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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Coming Out of the Closet

I'm super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

This week's topic comes from Froggie, who asked us to consider an outfit we've had in our closet for a long time – and why.  Here's my take:

It may seem strange, but I just don’t own “that” outfit.  You know the one: the dress you were wearing when you went on that perfect date.  Or the suit that gave you the confidence to nail a key interview.  Or the T-shirt and jeans from the concert where you and your best friend had the greatest time ev-er.  Take my word for it, I have plenty of clothes in my closet (and in my daughter’s closet, and in my dresser . . . ), but, perhaps strangely, I don’t have any special outfits. 

That’s probably because, instead of outfits, I possess a wardrobe built of uniforms. 

And for that, I blame the nuns, Madonna, and whoever invented Preppies.

Starting in first grade, my parents enrolled me in Catholic school, where I remained until I graduated high school . . . eleven years later.  I was required to wear a uniform every single one of those years.  I spent my entire adolescence ensconced in polyester.  The first eight, the uniform did not vary by a single stitch:  plaid brown and white skirt, brown vest, white polyester blouse, white socks.  Every.  Single.  Day.  The high school uniforms didn’t change much; throw in the option of a brown sweater and slacks (only in the winter months), and you have the next four years.

The nun-mandated uniformity left me unable to assemble even the most basic outfit.  Not that I really needed to; I mean, when would I wear it?  To mass on Sunday?  To Girl Scouts – where I wore yet another polyester uniform?  On weekends, I threw on jeans and a T-shirt and didn’t really give much thought to whether they looked good, or even whether they matched.  Of course they matched; what doesn’t go with denim?

To complicate matters, I came of age in the ‘80s, something that sounds cool if you came of age in the ‘90s or later, but something which has rendered me wholly fashion impaired.  Female children of the ‘80s had three style options:  copying Madonna and/or Cyndi Lauper; emulating Jon Bon Jovi; or following the tenets of The Preppy Handbook.  Here’s a shocker:  I opted to go all hair band (and I have the cruel, cruel photos to prove it).  I thought the Madonna thing a little slutty, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to wear plaid and penny loafers and madras headbands and turned-up collars like all of the other girls at my high school.  I took the seemingly most rebellious – and comfortable – path.  I puffed my hair as high as God and Aqua Net would allow and bought boots and a leather-and-faux-leopard skin jean jacket and matching jean skirt.  I added some blue frosted eye shadow and big gold earrings and called it fashion.  I didn’t realize it then, but I can now see that my attempt at style was actually just another uniform:  the costume of the rocker girl.

If you culled through my clothes today, you’d find all sorts of stuff (and most of it would make a stylist cry).  Much of it, I don’t wear.  Even though the rack is full, I tend to dress in the same pieces over and over.  Yes, once again, I’ve inadvertently reduced my wardrobe to uniforms.  In the summer, I don my “warm-weather uniform” consisting of one of my five or so plaid shirts on top and second-hand denim cut-offs on the bottom.  Come cold weather, I pull out the “winter uniform,” rotating between three North Face fleeces pulled over old T-shirts or a thermal coupled with one of my three pairs of Gap jeans.  I also own two good suits saved for court appearances or meetings; those share space with a small array of business casual blouses, slacks, and cardigan sweaters:  my “work uniform.”

I’d like to think someday I will learn to mix and match clothes, that I will stock my shelves not with comfortable fallbacks but instead with fashionable, flattering pieces I love and that hold meaning to me.  But it seems unlikely.  Heck, with few exceptions, I can’t even remember what I was wearing at major life events.  My wedding, sure (two piece polka-dot Ann Taylor blouse and skirt, which my husband later shrank when he accidentally threw it in the dryer).  The day I was sworn in as an attorney?  No idea (though I’d venture to guess it was a dark suit – a safe bet).  I remember the dress I wore under my gown when I graduated law school, but I didn't keep it (I actually sold it at a garage sale).  Clothes just don't matter to me on an emotional level.  They never have.  I doubt they ever will.  

Funny enough, as I searched my closet and dressers this week, I realized that the outfit I’ve owned the longest is my grammar school uniform.  It’s not up on a shelf or in a drawer but instead stuffed in a box in the garage.  I don’t know why I keep it, other than nostalgia, or maybe a good laugh. 

It’s not like I need it; my closet is filled to the brim with new uniforms.

Thanks a lot, Madonna.


  1. So glad you joined our group. I enjoyed reading this. You're a natural-born writer! I sometimes wish we wore uniforms when I was a kid because then people wouldn't judge you on where you bought your clothes. :P

    1. Don't worry, Melissa, people found other ways to judge us ... ;)

  2. I'm also fashion backward- I have no uniform background, I figure that special gene that enables me to look super cute and know what stuff goes with what has skipped me. My sister has it, though, and I envy her! LOL! Awesome blog post!

    1. Sara, I used to pray that someone -- anyone -- would nominate me to be on "What Not to Wear"!

  3. Thanks, ladies! I really enjoyed this and look forward to many more collaborations!