I should have known better. I do know better. All the same, when I went to meet a friend — the always fashionable Amber — for drinks the other night I changed into my relaxed jeans. In the seconds I stopped home to pick up Benny I took off the dark basalt cardigan with the puffed short sleeves. My navy ballet flats were set back in the closet in exchange for rubber sandals from at least two seasons ago.
“Oh, I wish I was wearing jeans,” Amber said the moment she stepped out of her car in slow motion, glamor girl fashion. “I cannot get used to work’s dress code and my feet hurt all the time,” she said as we walked up to the restaurant. She glided over the rocky parking lot in her high heeled knee-high boots and Diane Von Furstenberg style wrap dress while I shuffled behind my spastic dog.
Okay, Amber didn’t really glide or move in slow motion, but she could have. Plus, Amber is endlessly kind, probably didn’t feel at all like this, and I’m positive she was being genuine and not at all judgmental, but gosh did I feel like a slob. It didn’t help that her white car was spotlessly clean while mine is covered in dog fur and highway grime.
Since starting a new job with an unwritten, unspoken, but probably still there dress code I’ve been exhausted. Trying to come up with different outfits out of the clothes that were always supposed to be statements has put all of my nicest clothes in to the dry clean pile. Heels have come out of the closet more in the past five weeks than in the past seven years combined. Getting dressed has become a challenge that I repeat every day.
All of the fun of choosing my costume for the morning has disappeared in the past couple weeks. Each morning, untying the closet doors and sliding open the dresser drawers, I decided who I would be that day. Maybe the character was me, maybe it was who I wanted to be, sometimes it was the me I needed to be. Lately, I never feel properly costumed.
With the mysterious dress code every day I need to be a person who works in an office, may or may not have to interact with the public and may or may not need to dress business casual. That doesn’t include all the contents of my wardrobe. Only some. Relaxed jeans not included.
Even my owl necklace seems to belong to the costume in a different world. At first realizing I could wear whichever earrings I wanted because my ears weren’t being constrained by a headset was invigorating. Headbands could accent my brown curls again. The world of accessories — frivolous accessories — lost so long to the job and a tight budget, could all come out in to the spotlight. At the beginning.
In a large office the outfit usually got lost in the crowd. It seemed easier to repeat a noted outfit or add on little extras to a staple because chances were good that you didn’t see everyone every day of every week. A costume has a knack of standing out in a small office.
I might be having trouble with clothes — fashion has always been outside my comfort zone — but I can still properly accessorize food. If anyone else had eaten both meals pictured above they might have noticed that they were essentially the same, but I hope not. Cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and red onion served as the pants, blouse, shoes, and jacket in both. Only the accessories were switched up in their own version of a day to night magazine photo spread. In the first I applied a spicy dry rub to the potatoes before roasting, topped them with cole slaw, and wrapped a tortilla around the whole of it. In the second, I boiled the potatoes before mashing, cooked the carrots and cabbage in vegetable broth, sauteed the red onion, seasoned the whole and browned the patties. With these meals I put on my favorite costume of pajamas and traveled the world from Vegetarian Mid-South-West to Britain.