Dear readers, let’s talk about the woman above. Based on what she’s wearing would you say that she is:
A. A stay-at-home mom on her way to drop her kids off at school.
B. On her way to the gym for a quick workout after work.
C. A fashion reject who thinks this is an appropriate outfit to wear outside of the house.
D. A writer who doesn’t come into contact with other professionals on a daily basis and so puts together ridiculous costumes like this because she’s always dashing out of the house and doesn’t put enough thought into what she’s wearing because hey, who cares, I’m just going to sit in my office all alone all day and no one will see me but Alberto, who manages the building, and he doesn’t care if I look insane.
If you chose D, you’re wrong. It’s C.
My name is Aliya. And I am a fashion reject. (This is where you all say, Hi Aliya, in unison).
For as long as I can remember, I’ve never cared about what I was wearing, unless I absolutely had to.
TheGirl* (now age 11 and seriously a better dressed woman than I am), was telling me what she would and would not wear when she was five. When she was seven, she once looked me up and down and said, “that outfit needs something to break up all that black. Do you have a bolero jacket in another color maybe?”
TheGirl can sew her own clothes and somehow makes her school uniform look like couture. If I’m buying something new, I’ve been known to take a picture first and run it by her. If The Husband is going out, he asks my opinion. And then TheGirl’s. If they conflict, he goes with what she says, always.
I just don’t get fashion. For me, clothes are what you drape across your body so that you’re not naked. Or cold. Or hot. Or naked.
I’m not clear on the concept of putting together an outfit that makes you look nice. Can someone tell me how that works exactly?
Part of it is money, of course. I can’t afford to buy the stuff that I think I like.
I thought the answer would be simple. Invest in a really good pair of jeans. Spare no expense! Go premium! Drop a grip! Just make sure they fit right and rock ’em three times a week if you have to. I went to Ruby, a little store on Church Street in Montclair that I love because they will work with you and not make you feel bad about trying on seventeen pairs of jeans. I found these, made by a company called Rich and Skinny.
They hang in my closet, waiting for me to buy some other stuff to keep them company.
But if I’m brutally honest with myself, it’s not that I can’t afford nice things. I know it doesn’t take money to be stylish. It takes chuptzah, imagination and effort.
I ain’t got none of that.
Part of the problem is this: Before I was a writer, I was a teacher. My closet was lined with suits from Ann Taylor and Liz Claiborne. I started teaching at a very young age, so it was very important for me to look the part, right down to the bun and the glasses. I was always well put together, if I should say so myself. I wasn’t fly. Not by a long shot. But I had the skirt-suit, hose and sensible pumps thing going on. And it worked.
Then I made a switch to writing. And the rules changed. There were no rules. At The Source, I think I may have had a six-month period where I was actually thisclose to being semi-fly. Every single chick in there knew how to put it on. I had no choice but to step my game up. I did this by watching carefully, tagging along on lunchtime shopping excursions in Union Square. And then just straight biting. (To Akiba Solomon, E. Assata Wright and most especially Serena Kim, I stole my entire shoe game from you. Thank you.)
And then, in 2000, I went freelance. Suddenly, I was home all day, every day. I went into the City for the occasional meeting or to do an interview. And I didn’t need to be fly. So I quickly regressed. And I was broke. So I had no money for the basics.
Even as my career gained momentum and I had a little paper for clothes, it just wasn’t a priority. Why buy something cute when I’ll Never wear it? But then Never would come around and I’d be stuck.
Fast forward nine years and I am just raggedy. Just a hot mess.
So, check me out in all my Glamour Fashion Don’t wonderfull-ness.
Sigh. This is how I left the house today. Let’s go over each offending item, shall we?
A. My hat: This hat was purchased on the streets of New York about four years ago. I wear it because it keeps my head warm. And it’s pink. I like pink. I tend to wear this hat all day long because a. my office is cold. (Alberto, you and I will be having a talk about this very soon. Because my $ABC rent is SUPPOSED to include utilities so you tell me why I’m rocking fingerless gloves as I type this, with my Everstar space heater on my desk. Hmph.)
B. My white tee-shirt: This is actually new. Bought it a few weeks ago from Urban Outfitters. Just a plain white tee. Nothing special. But I discovered after buying it that it’s a little too see-through and it might be too small. So it’s a layering shirt. Like every shirt I own. I buy shirts to be the basis of an actual Outfit. And a week layer, it’s in my underwear drawer, regulated to layering. Why is this?
C. The Red Sweater: I bought TheGirl this sweater from Target when she was seven. Okay. Let me type that again for you so I can be appropriately ashamed. I BOUGHT THIS SWEATER FOR MY DAUGHTER WHEN SHE WAS SEVEN! She is now eleven. And it doesn’t fit her. Obviously, it doesn’t fit me either. Except in my mind, it does.
See, I bought her this sweater one summer as a light cover-up for a day at the beach. I ended up throwing it on myself at some point and I loved how comfy it was. The inside is all fleecy. So I just pushed up the sleeves and rocked it that day. And the next. The next day, TheGirl says to me, “Um. You’re wearing my sweater.” I said. “This is not your sweater. I went to Target yesterday and bought the same one.” TheGirl said, “no. You didn’t!”
This has been an ongoing joke ever since. She sees me wearing the sweater and asks me where I got it from and why she never sees HER sweater and MY sweater in the same place at the same time.
I tell her it’s just like Lauryn says on “Zealots”. Two MCs can’t occupy the same place at the same time/It’s against the law of Physics. She just shakes her head and walks away.
I don’t think she’d wear the sweater if I gave it back to her. Who would? It’s dingy. It has glitter on it left over from TheGirl’s art project from three years ago. And what are the logos about? Is that an anchor? And is that an anchor on a sewn-on patch? Can someone tell me what a grown woman is doing wearing this? Like how do I even consciously slip my arms into this thing and think, yes, this makes sense. This is what I should be wearing.
D. Grey standard issue sweatpants: Again, from Target. I’m not actually mad at the sweats. They’re not super baggy. And they kind of fit cute. Kind of. There’s a grey hooded sweatshirt that goes with it. And it’s all fine and good FOR THE GYM. I do not believe that anyone out of college should leave the house wearing sweats unless it is essential for their line of work. What do sweatpants tell the world? I’ll answer that. It tells the world you can’t be bothered to put on real clothes. And that’s just sad.
E. Boots: Now, I do love my all-weather boots. Got them from The Outdoor Store on Church Street in Montclair. I had to go to Buffalo, New York for a story last year and they were having a blizzard. All I had were Uggs. Which would not do. So I bought these joints. And I love ‘em. I can splash in puddles, shovel snow, (as if!) and generally do what I gotta without worrying about getting my feet wet. The problem? Well, if you’re in the tri-state area, look out your window. See any rain? See any snow coming down? Well yeah. I knew that too. But still I managed to pull on my boots, knowing full well I didn’t need to. I have one or two decent pairs of shoes. But really. Would they go with sweats and TheGirl’s sweater? Yeah. I don’t think so.
So, how did this happen? This morning: TheGirl snoozed her alarm clock and overslept. I snoozed my alarm clock and overslept. The Husband doesn’t have an alarm clock so he overslept by default. The OtherGirl* was pissed off that no one was coming in to rescue her from prison, aka, her crib.
And away we go…
We’re all bumping into each other. Quick showers are taken, clothes are being thrown on, sippy cups are being filled, weather forecasts are shouted to far ends of the house. Waffles are stuffed in mouths. Babies are stuffed in car seats. I didn’t give a second thought to what I was wearing. Was I dressed? Yes. Okay, let’s move.
The Husband: on train. TheGirl: at school. The OtherGirl: at daycare.
I slide into my office, take a deep breath and check my schedule. Meeting at 10:30 with Tai.
We’ve talked about Tai before, she of the gorgeous profile pic:
Tai is fly. Whenever I run into her I want to say, “Um, I’m in the process of moving, that’s the only reason why I look like this!”
Except I don’t say that. Because I know Tai probably has a special outfit just for moving. Fitted overalls or something. With a handkerchief around her neck.
The idea of Tai coming to my office, (So orderly! So professional!), and seeing me looking like THIS filled me with despair. Did I have time to go home and change? Was that sad and pathetic? Did I care? Yes. Yes. No.
I texted Tai to tell her I was running late. She hit me back and said she actually needed to reschedule.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Saved from mortification.
But it brought up a bigger issue. At 35, shouldn’t I always look presentable when I’m leaving the house? Why would I ever leave the house wearing an outfit like the one above? Seriously. I’m ashamed. And I’m sharing my shame with you.
I do clean up nice when I have to. At least I’d like to think so. Although I’m known to depend on a white tee shirt, skinny jeans and stilettos for every occasion.
But when I don’t have to… Well, you see what happens.
Dear readers, help me. Guide me. Tell me how to change my ways. Are you stylish? Have you ever left the house looking like this? If you work from home, do you get dressed and put on a proper outfit? Where do I begin? I can’t afford a stylist. But I. need. Help. Where can I find someone who can tear apart my closet, help me start from scratch and make me look like half a piece of something?
My name is Aliya. And I’m a fashion reject. Thank you for letting me share.
*TheGirl: As she will not be referred to by name on this blog, please note that TheGirl is my 11-year old step-daughter. A primer on how I feel about TheGirl: I’ve known her since she was three. She was the only bridesmaid in my wedding. And she was holding my hand when I gave birth to her baby sister. We were sitting next to each other on the living room sofa when CNN called the election for Obama. That’s my heart and soul right there. Seriously.
*TheOtherGirl: That’s my other daughter. The one I actually gave birth to back in‘07. She will be referred to as TheOtherGirl on this blog. I don’t have anything cute to say about her anecdotally. She’s almost two. If you know any almost two year-olds, you know what it is. Nothing to see here. Pay no attention to that ball of emotion having a tantrum in the corner.
Sidebar: a few days ago, I slipped a perfectly acceptable sweater with snowman appliqués onto TheOtherGirl’s arms. She looked down at the sweater then shook her head and said, “no!” Then she pointed to a pink quilted vest hanging on the back of her door. (A hand-me-down from her VERY fashionable older cousin) “Dat!” she said. She’s not even two. And she knows what she wants to wear. Sigh.