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
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
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
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.