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What to Wear?

 I got my first pair of high heels right before Easter — “high” being a descriptor relative only to ballet flats, but never mind. I must have been about 10 or 11 years old and I felt sooo grown up. I can still remember how pretty they looked on my feet: the off-white pearlescent pumps with a short stacked heel (the kind of heel I continued to prefer for most of the rest of my life, though of course at a little higher elevation.) While my other friends were still wearing those stupid Mary Janes buckled so tight that they made your feet look like sausages, I was sauntering down the runway of my front walk in my new high-heeled pumps, practicing before Easter Sunday so I wouldn’t stumble or wobble while walking down the center aisle in church.

     For as long as I can remember, my Mother and I got new outfits for Easter. It was a tradition. As I got older and moved into adulthood, the new outfits became slightly less of a complete ensemble, adding maybe only new shoes or a new blazer or yes, even, a new hat to an outfit I already had. (Even though I am short, I have always loved hats.) Yet, whatever new pieces I chose to add, I always felt I had a fresh presentation for spring. 

     The “new outfit” relied on another tradition which evolved once I was living in Connecticut: the transition of the fall/winter closet to the spring wardrobe. With such distinct seasons up East, that transition was a necessary, if sometimes a laborious chore, but I came to actually enjoy the rituals of trying on and discarding and reevaluating what I had in order to make a list of what I needed to add or replace going forward. It became sort of a “pre-shopping in my closet,” if you will, that inspired me to incorporate some new fashion trends into my classic tailored staples.  

     Once I moved back to Texas, I had to adjust my seasonal approach, considering that there are really only two season here: hot and cold (or seriously cool). But still, I have kept up this basic routine, even though I have long since eliminated digging those heavy wool sweaters and winter jackets out of the cedar chest while expanding more poolside and casual attire. Since I have been retired, my clothing choices and purchases have been more dictated by our upcoming travel destinations than by any professional needs. Still, I think I would characterize my overall style as classic and tailored, preferring solids over prints, slacks over skirts, and jackets and shirts over tank tops and sleeveless dresses.  

    I have been a “clothes horse” my whole life, and my Lord & Taylor account was a line item in our budget for years. I even had a student ask me once if English teachers made more money than other teachers because they dressed so much better than anyone else. (The answer was “no” of course, even as I smiled with secret pride.) But now that I have not been shopping in a traditional department store for well over a year, I have begun to rethink what I need for how I live. Do I really need to be the best-dressed person on the cruise ship or the most fashion-forward tourist on the Riviera? Not hardly. Dressing up used to be part of the fun of travel, but not anymore; just getting there if we ever do again, will be thrill enough.

     Covid has upended all my routines, not to mention my wardrobe needs and my personal sense of style. I have not done a change-over of my closet since the early fall of 2019. Then, in anticipation of a fall trip to New England and a spring trip to Australia in March (when it would have been fall there), I had purchased some new items to see me through both the winter at home and the trip down under to come. And that’s where my closet has been left ever since.

     Why would I bother to change it? All I wear anymore are my yoga pants, T shirts, a couple hoodies when the weather gets colder, and sneakers. Even though my husband and I have both been vaccinated now, we are not yet comfortable going out to restaurants or theatres or museum openings (with largely maskless crowds), much less planning big trips abroad. Simply put, I have nowhere to go except the supermarket or a medical appointment, and those are hardly high-fashion destinations.

     At this point, I don’t know how I would plan needed wardrobe updates even if I could identify what they are. It has been so long since I have dressed, really dressed, that I no longer remember what my own style is: what scarves go with what, what handbags match what outfits, what jewelry complements what tops— and forget the hats! 

     Actually, I think my wardrobe conundrums are a result of a growing agoraphobia. I don’t need to go out, I don’t want to go out, and I don’t care about going out — much less what I wear when I do. This is not a good sign for Lord & Taylor.

      But then again, they are out of business. 


  1. Diane Thiel

    I have an outfit I bought in Jan 2020 which I have never worn because of Covid. My wardrobe sits in the closet, items inmoved in the same place as I alternate the same 3 comfortable outfits for the last year. I don’t wear make up, just a mask, and the ritual of putting on the same loop earrings each morning for 20 years has even been abandoned. Like you, travel looks out of reach. I think all of us are suffering some level of “re entry” fear. But that will slowly change. It has to.


  2. Well, not everyone is suffering re-entry fear, especially here in Texas. Most seem to be full speed ahead, which is what worries me. But okay, we can hope …


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