Archives for posts with tag: style

Shortly after I started this blog, I posted about the contents of my closet. The take-away was that its inventory was pretty ho-hum: jeans, khaki chinos, black pants, black turtlenecks and white shirts. In my defense,  there were also cardigans in turquoise, chartreuse and violet blue, as well as silver ballet slippers, turquoise sandals, and fuschia wedges. (and don’t forget the leopard suede flats!) Overall though, it was a pretty plain picture, and in retrospect, very indicative of how I felt- inconsequential and invisible, uncertain of what to do next.

What a difference a year or so makes.

I’ve not added a lot to the repertoire (no need, sorry to say) but it’s easy to spot: chinos, again, but this time a pair in turquoise and one in acid yellow. Another button-down shirt, but now, deep coral. I didn’t make a conscious effort to add the bright colors; they just seemed right. I like to think that this reflects a deeper change: a willingness to take a little risk, and to be noticed, and a general lightening of attitude.

Lest you think that it’s more a sign that I have just lost my damn mind, I must mention the other few additions I made: cotton sweater sets, one black, one white, as well as a pair of low heeled perforated oxfords in ivory and a pair of saddle color flats. You can take the girl out of the basic, but only so far…

I have a friend (go ahead, prove that I don’t!) who found herself in this get up recently, as she was dressing for the day.

Well, not granny panties per se,” she explained, ” just the same old high-cut cotton hipsters I’ve been buying since I was young and broke and high-waisted pants were in style. It’s not that I don’t wear anything else, but they serve a purpose: they are comfortable (especially in the summer) and I can throw them in the washer and dryer. I thought they  imparted a certain tomboy chic when I first started buying them. Of course, now that I technically could be a granny, it may be time to rethink.”

“Care to comment on the leopard bra?”

“Sure. Sometime after I turned 45, I realized that one day, if I was lucky enough, I would be an actual little old lady, and that I should grab a chance at a little va-va-voom while I could still do it with a straight face. I’m glad I did, too. Life is too short for boring underwear.”

Wait a minute, what about those granny pants?

The bra and the briefs both speak to complicated female reality:  the need to be practical and the desire to feel attractive.  The tension plays out in our heads and sometimes, under our clothes.

You may have heard that I am a pretty big fan of a certain ACC basketball team, and that I am lucky enough to be going to see them play in the NCAA tournament. I am also a grown woman. I want to show my colors without wearing them on my face or my head. I strongly suspect that no blue-wigged fanatic will be any more excited than I am during the games, but I want to pass for normal and sane on my way to and from the coliseum.

What to do, what to wear? Any decent (superstitious) fan knows that apparel is all. The wrong choice=defeat.

I have team branded T-shirts, which I wear at home on game days, during chores, or when I exercise. The tournament, however, is the Prom of games, and I am, as I said a grown woman. I’m looking for grown-up clothes, but I refuse to wear a sweater bearing various campus landmarks, in the same way I do not wear sweaters commemorating Halloween or Christmas. It would be good if I could find something I could use during the rest of my life, and did not cost too much (I have so many other things on my list before clothes at the moment.) I don’t hate the team color by any measure, but it is not one of my core colors.

And oops, I waited until the day before the first game to act on this. I’m happy to report that today I found a boat neck “designer” T-shirt with cuffed sleeves in an appropriate shade of blue. (Had I been a bit more conscientious, I’d have been able to find my preferred blue and white striped version in the right size.) I’ll attach my “Tar Heel” foot applique, and be good to go. Whatever happens next will not be my fault.

When I made the move home, I travelled light. I took the opportunity to winnow my wardrobe, tossing or donating anything that was outdated to worn out, or just didn’t suit me anymore. I wasn’t worried, since I knew I had no idea of what I’d really need until I knew what I’d be doing.

The summer wardrobe for Durham isn’t complicated when you aren’t working: a couple of pairs of lightweight cotton pants, a pair of shorts, a skirt or two and a few T-shirts and shirts and you are good to go. I knew (and hoped) that I might be talking to people about work, so I ordered a cotton blazer and pants for the interviews that never materialized. (At least they are still fresh and ready for this year.)

Winter came, and I swapped out the lightweight pants for a couple of pairs of jeans and a pair of slim black pants. (After discovering that the wool pants I’d brought with me had all shrunk (*cough*) over the summer in their garment bag, I was mildly relieved that I had nowhere to wear them.)

Now that I am working a few days a week, and aggressively resuming my hunt for a more substantial job, it is time to assess what I have and what I might need. Here’s what I found:

Black turtlenecks: 3. Cotton ribbed, cotton loose fit, and silk-merino blend. Black V neck sweaters: 2. One is slightly longer and newer than the other. Black T-shirts: 3. One long-sleeved crew neck, one long-sleeved scoop neck with detachable scarf, and one short-sleeved crew neck. Black cotton button down shirt, elbow length sleeves. (Do we see a pattern here?)

White shirts: 5. One basic  cotton button down, one waffle weave cotton button down with French cuffs, one cotton tuxedo style ruffle front, one “safari” style cotton button down, and one linen button down. (I like what I like.)

But I branch out- I have the same safari shirt in natural colored linen, and a short-sleeved, cotton ribbed turtleneck in a nice tobacco color.

And I couldn’t figure out why I was bored with my clothes…

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (

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