Sunday, January 31, 2016


The concept of “dressed” can fall into a broad range. Don’t believe me? Visit Walmart almost any time and you’ll see it all -- from threadbare pajamas to worn jeans and stained sweatshirts to fancy wedding guest attire and ball gowns. Check out People of Walmart ( for a real fashion show, although I bet many of the ensembles presented on the site were captured as people dashed in for snacks en route to a costume party.

I’ve known people who considered “dressed” to mean they had on one garment, say a pair of boxer shorts, making them not technically completely naked, and therefore “clothed.” Others I’ve known (my late grandmother comes to mind) wouldn’t consider themselves dressed unless donned head to toe in a coordinated, fully accessorized outfit and would never consider leaving the house in anything less.

My own concept of “dressed” falls into multiple niches, with very rational (to me, anyway) reasons to my potentially neurotic methodology.

In my former office life, work wardrobe items were subdivided into categories including but not limited to business portrait, client meeting, and all-day-in-the-office-while-clients-are-closed-for-holiday outfits. I didn’t want to be spotted in the office by a client looking like I thought it was clean out the garage day, and I generally tried to dress as if our biggest client would arrive at the office unannounced, which had, on occasion, really happened. For me, it was an image thing.

There are ensembles for “going out,” separated by level of casualness based on the target establishment, and different, fancier (often vintage) clothes for benefits and galas. I don’t like wearing conservative work clothes or plain pumps out to a club, so immediate after-work plans require attire be stepped up or down accordingly to match the plans. Or a quick dash home to change.

It probably sounds a little complicated. Maybe, but it works for me. And like I said, there are reasons. The whole office wardrobe thing was inspired by an early career mishap involving an ad campaign and critical bit of information that never trickled down to me, primarily that the three person IRA department of which I was a member would be featured in a newspaper ad.

The day of the photo shoot of which I was woefully uninformed, instead of my usual mostly-conservative banker suit, I arrived at work in a casual skirt, oversized sweater, and scarf. The art director arrived, declared my scarf made me look like a bank robber, and made me remove it, eliminating the element that tied the outfit together. Not a great fashion day for me. Worse, was the four month stretch where the three-quarter page ad featuring the three of us was plastered all over the paper, with me looking like a slouch.

Nowadays, a retail work environment has me moving between office, sales floor, and dusty stockroom all day long, with multiple trips up ladders. Current work clothing is a mind-numbing array of monotonous dust colored, androgynous khakis and neutral sweaters, peppered with the occasional pair of tweedy, dust camouflaging dress pants. It’s practical. It’s hideous. I avoid going anywhere directly from work and hope I don’t see anybody I know in the store. It’s a self-image thing.

If I’m sick and at home for any duration, it’s generally pajamas all day. If I’m sick and you show up at my house unannounced, I’m probably going to be pissed because, even if they are cute, I don’t care to entertain in my pajamas.

Again, there was a situation. It was during a stretch of unemployment, while married to a man who wanted a stay-at-home wife (which it turned out I wasn’t good at). It was one in the afternoon, and I lounged around in baggy red plaid flannel PJ bottoms and a red waffle-weave thermal top with no undergarments because these were, as the husband of the time called them, my “sleeping clothes.” I wasn’t going out and I didn’t expect anyone, so it seemed fine.

That was the day the president of the photography club of which I was treasurer stopped by on his lunch hour to deliver dues another member had given him. I nearly died of embarrassment when I made the mistake of answering the door. Not a proud fashion moment. It inspired the change in philosophy concerning “at home wear.”

Housebound with a cold, the concept of “dressed” is based on how awful I feel. One recent day, while in bed literally all day, was definitely a pajama day. Beside never feeling human again, my other big fear was that a friend would stop by with soup or something equally thoughtful and I’d die of mortification coming downstairs all pale and sickly, swathed in fleece PJs and the purple fluffy robe that makes me feel like Barney the dinosaur.

Another day with the same cold, still feeling lousy but somewhat less so, “dressed” meant changing from snowflake printed fleece pajama bottoms into solid black fleece athletic pants, which are essentially exactly the same, except I know that one came from the sleepwear department and the other from active wear. The cotton tee shirt knit pajama top was exchanged for a printed tee shirt knit “shirt,” topped with a fleece vee neck, and I was “dressed.” Sort of. I mean, I wouldn’t actually leave the house like this. That would require a change into “ohmigod, my luck I’ll run into someone I know, I better look like I at least tried” jeans, sweater, and makeup. And wouldn’t you know it, while I was the only one home, campaign workers came ringing the doorbell which I answered, dressed like a scrub in my fleece “outfit.”

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