Archive for the 'fashion' Category

My Wendy Davis boots

March 7, 2014

What color is “poppy”?  I didn’t assume I know, so I looked at the pictures — in the print catalog and then online on the company’s website, and the color looked like red to me.  The product was mid-calf height rubber rain boots.

The poppies in my gardens are red, so red seemed to be a reasonable color for “poppy” to be.

I thought of ordering black, but I spend half the winter in black boots (and half in brown), so I am ready for a change.  I have fond memories of wearing red boots, and up here in New England I thought I could get away with wearing red rain boots, even as a middle-aged woman.

I want them for the spring mud and melt-off, especially when I’m out walking.

Well, the boots that came are not red.  They are the color of my neighbor’s poppies, that is, deep pink.

I do wear some pink in my clothing choices, especially because I have such a pink complexion.  My glasses are pale pink.  But bright deep solid coral pink is a little further than I would intentionally go.  As a stripe in a pair of socks, I would wear it in a heartbeat, but pink rubber rain boots?  I would not have chosen that color in that item knowingly.

I was, of course, offered the option of returning the boots.  Pack ’em up, ship ’em out, wait a number of weeks, and I could have black.  Instead I accepted some money off of what I paid and I am wearing them.

I’m thinking they could be my political statement in support of Wendy Davis’ candidacy for Texas governor, she of the pink running shoes.

Actually, what made me decide to keep them was the chance to come to terms with having something pink foisted on me to wear.  That happened to me when I was a youngster being pressured into taking ballet class.  This time around I am better able to find a way to fit the pink into my life, including seeing it as an opportunity to overcome feeling self-conscious about it and troubling myself about reactions I might get.

When I wore the pink boots to run some errands this morning, the clerk at one of my stops had hair that was dyed a bright pinkish red.  That made me feel in the swim.

I do think life often gives us multiple opportunities to learn something, and that eventually we and a situation match up well enough for us to be able to hit the pitch and learn whatever it is we needed to learn — and in a context in which our learning our lesson also helps serve the greater good.


Keeping up with the seasons

October 28, 2013

I was so proud of myself for figuring out the autumn hat thing — as I wrote some time around the turn of summer into fall, I had to figure out what to replace my straw hat with, when the seasons changed, since my skin continues to remain sensitive to the sun.

Eventually I found a floppy-brimmed felt hat with a rounded crown and a band and flower in the same grey felt.  I’ve been happy with it, although I need to hold onto my hat in a high wind (especially near the reservoir).

Today my ears were cold.

A friend had already asked me what I am going to do in the winter to keep my ears warm.  I talked about maybe using a scarf to help, but really I just haven’t thought it through yet.

I’ve got warm hats, ones that cover my ears, but they won’t protect my face from the sun.

I’m still not sure what the answer is.  Two hats?  A parasol?  Ear flaps?  Earmuffs, or a headband, plus my floppy broad-brimmed hat?  I will probably engage in a little trial and error to come up with something.

Measuring inflation

September 30, 2013

I get frustrated when I hear about how little inflation there is;  measured how, I want to ask.

One of the ways I see the cost of living increasing is the replacing of a higher quality item with one that doesn’t function as well.  The sticker price may stay the same or even go down, but the value isn’t the same.  Is that measured by indices of inflation?  It’s not just about enjoying a better quality immediately, it’s also about the longevity of the item.  As I understand it, chained CPI as a measure of inflation actually does the opposite, assuming cheaper substitutions are adequate and don’t create measurable loss.  I think it’s an underhanded way to avoid coming to grips with the impact of inflation without seeming to do so.

This morning I was thinking about the quality factor, though.

I have my thermostats turned down, because, like many around where I live, we just don’t want the heat to turn on until we are deeper into the autumn season.  Temperatures warm up outside during the day, so some chill at night and in the early morning doesn’t seem so bad.

But I don’t like being cold either.  I find a thick wool sweater is a big help.  They have gotten expensive.  Many sweaters for sale are now blends, often including synthetics, and I don’t find them as warm or as helpful in maintaining my physical comfort — I can become both sweaty and cold wearing them.

When I went to Town Day last weekend, I bought a big heavy wool sweater for $35.00.  I put it on this morning and went, “Yes!  This is what works!”  It’s warm, but it breathes.

But it makes me wonder whether one has to head back to some sort of more rudimentary economy than our mainstream one in order to maintain this sort of way of life.  Because I bought my sweater from a small vendor.  In cash.  No shipping, no bricks and mortar store, no advertizing, no separate sales tax (I have no idea whether such vendors pay it to the state nonetheless).

I don’t have the time to buy all my things this way, it’s not a very efficient way to acquire what one needs.  That cost in time and energy is not measured by economic indices, either, I don’t think.  But these are the realities.

Anyway, the sweater also amuses me because it is a little too loud and a little too big, but it does have a zipper and pockets, too.  It’s grey, but with burgundy, red, greens, and white in a pattern at the yoke and at the cuffs.  Kind of like a Norwegian sweater.  The pattern involves zig-zag stripes and fleur-di-lis.  And it was a one-size-fits-all deal.  Which will actually come in handy in the winter, when even with the heat on, I need to wear layers to keep warm — this will fit over them all.

It’s a nice way to beat the cold and inflation.

Hats and memories

September 21, 2013

I developed a substantial sensitivity to sunlight on the skin on my face, starting about the time my father died this past winter.  My dermatologist prescribed a topical creme to reduce inflammation (in the blood vessels, I think) and told me to stay out the sun, wear a broad-brimmed hat when I am out in the sun, etc.  We also discovered that my skin won’t tolerate even the mildest sunscreen.

I was not unhappy wearing a  broad-brimmed hat this spring and summer.  Now it’s fall, more or less, and straw or raffia don’t seem right.

So I thought (now this, I admit, is a little illogical), “Okay, the sun is more intense in summer, maybe I don’t need to wear a hat all the time when I’m out anymore, now that the season’s changing.”  No one had ever said this would be a seasonal issue, and it had started in the dead of winter, but I thought, “Maybe,” nonetheless.

So I didn’t wear a hat for a few days, and now my face hurts.

Those who see confirmation bias are free to do so.

Anyway, it’s pretty clear this skin condition has not cleared up (I suspect that had also been my hope), that the season makes no (or not enough of a?  I got away with no hat for a couple of days) difference, and that I will need to continue the hat thing.

Here’s where I’m running into an emotional issue.  Willy wore a hat, I think it’s called an outback style.


Once I start wearing a non-straw hat, it will remind me of him, as if I am adopting one of his habits.  That feels uncomfortable.  That is part of what I am trying to avoid.

I think my project is to find a hat that I like, that suits (season and hair), and hope that it (and its style, whatever it turns out to be) resolves the echo issue in an unexpected and helpful way.

Today’s fashion statement

April 29, 2013

I didn’t intend to make one, and I’m not really sure what I said, but here it is.

Friday night I left a comment on the PBS NewsHour’s “Doubleheader” blog post.  The post included commentary on the gathering of the many presidents at the opening of the Bush Library.  I mentioned in my comment Nixon in his presidential windbreaker and Pope Benedict in his red shoes after their respective resignations.

Today I went to help out at the hospice office.  I was to greet people showing up for a grief group.  I had been wearing a pair of somewhat fashionable jeans (which I had bought used) and a white button-down shirt with vertical blue stripes.  I figured I needed to be a little more presentable, so I decided to add a blue blazer and less casual shoes than I usually wear.

What I ended up with, without realizing it, was a Yale jacket and red Mary Janes (the striped white and blue lining of the blazer was a nice match for my shirt and the Mary Janes showed off my multi-hued striped socks).  The blazer I got through some kind of offer to Yale alumns I had responded to a couple of years ago, the shoes reminded me of how my mother put me in red shoes when I was a pre-schooler.

So in a way, I echoed the behavior I was gently chiding in my Doubleheader comment: holding onto the past with jacket and shoe choices.  But I wasn’t aware of the echo until this evening, long after the event was over and I was back home and in my usual duds.

The secret handshake

December 19, 2012

I apparently didn’t learn it.

I was at a talk last night, and beforehand, someone came up to me and said, “Do I know you?  You look familiar.”  I gave it a shot, trying to guess if she seemed familiar to me from other talks on similar topics, and asking if we had met at one of those, but no.

She turned out to be the rabbi giving the introductory prayer before the talk.  Made me wonder in retrospect whether she had really been asking me if I am Jewish.  (To be perfectly honest, my first –hopeful — thought had been to wonder if she had known somehow I loved prayer, but then a more prosaic and likely explanation occurred to me.)

I had to leave before the end of the program, so I didn’t have a chance to tell her how much I enjoyed the prayer she sang.

As a footnote, let me add that I decided at the last minute to wear a pair of red clogs, because otherwise I was dressed pretty much in black and gray.  I also grabbed a red paisley shawl for color and a light purple jacket (instead of the black one I had been using earlier in the day).  So I was amused when I noticed that the main speaker was dressed in gray and wearing red scuffs or mules (sort of soft-soled red clogs, I’m not sure about the heel height).  The rabbi, by the way, was wearing, in the style of a stole, a beautiful solid red scarf, maybe silk.


December 16, 2012

It has been clear to me for a long time that a person’s perception of something like an insult depends on many factors besides the details of the actual episode.  Different people are, or have come to be, calibrated differently, not only for insults but for things like unmet expectations, deprivation, etc.  Some people shrug those things off, others are somewhat bothered, others take the event quite personally and spin stories about what happened (including morality tales) in order to soothe themselves about the event and the way the world (allegedly) works more generally.  Some seek not only to right the situation according their own sense of what should be and what “should have” happened, but to punish those who seem responsible for what happened that they didn’t like.

For many years I worked on resolving a situation that turned out to involve this issue.  Someone had been claiming that their consent to something (a something that had become problematic) had been coerced.  I duly investigated how to help them heal and get back on track from what had happened.  I came to see that while they may have felt coerced, in fact they actively chose to engage in a behavior that was necessary for the transaction to occur.  The “coercion” turned out to be more like a combination of manipulation and withholding material information, not what we would usually mean by coercion.

The targeted person in this transaction was unable to perceive this nuance or communicate the true details of what had happened.  Their sense of self was too fragile to acknowledge their contribution to what happened.  They couldn’t see that their being vulnerable to the manipulation, etc. was also a contributing factor — that which had damaged them enough to make them vulnerable to this means of obtaining consent was relevant, too.  But they had a need to not recognize their damage.

What had happened, apparently, was that a situation had come up in which they were offered something tempting but something they knew they should have refused.  It was offered (first) in a guise that seemed to relieve them of responsibility for going along with accepting.  Then, it was temporarily withdrawn, and then re-offered, only this time when it was offered, they had to take an action at their end to make the transaction occur.  At that point, they had become emotionally invested in having the thing that had been offered.  So taking the action affirmatively to obtain it was glossed over by them, and they reported the whole mechanism as “coercion.”  Throughout all this, they really didn’t know the details of what this transaction would entail.

It turned out to be a disaster from which they could not extricate themselves without asking for help.  Which they wouldn’t do for all kinds of reasons, including that they liked some aspects of the situation and had managed to shift some of its costs to others and to blind themselves to the damage to themselves and others. They also felt somewhat paralyzed to act differently, as if they were under hypnosis, in a way.

Eventually they and/or others realized the situation needed to be ended.  I discovered that resolution of this situation was made difficult by the fact that the help tailored to the situation as they described it did not help end the actual situation that had occurred; they did not mention, could not admit to, their own contribution, and that was relevant to what needed to be done to resolve the situation.

My reaction to having finally unearthed this wrinkle, to having discovered why we were having so much trouble resolving this issue, was relief and tiredness.  I had worked through the “treatment” multiple times, each time on the basis of the information I had, and some of those work-throughs were quite taxing.  I was glad I stuck with it long enough to understand what really had transpired that had lead to the problem.  I could see with compassion why the person was unable to share the details more accurately.  And I could pause long enough not to fall into venting any frustration I might have had in their direction.  I admit I was glad when we had accomplished what was needed and were done.

For me, part of the lesson all along was that this case did not actually involve anything unique or esoteric or special, despite the sense of the person involved that it and they were special and unique.  Seeing the problem more accurately was important — its power could be reduced once it was seen differently — it was kind of like the story of the moth fluttering in a headlight that looks like a signal that it’s not, looks like something more exciting than it is.

Of course, even with seeing the issue as it was and applying an appropriate treatment, we still had to clean up the damage and to dismantle what we could and to dispose of what we couldn’t, as safely as possible.  One of the tools we used is a tool I have been advocating in the wake of the shooting incident in Connecticut on Friday:  people less affected by a difficult situation bringing in as much positive energy as possible, in the form of love and caring, for example, to buoy those who are most directly impacted.  It’s like when people say, in the context of fashion, that a smile is the finishing touch on an outfit — bringing in positive energy is a help.  I sometimes think of it as bringing in an air freshener, or opening the windows, in a stuffy and sour-smelling space.  Sometimes the whole world seems to me to be such a place.

Party shoes

December 11, 2012

Last Saturday evening, I was on an escalator going up from the Harvard Square T-Stop (subway and bus station), and the passengers on the stairs directly above me were a young couple.  The woman seemed to have on a pretty black party skirt — light sheer-ish fabric with a velvety band and a flounce to the hem.  So I was surprised when I noticed her shoes.  They looked to me like black shearling moccasins, and they certainly had a flat sole.  I thought, “Well, those look warm and comfy, can one really get away with wearing such footwear with a party outfit nowadays?  Is that a style?”  After all, Uggs have become more than ubiquitous.

So we all rise up from the station and exit onto the little plaza, and I’m heading to cross Mass. Ave. and the pair ahead of me stops right in front of me at a cylindrical structure on the plaza, and before I pass by, the young woman is putting down a pair of bright red very high-heeled satiny pumps on the brick paving and changing out of her flats.  As I passed by, I told her I had been admiring her black shoes, too.

I will say here that her changing into her party shoes relieved my mind of its need to try to understand her footwear choice, because the red shoes squared better with my sense of her sense of fashion and her style.

Red shoes have an interesting history or set of associations.  Popes wear them, I think, they’re in the Wizard of Oz story, there’s a fairy tale about ones that make the wearer dance, I suspect Robert Graves talks about them in The White Goddess but I actually don’t remember — something like red boots on the sacrificial king, I want to say.

So in that context, for me, watching a young man support his date (?) as she changed her shoes on a Saturday night, in public but somehow a little protected within the hubbub in Harvard Square, was very sweet.  I hope they had a good time, wherever they were going.

Red dresses

September 5, 2012

I’m distracted by all theses ladies in red at the political conventions.  I don’t know that I’ve ever owned a red dress — dark red dressy wool winter coats with leggings when I was a child (not to mention red oxford shoes), yes, but never a red dress.  It had connotations.  Somehow there seems to be a current consensus now otherwise.  When the wearer is older than I, I also find it surprising, because I figure she’d be aware of those connotations, too, and hence uncomfortable with wearing one.  Interesting how I can continue to subscribe to some old patterns and codes but easily or even gratefully put others aside.

Indicia of responsibilities

August 18, 2012

For many years I carried very little with me — a house key, a little cash, maybe a credit card — and what I did, I carried on my person.

The big change came with Willy’s illness and then his death.  I came to carry a full wallet, with driver’s license, cash, credit cards, insurance cards, etc., and also a full set of keys on a ring and a separate ring with another car key when I drive (Willy always carried two car keys — reduces the number of times one locks oneself out of one’s car, he pointed out), and, of course, my cellphone (I wanted to make sure my kids knew they could reach someone, namely me, because there was no one else anymore).

Recently I got some jeans that are slightly more fashionable than what I usually wear.  I discovered when I went to actually wear them to do something (as opposed to trying them on for fit) that the pockets in them are very shallow.  I like the jeans, though, and they’re actually probably more flattering in fit than my old Levi’s, so I figured the pocket issue was not a reason not to keep them or wear them.

The answer has been, not surprisingly, to carry a bag, and I have one that seems to suit (a small leather backpack with a woven textile panel), and in it I can also carry other stuff, too, like a hair brush, doctors’ co-pays, letters to mail, candy, etc.

What struck me is this: I can interpret this “forced” change as indicating that maybe I need to be able to put down my responsibilities from time to time, to compartmentalize them and not have them be so coincident with my entire life.  They are not me, where I “live” is something else entirely.  I think maybe I need to be reminded of that with a physical representation of it.

This pockets situation also accords well with a practice I’ve had for years:  I routinely empty my pockets before I pray.

So let’s hear it for modern jeans and what sometimes seems like silliness on the part of the fashion industry (with their designs that include pockets that aren’t actually useful) — these things can be helpful in their own way, too.