This is about dressing appropriately. Or maybe it is about
context. Or about the power of the group mind.
It starts with blue jeans.
After years of not wearing blue jeans, I have begun wearing them
again recently. And like most compulsives—moderation
is my holy grail—since I have rediscovered them, I cannot seem
to stop myself. I want to wear them all the time.
I am trying to figure out why this is. I think part of it has
to do with getting older. As a younger person, I always wanted
to dress older. Now that I am getting older, I want to dress
younger. Blue jeans make me feel younger. Or maybe, they
make my outside feel like my inside.The kind of blue
jeans I wear, low on the hip, tight, slightly
flared leg, make me feel sexy, hip, and a bit of an outlaw.
Teamed with a cool top, especially that shows cleavage and a
smart pointy boot, and I feel ready for anything, even to meet
Now somewhere in my mind,I am aware that blue jeans are
not the ideal outfit for any occasion. But I feel so darned
swell in them, I cannot figure out why that might be. Especially
when I put on a jacket that nips in at the waist. It elevates
the whole look so much, I feel like clicking my heels and
switching my hips.
So I was invited to a holiday party for a friend's mother at
a swanky West County retirement community. We're talking posh.
A doorman who actually helped me on with my coat. A spa.
smiling care givers every few feet. A decor so muted and
tasteful, I thought I was at a Marriott. That kind
If you are going to get old in America, it is a beautiful thing
if you can have money when you do it.
I put on my jeans and a dangerously low cut beaded top that compensated
for its daring by being in an earth tone. I am so relived
that I still have breasts that I like to show off the suggestion
of them. I added a tasteful brown blazer, smacked on the
ole lipstick. And was ready to go.
My outfit was doing double duty. Not only would it need
to work for the old ladies at the Gatesworth but it would
have to pass muster, to assume a certain hip quotient for
a group of teenagers with whom we were doing theatre games later
The moment i walked into the room at the Gatesworth, I could
tell that I had made the wrong decision. There wasn't a
jean in the house.
The little girls were wearing tights and patent leather shoes.
The boys to men, products of generations of Mary Institute/Country
Day School, were in blazers and ties, even the wee ones. The
old ladies in wheelchairs were coifed and manicured and wrapped
I had a quick conversation with myself. I said, You belong
because you have been invited. You don't have to look like
everyone else to belong. And maybe it was complicated by the fact
that I was the only Jew.
But I felt flushed, ashamed, like I had transgressed some code
of conduct. And I had. You don't wear jeans to a Christmas
party. Well, that kind of Christmas party.
Now, why was I ashamed? It's not as if anyone said anything
to me. Or gave me a disapproving look. But suddenly,
I felt self conscious and could not get comfortable in
my body. The chair felt awkward. I felt awkward on
The jeans that had felt so groovy a half hour ago now felt sloppy
and my cleavage, vulgar.
My body hadn't changed, nor had my outfit.
Was this about context?
Friday, Dec 23, 2005