Saturday, November 10, 2012

Looking good is hard

Clothing makes the woman, or so my friend K believes. Not long ago, she gave me gift—a tour through her closet and through the boutique that supplies her closet. 

“Why are you wearing boys’ clothes?” she asked. I had arrived wearing made-in-China sneakers, 501 Levi jeans, a Uniqlo T-shirt and, yes, a long black Gap hoodie. That’s my typical daywear. And until K exploded with disapproval, I thought it suited me. And it’s cheap and comfortable—though the jeans do pinch my parts sometimes.

So K started dressing me in her clothes—mostly silky black drapery—and to tell the truth, I looked a lot better in her clothes than in mine. 

Then she took me to the boutique, and the owner, who’s a stylist for wealthy clients, selected clothes for me to try on—also mostly silky black drapery. And I looked fabulous—actually beautiful.

Then I looked at the price tags: $100 for a knit top, $200 for a microfiber sweater, $1,500 for a microfiber jacket. I knew I was supposed to buy something. Indeed, K threatened to buy something for me if I didn’t buy something for myself. But I couldn’t do it.

K, who is retired and has only modest savings, says she has decided to spend her money on clothing, since it gives her pleasure and make her feel good about herself. She changes outfits four times a day. She gets her eyebrows dyed! 

She does look wonderful, I admit it. And I was swayed by her argument that clothing can be therapeutic. My clothes, she told me, betrayed a deep lack of self-confidence. I deserved to feel good about myself, she said.


But I was torn. And it wasn’t just the money.  Or at least that’s what I told myself. I wear mostly cotton; the clothes that looked best were synthetics. I wash my clothes in the washing machine, with water; the clothes that looked best needed dry cleaning, with chemicals. The clothes that looked best were less comfortable than the ones I’d arrived in. And yes, I was troubled by the extravagance. How could I ever justify to thrifty Other—who spends no money on anything ever—outfits that cost thousands of dollars?

In the end, I couldn’t do it. I think about the beautiful, elegant woman I saw in the mirror that day, and wish I could see her again. But I’m not sure I will.

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