Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Out of the chrysalis, a butterfly

Last night I was introduced to a startling new concept by the Amateur Actress and her good friend Cheekbones Galore.

The Amateur Actress had told me about this once before, but I dismissed it as one of her many unique and endearing eccentricities. Something that was specific to her alone.

After all, how could something so radical be true?

Over roast mushroom and parmesan risotto – a brave choice of dish to make on a night topping 37 degrees, considering you have to stand in front of the stove and stir it for around 45 minutes, sweat dripping from your brow but hopefully not into the dinner – I was re-educated.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the concept of “work shoes”.

Work shoes, I was told as we swilled back our sauvignon blanc in an effort to dampen the effects of the heat, or at least make us oblivious to it, are the pair of shoes that a young lady buys for work purposes. Work purposes are usually office roles but sometimes include venturing out on site or client visits, so they must be comfortable.

They explained it carefully, using small words so that I might understand all the better. Fair enough, I hear you think, that makes sense.

But hold on a minute there. Let’s look carefully at that sentence. I draw your eyes specifically to the section which reads “the pair of shoes”.

That’s THE PAIR. Singular. (can a pair be singular?)

Two shoes. That is, one pair. The single pair of shoes. For work.

If I hadn’t had two live people sitting in front of me declaring that they both had a pair of “work shoes”, I would not have believed it. How is that possible?

There are five days in the week! One pair of shoes cannot be expected to perform under such a degree of astonishing pressure! It is good for neither shoe nor foot!

Cheekbones Galore went on to explain that she wished she was the sort of person who could do the full change of outfit every day etc, with shoes, but that she simply wasn’t that kind of person no matter how she tried. And so she has work shoes, which she wears each day.

It goes without saying that I am not that kind of person. Not even close.

I change shoes and handbag each day to match my outfit, because I’m obsessive about it. Colours, style, heels and toes … each has a particular role to play and I can’t imagine trying to match the same pair of shoes to different outfits in that way, I just can’t. It wouldn't work.

But as I pondered this intriguing, and yet disturbing new concept of work shoes, I wondered if there wasn’t something to it.

The simplicity of approach … the ease of assembly …. the many, many (many many many) dollars saved on shoes ….. the sense of thrift and recessionista appeal …

But then I shook myself out of it.

Without my clothes, what would I be?

Part of what I love each night is mentally preparing the look I’ll wear to work in the morning, from the outerwear through accessories and down to underwear.

I take comfort from composing the perfect outfit, hoping that it will see me through another day of “challenges”, using my clothes as armour to give me succour and protection, to steel me against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, the inevitable dagger thrusts and political power dramas that play out around you when you’re a corporate slave and beholden to the wheel.

Clothes have the power to transform you, I believe. They can change your outlook, give you strength, make you faster, flirtier or smarter. Clothes are exquisite - enchanting. They're a costume and a disguise. Sometimes they project the image we wish we were, rather than what we necessarily are.

I learnt this when I was given my first dress as a child. It probably wasn’t my first ever dress, but it was so amazing that I felt like it was the first. It was certainly the first I’d ever noticed, or cared about.

It was a checked madras with a drop waist, in colours of apricot, rose, taupe, scarlet, butter and marigold. It had a little sash that tied at the side. It was so absolutely and unashamedly feminine, and it was like nothing I'd ever worn before.

It was magical. When I put it on, my head pushed through the folds of cloth and they brushed my cheek as the dress fell down across my body. I felt as though I was being reborn into it. It wasn't me that emerged, it was someone else - like a butterfly out of a chrysalis. This new person was more delicate, more graceful, more pretty and more poised. For the first time in my life, and I must have been eight or nine, I really felt as though I was a proper girl.

This dress came from St Vincent De Paul. It wasn’t new. But I became a new person inside of it, and I loved who she was.

And so began my love affair with clothes. We've argued from time to time, and we've made some bad decisions, that's true. But it's part and parcel of the evolution of our style and we try not to go to bed angry.

We're still together, after all this time.


CB Galore said...

It gets worse ... I have work trousers too. Four pairs, that just live in my locker at work, and get taken home to be washed once a fortnight.
To me, my work clothes represent a work identity that I don't associate with the real me - I avoiding wearing any of my 'work' clothes outside of work.
I've tried, and I just feel icky.

Troischats said...

Well, that certainly helps to explain the "work shoes" concept as well then. I used to be like that a long time ago, but found I needed to integrate the "work me" with the "real me". Of course, I don't get around in skirt suits and killer heels on the weekend, but I definitely have a portion of the wardrobe that does double duty.... it's a way to take some of the "real me" into the office. I find it helps me hang on to my identity - quite the opposite of the way it works for you.... but the similarity is that we each have a very defined purpose for our clothes.....

Kim @ Forever Wherever said...

I work at home and homeschool my children...and...I don't wear jean overalls! I do try to dress nice so that I can run out at any given moment and not feel like a slob! :-)

SoMH said...

So true! I used to have "work" and "going out" clothes (very little overlap, especially when I did the corporate suit thing & the tie-dyed purple studenty thing, respectively) and then "home" clothes that were super-daggy, just for slobbing around or gardening etc. Then I did full-time home duties with the new baby for 18 months, and had to totally re-work an idea of "home=work clothes". Dressing slobby all day was bad for my mental health; but dressing up too much was more than I could manage... it took me some time to get a grip on this - just in time to return to the paid workforce, so now I'm just in a state of constant sartorial confusion... (at least that's my excuse). It helps a lot that I have a job now where I feel quite happy to be "real me", in spirit and in clothing. It kind of throws my whole wardrobe open for consideration, which as you can imagine can be good & can be a total nightmare.