I am not a fancy person. I like certain things to be nice and I appreciate attractive surroundings, but when it comes to my own appearance I have a limited range of sartorial choices that make me comfortable. I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of person. I like to have pockets, I like my wrists unencumbered by cuffs or bracelets, I like things that are simple, and I like clothes that don’t inhibit the activities I enjoy like building violins, baking, or getting on the floor to play a game with my kids.
When I try to wear decent clothes I’m self-conscious. I keep checking and double checking everything if the way the clothes rest on my body doesn’t feel familiar. I’ve tried to accessorize with a pretty scarf or shawl but I keep moving it or pulling at it or shifting it around and it’s not worth the distraction.
I don’t iron or dry clean. I don’t wear makeup. I don’t even have pierced ears.
I admire people who look put together. I find fashion interesting, and I have opinions and preferences, but most of it stops before it reaches my own personal self. I’m not elegant. To pull that off you have to make it seem effortless, or at least natural, and that’s just not me.
Luckily, being a self-employed adult in charge of my own itinerary, I make lifestyle choices where jeans and a t-shirt works most of the time. I only really need to dress up to play concerts, so I have a collection of black clothes that are comfortable to perform in and look nice enough on stage.
But every once in awhile something comes up and I realize what a hopeless shambles my wardrobe really is. Between changes in my weight and my indifference to clothes shopping there is nothing decent in my closet if I need to look nice.
And this weekend I’m accompanying Ian to a military ball. Ha.
Not that anyone there will care how I look as long as I make some vague effort to appear respectable, but I’d like to feel pretty. I’d like to make Ian proud as he wears his dress blues with his medals pinned on his chest. I’d like to have one, decent, dare I say elegant, dress to wear.
I imagine shopping for clothes if you have a body that fits into things could be fun. But I am too big on top for most of what’s out there, and there are few things more demoralizing than trying on one thing after another that won’t zip or that makes your butt look bad or your legs too weird or your whole body just seem wrong. I spent an entire morning with a patient friend trying on dresses at the mall and by the end of it I felt as if all my efforts to lose weight have been pointless and I should just eat cheesecake, wear sweatpants, and never look in the mirror again.
The last time I needed a fancy dress at a time when nothing fit was for a cousin’s wedding several years ago. I had just had a miscarriage and I was supposed to play solo viola for the ceremony. (I was still bleeding during the event, and Aden and Mona were flower girls, and that whole day was a dizzying cacophony of emotions for me.) I actually wound up sewing myself something a few days before the wedding. I didn’t use a pattern, I just found some pretty material and made it up. I have no idea if it looked okay, but I was not in a mental state to completely care. (I hope I looked okay. If I’m feeling brave later I may dig through a photo album and see.)
I don’t have the time or energy to try that this time. I’m at the mercy of what stores have to offer. My fall back plan will be something from the ever present collection of black things.
Speaking of concert wear, this past weekend my girls had a violin recital. They did beautifully. I was nervous for Mona after last year, but she simply got up in front of the room, cranked out Ode To Joy the best she’d ever done it, and smiled sweetly as she took her seat again. Aden did a lovely job as well, and Quinn was about as good as you could ask a five year old to be at an hour long violin recital. It was a really good day.
The only hitch was about half an hour before we were supposed to leave and I told Mona it was time to put on something nice. She balked.
Both of my girls were big into fancy dresses when they were little. They wore Easter and Christmas dresses all year round, always looking as if it were picture day as they set off for school. A few years ago Aden started gravitating away from dresses, but still has a few for special occasions, and she had no trouble finding a nice one for the recital.
But not Mona. Mona had on leggings and a long sleeved shirt and wanted to know why it wasn’t good enough.
I explained that the clothes you choose to wear say something as clearly as if you were holding a sign. A police uniform means something different from painting clothes means something different from a wedding gown. I told her by dressing nicely for the recital it was a way of acknowledging all the hard work everyone had done to prepare for it by showing it was special. If she dressed like it was any other day, it was like saying the recital wasn’t important. She needed to wear something fancy.
She fussed and she fumed, but she understood my explanation. She started digging through her closet. The main thing we discovered is that Mona has grown since the last time she had to wear something dressy, and nothing zipped or buttoned. She looked stricken as one outfit after another was set aside for Goodwill, but eventually we found something new that had been a gift from a friend but not worn yet, and it was perfect. Mona looked pleased despite herself. It was a nice dress, comfortable, with pretty colors. I let her wear it right over her regular outfit so underneath she would just feel like herself.
As I knelt down on the floor behind her, carefully doing up the buttons, Mona said to me quietly, “I don’t like to be fancy.”
You and me both, sweetheart. You and me both.