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Dressing Different
Dressing Different/Standing Out (Mouse Over)

Dear Kim,

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 the Pope.

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. Helpful smiling care givers every few feet. A decor so muted and tasteful, I thought I was at a Marriott. That kind of place.

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 that night.

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 in cashmere.

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 chair.

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?

Later,

Joan

Friday, Dec 23, 2005

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