When I announced to a fashionable Vanderbilt friend with ties to Dallas that I moving here, she suddenly snorted diet Coke out of her nose.
“What?” I asked, perhaps a tiny bit defensively. “What’s so funny?”
“Well,” she said, struggling with the smile playing around the corners of her mouth. “You’re going to have to get some new clothes.”
Say what? I dressed nicely at Vanderbilt! I wore jackets! Or suits! And everything matched!
OK, fair enough, I’m a bit fashion-impaired. I spent 20+ years in journalism, for heaven’s sake, where “style” is a four-letter word to all but the occasional feature columnist or a fresh-out-of-private-college young reporter who’ll leave for PR in less than a year. I’ve seen sports reporters wear tattered golf shirts from a tournament they covered 16 years before and which doesn’t even exist anymore. I’ve watched nightside reporters borrow ties when I sent them to a sit-down awards dinner. I’ve had copy editors stare at me blankly when I asked them if they really, truly, thought gym shorts, a tank top and flip-flops were professional attire.
And I worked for years with PR folks who dressed better to mow their lawn on their day off than I did when I was a keynote speaker at a conference.
I wish they had Garanimals for adults, because I’d buy them. If I find a shirt I like, I purchase it in all four colors. I think high heels are the devil’s handiwork. And I find it nearly impossible to pay $79 for four ounces of cotton and six plastic buttons.
Suddenly, I find myself starring in my own “What Not to Wear” show in Dallas … home to women for whom shopping is a Ph.D program.Who spend entire days seeking just the right bangle to match their new suit, which cost more than the entire yearly tax collections of Zanzibar.
In the elevator the other day, I was wearing a kicky little jacket, with black swirly things on it. I love it. A lady says to me, “That jacket…” I smiled gently, trying to tamp down my sense of superiority.
“Oh, this?” I replied.
“It’s … interesting,” she said. “Where did you get it?”
Uh, oh. Interesting. When is that ever good?
“I bought it at Kohl’s,” I said.
“Kohl’s?” she asked. “I’ve never heard of it. Is it local?”
Not only am I here in Fashion City, but I work for two lovely, stylish women who look like models, love to shop, and can make anything look great (although they probably never really tried to nail a black-swirly-thing jacket from Kohl’s). Whose purses come with some guy’s name on them and more glittery things than a gay bar on disco night.
I’m not sure why they hired me. I’m think margaritas at Chuy’s were probably involved.
Boss 1: “Should we hire that little woman from Nashville?”
Boss 2: “Oh, I don’t know. Did you see that black swirly jacket thing she had on?”
Boss 1: “Yes, but we can help her! We can save her from herself! Maybe we’ll get extra points with HR, hiring the fashion-impaired.”
Boss 2: “Oh, lord. I need another margarita.”
For me, Chico’s is high fashion. I have several of their jackets, and whenever I wore them at Vandy, everyone asked me why I was so dressed up. Here, my Chico’s jackets barely help me edge my way into the minimum category of acceptability, where I’m not asked to get off of the elevator or leave a restaurant.
Then there’s the hair. My hair. Or, rather, my lack thereof.
Now, again, I’ve never had the great hair thing going on, even before I wiped it all out with a few rounds of chemo. “Your hair will probably come back thicker than before!” said my doc. “Maybe even curly. Who knows?”
But it was just hair, and I figured it was a decent enough tradeoff for maybe saving my life. And I rocked the bald look, like totally. I liked the sleekness, and it saved me at least two seconds a day by cutting down seriously on wind resistance.
But when it started growing back, I waited for the lush thickness, the curls.
Nope. I had even less hair than before. My follicles decided they’d been through enough. They’d exhausted themselves spewing out hair for 47 years, and they were done, damn it, except for a few half-hearted shoots that didn’t get the memo.
And a funny thing happened on the way to the salon. I realized I really liked my hair really short. I can do this! Chic. Stylish. Hip. Artsy. Wear lots of dangly earrings and nice hair gel.
In Nashville, I got tons of compliments on it. “I love your hair! It’s chic! Stylish! Hip! Artsy! Great earrings! Nice hair gel!”
In Dallas, not so much. I mostly pitying looks and averted eyes, no matter how dangly my earrings.
But I still like it, and that’s what matters. I did get a sunburn on my head today driving to a meeting with the top down, a hazard of it already being 97 degrees in May. Live and learn.
Ooops, gotta go. There’s a sale on at Kohl’s!