Sometimes I realize that without even paying attention, I’ve evolved. Things that were important to me at one time no longer are; things that I lied to myself about are suddenly true.
Like getting dressed.
The other day I headed into my closet and flipped through my tightly packed collection of dresses trying to find one to wear that day. Ah ha! Winner.
In my hand was a black frock. I almost didn’t buy it because it reminded me of something my maternal grandmother wore. She died when I was young and I don’t have any warm, fuzzy memories of her, but in all of the ones that I do have, she’s wearing a shapeless black dress.
The dress in my hand was, indeed, shapeless and black but it’s one of my favorites. It’s not even close to being figure flattering but I’m a sucker for a good fabric. This is a light knit that never wrinkles, feels good on all but the hottest of days, and is supportive enough for deep pockets. If I put on silver jewelry and do my “messy is a style” hair, I think I look sort of artsy. I’m pretty sure Grandma was never going for artsy.
I slid my feet into a pair of embroidered black ballet flats. I know that they make me look like I’m standing in a hole, but the flowers on them are cheery. When I look down, I don’t see me standing in a hole, I see me standing in a garden.
I fished a pair of dangly silver earrings from the messy silver earring drawer on my dresser, powdered my face, brushed mascara on my lashes and picked out a pair of eyeglasses that said, “I’m smart and trendy and in 10 years these are going to look dated so don’t take a picture of in them.” Then I headed to work ... down 14 stair steps, across the living room, to the dining room table or, as I like to call it, my desk.
No one saw me all day. Well, no one other than my family, the neighbor who was taking a smoke break from her home-based job when I went to get the mail, and the FedEx guy who brought me a new dress.
My family has stopped asking me why I’m so dressed up when no one sees me — why I bother when I could wear jammies all day and no one would be the wiser. They know what I know: I dress for myself.
This is huge. Four words that took decades to truly believe. I listened to my mom and wore what she thought looked nice through high school. In college I dressed to attract a male eye (the good ones) or to project a Madonna but preppy image. Out of college I dressed to get and keep a job; as a stay-at-home mom I dressed to hide spit-up stains, climb monkey bars, or cover up the parts of my body that I saw as ugly.
But now? Now I wear clothes that make me smile. I wear things that feel like hugs all day or things that barely touch me.
Maybe they swish when I walk; maybe the fabric is soft or crisp; maybe the jeans are old friends or non-stretched out and new. Maybe sporty, maybe vintage, maybe artsy, maybe nerdy. Maybe my outfit makes me feel like Audrey Hepburn; maybe June Cleaver, maybe like every other mom in Target.
Maybe you think that my outfit makes me look like I’m 10 pounds heavier than I am and standing in a hole. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be told I look nice but if you don’t think I do? Maybe, just maybe, you should look at my outfit through my eyes.
Susan is a Kansas City based writer and podcaster. To listen to the women’s history podcasts that she co-hosts or to read more of her work, visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenwedier.com.