Thursday, December 9, 2010

Meet the New Shirt... Same as the Old Shirt

I wear black. Black shirts, black sweaters, black shoes, black watch. I have so many black tops that I feel compelled to explain to my coworkers that each day's shirt, despite appearing to be identical to the one worn the day before, is in fact a different and (usually) recently laundered piece of clothing.

I also own many black skirts that vary slightly in cut and fabric, but I have to give myself props for usually wearing a pattered or colored bottom with the black shirts. OK, to be entirely truthful, I will only buy patterned bottoms if black appears somewhere in the actual pattern itself to assure indisputable coordination. Some say everything goes with black.. I say nothing goes better with black than more black. I also buy in bulk. If a pair of faux croc leather kitten heels are in my size and on sale, I'll buy three pairs. My clothing is so interchangeable that one day this summer I actually went to work wearing two different shoes. Granted, only a trained connoisseur of Banana Republic pointy-toed flats would have known the difference--one had a patent flower, and the other a patent curlicue affixed to it.

To my credit, I have ventured into the blue territory, taken a turn into grays, and even dabbled in browns. I remember in my 20s wearing an ensemble of a J Crew chocolate brown linen button down and J Crew chocolate brown linen pencil skirt. I looked like a preppy UPS delivery person. And this was in the days before UPS went public and the employees became overnight millionaires. I was ahead of my time. Just last week I was all ready to finish off an ensemble of brown top, and brown and pink spotted silk skirt (cuter in person) with some adorable brown woven Mary Janes from Anthropologie. Love those shoes. Or rather, loved those shoes. I had one shoe on, ready to run out the door when I realized I couldn't find the other. My theory is that my husband--in his annual end-of-year sweep of the closet in search of items to donate for a tax write-off--scooped the other Italian leather marvel into a Goodwill-bound bag. Hopefully a one-legged (preferably left) person who wears a size 9 1/2 B shoe will enjoy my footwear.

When my son was born, I attempted to live on the wild side by dressing him in little patterned sweaters or multicolored shoes (again, cuter in person). I had brightly colored blankets, colorful crib sheets. If I was the dark, monochromatic minimalist, my son was the bold, lively fauvist.

So imagine my confusion when he announced he only wanted to have "blue things," in honor of the blue Power Ranger (his favorite at the time). Blue dishes, blue blanket, blue toys and, alas, blue clothing. In fact, for four or five years, I can only recall him not being dressed in blue one time:  I was away and my husband took my son to sit on Santa's lap and dressed him in an old (i.e. pre-blue fixation) outfit consisting of a solid red shirt and solid red pants; the picture consisted of a child's head and puffy white beard as the only relief from the sea of red.  For years, I had to study every prospective purchase to ensure that its blue-to-other-color ratio was correct, lest the item be rejected. This was not a battle I was going to pick, or else I would be waving the blue... I mean white... flag within hours. Children and their preferences are just not forces with which to be reckoned.

My daughter gravitated toward pink with even more of a vengeance than my son's obsession with blue. Being very detail-oriented, she specified that she prefers "light pink" over the hue's darker counterpart. Unfortunately, this preference was voiced after tags were removed and receipts lost for a stash of new magenta- and fuchsia-colored clothing. To make matters worse, she would only wear dresses. Not skirts, not culottes, not tunics, just dresses. For a few years, only Hanna Andersson striped "It's a Play Dress, It's a Day Dress" dresses. And only ones with pink stripes, or pink with a coordinating stripe. I became so accustomed to hoarding these dresses (which can only be ordered online), that I had stockpiled them in sizes for years to come, only to have her abruptly announce she no longer liked stripes, and only wanted to wear flower or heart clothing. And to go with these patterned dresses, red sequined ruby slippers (just like Dorothy!); yes, she owns so many pairs that she occasionally literally follows in the footsteps of her mother and wears an unmatching pair. Two lefts are her favorite combination.

A few weeks ago, I mixed it up by wearing a striped shirt (yes, with black stripes mixed among the other colors), with a black skirt and black shoes. I went to pick my son up at his after-school program. I saw him way across the playground and waved, as I do every day. But this time it took more energetic motioning, along with bellowing his name several times. When he finally stopped what he was doing and came to me, I asked what took so long. He told me that he hadn't recognized me wearing so much color.


  1. Very goth of you. Oh, and I appreciate any post title which references The Who :)

  2. Hi Doug! Hearing from a new dad like you reminded me of how my very chic cousin bought my newborn son a black turtleneck onesie. Unfortunately, it was a turtleneck and my son wouldn't wear it. But loved the idea of my offspring in black, maybe holding a Nietzsche boardbook and smoking a Gauloise...... Take care!

  3. Gosh, I wonder where your children get this penchant for colour from? I love black, and living in Melbourne, Australia, if you go out at night wearing anything other than black you'll feel out of place. You should visit, you'd fit right in!

  4. Hi, Josie! I will have to make sure I visit Melbourne one of these days! I am from the East Coast, where dark colors are worn day and night... if for no other reason than to camouflage coffee stains from drinking caffeine on a bumpy subway ride. Black is also very slimming--especially with my strategy of standing near dark furniture in rooms with "mood lighting" :). Thanks for visiting my blog! Best, Karen

  5. This is so funny, Karen. A whole post about black and I read every word. My sister-in-law wears only black and we tease her all the time. But she says everything matches and she always looks great. This means she can really does invest in some quality stuff.

    I had my colors done years ago and was told that because of my blonde hair, etc., I was a "Spring" and should wear pastels and never, ever black. I got rid of all my black things. And guess what, over the years, black found its way back into my closet, lots and lots of it. And I think I look great.

    By the way, I love the name of your blog. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hi, Margaret! Ironically, I wore crazy colors when I was a dark and brooding college student, but now that I am an occasionally cheerful adult, I wear only very dark colors. I still have vivid flashbacks from a few classics--a Kenzo lime-green shirt with a clown color in corduroy (Why corduroy? The world may never know...) that gave me an "other-wordly glow"... the bright orange linen "job interview" pantsuit from a trendy Harvard Square boutique that made me look like an unemployable carrot! Yikes! Thanks for the kind words! Take care! Best, Karen