The thing I love most about working in fashion is that I get to play dress-up. We’ve gone over this before. Certain totem garments evoke real-life superpowers. Your clothing enhances and protects you. Listen to this: “Killer dress.” “Engagement ring.” “Power suit.” “Combat boots.” “Wedding band.” “F*** Me Heels.” “Promise ring.” “Overalls (how zen is that!?).” “Bullet-proof vest.” “Invisibility cloak.” “Sword of destiny.”
The past few weeks at the shop have done a little bit more than inspire my fancy. The past few weeks have been punching me in the stomach. Never before has a season of mainstream fashion condensed and reproduced such an alarming verisimilitude of one of my earliest, most visceral memories: Sneaking into my mother’s closet and curling up in the nest of garments on the floor, the slatted sunlight streaming through the bamboo window blinds and through the half-open closet door and warming my body in zebra stripes as I nestled my cheek further into the cotton womb of her clothes. Give me a break, I was three. My mother dressed like Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment, and she looked like Debra Winger too except thinner, taller, prettier, and with gigantic plastic-rimmed glasses. She aspired to dress like Annie Hall. She was also a big hippie. The bottom of her closet was a soft pile of denim, plaid, paisley, masculine vests, and gauzy cotton gowns. The heap smelled faintly of sandalwood and strongly of safety. On her feet she wore white Reebok sneakers or moccasins. I have never seen her in a pair of high heels, a short skirt, an ounce of makeup, or any jewelry save for the stack of religious medals that dangled from the chain around her neck and her plain gold wedding band.
We have handmade Indian scarves that smell precisely like the bottom of my mother’s closet.
We have a solid perfume that smells exactly like what Francine Stasky would have worn if perfume didn’t give her terrible migraines.
We have lovely leather handbags that have just the right taste of hand-me-down. We have sneakers. And we have moccasins.
Oh BOY do we have moccasins.
Suppose, after two weeks of feeling really good about everything, I mean overwhelmingly good about everything, you wake up one day feeling. Just. Awful. You don’t want to listen to LCD Soundsystem, you want to listen to Elliot Smith. The coffee isn’t doing its stupid job. You’ve hardly eaten a thing all week but your stomach is poking out anyway. You’re tired and grouchy. You glower inside, “Well so much for that. My awesome attitude is gone and now I’m some depressed jerk who hates everything.” You suddenly realize, as you brush the cupcake crumbs off your swollen, tender breasts, what the matter is. You hate frosting. You hate cake. You hate sugar. Yet you sought that cupcake out like a K-9 unit. You’re not depressed! You’re pre-menstrual! What do you do? What do you wear?
You surround yourself in softness and plaid. Nothing tight, nothing scratchy. Slip your feet into a pair of Minnetonkas and bring yourself deliciously down to earth. Cuddle up. Nestle down. Come to mommy.
Oh, the power of clothes.