What Not to Wear

What are the odds that my insurance company would believe me if I told them my apartment was robbed, but the only things the thieves took were my clothes? Or maybe I could say there was a fire, but it was contained exclusively to my closet. Highly localized flood?

Here’s the thing: I need an entirely new wardrobe. This became painfully clear to me this week when I found out I had to fly out today for a client meeting at a fairly conservative company. For the past five years, I’ve worked in a business casual environment, and I probably lean more toward the casual side of that spectrum. But I’ve worked in more formal environments before, so earlier this week, I told myself that I could just tap into the Smithsonian wing of my closet that houses my more professional clothes.

When I actually started looking through my closet on Friday to see what I could wear, I was instantly overcome by the panicked realization that I would have to lose 15 pounds in two days in order to fit into my old suits *and* accomplish this while simultaneously building a time machine so I could go back to an era when high-waisted, pleated pants were fashionable. In a nutshell, I was screwed.

Knowing that there was no time to buy a whole new outfit, because pants are now made for women who are a minimum of 5’10” and I couldn’t deal with trying to get them hemmed before my trip, I was going to have to make due with one of the few pairs of nice pants that actually fit me. Then I convinced myself that I would just go to the mall and pick out a new, professional looking blouse and be done with it.

After two hours of scouring every single woman’s clothing store in the mall, I was at an absolute loss. How was it possible that the only two options in an entire shopping center were peasant blouse or something with gold buttons? Every single store had some variation on that theme – overly casual or hideous.

That’s when the rationalizations began:

  • Sure, a jacket would have been nice, but I think it’s supposed to be 95 degrees there on Monday. No one would expect me to wear a jacket, would they?
  • Maybe I can get a nice scarf to go with this completely plain white shirt and then that will dress it up more. Yes. A huge scarf. Maybe one that looks like a jacket.
  • Earrings. All the stylish professional women I see downtown are wearing earrings. That’s what I need.
  • Men have it so damn easy. White shirt, pants, throw on that stupid blazer that doesn’t even match and no one notices. Put a tie in your pocket just in case. What’s the difference between a guy wearing a white shirt and pants and me wearing a white shirt and pants? Why do I have to have gold buttons? F*ckers.
  • Hey! If I quit my job today, I wouldn’t have to go on this trip.
  • What if I just say that shampoo leaked all over my beautiful and appropriate suit, so I had to wear this instead?
  • Should I wear lipstick? Will that distract them from the fact that I’m underdressed?
  • I wonder if that bridesmaid’s dress from Kim’s wedding still fits me. Oh, but then I’d need to find some new shoes. Never mind.

What I ultimately settled on will be on the slacker end of the professional business attire, but I’ll wear my contact lenses and whore lipstick and earrings and a scarf to draw attention away from that fact. I call it the Rita Moreno West Side Story defense. If that fails to distract, I will launch into a round of hand clapping, finger snapping and high pitched yelping.

I’m starting to understand why they don’t let me out of the office very often.

But while I’m gone, if one of you accidentally fell into my closet while operating a blowtorch, I wouldn’t be heartbroken. I’m just saying.

10 Responses to “What Not to Wear”

  1. Dave2 Says:

    Here’s my go to excuse as to why I didn’t show up in a suit: “I apologize for my attire, but my suit bag must not have made it on the plane.” This is not really a lie, because I never took my suit bag for it to make the plane in the first place.

    Not only do you get a pass, but you also garner a little sympathy for your “lost luggage.”

    I’d stay away from the “alien abduction” excuses… they never seem to work for some reason.

  2. Robin Says:

    What—no pics? We can only truly assess the outfit if we see photos. :)

  3. claire Says:

    “…the Smithsonian wing of my closet that houses my more professional clothes…”

    I have one too! Except I’ve never worked anywhere formal so it tends to be clothes my mom bought me that I keep around “just in case” but can’t fathom wearing, and the ones deemed “too nice” to wear regularly. Sigh.

    I’m in the mood for new clothes, but $5000 doesn’t go that far if you have to throw everything you have out.

    Men do have it easy. It’s like that episode of Bewitched where an old flame of Darrin’s invites them to a party and tells him it’s casual. He wears a jacket and Samantha wears a casual dress, but it turns out the party is very formal. Darrin looks fine and Sam looks totally underdressed.

    Also, where do you shop that has the pants for 5’10″ers? I rarely find stuff that fits that’s long enough.

    Best of luck to you! I like Dave2’s line.

  4. bonzo Says:

    you should definitely wear a top that shows off the new tramp-stamp that you got instead of paying for a more conservative outfit. nicely distracting. if the whore makeup isn’t enough, consider some hideous and loudly-clinking bracelets and such. or just practice your fran drescher impression – the louder you are, the less people “notice” you.

  5. MOM Says:

    JEN SAID: What I ultimately settled on will be on the slacker end of the professional business attire, but I’ll wear my contact lenses and whore lipstick and earrings and a scarf to draw attention away from that fact

    Oh, hallelujah…I can die happy. I don’t suppose you’d consider a little mascara? ;)

    From your make-up loving mom,

  6. delmer Says:

    I have trouble buying long-sleeved dress shirts and part of the problem I have is that the Big & Tall store skips the size I need. Based on the trying-on I did — in which sleeves were too short (a Tall Large) or they hit me right but the shoulders were too big (a Tall XXL) — I decided a Tall XL might be just right (I’m pretty sure Baby Bear wears a Tall XL).

    When I went to the counter the clerk told me they didn’t carry Tall XL and that I’d have to order it. That is a bad sales model in my opinion — men don’t plan ahead … at least those of use needing Tall XL shirts … at least me. I’d gone in to buy a shirt then because I needed a shirt then — not in two weeks.

    How is it a Big & Tall store has any combination of Big or Tall or Big & Tall except what I need?

  7. shari Says:

    As a distraction technique, I just can’t recommend highly enough the use of the ’80s standard: red-sash-turned-bowtie. Coupled with appropriately whore-red lipstick and gold bangly earrings, the sash/bowtie is unparalleled in hypnotic mesmerizing of the masses. This is how such a hideous look went unchallenged for nearly an entire decade.

    Oh, and if you ever find a place to purchase pants for women shorter than 5’10”, PLEASE let me in on the secret.

  8. jenny Says:

    dave2: that’s a great idea! and actually, i did see one woman on my flight whose bag was lost when they checked it at the gate. could’ve been me!

    robin: i kind of feel like i look a bit like mary tyler moore in this outfit. so picture that…

    claire: seriously? i feel like every pair of pants i buy has to be tailored these days. and i’m 5’7″, so it’s not like i’m exactly petite.

    bonzo: ooh, yeah! maybe a nice halter top… or a tube top! that would definitely distract.

    MOM: you kidding me? i don’t step foot out the door w/o mascara on! i’ve even crossed over into the lash-extender brands… which don’t seem to help much.

    delmer: you must be a popular size – you’d think they would stock more of them!

    shari: ooh – i hadn’t even considered the sash/bowtie option. but thanks – now i know what to wear at the follow-up meeting!

  9. churlita Says:

    Maybe you could start singing, “The office casual dressers are gonna have their way tonight…”

  10. jenny Says:

    churlita: boy, boy, crazy professionally dressed boy!

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