Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dress to Impress? How about Dress to Express?

Although I don't remember where, I recently heard someone advise "Dress to Impress."  I involuntarily cringed. Being in my mid 40s the last thing I feel like doing is getting dressed according to an imaginary applause meter.  Yes, yes - Dress for success and all that sort of thing.  I am 100% for appropriateness and being, well, fluid in your expression.  So you straight-laced types can  calm down. I am certainly not advocating exhibiting your inner cat-girl during a sales presentation.

I love clothes and all the extras.  Shoes. Jewelry. Gloves. Hats.  I love it all!  Clothes move and inspire me. Particularly vintage.  Dramatic I know, but one of the things I like to do most is to dress according to how I see myself at any given time.    On the days I have to go somewhere other than the kitchen or my kid's elementary school,  I may be struck by an image or emotion that I express through my clothing.  Don't get me wrong, I don't wake up saying, "Hmm, I want to be Eartha Kitt today." and throw on a latex catsuit.  When I feel sexy, creative, or fun - I try to dress to express.

Before I became a Vintage re-seller, I worked for a huge financial services firm on K street in Washington, D.C. Every year they hosted a huge exceptionally fancy holiday party that sparked the old, "what to wear" conversations.

"Whatever you do, wear black." Our payroll clerk pointed out towards the end of one conversation.
"Why?" I asked.  I really didn't care, black was still my color of choice for about everything.
"Because everybody wears black." One of the secretaries chimed in. I was perplexed and it showed.
"Well, "Payroll lowered her voice in a way that said, "I am about to tell you some damn good gossip".  The three of us that were standing leaned in crowding into her cubicle.  Remember what happened to Janet?" she asked peering over her glasses at the two veteran secretaries huddling next to me.  They nodded sadly.
"What?!" I demanded in a whisper.  We huddled in closer.
"Well," Payroll lowered her voice even more," She wore a full length sparkly blue and silver gown."
"And?" I asked anticipating the tragic.
"I felt so bad for her."  The curly head woman to my left said.
"Why? What?" I asked again.
Payroll sighed heavily.  "Well...everyone was looking at her. Like I said, everybody wears black."
There were more sad nods and even a woeful,"Stuck out like a sore thumb." before I got the hint that the convo was over.

The takeaway? It's a bad thing to be different, so don't wear what brings you joy, wear what makes you invisible.

On paryt night I showed up in my bright fuchsia pantsuit. It had a matrix style tailored jacket that fell right to the ankle of my crisp perfect pants. My square toed zebra print heels peeked out just so. 

I just didn't feel like being invisible that night.

Part II: Express or Obsess? Why People get Confused.