Outfit of the Day

The last couple of years I’ve really leaned into dressing comfortably as a method of self-care.

This has been my modus operandi for most of my life, but I’m now the queen of fuzzy socks, leggings, hoodies and piles of fleece blankets and dog snuggles on the sofa and I’ve curated a wardrobe that’s perfectly suited not only for virtual work, but also gives the coziest never-leave-the-house vibe ever.

This is normally not much of a problem, except recently, when everyone started peopling in person again in earnest. I had a conference earlier this month, which was absolutely agonizing to pack for, given how far down I’d whittled my wardrobe. And next week there’s a photoshoot for a small magazine. If I didn’t do something soon, I’d be representing my employer in some form or fashion that gives way more hermit than I think they’d appreciate.

I knew I needed help.

Enter Kayla. I met Kayla last summer when she was coordinating an in-store drive for charity and my organization was a beneficiary. This gave me the only reason I’d had in the previous six months, and maybe considerably longer, to visit the mall. I spent enough time with Kayla to know she could help fix my problem.

I emailed her. I had things coming up that couldn’t be accommodated by my personal style––a look that could generously described as ‘did not expect to get out of the car.’*

Come on over! Let’s goooo! She replied, or something enthusiastic like that in the manner of people who don’t hate shopping or fear the mall in the way I do. We made plans.

I got to the mall yesterday and guess what? The lot was PACKED. What the ever-loving Hell could be happening on a weekday afternoon? I entered to an assault of blinking lights and jingling bells and the scent of cinnamon.

What I’d completely forgotten, dear reader, is that it’s literally THE WEEK BEFORE Christmas, and I had willingly entered THE MALL. Jesus, take the wheel, you guys. I’m a dingbat.

All I wanted was to flee. To return to my chaise and fleece blanket and hide under my hood.

But I also needed to represent my cause on a magazine cover in a way that doesn’t scream hermit lady, so I took a deep breath. And there was my friend Kayla with a big smile, looking cute as a Christmas elf. She led me to a corner where she had her own room with her name on the door. It was blessedly quiet in there and without any jingle bells or flashing lights. She had a few things for me lined up on a rack on the wall. She offered me water and showed me where the fan was.

“I’ve got about two hours,” she said, a statement which made my heart race a little on its own, since I don’t think I’ve spent a total of two hours trying on clothes in my whole entire time on this planet. But turning back now would mean making my way through the melee again empty handed. I squared my shoulders. I could do this.

I looked the selection she’d lined up. I’d given her my size ranges and budget but forgotten to say anything about color. I usually wear black, or gray, or maybe a little beige if I’m feeling kicky. Honestly if I could do that Steve Jobs thing and have eighteen versions of the same outfit lined up in my closet and never have to think about what to wear again, I’d be happy.

I was thankful Kayla’s choices included some muted jewel tones and blues and earthy hues. Nothing alarming. But it didn’t really matter if she’d picked out neon pink. I’d gotten this far and As God as My Witness, there was going to be something in that selection to make up at least one complete outfit, or else I would find a way to make hermit lady a total vibe for today’s midlife professional.

“You didn’t seem to me to be a dress person,” she said through the dressing room door.

Kayla’s good, you guys.

Kayla and I chatted as I tried on tops and cardigans and sweaters and jeans and booties. She’d found blazers that hit my waist at exactly the right spot, that didn’t look too boxy across the shoulders, jeans that fit so well, they could rival my favorite leggings for comfort.

She cuffed pant legs and sleeves when I came out for appraisal and shared fashion tidbits, like the fact that women don’t button blazers in the front, or how ensembles of all white or all black are poor choices for photos.

In all, I spent about 90 minutes of Kayla’s two hours. I not only found my photo shoot getup, I managed to pick out a couple of other pieces I kind of love, plus one blazer I’m still on the fence about, but I’m going to give it time. There’s the pre-holiday mall ruckus to think about with an exchange after all.

In any case, the experience wasn’t the least bit unpleasant, even considering the holiday mall crowd, and now I have a couple of grown-up outfits.

I even had enough energy left to do a little fashion show at home for the guys. A win all around!

* For the record, this phrase is not original. I found it on a greeting card I liked so much I bought seven copies. Why seven copies? Who do I know who would not be insulted by such a card? More proof shopping is not my forte.

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