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October 9, 2007

Wardrobe Diaries: Style Swap

woman in print dress and black tights

Photo Credit: Perry Hagopian

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Julia, Day 3
The fun of playing dress-up hits a major snag when, on Saturday morning, I can’t get out the door in time to make my train to the suburbs, where I’m scheduled to attend a high-school graduation party. Whereas I’d usually throw a denim pencil skirt and a few matching tops into a shoulder bag, I’ve got piles of accessories, shoes, and clothes to pack — and that takes time. I miss my train by seconds and collapse onto a bench and burst into tears. To make matters worse, I’ve gotten escalator grease up and down the legs of Michelle’s pink skinny jeans. How colorful.

I finally make it to my destination and change into my party outfit: a thick brocade shift with a silver, gold, and copper geometric print, plus a pair of six-inch patent-leather Mary Janes. It was one thing to wear such a look to work, where everyone was in on the joke. But how will my unsuspecting family react to this light-reflecting number?

I feel like an NBA star at a little person’s convention as I walk across the manicured lawn toward the hub of graduation-party activity. Cousins, second cousins, aunts, and uncles greet me with warm but guarded hugs, and their unusually reserved smiles are all it takes to force a confession out of me. “This outfit isn’t mine, by the way, it’s a work thing. Can you believe these shoes? The girl I traded with actually wears them to work. You should see the other getups she’s had me in! Four days, and she has all of my normal clothes....” I rattle off disclaimers with more intensity than I actually feel, just to drive home the fact that I’m still the same old me under all this glitz. Everyone visibly relaxes, and one host starts laughing: “I didn’t want to say anything, but I was thinking you’d gone completely New Yorker on us!” Someone hands me a tan blazer and I slip into a pair of borrowed flip-flops. The rest of the party passes without incident, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve hijacked attention from the graduate.

Later in the night, my two hometown cohorts Lisa and Kevin pick me up for an ice-cream run. I attempt the full outfit — shoes and all — one more time, but Lisa flat-out refuses to be seen with me unless I take it down a notch. “You have to lose the shoes and cover up the dress with my sweater. I’m not in the mood to be stared at.” Her face betrays no hint of humor or hyperbole. I turn to Kevin for support, but he tells me I look like I’m about to go clubbing with Mischa Barton.
“So you’re saying I look ridiculous?”
Hate to break it to you, John Lennon, but we all do not, in fact, shine on. When I zip on Lisa’s hoodie, she nods with approval. “Good, now it just looks like you’re wearing a crazy skirt.”

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