For most of us, getting dressed each morning is an experience–delightful for some, horrific for others.
I’ve never been one for shopping or coordinating outfits. Of course, if I had my way, I’d wear yoga pants every day, and I don’t do yoga. I’d still be wearing my Earth shoes if I had them. And I’m most grateful for the years I was an art teacher. It was just a given I could wear Birkenstock sandals with maxi-skirts everyday.
I’d also still be wearing scrunchies to pull back my hair in public had Ben, a former art student, not intervened.
No other student had dared to say, that is if they noticed, all the times we had a messy art project in class, and I had pulled my hair back in its dependable-never-scrunch-my-hair tieback.
“Mrs. R!” Ben hollered so all the others could hear, “You’re not really wearing a scrunchie! Those go back to the seventies.”
Thank you, Ben, for your honesty. Now I only wear scrunchies in the privacy of my home, considering each fashion faux pas in my life that goes unnoticed in nature.
I realize now my fashionista spirit was stamped out that morning before school when I was a sixth-grader. I had teamed together my two favorite pieces of clothing: my pink cat-print oxford shirt with my pink plaid pleated skirt. I strolled into the den, ready for my TaDa moment, and my mother’s look of horror said it all.
Of course, she felt the need to reinforce her innermost thoughts by screaming: “What are you wearing? Don’t you know you never ever put prints with plaids?”
Well, now I do!
Mother continued buying my clothes through my teenage years; thus, I never considered developing any fashion sense.
Looking back, I remember when my daughter Ari was a toddler. How she loved crawling into my mother’s lap and playing with Mother’s dangling earrings and layers of neck-uh-luses (as Ari called them.)
“I think she should call me Fancy Grandma,” my mother decided.
Ari tagged her Nana, so Nana she was by name, but Fancy Grandma in spirit.
Ari got the fashion gene that had skipped over me. She makes buying clothes look ever-so-easy, almost fun, when she walks into a store, any store, and finds great clothes off the sale’s racks. And it’s her fashion prowess I trust when I tag along. For all the kaftans, moo moos and duster-style dresses I’ve lifted off the racks (considering being tagged the Comfort Guru), Ari assumes her same authoritative stance, saying, “No, Mom! Don’t even think about it.”
I will say I do have a closet full of clothes though. That’s only because I still own almost everything that still fits me in solid black, brown and match-the-walls-off-white from the past three decades. (Sadly, that great black and white kind-of chevron-like dress I had in the 80s–shoulder pads and all–was given away. If only I’d known chevron would make a comeback.)
So if you hear me say, “Oh! This old thing!” I’m not being coy. I seriously mean this old thing!
Needless to say, my day of reckoning came last summer when I met my friend Donna halfway from her city and mine in the capital city for lunch. As we sauntered through Chico’s, Donna placed various dangling neck-uh-luses under my chin, turning me to look in a mirror, “See, how cute you’d look with something like this! And what if you added . . . ”
I felt like I was strangling and choked out a “no.”
Later that afternoon when we stopped by Ari’s house, Donna ganged up with Ari. “Don’t you think your mother’s outfit needs a belt?”
“Yes!” Ari agreed, “that would pull it all together.”
So guess who stepped out of her comfort zone and wore a belt (a hand-me-down belt Ari gave me years before) the next time I went to Ari’s house?
And wouldn’t you know it, but Ari’s five-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, plopped down next to me on the couch and nonchalantly said, “Nice belt, Nonny.”
My face blushed bright, realizing she’d gotten the gene too and had more fashion sense than I did. Who knows, but, maybe, Elizabeth might have liked my creative pink get-up from sixth-grade. Elizabeth would paint the world pink if she could.
So it was the next time I had to go shopping with my husband Bill (who by the way is a great coordinator of clothes when they’re for me; a most difficult shopper for himself)) and Elizabeth (the 5 year old who knows). I let them pick out some clothes that included a wide leather belt with an elephant’s head, trunk and all, as the buckle at Anthropologie. I only decided on the belt since my three-year-old buddy Gabriel loves elephants.
And it was because of Gabriel that I ventured to wear such a bold thing as an elephant head belt when I went over to read to him one morning.
His delight seeing the elephant encouraged me to wear it the following weeks.
I got so comfortable wearing the elephant belt those mornings, that I branched out and actually wore it in public. While Bill and I walked down Spring Street in Eureka Springs last winter, four different fashionista women laden with shopping bags commented on what a great belt I had on. Hmmm. I kinda got it–that rush of endorphins–for those few minutes of high compliments.
So do clothes make the man or woman, or do we make our clothes? I suppose our lives prove our priorities and its continual balancing act.
Yet, don’t we all feel a lift and surge of confidence when we have on the right stuff?
This past week when Ari had our ten-year-old grandson W.C. try on his first sports coat for a funeral, he said, “I feel like the president! Now all I need is a handkerchief for my pocket, and I’ll be a real gentleman.”
And may we all have the free-spirit of our two-year-old granddaughter Lily. Her mother Kelly recently shared how Lily is now at that decisive age when everything she wears–shorts, swimsuits, pajamas–all go with her pink cowboy boots. Just you try to tell a two-year-old she can’t wear her boots.
I’ll end with part of an email from my artist friend Emily who arises each morning and dresses quite chicly in her beautifully coordinated outfits to work in her downtown art studio. (I simply mosey into an adjoining room, wearing my husband’s discarded dress shirts and paint-splattered yoga pants.) Like me, though, Emily loves her comfortable shoes.
Whew, a busy day here! Not much painting, but lots of running around, and, I’ll admit, I BOUGHT YET ANOTHER PAINT BRUSH…okay, 3, if you must know. Other people love shoes, so I guess my habit is cheaper. If I had cute little feet, maybe I’d love shoes also. I do have to tell you. I went to Nordstrom’s to their shoe sale in hopes of getting something other than sandals to wear in Pensacola at Thanksgiving, and they had these daaarrrling shoes, flats with a really cute bow on the very back. I asked the girl to see them in my size, rather our size. She opened up the box and got out a shoe, and we both just died laughing….a shoe in a 10 further elongated with a bow on the back, appears to be at least 24″ long. Noah could have used it for the ark. I still tried it on, and as much as the girl wanted to make a sale, we died laughing all over again.
May I say though that if I could paint like Emily, I wouldn’t care if I wore a size 10 boat/shoe! (I’m almost there in my size 9.) Emily is one who beat breast cancer. Actually I think she pummeled it with her paint brushes. Enjoy viewing some of her works: www.EmilyJamesArt.com
So Fashionistas, enjoy your sense of style, but please be gentle to those of us who most often ask, “Let’s see, today, do I want to be comfortable and kind ? Or daaaarrling and cranky?”
Be kind anyway. Wear prints with plaids if you like, and live loverly.
If you are coming to the HU 89th Annual Lectureship Series September 30-October 3, I’ll be speaking at 9:45 Wednesday morning, October 3. In relationship to Joshua 6, I’ll highlight my growing circles of faith through difficulties, enriching my intimate walk with God. It will be a tremendous time for fellowship and Bible enrichment.