Tale of Bad Shoes
By Nicole Freire
I tend to exhibit some extremes when it comes to my wardrobe choices.
Sometimes I like to blame Catholic school for this, as years of wearing uniforms can dull one's dressing skills. (Also, just saying "Well, I went to Catholic school ..." tends to work as an excuse for many things, not that I pull that one out of the hat all the time, but it can come in handy.)
Anyway, I loved wearing my uniform. I liked my limited choices. Socks could be either red or white. Cardigan? Red. Blouse? White. Skirt? Plaid. In fact, when I see sci-fi movies, I envy the uniforms that the characters wear. Because in the future we will be so evolved that we don't have to stress out over clothes. We'll all just wear the same thing and concentrate instead on trying to communicate with aliens and piloting poorly built spacecraft. Stretchy pants and silver shirts for everyone!
And so I tend to not be very daring in the wardrobe department. I shop at the same store that my mother and my nearly 90 year old great aunt shop at. (Hi Talbots! Hi Aunt Sis!) I favor solids over prints. Dark colors over light. Flats over heels. Soft fabrics over scratchy ones. Pantyhose? Never.
Pants are particularly troublesome for me because thanks to years of scoliosis, one hip is higher than the other, making one pant leg always just a little bit too short. I spend a fair amount of my day tugging on one of my pant legs, attempting to pull it down enough to make the classic nerdy 'highwater' look not so obvious.
I also have some strict rules about certain articles of clothing. Boots, for instance, should only be worn if your particular job or activity require them. (See: cowboy boots, hiking boots) White pants are only allowed if you are a nurse. Fishnet stockings are ... tacky. Appliques belong on quilts, not clothing. And so on.
But my strict rules also help keep me from indulging my penchant for laziness. Because I could take "casual Friday" and just move straight over to "wearing my pajamas all the time". This is why I have to have a job that requires me to leave the house, so I have to get dressed.
You can see that I struggle with this, right?
I was shamed into buying new jeans because even my 10 year old daughter could see that my old ones were "not cool looking". And I thought that last week I had really transcended my wardrobe restrictions. I bought myself a pair of boots (despite my no boots rule) to wear with my new jeans. Boots with a heel! Black boots! So there I was, wearing my new jeans and my new boots and feeling pretty good about myself. I can dress like a grownup with a modicum of style! So I wrote this column ahead of time and took a picture of my new boots to accompany it.
And then I caught sight of myself today. I can't write about my new boots because today I have dressed myself in a combination of various articles of clothing that are so awful and sad that I'm glad I don't have to be out in public very often.
I'm wearing a pair of black shoes that I bought thinking they looked a little European - a little Danish clog type of shoe, with a boxy toe. But they ended up looking extremely orthopedic instead. (And I can say that because I have worn orthopedic shoes before. White ones, with, god help me, metal bars on them.) I'm wearing my black shoes with a pair of black socks, but OLD black socks, so they're really gray socks, not black. This stunning footwear is highlighted by a pair of light gray pants that I bought at a thrift store, a pair of Dockers - do they still make pants? Pants that fit me at the waist, so I was happy, so happy that I neglected to notice that they barely touch the bottoms of my calves. To top it all off, I'm wearing a hand-me-down shirt from my aunt, a three-quarter sleeve number in dark blue stripes. But the buttons on it are the cheap kind and every single one of them has a surface that is cracked or pitted, so every time I brush my arm across one I get actual scratches on my skin. And I have very broad shoulders (thanks Dad!) so the shirt gaps a little in front. It's not good at all.
I look awful.
How does this happen? Because it happens more often than not. I'll often have at least one wardrobe element that is slightly skewed enough to ruin the whole thing. It looks okay for a while, the shirt is good, cute earrings, but then it falls apart with the pants. Or I wear knee-high stockings with my pants because my feet are always cold. A sweater will be too big, not casual, just sloppy. I'll pair a cute skirt with weird shoes. I'll wear a vintage sweater only to realize that it's only vintage to me personally, not the world at large. And it seems to be getting worse as I get older. I think I used to dress cute, but maybe that's revisionist history.
I'm not sure how to turn this around, except to go back to wearing a uniform.
Nicole Freire is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara.