady Michelle Obama, among many others. I've admired Ms. Toledo's work for some time, & having stumbled across the above quote on Facebook this morning, I have a newfound respect for her attitude toward life & relationships as well.

As a society, we invest clothes & accessories with tremendous meaning. We're constantly told "what not to wear" in various situations - to job interviews, on special occasions, & especially when trying to attract a partner. In some ways, it seems, the mating game has even stricter rules of attire than the office. I can't count the number of how-to-dress-for-a-date articles I've skimmed online. Some are aimed at men, but the vast majority are directed toward women. According to pretty much every one of them, my personal style should be a one-way ticket to eternally single, crazy cat lady status. I wear intense lipstick (usually red or deep pink), I almost never don jeans, I have to wear glasses most of the time (okay, I'm pondering Lasik; not sure I could do contacts. I have two tattoos & sat through both inkings like a trouper, but the idea of sticking little things in my eyes every day makes me a bit queasy.) I wear vintage on a regular basis & have recently begun rebuilding my hat collection. To top off all of that, I'm 41 & short, but am I miserable & alone? Nope. I'm married to a hunk who adores my style & is a very natty, retro-fabulous dresser in his own right. According to those articles, the way I look should keep me right out of the workforce, too, but I've been at my current job for almost 18 years. Granted, I work for a nonprofit arts organization, but I have a great gig at which dressing pretty much as I please is but one of many perks.

I'm both fascinated & repelled by the messages popular culture sends about fashion. The one that makes me cringe most, however, is the myth of the woman who drastically changes her appearance to please a man. This one just won't die; it's been a theme in countless movies over the years ("Grease", "Rear Window", & "Pretty in Pink", to name only a few.) I have yet to see a single film in which a man gets a makeover to attract a woman or improve his current relationship.

Have I had guys try to make me over? Oh, yes. One particular incident stands out in my mind. Back in the early 90's, I was planning a trip to North Carolina to visit a guy I was in a long-distance relationship with. He was a corporate type, & just before my trip, he expressed a desire to buy me some polo shirts & khakis, explaining that he was concerned about me being "too warm" in my floaty, Natalie-Merchant-esque chiffon dresses (hey, I said it was the early 90's!) in the southern heat. More to the point: he didn't want his friends to see how I really dressed. Next, please.

Obviously, he wasn't the right guy for me. We didn't fit, not only in terms of fashion, but in many other ways (political & religious views, desire - or lack thereof - for children, etc.) He wasn't a bad guy - he helped me through one of the worst times in my life, & we did have a lot in common intellectually. We just weren't compatible for the long haul.

So, quirky girls (& guys) of the world, if you happen to read one of those makeover articles or get dire warnings about the damage your style will do to your life, consider the source & take it with a grain of salt. You may, in fact, be helping yourself to stay out of the wrong relationships, which gives you more time & energy for the right ones!

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