It’s January 2014. The Polar Vortex has come and gone (what the heck is that anyway?? Oh wait, here. Thank you internet!), Chris Christie’s campaign for president has taken a hard kick to the nuts (I can say that in just that way because we’re both from Jersey), and the post-holiday sales season is ON. Thank goodness, because, in terms of clothes, I’m having a minor crisis.*
This is because, on the one hand, everything I own seems to be falling apart. This simultaneous sartorial self-destruction normally happens only with my underpants since I hate shopping for them and generally just buy them all in one massive purchase every couple of years. This time, however, it seems to be happening to everything, from my jacket pockets to my jeans and my socks, and even, strangely enough, my t-shirts.
The other issue is that, now that I’m trying to think about a career other than freelancing, I’m starting to think I need to learn how to dress like an adult. I am about to turn 45, after all, so while being childless does encourage one to live in endless adolescence, I am now married, I do have an IRA, and I own both real estate and a crock pot. Come to think of it, the crock pot is just mine on long-term loan, so I’m off the hook on that front, but still, there’s not much chance of avoiding the fact that there is no way that I can dress like a teen or 20-something and still be mistaken for one. And it only took me until about the 87th time I went to a bar and didn’t get carded to finally accept the fact that that ship has sailed. But, like drinking all night long and various yoga poses, learning how to re-dress yourself once you’re in your 40s is not as easy as it sounds.
My fashion problems go way back, and may even be genetic. I grew up spending holidays with relatives whose dresses and furniture were upholstered in similar gaudily flowered and/or paislied patterns, the main difference being that the couches were also covered in plastic. Those of us in my family who try to have taste are clingy late adopters. One cousin, for instance, was somewhat fashionable in the late 70s, but now he’s still wearing the same polyester bell-bottoms, which brought him briefly back into style in the early oughts, and then out again. While other people were learning how to stop dressing like kids and start dressing like girls, I just kept on wearing my Garanimals until I grew out of them (I was often teased for having “floods”), because, while I was always good at solving equations and diagramming sentences, trying to figure out what shirts matched with what pants was way too complicated for me. One of my old friends holds that her indelible image of me is in overalls and a white shirt with a big rainbow on it which, apparently, was a favorite outfit of mine well into junior high.
Then, in 9th grade, I fell in with a clique of dictatorial preppies who set me straight. I quickly inculcated their “NATURAL FIBERS ONLY!” mantra, discarding any items that contained even 5% nylon or polyester. My parents were nice enough to recognize the sudden importance that clothes had taken on in my teenage world and allow me to order in bulk from J. Crew, L.L. Bean and Lands’ End. Luckily, my new friends’ other mantra was, “NEVER WEAR ANYTHING THAT FITS!”, so I was able to continue to hide any confusing potentially blossoming femininity beneath baggy shirts and jeans and gigantic sweaters. And I so internalized these rules of “fashion” that, aside from acquiring a couple of skirts that didn’t really fit either, I basically continued to dress this way more or less through college.
So it wasn’t until I moved to New York that I started to think for myself about what I wanted to wear. I should say, it didn’t really happen until ¾ of the way through film school, when I broke up with my college boyfriend and became single, and was finally forced to consider the fact that perhaps my style of dress was not drawing men like moths to the flame. I looked around and saw that most of the women who did well with guys seemed not to go for general shapelessness as a look. I started trying to order clothes from J. Crew that fit, but soon found that for someone who, at 5’2”, was much shorter than your average catalogue model and certainly not as svelte, this wasn’t very easy. It seemed I would have to actually go shopping and try things on.
It turned out, however, that now that clothes shopping didn’t come freighted with the fear of being taunted by mean girls at the mall, it wasn’t so terrible, and I slowly began to acquire normal clothes that a female in her mid-20s might wear. Because I had a part-time office job working for a financial management firm as a file clerk cum bookkeeper cum phone answerer cum pretty much whatever they needed me to do that day, I even had to buy “nice clothes” — aka something other than t-shirts and jeans (although I was proud that I never had to own an actual suit for work. The story of why I did eventually acquire one is a good one that I’ll save for a later post). But when I quit that job to work in the film business, the rules changed again. As I mentioned in a previous blog, my “business wardrobe” consists of anything that is comfortable, looks presentable, isn’t too tight or feminine and has pockets, but can’t include articles of clothing I like enough that when they get dirty or torn or singed, I will be sad.
Once my work uniform became the kind of outfit most people don to grout their bathroom, however, it freed me up a bit to concentrate on my recreational clothes, and that was when I really started to enjoy them. I can pinpoint the start of this new phase at right around the time when I worked on my first set of Victoria’s Secret commercials — but not because I learned something about fashion from the supermodels of the day (who included, in that round of Christmas commercials, Tyra Banks, Stephanie Seymour and Heidi Klum). It was because that eight day commercial shoot was a first taste of the financial security that would allow me to become a truly conspicuous consumer, and run up my first $4000 credit card bill (or rather the first one that wasn’t used to pay for film stock, processing or negative cutting, which were the major costs of my thesis film). I suddenly had the money to buy stuff and, with cheap rent, no car and no dependents, that pretty much left food, alcohol, door fees and clothes. It was only a matter of time, then, before the combination of my cheap bastard instincts, which barred me from paying full price for anything, and the Time Out New York subscription I clung to even while it drove me insane with the amount of stuff I was missing even if I was going out every night, led me to the mecca of the sample sale. I would follow the addresses listed to dank back rooms of former (or perhaps current) sweatshops in the garment district to try on fantastic designer wear that had been discarded because it was too bizarre or just basically unnecessary for anyone to own, or had only been constructed in a size zero (luckily, there was the occasional six or eight). Among the pieces I acquired were two fabulous Nanette Lepore dresses, one in purple velvet and gauzy flower patterns, one in light blue with white brocade (luckily, around this time I was also going to a lot of weddings, so I had somewhere to wear them); fantastically patterned and silky skirts in polka dotted or red or crazily-striped aqua; sky blue hot pants striped down the side with red and blue sequins, which were perfect for 4th of July but not really any other day in my life; some crazy tight bell bottoms of a sassy, stretchy, golden brown and white zig-zag material that scream for your attention; and many gauzy see-through shirts with frilly cuffs or crazy asymmetrical collars. And for period of time, I enjoyed being the kind of person who made, or at least dressed as if she could make, an entrance.
(Some of my fabulous party clothes)
This December, however, as I was packing for the long Christmas trip that just ended, I realized that, as the tired saying goes, I had nothing to wear. My closet is full of these party clothes that I still think are pretty sweet and don’t want to get rid of because they have fond memories attached to them (including the outfit in which I was told by the late James Gandolfini, a great guy sorely missed by all who knew him, “Hey, you clean up nice!”). But I don’t wear them any more because let’s face it, I don’t really go to parties any more — or at least not the type of parties that require party clothes (and some of which I have literally never worn, I suppose because I never was invited to just the right party, or because, while they were super cool and probably looked terrific on somebody, they looked terrible on me). My drawers are full of work clothes, which, as I explained, cannot, by the very nature of their being work clothes, be anything special. And now, it seems that an inordinate amount of the rest of my clothes, the ones that I actually choose to wear, have holes. The saddest thing is that these don’t seem to be just the familiar ones from normal wear and tear. These holes, in all of my “decent” shirts (which can range from “nice t-shirt” to what my mother would call a “blouse”) are appearing in the same place: right around my belly button. For a while I thought maybe it was only certain shirts that were particularly tight, or particularly cheaply made, but now that it seems to be happening to all of them, I think the reason is just that, now, I actually have a belly. Not that I’m getting fat, exactly (I still fit into my clothes) but I think the weight I used to carry in other parts of my body, like my hips or my ass, now just goes somewhere else — somewhere, to be precise, that makes the fly of my jeans protrude just the amount to make it rub against my shirts and create…holes.
Is this sort of thing happening to anyone else? I mean, all of our bodies are changing as we get older, but usually there’s not such a clear, tangible indication that something is different. Crotch holes and knees holes? Absolutely, been getting them for as long as I can remember. But tummy holes? It’s a new phenomenon, and now that it’s attacking all of my shirts, one that’s impossible to ignore — because having holes in your clothes is another thing you can’t get away with when you’re trying to dress like an adult.
*I know what some of you (especially if you’re a guy, perhaps) may be thinking, “She started this blog writing about clothes, and now she’s writing about clothes again? Who gives a fuck??” But if you actually think that that first post was about clothes, then you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog anyway, so piss off.